hearing now, I have about 200 that are gonna make you want to kill
KOO: Overall the poems in AWE seem determined to express a kind of
willful naïveté about the world, despite the pain of experience. As you say
in “Ever Read a Book Called AWE?” from Black Life, there is “nothing
better” than love and awe—or if there is, then you don’t care. How important would you say this kind of willful naïveté is to being a poet? Do you
have to maintain a kind of innocence to write poetry?
LASK Y: I don’t know if it’s really innocence. It really is just being open,
willfully open in the way that you are when things are new. If you see
things as new, you’re closer to an understanding of what life is. I feel that
at the end of your life—not that I totally know—things seem new in a
particular way. You don’t have this construct of understanding stuff that
is very set. So you can make new ideas and have a kind of wonder about
the world that is a blissful thing. Not that everybody has to feel this way,
but I think we should support this feeling more in the world because
then more new ideas would happen, and people would be nicer.
KOO: In the first poem of Black Life, “The Legend of Good John Henry,”
there seems to be a huge leap forward from AWE in tone and seriousness—
just the sense of age in the speaker. Suddenly there’s a kind of deadness:
“I haven’t had a love in a very long time, a true love / One that makes
you feel all jiggly inside / I haven’t felt all jiggly inside since I don’t know
when.” AWE seems to be much more “jiggly” than this book. The poems
are now bigger, darker, weirder. Were you conscious of making a big leap
between these books?
LASKY: I did have a sense that I was creating something different. The
term “black life” I quoted from Laura Solomon. She was doing a magnetic poetry exercise with one of her friends, and they came up with
“No milk / black life.” They had to imagine what they would see if they
thought of that image. I saw a little boy with his mom in a very dark
room with a refrigerator, and the mom’s opening the refrigerator and
there’s no milk. So it’s black life. It’s almost like a painting in my mind.