An Interview with Ted Dodson - Believer Magazine

In early 2019 I had the pleasure of publishing two poems by Ted Dodson in Hyperallergic, and at the time could only speculate about what larger world the pair of dated poems named after different cities (“Brooklyn, 5/25/18” etc) were drawn from. I was excited about the poems and the project, and thought of them often in the months after. The work was eventually realized as Ted’s new book An Orange (co-published by Pioneer Works and Wonder), a wide-ranging poetic inventory of forms of connection in the 21st century, interrogative and often-ecstatic, published this year by Pioneer Works, and the subject of a long delightfully meandering phone call between us on a rainy day in April. We first tried unsuccessfully to conduct this interview in February in the depths of pandemic winter, but it was meant for the hopefulness of spring after all. As I revisited the book in the months in-between, An Orange spoke to me movingly (and convincingly) about distance, longing, and the poet’s essential power of sustained attention.

—Wendy Xu

THE BELIEVER: I’m looking at An Orange right now! The book has been such a welcome object in my house, and obviously I have thoughts about what’s inside too, but as an art-object it’s been so beautiful and sunny and it’s raining outside right now as we chat so I’m just staring at the color…

I’ll start by asking, now that the book is out, is there something that you love most about how it turned out visually? 

TED DODSON: I’m really happy with how the book turned out. One of the reasons why I wanted to work with Pioneer Works again is so I could work with their designer, Daniel Kent. He’s a genius. And I knew he would understand what I wanted. Something I love about the book is that the object of it is a perfect collaboration between him and me. I had the idea for the cover—that was important to me to have the image be the title—but then he was the one who decided to add the material dimensions of the book on the back, which I thought was an interesting and fun design decision. It lists how many pages are in the book, but also many poems, lines, and the size of the book, all these ways of measuring the object. And the book measures itself too in the poems, through chronology, how those poems of the first half of the book are dated, and the last poem in the book which measures itself both with seasonal change and through the running line numbers, which was an idea that Daniel had. It’s a little pretentious maybe, like what the precedent for this? Norton critical editions? The Bible? But it made sense to me too. I wrote An Orange in this self-reflexive mode. It’s often referencing itself as an idea of a book, right? And to think that and through that, it finds these ways to measure not only its quantitative qualities, whether this is line length or number of pages, the size of the book itself, or chronologically, but also qualitatively, too. It’s always thinking. The book thinks about itself quite a lot.

BLVR: In terms of how the book and the poems “measure themselves,” I had a sense, while I was reading, of bibliography-as-poetry that feels related—naming one’s assemblage.

Each poem feels so aware of who it’s coming from, who it’s to, who it’s for. I don’t know if this resonates with you, but this feels to me like a kind of measuring, too. The book is so full of address, of poems as missives to someone. Does that hit with you at all?

TD: Yes, absolutely. It actually really does. There is an epistolary undertone to the book. I enjoy writing with a shared familiarity between myself and whomever might be reading my poems. And this is a byproduct of how I might begin a poem, which is sometimes started as more of a direct address to friends or someone significant to me that, as the poem goes along, I revise away from. The method of writing, of producing the poem, is not often what ends up being the impetus behind the finished poem, but there are inheritances of that methodology. That familiarity is embedded even if the address becomes a bit more indefinite. 

This is also to say, I’m conscious of that “you,” insofar as that I know that “you” is not everybody. I’m not looking to impress my experiences on anyone else or make my experiences seem universal because I know the poems, as you said, have a strong awareness of themselves and awareness of the body of the poem. They’re understanding of their own physicality. And—this might be what you’re sensing—the address is part of the poem expressing a sculptural emphasis. What the poem exemplifies in itself, in this case a physicality, a sense of objecthood within the world of the book, it extends to the reader as well (I think of myself, in this way, as a reader of my own poems). It’s not a relatability that I’m writing toward, but a space of understanding more than anything else.

The reading experiences that I’ve treasured the most in my life are not the escapist ones where you are taken away from where you are in the moment. The reading I treasure most is where you are made aware of your surroundings so much more, like a book activates the world around you and becomes so much more vibrant. It’s not like a film where you can become so absorbed in that atmosphere that you forget where you are. Like, the falling away of the theater is part of the cinema experience. The books that I want to write are ones that try to impart a sensitivity for the person who is reading it and to extend that by example.

