What is the underlying reason or cause you’re doing what you’re doing?
I'm excited about this project because it gets at the heart of one of my core beliefs: that arts education, and poetry in particular, is for absolutely everyone. I talk about this explicitly in a PopPoetry post from September 2020 titled "The David in the Subway: I Heart Public Art." For many, poetry has this reputation as either 1) a stuffy, irrelevant art form best relegated to the dusty back shelves of university libraries, or 2) histrionic, overly emotional performativity for performativity's sake: the stuff of cringey coffee-shop diatribes. Both are radical oversimplifications that can even be racist (in the case of some biases against slam and spoken word). So when we see a line of a Shakespearean sonnet written on a blackboard with prosodic stress markings in the background of A Quiet Place, which is a big-time film where silence and sound are key, I perk up my ears. I'm interested in that aesthetic choice and want to use it to bring poetry and arts education to anyone who Googles the poem after finding it smack dab in the middle of the movie they're watching. Poetry is more visible and has a bigger readership than ever today, but by comparison to other art forms, it's still niche in many ways. Amanda Gorman reading a poem at the Superbowl LV is a huge deal, too, and it's a sign to me that we're open, perhaps, to welcoming poetry even more deeply into our lives. I'm excited to be a part of that movement in whatever way I can.
How does something you did in the RC relate to this?
The root of all my literary activity in the RC started with my mentor, the inimitable Ken Mikolowski. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the profound effect he had on my writing life and education. He taught us a great deal about the New York School of poets, and those writers really opened my eyes to the ways in which popular culture could infiltrate what, at the time, felt like the "sacred" world of poetry. Essentially, reading poets like O'Hara more deeply helped me learn that there is no subject that is not fit for poetry. Now, my writing at PopPoetry is invested in thinking about what it means for American Horror Story and Taylor Swift to engage poetry in the 21st century: a kind of mirror image! Though I lacked follow-through all those years ago, I also started a literary journal called IDIOT GLITTER (after a line in a Yevtushenko poem) while I was in the RC. I gravitated toward that project because I was so hungry to put poetry in people's hands. I saw my cohort writing such amazing work and didn't want to wait one more second to strew it all over Ann Arbor. Though IDIOT GLITTER was short-lived, my passion for connecting people through language and fostering meaningful arts experiences has grown and grown since my time in the RC. I'm grateful that I can continue to share the joys of poetry online through Substack, particularly during the pandemic.
If you could have dinner with anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
An impossible choice. In the category of real dead people, I'll say Wallace Stevens. I have a line of his tattooed on my arm, and I know he was quite the gourmet, in his own way (a favorite story about him that I've read has him dipping apple slices in "mounds" of mayonnaise). I'd love to talk about how he envisioned his creative life in the context of his relatively more left-brained work as an insurance company executive. And we would undoubtedly drink too much wine and discuss the imagination and reality, the holiness of the secular world, and whether or not he thought my tattoo was cool (fingers crossed).
What’s your favorite food to make, and why?
Anything where you begin with sautéing garlic and onions in olive oil then build and build from there. Standing over a stove adding and adding ingredients feels like, and is, magic. I'm partial to the way that cooking shows you that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and nowhere is that made more manifest, for me, than over an enormous cauldron of something wonderful simmering away (or maybe, just maybe, a poem...)