Thomas Fink: Though we will soon talk about “content,” certain formal components of Common Time are remarkable, and they have to do with titles. In “The Lost Golf Ball,” David Shapiro meditates about the function of titles: “The title could be an inducement like a lost ball/ though it never appears in the final painting/ though anything might… /but the title is not a can opener or a handle for a pot/… The title itself is a ceiling for/ stars that shine at night, will not fade, and stick by themselves/ like a slogan…”
As the Table of Contents seems to reveal, and as Eileen Tabios surmises in her review of Common Time, each poem’s title is neither above or on the first line, but somewhere lower—and not at the end. (Pages 40, 42, and 43 flirt with being exceptions. I believe that there’s one poem per page.) Are Tabios and I basically in line with your intentions? And was the Table of Contents itself a poem serving as beginning point for the poems written later, the rest of the book? Or is this one long poem—with the titles being of minor importance? Or are you trying to orchestrate “that pause again, the one that reminds us/ at three removes, that nothing” about the blueprint for the application of these structurations “can be explained, nothing/ can be vicarious,” in the sense that different possibilities are competing with each other? And if so, then could you please confirm or deny that some of the possibilities discussed above are operative and maybe identify others?
Chris Pusateri: As a person with a background in literature and librarianship, I consider both the literary uses of a title and how a title functions as a piece of information—in other words, I’m always thinking about how the formal elements of literature give rise to a whole host of assumptions that condition the compositional process and our habits as readers.
In the traditional reading of a poem, we’re taught that a title should appear at the top of a piece and should allude to its subject matter or give us some other insight into how to read the poem. In Common Time, I’m trying to get the reader to think critically about the function of the title and explore what exactly it contributes to the piece. As a practical matter, I resist the notion that a title is somehow separate from the poem itself—that it’s simply reducible to gloss or caption, functioning as mere metadata.
As you mention, the title of each poem in Common Time is derived from the text of that piece, as in the following passage:
I don’t want to give him my books because I don’t
think he reads,
but how’s he supposed to read
if no one ever thinks he will?
Okay, seven percent, but seven percent of what?
The distance that separates us is greater now
than ten years ago
even though we live in the same places.
My message is so long, it has become a religious
To read it is to be not informed, but devoted.
Strapless mocha. Steaming penis fondue.
In a very basic sense, to give a poem a title is to give it a name. And naming, as countless writers from Derrida to Acker have suggested, is a complicated and value-laden act. Eileen Tabios, in her thoughtful review for Galatea Resurrects, points out that each poem in Common Time names itself with a line from its own body. She notes that the title is rarely taken from the first or last lines of the piece, but comes instead from the middle (or the body) of the piece. Eileen’s use of corporeal terms like the body imbues my reading of Common Time with a touch of the grotesque: when I consider it in those terms, I think not of quotation or echo, but of the poem cannibalizing itself, and literally taking a limb or an organ from its body and rendering a title from it. Which lends the piece a kind of decadent zombie-chic that I hadn’t intended (and that Eileen probably hadn’t read), but it’s certainly a fascinating imaginative possibility.
When I read poems, I rarely remember the titles, in part because many writers tend not to choose very good titles (I’ve never quite figured out why this is, but it must speak to how we see titles as merely decorative, and as such, we tend to value them less). In the case of Common Time, the memorization of title and line is one and the same. And that’s fundamentally different, I think, than simply tacking on a title as an afterthought.
Just parenthetically, I really like the Shapiro passage you quote, in which he compares titles to a constellation of heavenly bodies. Because I’m an associative creature, that passage conjures for me the notion of dots in space and then evokes the old game of connecting the dots. A game, as Wittgenstein had it, is an apt metaphor for the compositional process. But in Common Time, we’re never quite told which is point A and which is point B, so the chronology itself is always in doubt. As always, I suppose that the order in which the dots are connected will ultimately be up to the reader.
Speaking of chronology, it was the poems (and their titles) that came first; the idea to use these titles to create a poem which would then function as the table of contents came later.
