KOO: Let’s talk about how your first book came together.
LASK Y: Well, for a while I sent out my MFA thesis to first-book contests—
KOO: Was that called AWE?
LASKY: The first version was called Mandorla? Round a Garbled Heart.
The one that I sent out all the time which did not win a contest—now,
wait for this, folks—was called Elephants and Other Endeavors. That was
the title of my MFA thesis. You can imagine. There were a couple of
poems that ended up being in AWE. But there was a process where I sent
out to so many contests I didn’t win, and then Joshua Beckman, who’s
the editor at Wave Books, helped me reconstruct AWE—at some point
I started calling it AWE—with some new poems that appeared after the
MFA program. I sent AWE out to more contests and publishers, and
eventually Wave published the book.
KOO: When did you meet Joshua?
LASKY: I knew him as a friend of friends. I’d seen him around UMass,
and then there was this reading in Brooklyn that was outside, where
I had to read very loud. I was teaching at the New England Institute
of Art, and at that particular school there are lots of guys, and I was
much younger, so I would always talk very loud to get their attention
because there was no other way. At that reading, because it was outside, I
tried talking really loud—I used a teacher’s voice. That was when he first
saw me read. He was making a movie of poets in America reading. He
remembered that, and he inquired about me.
KOO: So Joshua helped you edit it, and you were sending it out, and then
did he eventually just take it for Wave Books?
LASK Y: I went to Staten Island, where he was living, and he really helped
me—he spent a bazillion hours on the floor, with the poems laid out,
helping me choose. It was really a wonderful gift. He said, “Well, try