Panhandler Books Author Interview – Allan Peterson on This Luminous

Forthcoming in March, 2019, This Luminous: New and Selected Poems by Allan Peterson represents the third title published by Panhandler Books and the University of West Florida Department of English. The following interview took place on February 4, 2019.

Jackson Haynes: Does the release of this collection have a different feeling than previous collections, being that this collection is primarily a retrospective of your life’s work? 

Allan Peterson: Well it’s not over yet, but, yes, it is a look back. This release covers about thirty years worth of writing, and so for a writer – and certainly for me – this is a real gift to be given the chance to look back over a really substantial selection of works from all of my past books.  This doesn’t include all the material that has been published online or in magazines. But it has been a very gratifying achievement to see it all come together, and to have an editor like Jon who gave me free range: you pick the poems, you select them, you arrange them. It’s been an ideal working relationship. I’ve been lucky that way with some other publishers too, but he has been especially supportive. So for me, this is a plateau. The next stop after this would be the collected works rather than selected works.

JH: And there are some new poems in here as well that give readers some fresh material.

AP: Yes, I had an Irish poet friend who visited me recently and he said, “You put your new poems in front,” (which was also suggested by the person who wrote the introduction). He said, “Where we are (Ireland)  poems mostly go in chronological order starting with the oldest,” but I wanted to show what’s happening now, then move through the past books. 

JH: Well there’s an interesting effect at work in starting with the newer poems released for the first time and then moving backwards in chronology. Whenever I was reading through it, I had the luxury of seeing 30 years worth of work all at once, and so it almost read like a novel or a biography about your perceptions and how they might have changed over time. Do you get that feeling from the collection as a whole? 

AP: Yes, and that’s the way I would want it to come across. And even though the selections are from different books, I find in looking at my own work that there’s a consistent “me” that runs through, maybe some changes in form or some changes in individual aspects, but it’s still “me” going through it. I can still see my mind at work, and I can remember some things about the creation of some poems that would not be apparent to the audience. But maybe they can see, as you can, that there is a continuity of a continuous single person writing.

JH: Is there anything you wrote back in your earlier years, like an idea or perception, that has completely reversed or changed?

AP: Well, first of all, I come from a visual arts background. I haven’t had any poetry training, haven’t been to classes, or taken any workshops. It’s just me. So as a visual artist and while growing up, I really had no exposure to poetry. But when I was at Rhode Island School of Design in my BFA program, I came across the work of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, and they just changed everything. I realized that there was something that could be done with words that could get close to what I think The Arts were all about. And so I didn’t bother myself or worry about credentials. I just began writing. I considered the writing and the visual arts to be parallel pursuits. After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, I did my graduate work at Southern Illinois University and my graduate thesis was painting and poetry. So I’ve seen them both grow together. One didn’t seem to be more important than the other. One could do things the other couldn’t do. But I’ve come to realize that I’m closer to what I think the basis is through words rather than through visual images. There used to be a saying back when I was in art school about painters. It was the Abstract Expressionist era, and art was constantly being referred to as a “visual language.” Well, if it was a language, then nobody really knew what was being said because it’s not communication in that way. And yet here we have words, and we have an understanding that these words mean a certain things and that they accrue meaning because of their associations. So I was able to get further with words, but I still do them both. 

JH: I do want to ask you more about your visual arts in connections with your poetry in just a moment, but I just first wanted to comment that T.S. Eliot was also a really big influence in my study of poetry, and my graduate thesis has heavily dealt in some of the themes from his work. The title is actually a line from The Waste Land.I find it interesting that we have one of the same influences, but in very different ways.

