so I put that in my poem. That’s really not me at all. I mean, he didn’t say
some of the sexual stuff in the poem, so of course I put that into another
I. But I remember somebody saying to me when I mentioned my mother,
“Oh, I know your mom put some fruit in jars,” and I was like, No, my
mom did not put fruit in jars! It’s funny when those moments happen,
when people still conflate the “I.”
KOO: This makes me think of the way that Ashbery has talked about his
speaking “I,” as a chorus of voices, that the “I” in his poems is not the
speaking John Ashbery but a kind of orchestra of voices—that’s probably
a better metaphor. Maybe you don’t have quite as multivalent a sense of
this as Ashbery does, but do you have a similar sense of your own speaking voice?
LASKY: Yeah, definitely, because so much language in there is stolen.
“Whatever You Paid for that Sweater, It Was Worth It” is something
somebody said to me. I studied Latin for a long time, and I love that the
subject in Latin poetry is a very strong person you can follow. And I love
in American English that you always have a sense of somebody in the
sentence that is moving it along, so that to me is important with my “I.”
But the “I” being consistent in any way with me is not important.
KOO: You’re able to have it both ways in the classic American sense—as in
Whitman’s strong authorial “I” that contains multitudes.
LASKY: That’s really how I see that “I.” I’ve been thinking of these last
three books as a kind of trilogy, and so I see whatever I’m doing next as
the aftermath of what that “I” has gone through. Not to be too heavy-handed about this, but why not—AWE is wonder, the “I” feeling wonder
at its speech; Black Life, knowledge of death; and Thunderbird really is a
descent into the demonic, becoming the trickster figure. In Thunderbird
the “I” interacts with evil. So I hope that in the next books I will already
have been through this process.
KOO: You see Thunderbird as being more about evil than Black Life?