20 Questions

I’ve taken a cue from Ron and answered H.L. Hix’s 20 Questions questionnaire from the Best American Poetry blog.

1. What poet should be in Obama’s cabinet, and in what role?

Adeena Karasick as Secretary of Hermeneutics and Sensuality

2. If you could send Obama one poem or book of poems (not your own), what would it be and why?

Michael Brownstein’s World on Fire. It’s both alarmist and utopian.

3. What other poetry-related blog or website should I check out?


4. Who is the most exciting young/new poet I’ve never heard of, but whose work I ought to find and read?

Margaret Christakos/ K. Lorraine Graham/ Lacey Hunter

5. What’s the funniest poem you’ve read lately? What was the last poem that made you cry?

The funniest poem I read lately was one of K. Silem Mohammad’s unpublished Sonnagrams: With lines like, “Wise fools who rub the curly heads of state” and “The UFOs in Limbo hover way low;/ In Purgatory, langue’s denied parole,” how can I but laugh?

Poems tend not to make me cry unless they are either by or for me. Sometimes I will cry (a little, or just “inside”) while writing them, but that’s just indulgent.

6. William or Dorothy? Robert or Elizabeth Barrett? Moore or Bishop? Dunbar or Cullen?
“Poetry must resist the intelligence almost successfully” or “No ideas but in things”? Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas or Tender Buttons?

Which Dorothy? Oz Dorothy? You don’t mean Dorothea? Anyway, Oz Dorothy.

O, Elizabeth Barrett, absolutely. Aurora Leigh is one of my favorite poems, not to mention the sonnets.

Moore, for sure.

Dunbar, because I like the mannerisms.

I’ll take both quotations, please; as a real poet, I am comfortable dwelling in ambiguity.

Tender Buttons, but that’s just predictable.

7. Robert Lowell wrote a poem called “Falling Asleep Over the Aeneid”; What supposedly immortal poem puts you to sleep?

Uh… lots of them. Maybe The Cantos?

8. Even for poetry books, the contract has a provision for movie rights. What poetry book should they make into a movie? Who should direct it, and why? Who should star in it?

I always thought Swoon should be a movie, but that doesn’t count, right?

How about Hannah Weiner’s Open House? Directed by Jack Smith? I can’t think about the stars.

9. What lines from a poem you first read years ago still haunt you now?

“Such hills as hive me waste away/ in the refulgent concatenations of failed display.” from Charles Bernstein’s “Foreign Body Sensation.”

10. What poem do you love, love, love, but don’t understand?

Stacy Doris’ Conference (a book, really, rather than a poem per se). I don’t care that I don’t understand it, because I love love love it.

11. If the official organ of the AWP were not the Chronicle but were the Enquirer, what would some of the headlines be?

Oh god, who cares.

12. If you were making a scandal rag for poetry in the grocery store checkout stands, what fictitious poetry love triangle would you make up to outsell that tired Hollywood story of Angelina and Brad and Jen?

Hmm. I like the idea of Mirabai involved with Larry Eigner and the Baron de Rothschild.

13. This is the Best American Poetry blog. What’s the best non-American poetry you’ve read lately?

The subtitles to the gender-bending Shaw Bros. Film, “The Three Smiles”
I made a poem out of them.

14. We read poems in journals and books, we hear them in readings and on audio files. Sometimes we get them in unusual ways: on buses or in subway cars. How would you like to encounter your next poem?

I’d like to see one appropriated on a t-shirt of strange English on a clothing rack in a discount store in a Tokyo suburb.

15. What poem would you like to hear the main character bust out singing in a Bollywood film? What would be the name of the movie? What would be the scene in which it was sung?


This would be Helen prancing around in a fluorescent green tiger outfit with Lata’s voice coming out of her. She would be twirling a variety of weapons as part of her cabaret act.

16. Do you have a (clean) joke involving poetry you’d like to share?

Q. How many flarf poets does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Squid.

That’s not funny.

17. Tell the truth: is it a poetry book you keep in the john, or some other genre (john-re)?

Gary keeps his own book, How to Proceed in the Arts, in the john. We also have a lot of cinema magazines and old New Yorkers and Harpers, as well as one of those illustrated easy guides to Derrida. I maybe have a belly dance magazine in there, too.

18. Can you name every teacher you had in elementary school? Did any of them make you memorize a poem? What poem(s)?

I can name nearly every teacher. I don’t remember ever having been made to do anything. I did memorize some poems, though, voluntarily. “Jabberwocky” comes to mind.

19. If you got to choose the next U.S. Poet Laureate, who (excluding of course the obvious candidates, you and me) would it be? Of former U.S. Poet Laureates, who did such a great job that he/she should get a second term? Next election cycle, what poet should run for President? Why her or him?

I can think of many poets who I would be thrilled to see as Poet Laureates, but I really think it should be Clark Coolidge, partly because his name sounds so presidential. Also because we could then have a “spontaneous bop presidency.” I know that’s from Kerouac initially, but it gets transmuted ever so much more interestingly in Coolidge.

No second terms.

Hmm… presidential candidates… maybe Bill Bissett? Or Julie Patton?

20. Insert your own question here.

Why do we exist?

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