AP: The thing that excited me most was that Ezra Pound had a huge vision. It was an embracing vision. I guess I had kind of a vague idea of what poetry was about. It seemed to be about sentimental things in rather archaic language, and that didn’t strike home for me. But Pound had that kind of breadth of vision—accepting things in other languages, various ideas, philosophy, history, etc. And then here comes T.S. Eliot with the kind of seriousness that I expected poetry to have. I didn’t have the religious aspect like he did in Four Quartetsand the rest, but The Waste Land was one of those poems that also did what Pound did, and of course Pound edited The Waste Land for T.S. Eliot. But those three things were embracing: the power of language, the seriousness of Eliot, and Pound’s embrace of a wide view. And then to follow that with Charles Olsen and the Modernists, W. C. Williams, etc. I became interested in the long poem. They’re big in vision and they’re big in execution. I used to think that small poems were just way too precious. That you couldn’t compress the complexity of a life into something that small, but as an artist you don’t get to choose everything. I don’t approach the work as “now I will sit down to make artwork.” I take it as it comes along. And you change. You change your focus. You change your ideas. You change your intensity looking in one direction or the other. One of the things I used to think about when I first started was that if I had a topic or an encompassing idea—let’s say science— I’ve always been interested in science, if I didn’t do art, I would have gone into science—you can take a single metaphor like the body and bring to it all kinds of other connections. And that’s still an exciting idea, but in trying to do it, it seemed pre-programmed, like filling in the blanks, like coloring—just staying in the lines. The most exciting thing I find is what’s happening when I’m thinking. And so I don’t have poems that are this theme or that theme. They’re kind of all over the map. In spite of that, there are a number of things that are about science, about location, about place, about my experience with life that are consistent throughout that thirty years.

JH: I can definitely see instances where you use a science metaphor to portray the feeling or idea you’re trying to capture, or vice versa, where you use a feeling or idea to describe a natural science you’re trying to bring awareness to. You mentioned that you’re a visual artist and a poet. How do you decide what medium to go to when something is on your mind that you feel the need to capture? Is it a debate whether to go to visual arts or poetry, or is it just natural?

AP: It’s just natural. I often work on both at the same time with setups in different rooms. In painting, say oil painting, there’s only so much you can do before it gets too wet and you have to do something else. Writing is something you can do anyplace. Painting and the visual arts require some space and some tools. Poetry requires thinking; that’s it. And what I’ve found most revealing is just listening to myself think about things. If you think about yourself thinking there isn’t any consistent path, it’s all over the place, which is what excites me about poetry because life is about that. It’s all over the place. It’s unexpected. Whether it’s painting and drawing or writing, I never preview what should happen, I don’t plan it. I let it happen as it happens. One idea engenders another, which brings up something else. I really favor the page because so much happens when you as a reader are reading as opposed to listening to a linear delivery of someone reading, which is kind of restrictive. But when you’re reading, you’re thinking about all these other things while you’re reading. You can stop and you can go back, look up a word, and none of that impedes the poem in any way. It intensifies it. It enlarges it. So, poem on the page for me is ideal. And me being a visual artist, one might say, “Why aren’t you playing with words all over the page?” Well, to me, that doesn’t seem effective. And besides, for most of the poems, you as the writer are reading them. All those words spread all over the page, nobody’s going to see that visual aspect… unless they were to buy the book.  

JH: Yes, of course. So, the stereotype of most poets, writers, artists, etc., is that they’re up late into the night, 3 or 4 a.m., working on their craft when everything around is finally quiet enough for them to think. However, I’ve learned that I don’t operate that way because of life’s schedule. I usually get up early in the morning and try to get a couple hours in before the day starts with all its stress and obligations. Is there a specific time of day you like to work on your craft?

AP: Well, when I was in school, it was getting up early like you described. Even when I became a professor, it was still the same with having to get up early in the morning. So, I was always looking for time when I could get to it, and that meant mornings. With retirement came larger freedom. If I had ideas flowing I could work at any time. But still, I prefer the mornings. It seems best for me and allows me to hit the ground running, that’s when I’m most alert and have the most ideas. Of course, when I’m working on something, I’m not only listening to myself but also working from a notebook because when things are happening, they happen so quickly that you can’t always get everything down. So a notebook is necessary to put down a little scrap of this and a few words about that. Allen Ginsberg used to say that he would go back and “mine” his notes. I do that too.

JH: Yes, I agree. I have a notebook that I keep around for scrap thoughts as well, though I often forget to bring it with me. Just last week, something came to me in the middle of my work-day, and I grabbed a piece of paper and burst out the back door of the kitchen I work in. Everyone was asking later if I was okay, and I of course had to admit that I simply needed to write something down before it escaped me. Is that why you keep a notebook with you, to write down a thought immediately before it escapes you?