TF: Often in Common Time, there are linguistic doublings or quasi-doublings that either seem absurd, paradoxical, or wisely beyond paradox. In reading the bracketed sentence, “[movies are better than cinema],” one can say that “movies” in their specificity are superior to the tedious abstract notion of “cinema” as an art form. On the same page, we find: “what makes a brain a mind?/ a mind a brain made plural.” Though the brain’s hardware features multiplicity, the word “mind” seems to have connotations that point to much more protean and incalculably diverse aspects than “brain.” In the sentence, “People wouldn’t understand,/ but a person might,” the word “people” is associated with a collective stereotype, whereas “person” evokes the singularity of any number of persons with respect to the development of a particular understanding. And then there’s a classic poststructuralist joke of the signifier failing to re-present the signified, as in Magritte’s “This Is Not a Pipe,” as interpreted by Foucault et al: “It was a shirt/ that read ‘travesty’/ rather than being a travesty.” One thing that signals word play within the utterance is that the word “vest” can be found in “travesty.” The effect of the sentence, “There are things we will not do/ in favor of things/ we will not do instead,” hinges on “in favor of” and “instead”: if there are two parallel negations of action and no action, how can the not doing of one be more of a non-action than the other? Taking binary oppositions too solemnly might be an invitation to an impasse; textual frustration amid a search for satisfaction can be the result: “It’s not that we like each other,/ but it’s not that we don’t.// (That’s a binary in search of a glory hole).”
Could you comment on some of these sentences that I’ve cited and give us a sense of intentions that animate the wordplay? Within the poem’s overall orbit(s), how do you see or hear these doublings functioning?
CP: Rather than thinking of your examples as doubling or multiplicity, I consider them a doubling back, the establishment of a circuitous motion that returns us to where we began and forces us to reconsider the subject, in a denial of repetition similar to what Gertrude Stein might have called insistence. She argued that a sequence of similar or seemingly identical actions was not actually repetition at all, but a series of sovereign occurrences performed anew. I think that the act of revisiting that one sees in Common Time functions in much the same way.
TF: Yes, that’s more precise.
CP: Where Stein and I part company is in our views of chronology. Stein said that someone like James Joyce received critical attention because his writing dwelt largely in the past (“smelled of the museums” is how I think she put it, echoing her earlier assessment of Ernest Hemingway’s work). Stein saw this reliance on memory as a retreat, one that was at odds with her notion of the continuous present, in which discovery and newness were privileged over recollection and hindsight. While I find Stein’s explanation compelling, her argument also rests on the idea of a static past, and that doesn’t jibe with my understanding of how memory functions.
Perhaps Stein conflated memory with history, but I’ve always seen the two terms as being quite distinct, and neither, in my estimation, is reducible to a museum diorama. I think that memory is made to serve the present, and our personal recollections often shift and alter, the details going into and out of focus, depending on what the present demands of them. History, on the other hand, is public: it’s the story that a society or community tells of itself (or oftentimes, it’s a story that is told by others on our behalf, whether we authorize that telling or not) and as a source of such immense power, it’s always contested ground.
If I had to devise a name for this shifting memory—this need to loop back, revisit and reconstitute—which animates the many insistences that one sees in Common Time, I might invoke and poke fun at the same time by calling it the continuous past. I’ll admit that I’m skeptical of any poetics that stresses the primacy of one chronological moment over another: the past, present, and speculative future all enter into writing, and as such, I’d like to honor each of them as central to the process. In my view, we can no sooner divorce ourselves from memory than compose writing that is apolitical: all writing occurs within a context and that context always intrudes, whether we wish it or no.
TF: And maybe much writing occurs within multiple contexts that intrude, sometimes on each other.
I love the little story (in prose) in which a mom asks her children, “if they [want] more to eat in English, then shortly after switch to French to chastise them for overeating.” I’m going to try out a few readings, and maybe this story is a lesson in how a variety of contexts, some more common than others, steers interpretation. In exile in the U.S., the mother is grudgingly acceding to the “American way” of “more is better,” but her French self asserts the need for restraint—for belt-tightening. Or she’s merely articulating her general anger at her “brats “ (and perhaps displacing on them her anger at her husband for his lack of involvement in child-rearing) by confusing and hence thwarting them through bilingual means; she acts maternal in a foreign tongue and very differently in their own. Or maybe she isn’t necessarily French but raising her kids bilingually, and if French is stereotypically the language of sensual pleasure, then she reverses the expectation; she might be viewed as a slightly sadistic “poet” who seeks to stage the arbitrariness of “Babel.” What does this story do for you? What do you think it does for Common Time?