BLVR: I also really like how that pushes against an idea of the poem as merely a mirror for the reader, you know? I find that to be a pretty impoverished and uninteresting function for a poem! Of course poems can reflect what we know, what we’ve been, where we’re coming from, but I love your idea of the poem making the reader have a heightened sensitivity to their surroundings as well. 

I have my own associations as a writer for using or not using journaling conventions, recording time and place, and some of that has to do with how technologies auto-date so much for us already and we don’t have a choice…like if I send an email, it’s going to reveal to the other person that I sent that at 3:00am in the morning on a Wednesday!

So what does that kind of extreme grounded-ness of the date and place do for you in these poems in particular? What’s that staking do for you?

TD: Okay. Well, first off, I have a hack for the Wednesday 3:00 AM email.

BLVR: Oh, you have a hack? Tell me.

TD: Well, it’s not really a hack… I just make liberal use of the Gmail function where you can schedule your emails to send in the morning. 

BLVR: Oh, my gosh, yes. This is why you’re a professional and I am not. We’ll come back again to this. You’re an extreme professional. That’s amazing.

TD: But maybe to make this come full circle, that the non-professional—poetic—function of the time stamp allows for a vantage point where the poem extends from and repairs to. And to say there was a more “professional” function, it’s one that served the poems’ composition. And because the poems were consuming a lot of different writing that I was doing at the time, impulses that would normally go into different forms, like art writing or journaling or epistolary writing, the date and location as de facto title for the poems was an organizing principle simply for the writing, to rein in all of these impulses.

But then, it became a conceit. That naturally happened. And there’s the long poem that’s at the end of the book that also moves through different places and times. I was writing this concurrently with the rest of the book. It seemed important to me to be keeping the place and the date in the poems as these two pieces grew alongside one another. And it doesn’t function as a pure travelog, but it does give a sense of landscape and directionality, a painterly impulse writ large.

BLVR: Right, oh I love that. Yeah. An Orange really appeals to the logic of the travelogue it seems, which is that when a person is en route, in liminal spaces, between here and there, that the recording of the self in those spaces has value…the metaphor helps me see your poems as experiential, and that importantly they’re not hurtling towards some sort of neat lyric epiphany, right? 

It’s not like, “Here we go, I can’t wait to get the last line where the poem’s going to tell me its amazing aphorism that it’s been withholding all along! About life, about love, about et cetera, et cetera.” I have instead this understanding that I’m meant to be along for the ride. 

TD: I love that. I love that.

BLVR: Mm-hmm.

TD: And yeah, if you’re looking for an aphorism or an epiphany, I’m personally just not very good at that type of writing. I don’t have any programmatic aversion to epiphany, though I don’t think that’s what poems are well-suited for. I mean, I enjoy a sense of drama! Don’t get me wrong. But yeah, you’re right that the experience of the poems is certainly much more important to me, both as a process of writing and with the writing itself. And there’s something here too about the space that is also happening in between the poems. The absence between dates and places. That is the material of poems, too. What is generally happening and being written about is not incredibly special. Well, it’s special to me, but I have no doubts that the details of my life are fairly mediocre. Going to get lunch with a friend or reading books, all of this stuff, it’s not terribly exciting.

But there’s a caesura between each of these poems, all of this space of absence in between the presence of each poem—I could go as far as to say between all poems—then, suddenly, experience is activated by the poem. Oftentimes, it was a means for me to just feel okay. Depression definitely colors this book, and feeling okay about my everyday is a personal effect of writing poems. It helps me to get through and understand these things. This book isn’t a map of depression necessarily, where in between these poems there are moments in which I am not writing therefore cannot write because I’m depressed. It’s more I envision a book has spaces it can imagine into, that are not full of words. Once you put an experience in poetry, it loses its use in a certain way, and it becomes useful to the poem. The poem to me is a place of possibility, and even these mediocre experiences become imbued with that idea of possibility. And I have to think that the same thing goes for those caesuras too between these poems. This is just the blank space of possibility too, to be filled in with experiences that just never had the chance to be imbued with that sense of significance, but maybe hopefully are no less significant. This silence, in this way, could be more demonstrative of possibility than any of the poems I write.

BLVR: Yes. And though you’re half-joking, I do hear you pointing at… what was it? Reading books and having lunch with a friend? You’re pointing at the daily-nesses of our lives that though they feel mediocre are also the literal minutia making up these years on earth.

TD: For sure.

