Alli Warren with Caleb Beckwith

Alli Warren

Caleb Beckwith: I’m eager to dive into individual poems from your new collection, I Love It Though (Nightboat 2017), but I thought it might be helpful to open our conversation with some reflections on the genre and conventions of book-length poetry publications. I think we’d all agree that poetry is not measured in volume, but, nonetheless, we’d probably also agree that the book-length manuscript functions as the dominant unit of measure (not the line, poem, series, etc.) among many poets today. This decision makes a certain amount of sense; for example, the publication of I Love It Though is the occasion for this conversation between the two of us. However, I notice a tendency among many writers (myself included) to aspire towards the book-length benchmark at the expense of the work it contains: expanding projects that feed on brevity, sustaining prompts long after the writer tires of them, or simply instituting an organizing concept upon of series of poems that are, in truth, only yoked by the writer’s life.

I Love It Though seems different. Rather than changing its content to suit the book form, your book modifies the book-length form to fit its content—as if book-form were never more than an extension of content. At 5.5 x 6.75 inches, its dimensions are remarkably smaller than most book-length poetry collections, which tend to range from 6-7 x 8-9 inches. The abstract figures of this difference may seem negligible, but it results in approximately 20-25 pages worth of material spread out over the course of your book’s 112 pages, rather than vertically on the page. While I know that design decisions often lie with the publisher and book designer, I can’t stop thinking about how the formal dimensions of your book frame the poems inside.