CP: I usually don’t write directly from life, as I prefer texts that come from what some call the “autonomous imagination.” I also find the idea that writing can only have validity if it’s transcribed from everyday experience to be self-limiting—most poets lead lives that, on the surface, are not any more titillating than those of an auto mechanic or a butcher. Having said that, I try my best not to erect false dichotomies between the concrete and the abstract, so in that sense, I don’t favor any strict prohibitions against writing from experience. And in real terms, it’s probably impossible to exclude all elements of autobiography from one’s writing, anyway.
The poem you mention is one of those rare pieces where I observed ninety percent of what the poem depicts—although, like any writer, I won’t reveal which ninety percent—simply by having breakfast in a particular restaurant on a particular day at a particular time. It was the spring of 2007 and the Iraq War was in the midst of becoming the unethical mess that history now agrees it was. American and coalition casualties were up; Iraqi casualties, mostly civilian, were through the roof. Bush & Co clearly possessed no cogent strategy beyond “mission accomplished,” and many poets (indeed, many artists in all areas) felt a desire to address these and other political concerns directly in their art.
At this point in Common Time, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of political and war imagery, much of which struggles with the question of how an artist produces work that is politically efficacious during times of crisis or upheaval. The particular passage you cite, whose subject matter is relatively domestic and intimate, is also colored by the geopolitical events of the moment. As you recall, the run-up to the conflict saw strong disagreements between various members of the UN over how to proceed, with Tony Blair declaring common cause with Bush and the American neo-con wing, while the French came down firmly against military intervention. It’s especially telling that, long after the hunt for weapons of mass destruction was abandoned, one could still dine on Freedom Fries at the House cafeteria.
If anything, this scene at breakfast also hints at the long history of tension between the British and French, which has existed since well before the Battle of Hastings and continues unimpeded today. In this moment, I was hoping to juxtapose historical stereotypes with contemporary ones. A scholar of the Romantic period, for instance, might say that Britain was historically aligned with the notion of reason, while France (as the seat of the Revolution) was given over to spontaneity and passion. Here, however, the maternal figure chooses French as the language of austerity and discipline, which conflicts with historical stereotypes of France as the home of decadence and excess.
The interpersonal politics of the family, at least beyond the literal, are not something I was thinking about much as I wrote, although as you point out, they clearly factor into the poem. The mother (or the woman who inhabited the maternal role) spoke English fluently and with an American accent, so I suspect she was either raised in America or brought up bilingually by at least one American parent. Her French sounded pretty good to me, although my own French is poor enough that I can’t opine with any authority about the woman’s origins or overall command of the language. Also interesting to me is the fact that the woman is the only one who speaks, and even then, the narrator paraphrases her. The father says not a word (and if he had chosen to speak, I’m curious to know which language he might have used). It’s possible, I suppose, that only the woman and the children are bilingual, and that the second language is a form of code used by the woman (and probably the children) to exclude the father, who is the traditional nexus of familial authority. In that context, one could see it as a form of passive resistance to traditional power structures within the family. Although, as you note, there are many other interpretations.
TF: Posing “the question of how an artist produces work that is politically efficacious during times of crisis or upheaval” is itself important, if done cogently, as you do, and no poet should be expected to provide a definitive answer. But I’m curious about whether you arrived at tentative, provisional answers while writing Common Time (well before Obama’s withdrawal of the last troops, if that, indeed, has occurred) about how you thought you could assist opposition to the Iraq misadventure? And if not, what are the main obstacles to the production of such an effect?
CP: These are enormously important questions and there are many approaches that one could take. As such, it’s often difficult to know how best to direct one’s energies. In moments like these, I find Marx instructive: from each according to his ability. As a language worker, I’m interested in how language changes to accommodate the exigencies of war, how new terms are introduced, old terms are retooled, and how this new lexicon is used to deny the realities of war. As others have pointed out, we no longer have torture, we have enhanced interrogation; assassinations have become targeted killings; extrajudicial kidnapping is extraordinary rendition, and so forth. Consider that there are entire departments of government whose role is to euphemize, to absolve, and to prescribe the terms of reception. When you look at it in this light, it seems a moral imperative for those with linguistic skills to bring attention not only to the war itself, but the various mechanisms that are set up to sanitize language and thus the very war it describes. It would naturally fall to journalists to expose these trickeries, but there have always been conflicts of interest between government and the press, so perhaps it is now the responsibility of non-organizational actors to bring these things to light.