BLVR: I thought a lot about Lyn Hejinian when I was reading your book, specifically about The Rejection of Closure, open texts and open poems, “blank space of possibility” as you said, and about the long-poem as a form of suspended experience. And at the same time I was reading it during this pandemic which feels like a seemingly infinite present, a very different suspended experience that isn’t about discovery or possibility.

I wonder what the long poem in particular or the unclosed-ness of the long poem does for you as a writer? I feel like you were already kind of speaking on it a little bit. 

TD: That’s a great question. First off, Rejection of Closure, Lyn’s essay, I remember as her assertion against epiphanic modes and like this idea of the flow of thoughts that permeate through the poem creating an open system. It’s been a while since I read it, but her work otherwise, I know, has had a major effect on me. And a lot of what she approaches in that essay I’ve internalized just through reading her poems, especially My Life. Her work specifically has made me considerate of inscribing the internal geometries of the poem, how the dimensions or form of the poem can be shaped narratively and imagistically, like the poem isn’t necessarily conscripted to its objective boundaries through formalisms.

But the long, continuous poem, yeah, there’s a transgressive quality that draws me to it, how it exceeds its formal boundaries and its language, how it goes on for the sake of the poem itself. I feel like it allows for an ever-increasing definition of the poem while its capacities for image, narrative, and meaning all remain undetermined or unfixed. And I see it as a form outside of the closed units poetry is often considered to be part of. I want to create these open, democratizing systems within poetry. I see the ways in which poetry can be both disclosed through image but also foreclosed by it, too. I think of Ashbery’s poems in this way. In Some Trees, there’s a poem, “The Instruction Manual.” It’s a beautiful poem. I absolutely love that poem. And it begins with something like, “I’m sitting at my desk and I have to write an instruction manual on the uses of new metal” or something like that. And then, Ashbery describes this party, a colorful gathering outside of his window he’s looking out of. And he’s just describing this whole festival that’s happening. It’s picturesque, and that’s all that happens. Then the attention of the poem drifts back, and it’s like, I’m actually just sitting at my desk looking at this work I have to do, right?

BLVR: Right, right, right, right.

TD: But what is realized in reading it, you’re like, “Okay, so what is actually happening in the present of the poem? What is this thing that he’s actually looking at?” And you realize he’s just looking at the sunset. He’s describing the sunset as this party. And that is a moment both where the image of the poem is both disclosing of the poet’s interiority and poetics, but—and no shade to JA—it forecloses with this tendency in that particular mode to conceal the affectual realities of dailiness with poesis. But, like, I appreciate how JA’s poems trust in the intelligence of the reader so much, that the intelligence of the reader is equal to the writer’s own. This, I feel, is an extraordinary gift. But there are things other than trust that can be democratizing in that way, which is the sharing of experience, to counteract the foreclosing of the poetic image. How are the details of my life able to become impartial in the poetic imaginary, and how can poetic imagination be shaped in turn? Much like I would look at a painting or read a friend’s book, how are these things, in their essence, more disclosing than foreclosing? How are they, as you put so beautifully, part of the poem’s seemingly infinite present

BLVR: Mm-hmm, definitely. And there were a lot of moments especially in these long passages of disclosure that felt ekphrastic to me, that respond to the visual invitations of the world around us with description that really spontaneously discloses the speaker’s interiority, anxieties, et cetera. 

The image of the orange is obviously one of these central visual invitations, it’s not a painting in a museum but every time it appeared I felt the poem needing to go towards it, to describe and disclose to it? As if it and the other objects of the world all had ekphrastic potential?

TD: I really agree with you here. My particular take on ekphrasis is that ekphrasis is not only a memetic practice, but that ekphrasis occurs when the art itself is affected. I make a joke in the book about that kid who put a hole through that Porpora painting. It’s an amazing video, and you just feel so bad for the kid.

BLVR: It’s so amazing.

TD: But the joke there is that accidental destruction of art is a form of ekphrasis. There’s some seriousness to this idea as well if we want to hold this expansive definition of ekphrasis as true. And this leads to what you’re pointing toward, about ekphrastic potential and the orange. I like that you call it an invitation. That’s a great way of characterizing it. It is both a symbol insofar as exactly what you’re saying, that it is a capacitor for semiotics, and I wanted to deploy it as a self-reflexive, self-referential object, a euphemism for the book itself. And with ekphrasis, what I’m resistant to here is, like, you know, how writers and their writing are often used to prop up the careers of artists, visual artists especially. This isn’t a two-way street. And there is a good bit of “art writing” in the book. I’m not crusading against that idea necessarily…


BLVR: Well it’s going to be the title of this interview. “Ted Dodson is not crusading against art writing.”

