Thomas Fink with Chris Pusateri

Chris Pusateri
Chris Pusateri

Thomas Fink is a frequent contributor to The Conversant. The subject of this interview is Chris Pusateri’s Common Time (Steerage Press 2012).

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.