Where wartime language is concerned, there are few more artful dodgers than Donald Rumsfeld, who makes a brief appearance in Common Time. He may be a charlatan and a war criminal, but you have to hand it to the guy: when it comes to indelible bullshit, he’s the Yogi Berra of modern politics. To think that some of the most memorable moments of the Bush administration originated in Donald Rumsfeld’s mouth!
All joking aside, though, one Rumsfeld or Cheney worries me more than a thousand Bushes, because those people, the ones making policy behind the scenes, are the puppet masters. There’s an epigraph in my newest manuscript, The Liberties, which is taken from Fanny Howe. It reads the person who has power is usually invisible. That, too, is one of the roles of the poet: to make the invisible visible.
In the final analysis, all political change is local and temporary. I don’t flatter myself by thinking that poetry will save the world because art is simply one front in a broader conflict over narrative and truth. Not to sound like a curmudgeon, but I also worry that the rise of digital technologies has taken some of the physicality out of political resistance. While platforms like Twitter have been highlighted as pivotal in bringing about the events of the Arab Spring, for instance (and there’s no denying that digital networks are useful tools), I’m concerned that people often ascribe false agency to social networks. Simply liking something on Facebook may express (in the mildest sense) a political opinion, but is not tantamount to political action in my view. The value of a service like Twitter is in its immediacy, but immediacy is also its shortcoming: there’s something about the medium that seems transient to me, and political change, as I argue above, is incremental and long-term, and requires persistence and patience. Patience and persistence are not qualities I associate with micro-blogging platforms, so I’m curious to see how the users of these technologies view their responsibilities toward the situations they create. Twitter can disseminate information, but as we saw in North Africa, you needed thousands of bodies in the streets of Tunis before Ben Ali went into exile. And so far, I don’t see a suitable substitute in the digital world for the physical fact of someone’s body.
TF: The consequences of the availability of any technology like those of Web 2.0 may depend on the users’ beliefs and energies and sense of balance between activities. Speed of information transmission can be an advantage, if the user is also capable of “patience and persistence,” as well as painstaking reflection. It is not necessarily an occasion for lamentation when, as you say, “a slowing in the processor struggles to/ digest the pasted HTML text.” Those who can employ Twitter without being enthralled by its “magical” properties are in a good position to make positive use of “slower” resources.
A long time ago—maybe the mid-eighties—I wrote a conference paper on how Kenneth Koch’s long poem “Some General Instructions” is a wonderful example of the poetic parody of self-help books, and I also noted that Whitman in Song of Myself stands as a precursor of this self-help tendency but with relatively minimal parody. Years later, reading many of the ironic aphorisms in Common Time, I can get a whiff of self-help parody again. One example is another case of the doubling I spoke of earlier:
Unfortunately, there’s no cheat sheet for living.
Your investment in life
is in line with
your tolerance for risk. It might seem
like it’s your choice but it
is. Does the double positive
nullify itself or is its
affirmative power cumulative?
So very, very.
The first and second sentences could be taken directly from an actual self-help book, and the two sentences involving “the double positive” prevent us from being lulled—if it’s possible—by the baldness of their generality, as does the incomplete single-lined fragment. There are various other examples sprinkled throughout the book. The sentence, “DIAGNOSIS: self as pathology” seems to critique the ideological basis of self-help texts.
First of all, how would you view this contextualization of mine? And, if it has possible validity, does your text include a wholly negative critique of self-help tendencies or is there an acknowledgment of their potential efficacy, if rethought and restructured? Along this line, could self-help discourse contribute to the reduction of human suffering and increase day-to-day happiness, or must it deploy a rhetoric that is ineluctably banal and mystified? (Another possibility is that the puncturing of self-help rhetoric clears a space for readers to arrive at their own ways of thinking about individual and collective aims and the strategies needed to realize them.)
CP: It’s interesting that you would raise the issue of self-help, because in my work as a librarian, I’m often asked for assistance in locating self-help literature. The kingdom of self-help is astonishingly broad, because one could need any kind of aid: help with relationships, motivation, self-esteem, spiritual matters or a whole host of other issues, all of which are loosely gathered under the banner of self-help.