TD: [Laughs] Yeah, I’m not that self-defeating, though maybe I can be a little bit. The artists I’m writing about in An Orange I want to celebrate because their work is not only meaningful to me, but my engagement with that work was often bounded by the present of the poem. And I have an interest in the shared techniques and shared language of visual art and poetry underpinning both mediums. If we were to continue to expand on this idea of ekphrasis, it can extend also to the sharing of ideas between mediums, the sharing and transfer of information, a direct democracy of art and how these things don’t necessarily have to have such bounded categories. I don’t have a lot of investment in what we name the varieties of writing outside of poetry, the places where poetry becomes fiction, becomes essay, becomes critical writing—these are unnecessary delineations—much like how ekphrasis builds that media bridge between visual art and writing, and how poetry or just writing can craft that visual invitation either on the page or within the imagination.

BLVR: Definitely. And the invitation to experience visual art can feel really generous and open—how let’s say in a visual art space where if you’re having an experience with a sculpture or a painting, I at least feel very little pressure to be able to summarize or paraphrase that art when I’m done looking at it.

It’s great and I feel like no one is going to ask me to. Maybe I will describe the emotions that I felt? But that’s sort of it. I feel like that’s all the invitation asks from me, and I think it can be really important to approach poetry in much the same way, to not go hunting for a thesis statement.

TD: Totally. Do you ever wonder, or try to remember, what it was like to read a book before you had such a critical understanding of the processes of writing?

BLVR: Yeah. I do, and then I cry tears down my face because I want to go back, right?

TD: I know. I know.

BLVR: I mean, when you think about that time, what do you miss about it? What was so magical?

TD: The magic was innocence, being moved by intuition and the enjoyment that brings. But now, the trade-off is writing. Now, I try to replicate that feeling in the process of my own writing, to write toward pleasure, to write with some degree of intuition. Like, I am horrible, absolutely horrible, at describing my own work especially while it’s being written. I can’t remember who said this, but there’s that funny turn of phrase. It goes something like, “Birds don’t make good ornithologists.” Like, birds obviously are terrible at describing themselves…

BLVR: This is a thing? This is a saying? Okay, I’m hearing it for the first time. It’s great. I have never heard it before.

TD: [Laughs] Yeah, I think so. But I mean to say that I enjoy reading things that I can’t necessarily describe particularly well, and also I try to be easy on myself and try not to, as you said, engage that critical mind where I’m like I need to understand what’s going on.

You know, it’s funny. I was watching a movie last night. I have never seen it before—this might sound crazy—but I’d never seen In The Mood For Love.


BLVR: Oh, wow. And you watched it for the first time last night?


TD: Watched it for the first time last night. It’s so beautiful, and what I actually understood at the end—and spoiler alert by the way—I was like, “Wait a second, hold on. Did she leave for Singapore before she was able to get to the hotel? When did he find the cigarette with the lipstick on it?” And I realized then that the plot doesn’t really matter. My understanding of the plot doesn’t matter that much, or it doesn’t matter as much. It’s not nearly as significant as the emotional quality of the cinema. And I was like, “Oh, that is just asking something else from me that I wasn’t actually able to readily give intellectually, and only stumbled on intuitively and emotionally.” And that, that’s the thing that I miss maybe most about reading when I wasn’t so understanding of its mechanisms, being led by my intuition because it’s all intuition at that point. It’s all witch and no craft.

BLVR: Oh, I love that.

TD: That’s also why I gravitated toward writing because I like to be led by intuition. Probably why my poems are so long sometimes… [Laughs]

BLVR: [Laughs] I’m leading you through a great series of disclosures about your weaknesses. That’s the other theme of the interview. No, just kidding.

TD: [Laughs]

BLVR: I think it’s really fun to still have art forms that you don’t approach as a maker, like when I watch movies I love reveling in my amateur-dom, my innocence.

Maybe on that note, you have this great Poetry Society of America interview where they excerpted some of the book and you talked about (I’m paraphrasing) genres as different modes of writing, like essay, journaling, criticism, epistolary…and each are pre-made orientations towards others but An Orange wants to blur or co-opt (your great word) these a bit and do something new.

What struck me was this idea of poetry as an amalgam form, and not a form apart, you know? Is there something special that thinking of poetry in this way does for you?

