LASK Y: I was very aware that I was speaking to live beings and that we
manipulate people through our speech and through what we say and the
way we say it and that we’re making conscious choices all the time. In
writing especially: a beautiful letter that is talking directly to a person
can do all kinds of wild things and use wild techniques to manipulate
that person. Writing AWE, I thought, Actually, I just have to talk to the
reader; the reader is the most important person: my true love, the person
I want to murder. So I guess I love/hate the reader, especially in Black
Life. I’m so glad the reader is there, but I’m going to play with him.
KOO: How would you characterize the reader who’s most important to
LASKY: One who’s smart enough to understand that there’s a level of
rhetorical manipulation and who likes a little drama. Who’s going to be
excited by a performance. Because I love performance.
KOO: How do you reconcile in your mind the idea that writing poetry is
tapping into this weird, authentic, “real” self with the idea that poetry is
also this place for you not to be sincere, to manipulate or play with the
LASK Y: It’s not 50/50 in every poem. One is always the dominant force.
And when you have a lot of these poems together, they create a spectrum of understanding of how those two things are reconciled. Because
if they were always 50/50, you would get a sense of how things broke,
but if they’re all cobbled together in a disproportionate way, you create
the real thing. Because it is a Frankenstein thing to create a book that
has a self: you’re never gonna just—pssst!—put your self in there. You
have to do a mosaic or a bricolage thing where you’re putting all these
pieces together, stitching them, trying to create a self.
KOO: So why write “I Hate Irony”? Because that has that manifesto-like
feel, and a lot of people take up that poem as evidence that “Oh, Dorothea
Lasky is a poet of the New Sincerity! She hates irony! And, damn straight,
I hate irony, too! I’m sick of it!” But is that just another way—