This interview by H.L. Hix is one of a series, many of which will be collected in Alter Nation: America in Recent Poetry, Recent Poetry in America, from Ugly Duckling Presse (fall 2012). Hix loves the interview form as a way of thinking together (itself a condition of democracy, justice, philosophy, and other ideals and practices he values), and as one element in a community poetics. The subject of this interview is Anna Moschovakis’ I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone (Turtle Point Press, 2006).
H.L. Hix: Hart Crane talks in an essay about a “logic of metaphor,” and your untitled opening poem establishes a strange associative logic that will recur throughout the book. I wonder if you have a way of naming or talking about this logic?
Anna Moschovakis: I have been thinking lately about the idea of the “slippery slope” as it applies to logical thought. I am the daughter of two (mathematical) logicians and in college I studied continental philosophy — which is more associative than systematic — partly as an expression of my resistance to what I saw as the dogma of logic in my household growing up. But I aced Logic, despite myself. I’m very drawn to the forms of logical thinking — inclusion/exclusion, if/then, etc — but perhaps my attraction to them is more aesthetic than epistemological.
That is, I like them because they scratch a kind of itch, but I don’t have faith in their descriptive power. Or maybe it’s just that the problems they address and the truths they describe are not the problems and the truths that obsess me most. But I think that some version of logical thinking is soothing to most people, and therefore can be dangerous: it’s as if the ability to explain, step by step, how you logically got from one idea to the next is all the rigor we should demand of ourselves. But anyone with a naturally analytic brain (or who is intimate with someone who has one) knows that without the willingness to ask the hardest questions and to challenge the most airtight assumptions, the dance of logic is just that — a dazzling performance. Back to the slippery slope: That’s a term that philosophers (and political theorists, psychologists, etc) use to describe the way a chain of small steps can lead from a sound premise to an unexpected conclusion — from the perspective of the thinker, it’s how sound thinking can turn into unreasonable thinking through a barely perceptible link in a long, logical chain. As is often the case with analytic philosophy, I love the term itself: the drama and danger in a slippery slope, the physicality of it, the vertigo, the irresistible appeal. So, yes: metaphor. Perhaps I like the metaphors of logic. Now I need to go read that essay by Hart Crane.
Anna Moschovakis’s recent books are You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake (poems) and The Jokers (a translation of a novel by Albert Cossery). She is a member of the faculty of Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College, and of the Brooklyn-based publishing collective Ugly Duckling Presse. A post-hoc blog from her 2009 residency in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, can be read online at: http://blog.apexart.org/