TD: Yeah, that’s a great question. The answer is complicated insofar as it’s both simple, and also theoretical. The simple answer is poetry’s materials are easy to access. The material conditions required to write are always ready at hand. I don’t really need anything or any special skills, I don’t need an instrument, I don’t need to know how to read music, I don’t need the costly materials of a visual artist. Sure, I bought a new computer six years ago, but it wasn’t like that I needed that to actually write poems. And San Juan de la Cruz wrote poems by memory while incarcerated. Then what else? I need language and subjectivities. These are the materials of the poem. And this is part of that idea of the amalgam form you’re mentioning. All things have their languages, their subjectivities, and it’s beautiful to me how when any language is introduced to a poem, regardless of origin, it has an infinite potential for both reduction and expansion of its subjectivities. 

But the other thing, the more theoretical thing about how poetry has the capacity for amalgam, incorporating other writing, is that poems phenomenonologically are present and also not present. The poem sits outside of our reality no matter how much we put into it as this object of total imagination. That its form is defined not by musicality or its arrangement on the page, both of which are inheritances from other mediums, but the directionality and deployment of its language within the poem’s object space. No matter what goes into it, it has the capacity to contain it as it’s a structure of total imagination. Like, if I were to say, “This orange is,” the fruit is really in my hand, bound to the laws of physics, object permanence, and all that…I don’t think I would say the poem isn’t, but it isn’t is, either.

Does that make any sense?

BLVR: That actually does make sense. I would tell you if it didn’t.

TD: The poem “isn’t is.”

BLVR: Mm-hmm.

TD: The poem itself is not a metaphor. The poem is material, but it is, for me, material apart from our material world though. These objects we are building are entirely imaginary, because there’s nothing else they can be. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist but that they exist otherwise. Yeah, ink on a page, but what they’re representing and what they’re built into are things that have never existed and never did exist prior. The root of this whole idea being a fundamentalist application of poesis as nature the poem. They’re not dreams, they’re not paintings, they aren’t, like I said, they’re not an orange, but they have their own objecthood that belongs to itself. And it’s beautiful to me that they are ready to be made with little at hand. And I think that’s important. The thing that represents the most unrestricted possibility has the lowest barrier of entry.

BLVR: Yeah. Right.

TD: I think that’s maybe for me what’s essential to a poem, or essential to poetry.

BLVR: Mm-hmm, absolutely.

Though something that I felt chafing (importantly) against that sense of unrestricted imaginative possibility in An Orange is the very real and non-imaginary context of surveillance, which was such a big recurrence for me as a reader. An awareness of surveillance, of mediated experience, and of a carceral logic that permeates down to the most domestic of moments. The speaker is always like “I interview the panopticon,” you know, or is adjusting their privacy settings, diving in and out of their phone…is surveilled and fractured and disseminated across screens.

I wanted to ask how you experience these things as a context of the writing, of being an artist in this time you’re alive, of being a poet, how poetry helps you navigate them? And without implying that poetry is the way we figure these things out!

TD: This relates to what we talked about earlier with foreclosure and disclosure. If total possibility is this ever-widening disclosure of the poem, having a political consciousness is requisite in its mediation so as not to allow its foreclosure, whether it’s an understanding of carceral logic or the acknowledgement of state surveillance, how these ideologies and systems mediate our lives. If the poem can be this place of total possibility, it can only be as such in recognition of the hell of our reality. I’m not saying that the critique of mass incarceration or police and state violence are means to craft a sense of balance within a poem because that would be psychotic to use literal atrocity toward poetic ends. And it’s also that’s not to say that I have always found a way to write through an implication in these realities. In fact, quite the opposite! I continue to contend with the inadequate ways in which my work writes into the possibilities of abolition. Abolition is a desire of mine I hope is reflected in my work, however, and I can’t speak of possibility without speaking of abolition, even if this means simply marking what the experience of the poem can’t necessarily permeate, can only record, can only witness from the outside, and cannot exceed its subjectivities. 

There have been and are poets who directly write into political possibility, who write into the possibilities of abolition in more discrete ways than me that they feel actionable. I don’t know if my poems do that, but not engaging the ideological antagonists that oppose life without cages and invest, even passively, in the products of the suffocation state violence enacts on equity and the general democracy of peoples would be a fault I couldn’t abide by in my own poems. Does that answer the question?

BLVR: Definitely. And I feel your work making a record of (and chafing against) that landscape, the ways we try to free our attention daily from it.

