do with death. But Black Life connects with this. I guess it makes me a
KOO: I don’t think the book is at all just about your father, but there is this
beautiful way in which the book reads as an elegy for him—especially in
the last poem, in which he already seems to be dead.
LASKY: I wrote that and he hadn’t died yet. But I knew—I mean, you
just know; there’s a lot of preparation. He was dead, in so many ways. It
was this particular disease that made me question what happens to the
self: 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 any point.
KOO: While there’s a real gravity to Black Life, there’s also humor and
weirdness, so much so that at times the subject of the book seems to be
weirdness. One thing that’s compelling about the weirdness is how it is
connected to real, authentic being. It is not simply for effect, as you remind
the reader. The truly authentic being, you seem to be saying, is weird—or
seems weird to others. Or, as you say in “Black Night,” “kindness in its
entirety is very freakish / And weird, the real kind.” Is weirdness connected
in your mind to the “real self”? And is it opposed in your mind to the corroding “effects” of irony and cynicism?
LASKY: Yeah, I think so, especially to cynicism. Because if you really
take into account how weird you are—you’re in this big flesh sack, that’s
pretty frickin’ weird—it’s hard to be cynical. It’s hard to be ironic.
KOO: So appreciating the weirdness of existence itself is a kind of gateway
to having that sense of wonder about our lives and our being here?
LASK Y: Yeah, and when I think of who I’m indebted to about these ideas it
would be William Blake and Jeff Mangum. Especially Blake. It’s just very
strange to be here, and that strangeness extends into all kinds of things
you might do or say, and that should be applauded instead of silenced.