The boy’s smiling kind of a mischievous grin. They’re all green and dead
or starving or whatever. I had a sense of creating that vision in my book.
I was picking poems that would represent it.
KOO: Did that exercise come after you had written these poems and help
you to organize the book thematically, or did it spawn a lot of the poems?
LASKY: I think I had written some of them, but I started thinking,
Actually, I’m going to call the book Black Life. And I started creating
poems with black life in them; if things had colors, I changed the colors
to black. I love colors, but then I started thinking a lot about black. I’d
always avoided black as much as possible because when I was growing
up in my house a lot of the rooms were black. All the furniture was
black, everything was black; my mom just liked black. In high school, I
always wore white, and then I started wearing a lot of colors. So giving
in to the black was important.
KOO: The first poem and the last poem in the book are like bookend poems
about your father. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’m assuming that
your father had a real struggle with Alzheimer’s and died?
LASK Y: He actually died the week Black Life came out. He started showing distinct signs when AWE came out. He had had Alzheimer’s for many
years. Black Life was kind of a chronicle of those feelings. I don’t think
the book is totally about that or him; in fact, Thunderbird has more to
What are we? Any mental illness makes you question what
the self is, but this made me question how much of my self
is under my control. Now I feel as if my self in the world
as a body is totally out of my control—it could go away at