WHAT TREES DO YOU PREFER IN THE CENTRE OF BOULEVARDS?
The Vermonter in me should say birches, but I fell in love with magnolias while living in the Magnolia State—and my kid’s middle name is Magnolia, so that’s an obvious choice.
WHAT TYPE OF READING DO YOU DO ON TRAINS (OR AEROPLANES)?
On any kind of moving vehicle, I most like to read lyric poetry that feels infrastructural and shaped by the air that surrounds infrastructure—a form made by what it leaves out: think Dickinson, Niedecker, and Johannes Göransson’s translation of Aase Berg’s Transfer Fat.
WHAT BUTTERFLIES DO YOU THINK GIVE THE MOST SATISFACTORY PERFORMANCES?
Luna moths perform just by sitting there—that’s how you know they’re good.
WHAT MOVIE DO YOU WATCH IN SECRET?
If you know me, it’s not really a secret, but I’d gladly watch School of Rock on loop for the rest of my life.
WHAT LITERARY WORKS DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST UNDER-RATED?
Frank Stanford’s The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You has a cult following, but it should probably be recognized as one of the most singular literary works of the 20th century. It has more to say about region, the rise of mass media, and community than most of the modernist canon does put together. It’s flawed and messy, but there’s nothing else like it.
WHAT COLOURS DO MOST FOR YOU AFTER SIX P.M.?
A purple that’s almost black.
WHAT ANIMALS DO YOU PREFER TO HUMAN BEINGS?
Deer. I love everything about them. I live in a neighborhood of Ithaca that, while not suburban, has a population density that’s comparable to that of a suburb. Across the street from me is an empty wooded lot where a family of deer live, and recently, the fawns have been nursing their mother in my yard. When I was living in Mississippi, my now-spouse ran into a busy highway to pull a wounded fawn out of traffic, and that was the moment I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I have some antlers tattooed on my arm. What can I say! I love deer! They’re gross and elegant at the same time!
WHAT IS THE PRINCIPAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR STATE OF MIND (MOOD) WHEN READING FICTION AND YOUR MIND WHEN READING HISTORY?
My initial answer was: I’d say my mood is quite similar when reading both. Much of the time, both attempt to reshape messiness into form.
Then again, I think it really depends upon the kind of fiction (or the kind of history) we’re talking about. I’ve been on a Dennis Cooper kick recently, and his writing feels more like it reshapes form into messiness (it’s reshaping what I thought fiction was, and I dig it).
CAN YOU HEAR ANYTHING IN A SEASHELL OTHER THAN THE ROAR OF THE OCEAN?
Yes, and I’m pretty sure I’ve actually written about this in poems more than once (though I could be misremembering). In seashells, I hear the same kind of resonant formlessness that I hear in graveyards, or in the static between FM radio stations, and it’s a motivating force for how I think about art and its relationship to obliteration.
WOULD WINGS BE AN IMPROVEMENT FOR THE HUMAN BODY?
I can’t speak for the human body more generally, but I can say with certainty that they’d be an improvement for mine!
WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO MOST FREQUENTLY?
These days I’m either listening to children’s music (Laurie Berkner and Pete Seeger is the good shit), the Grateful Dead (especially the shows from 1972, and especially the iterations of “Dark Star” from that year), or hardcore (Turnstile), or punk (The Chisel).
WHAT TWO HISTORICAL CHARACTERS WOULD YOU LIKE TO BRING TOGETHER?
Mary Shelley and Bernadette Mayer.
WHAT ARTICLE OF CLOTHING DO YOU WISH TO BRING BACK FROM HISTORICAL OBSCURITY?
Studded belts, but if I’m judging by the kids I see at the skatepark, I think they might already be on their way back.
WHAT BUILDING DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST BEAUTIFUL IN THE WORLD?
The derelict factory overlooking the first dam of Six Mile Creek in Ithaca, New York—it has pipes coming out of it and moss and trees growing through it, and it’s where I wrote most of my most recent book.
WHAT SIZE CITY DO YOU THINK THE MOST DESIRABLE?
This is a tough question, and I think it really depends upon how one defines “city,” and whether we’re talking about living in a city or visiting a city. Ithaca, NY is the biggest place where I’ve ever been a permanent resident, so I may not be the best person to answer this question. That said: for me, art is inseparable from the rhythms of locality, the repetitions and familiarities through which community is formed. This can happen in a lot of locales, of course, but I’ve personally felt it most in places that, to quote Raymond Williams, feel like knowable communities: small towns as breathing textual geographies.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE ESSENCE OF FEMININITY?
My cat Vader.
WHAT WORK FROM A PREVIOUS CENTURY WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE WRITTEN?
Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno.
WHAT FORM OF AFTER LIFE — IF ANY — DO YOU ANTICIPATE?
The boring answer is that I’m not sure—but I do believe with an increasing fervor that ghosts exist, and I do think there’s some kind of fundamental linkage between poetry (or, at least, what I take to be poetry) and ghostliness.
WHAT ARE THE MOST OVER-RATED LUXURIES?
Lobsters and lawns.
WHAT DOES WILLIAM WORDSWORTH HAVE THAT WILLIAM BLAKE DOES NOT? WHAT DOES WILLIAM BLAKE HAVE THAT WORDSWORTH COULD NEVER HAVE IN ONE MILLION YEARS (AT LEAST)?
Wordsworth has a lot more obnoxiousness and pretension—not great qualities on their own, but paired with his talent, I do think they are at the heart of why he’s a fascinating and paradoxical poet. What does Blake have that Wordsworth doesn’t? Fearlessness, and a willingness to lean into chaos. Wordsworth’s 1850 Prelude is a masterclass in how to approach revision like an absolute coward.
WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE ADDED TO THIS INTERVIEW?
Which poet would you most like to see live forever?
Marty Cain has three cats. Marty Cain has three chickens. Marty Cain has been in a Blink-182 cover band. Marty Cain co-edits Garden-Door Press, and is bailing on academia to help start a DIY community arts center called Ithaca House. Marty Cain is the author of The Prelude, out this year from Action Books.