KOO: Do you differentiate your own kind of weirdness from the weirdness
of a writer like Tao Lin, whom you are often compared to? I feel that Lin
and other writers like him are doing something different. A. D. Jameson
groups you together with Tao Lin as examples of “The New Sincerity,” but
do you feel it’s important for you to differentiate yourself from his kind of
LASKY: I think it’s fine if people lump us together, though I don’t like
that term “New Sincerity” because I am not being sincere at all. Nor do I
think Tao Lin is being sincere. But it is so different—a different lineage,
a different endeavor. I don’t see how people see the connection.
KOO: Were you surprised when people started to compare you?
LASK Y: I wasn’t surprised; I was very flattered. I think he’s really great—
I like the spirit with which he approaches stuff. I see him as connected
to Latin poetry, though I asked him about this once and he didn’t see the
connection. He’s a little like Catullus—Catullus is going to say what he
thinks. I guess the flatness maybe is a connection between us—the flatness of both our deliveries, the deadpan. He reads deadpan, and I read
deadpan because if I were to read it emotionally, it would be horrible.
Someone once said to me, You should read your poems sincerely and
look people in the eye, and I was like, No, no one would want that!
KOO: What makes Black Life fascinating is how there is a performative aspect to the weirdness as well. From the very beginning of the book,
there’s an over-the-top confessionalism to the speaker’s sincerity in poems
like “Mike, I Had an Affair,” “Jakob” and “Poem to My Ex-Husband” that
makes the reader question just how sincere you’re being. As the book goes
on, there are more and more warnings that you are not to be trusted as a
speaker—such as in “I Am a Politician” when you say, “I will be very nice
to you / But when I turn around I will write the creepiest poems about you
that have ever been written.” You make clear in “I Hate Irony” that you,
well, hate irony, and are “only being real,” but the experience of reading
Black Life makes clear that “being real” is very complicated. Who is the
real Dorothea Lasky?