Have you ever written a short poem?
Nope. Number of hours that elapsed before my will sagged and I let myself add more than just that one word, which would have been so perfect: 8. What came to mind right away: Ben Franklin’s I-didn’t-have-time-to-write-you-a-short-letter-so-I-wrote-you-a-long-letter adage. My mind is always racing with things– jobs, money, books, stamps, family hoopla, scheming, beratements galore, green pacifiers. Some people say to me “you’re busy” and other times I say “I’m busy” to other people, but I always feel awful being perceived like that or admitting that sometimes I see it that way too because it feels like the defeat of a would-be creative life, which would ideally be busy with a lot of nothing… And if I were a more grounded, sedate, meditative person who had arranged her life so that jobs and creatures [really want to resist here saying “kids” which to me isn’t a timesuck in the way that it should be but i wouldn’t want people to think i was saying “damn kids take all my brain space”– i wish they’d take more– it’s the stupid jobs thing that takes my writing brainspace] & such were not a part of it, I think maybe I wouldn’t be a better poet but maybe I’d be a shorter poet. Poem. Writer of shorter poems. Then again! I love the mind at work, I love Nausea and Knut Hamsun’s Hunger and Virginia Woolf and it feels false (to me) to commit to one mood, one line, 25 words. You have to have the utterance and the observance of the utterance and all the undercutting pinwheel thoughts in between. Yeah, I’m realizing all of those people are novelists. I moved to Providence and found the work of Kate Colby and Kate Schapira, both of whom can write beautifully, lyrically, with tremendous compression, but I found they weren’t writing poems, much less short ones– they were writing books. I still write poems and not book-length ones, but I am grateful to this small coven of poets because it’s such a freedom to think that the small, perfect poem that made one first fall in love with poetry might serve after all only as a gateway drug and that the real stuff that could kill you is a book that reads like a poem. Even when I have a book of poems with me, I look for the long ones. In Chika Sagawa’s book (new trans by Sawako Nakayasu) there are many lovely blue & green short poems but I keep looking at the long messy prose in the back. Short poems… there are a lot of great ones. But Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s poems are never short, and she to me is the greatest.
Have you ever drunk an espresso late at night?
Darcie Dennigan is working on a libretto for Hunger and on the forthcoming book Palace of Subatomic Bliss.
Russell Bennetts co-founded Queen Mob's Teahouse in 2014.