In his monthly poetry podcast, Radio Free Albion, Tony Trigilio interviews poets about their recently released or forthcoming books. Always informal, each interview is a conversation—two poets talking about the work and play of the creative process and showcasing some of the most innovative new work in contemporary poetry. In this interview transcribed by Evan Kleekamp, Trigilio interviews Peter Davis.
Literary nonfictionist Mary Cappello and poet Peter Covino interview each other on the matter of “beauty” in their work and the work they love to read; on anti-beauty, un-beauty, disruptive beauty, and uncontained beauty in poetry and the essay. On trauma and poetic practice; on writing violence and literary nonfiction; on letting the wild in; on queer Italian/Americana; on the contrapuntal and distillate forms; on lyrical space, confluent energies, writing light. And plaid. The conversation was recorded at the University of Rhode Island December 2012, by Justin H. Brierley for The Beauty Salon, a radio program that explores everyday aesthetics in and around Rhode Island.
Sasha Steensen: I’ve just read your new book, Bitter Green, and it strikes me that it is a divergence from some (though certainly not all) of your earlier work. Much of this earlier work is multi-vocal, using persona (Thomas Swann), quotation (Swallows, for example), and overwriting and excising techniques to challenge the sovereignty of authorial intention and the primacy of the written text. In Bitter Green, the mother is a fundamental figure, but she is gone, and this absence has forced the speaker to re-adjust or re-position his own social compass. The book strikes me as both highly personal, and desperately concerned with one’s presence in the larger world. But the poems do not rest comfortably with the interior (private, familial) and exterior (public, social) binary any more than they accept a trajectory whereby the familial seamlessly turns into the social.