Although self-help was not a conscious influence on Common Time, my work borrows from many specialized vocabularies, of which self-help is no doubt one. We also see the aspirational rhetoric of self-help reproduced in the language of commerce. When you look at advertising in the industrial age, it often tried to associate an emotion with the product on offer. Consider early ads for the automobile: a car (and the promise of the open road) was meant to evoke feelings of freedom, leisure and mobility. Nowadays, advertisements go a step further: they promise an experience, one that is both highly personalized and transformative, despite the fact that the product (and thus the experience it embodies) is standardized for mass-production and sold to as many people as possible.
The product itself hardly matters: it could be a self-help book, a college degree or a bottle of shampoo, but it will change your life (or so the narrative goes). And like the promise of religious salvation, self-help focuses its attention firmly on the future. Or more to the point, one possible version of the future: the world as it could be. In that way, it seems to crib some of the characteristics of earlier utopian rhetoric, because there’s always the implication, never far from the surface, that because you change, the world will change with you, since the world is little more than your highly subjective view of it. Never mind that your view of the world is itself socially constructed and influenced by a number of factors, like, say, advertising.
While helping oneself is certainly laudable, it’s the excesses—the one-size-fits-all, utopian, and attention-deprived nature of the self-help enterprise—that make it worthy of parody. Emerging genres like reality television have turned self-improvement into a spectator sport, one that carries with it expectations of trauma, confession, emotional upheaval, interpersonal conflict, epiphanic monologues, the works. If Common Time reacts negatively to the modern rhetoric of self-help, then this is the grist.
TF: Your important point about “the aspirational rhetoric of self-help” being “reproduced in the language of commerce” leads me to ponder whether a self-help rhetoric that bases its aspirational qualities on the critique of commodity capitalism and a resistance to “the one-size-fits-all” is possible. In the seventies (and maybe eighties), there were feminist and gay/lesbian approaches in what might be labeled self-help books intended to help readers question elements of patriarchy and heterosexism respectively. One question is whether any of those books—even if not co-opted by the profit motives of mainstream presses—were able to avoid reinscribing commodity-oriented and problematically totalizing formulations into their discourse alongside such critiques.
CP: That’s a good observation and I can give only a tentative and provisional reply. Part of what offends my sensibilities about recent self-help is the self-congratulatory aspect of it. The books you mention above, which take patriarchy and homophobia as their focus, sound more like argumentative texts than simple self-help (although we all benefit from thinking critically about such things). One difference between these books and more contemporary models of self-help is that the books you cite enlist the individual as part of a larger social phenomenon, a movement with far-reaching political implications, whereas more recent self-help seems to privilege the individual. To cop a bit of political language, we might say that most of the benefits of this self-help “journey” are privatized. Perhaps economic liberalization (with its focus on capitalism and radical individualism) has influenced this shift away from the social benefits of self-improvement.
Again, I’m painting with very broad strokes here, and there are certainly countless exceptions everything I’ve said, but like you, I hope that it’s possible to engage in self-help that is beneficial to both individual and community while studiously avoiding the less savory profit-taking and self-adulation that permeate so much of what now passes as self-help.
TF: One name that has been conspicuously absent from this exchange is that of Glenn Gould, source of one of the epigraphs after the Table of Contents and before the main text: “I’ve always believed… that one should start by worrying about the action of the instrument, not the sound.” And in her blurb, Sarah Mangold asserts that in this book you are “taking [your] cue from Glenn Gould’s ‘two take’ recording process….” Please comment on the extent to which you would like readers to presume that Common Time is engaging in a dialogue with Gould.
CP: Many of my longer projects begin as a series of questions that I’d like to investigate. In that regard, my process has as much in common with social science research as it has with modes of artistic production. My projects typically begin with certain topics or questions, and I use composition as a manner of investigating those issues, with the hopes that I’ll address (or more likely, further problematize) some of the questions.
Common Time, rather than being based on research questions, is process-based: it models itself after the “take-two” procedure used by Glenn Gould. Gould was already a world-class pianist when, at age 32, he decided to stop performing in public, choosing instead to devote himself wholly to studio work. Gould felt that the studio environment afforded him a much greater degree of control over the end product, and the spontaneity of performance—the notion that anything could happen, or taking Gould’s need to control all aspects of his environment into account, perhaps the problem was that anything could go wrong during a performance—dismayed and terrified him. If something went amiss during a recording session, Gould could always go back and edit the take. He referred to this quality, this ability to revise, as “take two-ness.”