AP: Yes, they come so fast. In fact, I find, maybe you do too, they come so fast that even between the moment you get those little ideas and your pen hits the paper something has changed. A new thought has come up, and if I don’t get it down now I’ll lose it. Though, when that happens, I don’t feel too bad about it because there’s still more coming. And that’s why science is so important, because we are biological beings. We don’t know a lot about ourselves, but it’s a great resource to go to to learn how a person thinks and what is really happening. In art school, someone was always the expert, like the teacher who said things like, “You see here how this red in this painting just catches your eye and carries it off the page?” Well, no, it does not carry your eye off the page. There are sometimes handmade rubrics that teachers have to attempt to explain something, but I know from my experiences that that is not what is happening.

JH: Right, so have any of your poems come from your notebook where you’ve had to write a scrap thought down quickly before it escaped you, and you were able to return to it later to turn the thought into a poem?

AP: Yes, that’s right. With the writing and artwork both I can come back to them later, maybe even years later, and get back into it.

JH: Interesting. Alright, so one of the themes that the vast majority of poets and writers deal with at some point or another is the concept of time. I know it’s such a big, general concept, but individuals view it differently and explore it one way or the other. And I found several aspects of time in your work—some in the recent works, some going back in your earlier works. But I felt like I was seeing some common ground between several poems that human beings can never understand time, so it is a waste of time searching for an answer that can never be answered. Is that how you intended certain aspects to come across, or would you like to give some more insight? 

AP: Well, time is a big factor. It is for all human beings. I think we understand time imperfectly for quite a number of reasons. It was a revelation when I learned as a child that when I looked into the night sky that I was really viewing history, that light takes a certain amount of time to get here, that the energy from the sun is nine and a half minutes away, things like that. It really opens up the understanding that, not only, like Heraclitus said, all life is flux, but also that things are changing so fast. It exactly mirrors my experience with it. And so, whether you can talk about that subject, for instance, some things you can know very well, we don’t know time very well. Take something like the moon, for instance. Everybody knows about the moon. It’s referred to in poems, but no matter how much everybody has already said, we’re not done writing about the moon. Likewise, there are so many things about time, about personal relationships, those types of concepts, that we are never going to run out of things to say. It’s not like they’ve exhausted themselves, which is really the power of the mind to see other aspects. So, there was a period where I read a lot of philosophy, read a lot of psychology, because I just think the world is so exciting, you just can’t get enough. There was a time when I thought it would be great if I could have earphones on, be playing the radio, have the TV on, I’d be able to get everything all at once. That didn’t last long. It was just too confusing. I can’t multi-task in that way. I like to just sit down and try to follow my thoughts while trying to keep up with the notebook.

JH: I would like to point to a specific poem in the collection. In poetry in general, often the entire feeling of a poem is concentrated in a single word, hidden metaphor, etc. From your poem “Vignette,” you mention a chameleon, what did you intend the chameleon to represent?

AP: Can I flip to that poem to remind myself?

JH: Absolutely, let’s both turn there. I have it marked on page six.

AP: This is one of the newer poems. It’s brand new for me, and I think it’s kind of a jump from some of the others. And that is because I began to see—not because I was trying to but just because it happened—I began to see a situation where I could make larger leaps than I had made in other poems, and I didn’t need to use a full page or even half a page. But this was an actual situation. When I was a child my grandparents took me to the county fair. And on the Midway were very many bizarre things happening. There was a guy there selling chameleons tied onto his vest, and his vest was checkered. I just had this feeling, well first, a chameleon’s job is to protect itself, to change color according to the background, and this guy was wearing black-watch plaid, it’s geometrical. And so, the earnestness of life is those creatures, those chameleons, who perform exactly what they know how to do and were meant to do. It’s about that kind of earnestness in life, it can be applied to people as well. But in this specific instance, it was the fact that they were working it. They were trying hard. They were trying to fulfill their biological destiny in a way. It may have been self-defense in one light, but to me it was a creature doing exactly as it should. It didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t going to make polka-dots. It had to make checks. So, this poem has a specific connection, and everybody has their own connections. This was just very poignant. I guess I could have called it, “Poignant,” just as well as “Vignette.” And here was just a single example of biology at work. 

