A lot of my poems either have historical sequences or other kinds of chronological grids where I’m locating myself in time. I like to feel oriented, and I like to orient the reader at the beginning of a poem.
Poems that come swiftly are usually the ones that you keep.
Though my poems are about evenly split between traditionally formal work that uses rhyme and meter and classical structure, and work that is freer, I feel that the music of language remains at the core of it all. Sound, rhythm, repetition, compression – these elements of my poetry are also elements of my prose.
The interesting thing is that you don’t often meet a poet who doesn’t have a sense of humour, and some of them do keep it out of their poems because they’re afraid of being seen as light versifiers.
I love chapbooks. They’re in some ways the ideal form in which to publish and read poems. You can read 19 poems in a way you can’t sit down and read 60 to 70 pages of poems.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a poem whose intention was just to be funny. I’ve written poems that start out funny and often shift into something more serious.
If I were to die thinking that I’d written three poems that people might read after me, I would feel that I hadn’t lived in vain. Great poets might expect the whole body of their work, but most of us – well, I would settle for a handful.
On a very personal level, I have fond memories of spending a lot of time in the Library of Congress working on my collection of poems ‘Native Guard.’ I was there over a summer doing research in the archives and then writing in the reading room at the Jefferson building.
Each poem in becoming generates the laws by which it is generated: extensions of the laws to other poems never completely take.
I wish I could write lyrical poems, but I just write the way they come.