“Back” is a strange piece, feeling almost alien in its eccentricities. I quite enjoyed it, what was the inspiration behind it?
I have a several poems like “Back” that are associative in nature, that are guided by a more emotional logic than anything rationally thought out. There aren’t very many of them, but I like it when they come and try to follow those impulses wherever they lead. I’m interested in working more in that way because it’s unnerving for me.
“Back” is an older poem — it’s not been easy to find people who respond well to it — and I don’t remember its origin in much detail. I was homeless at the time I wrote it, after the end of my first marriage. Moving from couch to couch at various friends’ apartments around the city, in one place only a few days at a time. I guess it started as an effort to remind myself, a whispering in my own ear. A suggestion of direction and a hope for return.
What made you decide to become an author in the first place?
There was nothing conscious about it. I started writing at a young age, 9 or 10. First poems, then later plays. I spent my 20s and 30s working professionally in theater in New York, as a writer and translator and on the staff of theaters. Writing was just the thing I did naturally. And I always treated it professionally, just assuming it would be where I’d go. I started sending out poems to journals when I was in my teens. They always came back. Good practice for the future.
Do you have any other pieces you’re intending to release soon, or are working on?
I always have 30 or 40 poems circulating to journals at any given time. When one group gets rejected, I send it to another journal right away. I keep a list. I have a reading coming up in New York in June and I’m hoping to have a new poem or two for it. That’s what I’m working on right now. I’ve also started rehearsing for the reading. In part that’s because of my background in theater, but I can also get quite nervous when I read and like to practice aloud for a week or two before a reading. That helps me discover an order for the poems as well, a shape for the presentation as a whole.