JH: Wow, it’s just really interesting to be able to pick your brain about this poem, in that even if the reader thinks they know exactly what is going on, it’s very rare that they can align their understanding to what the author intended. Which is exactly what just happened here, whenever I read this poem sometime over the past few weeks, I was researching what chameleons symbolized and found several things, one of which was perception, and so I ran with that symbol and re-read poem over and over. I saw the Midway as the middle of a person’s life, like how Dante used it, and thought the poem was all about changing perceptions, like maybe the middle of one’s life is a major time for perceptions to change. So, I just find it very interesting that I ran with it in one direction, and it’s actually very literal to what it says. 

AP: It is literal, but everything you just said is also right. The poem is not a secret. It’s not meant to isolate your perception of it. Words are there, and words have lots of other connections. So that’s great. I like to hear what other people make out of it, and I have no quibble about it. Your reading of it is as good as mine. What I said was simply my recollection of it, but there’s an awful lot of things about nature, about birds, about various kinds of animals. These are our fellow creatures. Some have capabilities we don’t have. We should be caring more for them than we are. We’re not nice to the majority of the animal population at large, but there’s so much we can learn from them. And this was one of those poignant moments, even though it was recollected some sixty years later.

JH: Nature is all throughout your work, nature and the natural sciences. Have you noticed significant changes in nature throughout your life, such as rapid deforestation, extinction of certain species, and so on?

AP: When I was very young, I watched all the nature programs. I read about nature all the time, watched nature movies. At some point, something new started happening at the end of those programs: The ending was, “This creature is now endangered” or “Their population is declining,” or something like that. And with my reverence for nature and paying so much attention to it, that was like pulling the rug out from under me. What in the world could be happening to cause all this? Suddenly, the world was changing in a big way, and we were responsible, really. There is natural change, yes, but the degree of change we are experiencing now, we’re at fault. So, yes, that’s when I began to see it, and more and more it happens. And now there are whole movies about that kind of destruction, that kind of eradication, extinction, and all the rest of it. And that was a real disappointment. It was the largest disappointment I ever experienced—that something that large, the world, could be changed like that and would never be the same. It felt like I was being cheated of the great solace I had in nature.

JH: Do you think that nature concepts resonate with you so strongly because of the geographical location where you grew up?

AP: Place has always been a big influence. I pay attention to the environment I’m in, and I’ve chosen places to live based on environment. I wanted to live on the Gulf Coast where it was more tropical, wanted to live near the woods, which is why my wife and I spend part of the year in Oregon. So I’m stuck with these two things: I am still enamored of nature as ever, but on the other hand, I’m aware of the threats to it, what life will be like, and how it’s changing right around us. I don’t write very much about those aspects because I don’t think poetry is very powerful as a political tool. I participate in marches and work on environmental issues to help raise awareness, but the writing is still primarily me listening to myself think about things.

JH: You mentioned that you live both here in Pensacola and in Oregon depending on the time of the year. Do the differences in geography affect you differently and cause nuances to come out in your poetry depending on which place you were when you wrote it?

AP: Yes, it does. I’m not sure you could point to too many things, other than maybe I write more about the Gulf Coast or hurricanes or horseshoe crabs, things like that, when I’m here. But really, I think that life is an accrued situation. So all of those experiences play into it. I’m picking and choosing or remembering this or that from different times, and it all comes together, but yes, where I live makes a big difference.

JH: You know, a few years ago, I read an article for a class about an author who did the same thing—split his time living in two different locations—but he was never able to write about the place he was living at currently. He would always have to go to the other place to let those experiences meld and allow him to look at them from a distance. So it’s interesting how people can explore their experiences differently in their writing.

AP: I think it’s all kind of one big soup in a way, with all those experiences. I don’t know how you think about yourself as a body, but in the 19th century, it was all mechanistic. There were wheels and cogs, and that’s just how things were conceptualized. I always thought of myself as a body of water, things are in solution or out of solution. Everything is much more free flowing. And I think that that aspect has come out as a sort of guide in my poetry as well. 

JH: Going back to one of the poems here, “Ex Libris.” It’s one of the longer ones, starting on page nineteen. I found this to be one of those poems you can just spend, well as long as you can, just going through it trying to make connections. It looks like it’s about five or six pages long. You mentioned earlier that you were drawn to longer poems, and so I wanted to look at a longer poem of your own. 