When Gould recorded a particular piece (let’s say Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, for the sake of discussion) he would record thirty or forty different versions of it. From there, he would take what he felt to be the best passages from each of the thirty versions and splice them together, creating a final “master take” which would then appear on the album.
From the vantage point of the 21st century, Gould’s process may not seem terribly innovative. Today, we might call the “two-take” by a number of different names: mashup, cut-up, bricolage, collage, assemblage, parataxis. But what made Gould’s procedure unique was the scale of the components he worked with. Rather than beginning with a series of fragments and placing them alongside one another (as a poet might) Gould would, in the example above, create 30 recordings of Bach’s entire piece. I began to wonder what this process would look like if it were applied to textual art, and I came to the conclusion that I would need to write not one but many manuscripts, from which a final version might be culled.
Beginning in January 2007, I began writing a body of source text. At the time, I was struggling with the issue of how to find sustained time to write (I work a non-academic job which allows very little time off), so I decided to write at work, in the tiny fissures and cracks of time that occurred between tasks. Some days, providence would smile and I would get about ten or fifteen good minutes of writing in. Other days, I might literally get five seconds, enough time to dash off a few words or a single phrase. I wrote in this manner every day for a calendar year. By year’s end, I had amassed a significant body of source text.
From there, I revised this text—adding, subtracting, rewriting—until I had a finished draft of a book manuscript. I then took the manuscript, put it in a desk drawer and did not look at it again for a very long time. At that point, I returned to the original body of source text and began anew: I revised for several months until I had a second manuscript that was very different from the first. When I was satisfied that the second manuscript was largely complete, I placed it in the desk drawer alongside the first. In all, I produced three discrete manuscripts from a body of common source text, and in keeping with Gould’s example, soldered together what I felt to be the best passages of each draft into the book you now have in your hands.
An interesting aspect of this experience was the need to always return to the origins of the project. You might work on a manuscript for months, only to file it away and forget it. I was very strict with myself: I never allowed myself to consult any of the previous iterations of the manuscript because I wanted each version to be as different as possible. It was an interesting exercise in non-attachment, because I think that, as writers, we become devoted to particular aesthetic choices that we’ve made, sometimes to the detriment of the manuscript itself. Locking each draft in a desk drawer allowed me some critical distance from my previous aesthetic choices, and allowed me the freedom to make a very different set of choices when composing the next draft. In the end, the experience helped me to think differently about revision and how to gain perspective over the decisions that one makes while composing.
TF: What a remarkable cluster of procedures! Non-attachment and supreme patience indeed!
Often, an interviewer will invite a poet to offer advice to beginners. Instead, I’d like to end my part of this exchange by asking you—and I don’t know your precise age, but I’m guessing that you haven’t seen four decades—if you have any counsel for experienced poets (and, what the hell, poetry critics) between 50 and 100—those of us who may be in danger of slouching into boring imitations of ourselves, becoming irrelevant shadows, calcifying into irksome pontificators, etc.
CP: As I’ve grown older (I’m 41 at present), I’ve devised strategies to keep myself interested in writing, although the degree to which these tactics would be useful for others is anyone’s guess. I think that being bored with one’s art can sometimes be a byproduct of being bored with one’s life. Over time, I’ve found it helpful to live in a variety of places, many of them abroad, for extended periods of time, because it keeps me from taking my surroundings for granted. As something of a pessimist, I try to keep a sense of gratitude alive in myself, if only to remind myself that many things, even some that I see as irritants or impediments, are in fact privileges. In terms of aesthetics, I’ve found that the following practices have kept me engaged and focused: denying my preferences and proclivities, just to see what comes of it; collaborating with others, particularly those who are not writers, because their work processes and ideas help me develop mine; actively supporting the work of my contemporaries and those predecessors whose efforts have met with undeserved neglect; being open to influence and specific in my critiques; reading outside of my national literature; having interests other than poetry and pursuing them with relish, because these things nourish my writing life.
Chris Pusateri is the author of several books of poetry, most recently Common Time (Steerage Press, 2012), which was shortlisted for the Colorado State Book Award. His poetry and critical prose appears in many periodicals in the US and abroad, including American Letters & Commentary, Chicago Review, Jacket, Verse, Poetry Wales and others. A former resident of London, Mexico City and Kingston (Jamaica), he currently resides in Denver, where he works as an outreach librarian.