It felt really summed up in the image of the phone for me? And the image of the orange was like an anti-image of the phone? Not to create a good/bad binary of those two images at all, but the orange is always such an ekphrastic invitation in your book, a moment of slowness and description, firm and tangible, while the screen seems to surveil and fracture and distract…I think that’s more of what I was thinking about when I asked about your poem engaging these capitalist/surveillance logics?

TD: That’s really, really interesting. I love that reading. I love you saw those two things as challenging one another. Where that happens most specifically in the book is the last poem, “The Language the Sky Speaks.” There’s a lot of phone versus orange at the end of the book. [Laughs] The sun becomes an orange, and the phone is on the table, the sun in the sky.

BLVR: Exactly. Exactly.

TD: And yeah, that is a dichotomy that I was trying hard to set up in the book, the world of social media, in which poetry is a medium, and the world of social connection that a poem can make material.

BLVR: Oh yeah, yeah. Definitely.

TD: The two things are positioned less as being in opposition to each other than as a dialectical splitting. The world of witness and the world of participation, right? Like, there’s this part in the book where I’m witnessing—I don’t know if I said it in the book specifically—a noise demo in downtown Brooklyn in early 2019. You know it was just one of those things where you’re playing music, making a racket and what have you, just showing that we are here outside of the prison, we are here, and we know you’re in there, and we want to recognize your humanity, that there are those who are on the outside who are thinking of you. And I remember I didn’t go specifically because I wasn’t in the city. I was upstate for a residency, and that’s the moment that goes into the poem, witnessing this through social media and my separation from it. 

There are these moments of decision in the poem where you are presented with the object of control and the adjacent object of imagination. And the places where those two things are in parataxis, it can get slippery. I’m, as the writer, in the position of the mode of control, here. However, IRL, I am unable to perform what I think is or participate in something that I believe is an exercise of compassion, right? And what is mediating this experience is, as you said, panoptical or it is mediated by the state or by carceral logics, and so on and so forth. Sometimes they’re just mediated by us, right? There are moments in this book too of self-implication where I’m not necessarily living up to the standards set by my politics, falling short in certain ways, and the realities of my own shortcomings are abutted by my political imagination, the ways in which I want to see the world, and see myself in the world, as opposed to the ways in which the world sees me, and the ways in which we are conscripted into the world.

BLVR: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. The poem really records for me how you or a poem-you which is always an avatar, a projection, is seen and contextualized in different social spaces by the surveillance state, or the attention economy maybe, by loci of control…

I always felt that gaze kind of humming in the background when the speaker is doing the most daily of things, to go back to the beginning of our convo, reading books and eating lunch, making one the neverending subject of late capitalism.

TD: The book exists as this function of free time, backgrounded by mediated time, by time mediated by capitalism. And I mean free time in the Marxist sense. What do we do with the time that’s not used by waged labor? What do we do within a Marxist understanding of free time? Reading books is a big one for me, social time with friends, and doing nothing, which is to say writing poems.

And that’s where the book becomes self-referential. The poems themselves are, as I said, free time backgrounded by time mediated by the state and capitalism, as the book is divided and measured through chronology and dimension, poems and lines. But An Orange is also, in essence, a representation of that time. It’s a representation of free time, of this idea of nothing to do. What would occur as nothing to capitalism? What would occur as nothing to our mediated time? And that’s the object of the book. The object of the book is an expression of free time. It is free time itself.

BLVR: Yeah. You said it exactly, to the marketplace doing nothing and doing poetry are doing the same thing! That makes me want to do those things harder.

TD: Yeah, I want to put that on a t-shirt. “Doing nothing and doing poetry are the same thing.”

BLVR: I know. Or, one of my favorite lines from the book, “vacation is a mindset for the fatally employed.” Which actually feels related to what we’re saying—when I read that line I experienced it in two stages, first I giggled, it was sort of cheeky and funny, and then quickly I was like “oh I’m a little bit emotionally crushed!” by how true and dark it is. And that began to speak importantly to me about some of what the poem is trying to do, just like we’ve been saying. 

TD: Oh man, I can’t wait to drink a margarita on a lounge chair. I can’t help it. I love doing it. I love the swimming pool. I love sunshine. I love being around friends, I love all of that. And I am as fatally bound to my passions for enjoying all of that as I am to right now, the work I have to do to get there. You know, the work that I have to do so I can have time that isn’t work.

BLVR: Right, right. Yeah. To do nothing in the poem…

TD: Time to do nothing in the poem. Exactly.

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