AP: Yes, it was a long one. And even though it happened at a time when I wasn’t writing such long poems, something about this one just got going. One of my feelings about everything is that more is more. In growing up, maybe it’s still around, “Less is more” was the great quote of Modernism. Well, for me, I think, “More is more.” The “more” engenders. The more you know, the richer the world becomes. The more languages you know, it opens up opportunities. It’s always about learning more. And all that we know in science or about relationships, it’s all provisional. It’s not going to be that way very long. It’s different. It’s  always changing. So, I can be happy with a provisional answer. I don’t need to know that there is an answer. I don’t really expect that there is “an” answer. There’s a whole series of possibilities. There’s a philosopher, well, a biologist, let’s call him a “bio-philosopher,” by the name of Stuart Kauffman, and he has written the most cogent and understandable theory about the origin of life and what the processes are. From his standpoint as a biologist, it makes wonderful sense. He has this idea about the “adjacent possible” as one of the great performative factors in biological evolution. I think I’m veering too far, what did you want to ask about this poem? 

JH: Well, “the book” mentioned over and over again, is it a metaphor for a specific thing throughout the poem? Is it a metaphor for several different things throughout? I read it as “the book” being a metaphor for life and how experiences relay information.

AP: Yes, and it also incorporates the ending of the book because “ex-libris”—“his book”—that’s the little bookplate that’s in the front of books. It certainly was in the 19th century. It was a statement of The Book of Life, certainly, the things that are happening, all the changes, really anything that can relate to that, and tying in “more is more” because essentially each one of these stanzas accrues more to the summation of those ideas. 

JH: And it also reminded me of another one of your poems in this collection—I can’t remember the title right now, but it describes each life as it’s own book, and each book is like a life from the leaves and the trees that it is made from, which is just such a fantastic image. 

AP: Yes, yes, here we have a book. We have the leaves on a tree being like the leaves in a book, and so on. It’s all those types of connections. These things just naturally come together. I mean, it’s really dopey to say, “Life is like a book.” Well, of course it is. But to be able to look at specifics is when things come to life. If you were to look at a distant star, it might appear slightly fuzzy. The key is to not look directly at it but to look slightly to the side so that the image of that star focuses on the fovea, which is your most acute area of ability to see detail, and that is kind of the way I feel about writing. We all share such a number of great life moments: life, death, unrequited love, and all the rest of it. But if you just write about your passion directly or your sentiments, you’re not saying anything new. What I need to see is, what can you say about those experiences we all share that will enlarge that experience for everybody, and you can only do it through details that are a little bit off course, details that aren’t the obvious. Anyone can moan about, “Oh my god, what’s happening to me?” But what I am really drawn to in poetry is when there is something I know extremely well, but the author has added something I have never thought of before. And that’s what writing does for me. And reading too. You can get out of a blind spot at times with reading. People sometimes ask me what I do if I run into a blind spot. Well, I don’t usually get blind spots, but if I do, reading is the thing that revitalizes me

JH: I’ve experienced the same thing. When people ask me what I do about writer’s block, I tell them I stop writing and start reading. Something clever, like a trick or technique, will usually resonate with me and cause me to use it and explore it further, and things will just open up.

AP: It’s an incredible resource. When you see what’s happening to libraries, my wife and I have always been fascinated with written manuscripts, the history of “the book” in a way. She is a calligrapher, and so the history of the book and how it happens, and the way language and ideas are expressed in a book, and how that’s become the modern book. They used to be extremely valuable. They were handmade, a monk somewhere scribbling away. And they were often quite beautiful. And then we get to movable type and we can expand. We can share this information. So suddenly, there’s a big boom in knowledge. When we get to the more modern era where paper and the printing become so inexpensive, you can just throw it away. You can make thousands and throw some copies away, leave some on the bus. And now we’ve made it back to the situation where handmade books by artists are extremely reverent—carefully made to appreciate that very thing—as they were back then. 

JH: Kind of like a supply-and-demand aspect, is how I’m understanding it. 

AP: And now, we’ve even expanded that part with text going into electronic distribution. So, what is the nature of the book? What’s the nature of writing, once you’ve had electronic possibilities? More is more! It’s always changing! It’s more exciting than you can imagine! There’s a philosopher by the name of J.B.S. Haldane, a British biologist, and I probably quote this too much: “The world is not only stranger than you think it is. It is stranger than you can think it is.” And that is exactly right.

JH: Now that’s an interesting way to look at it. I think I’d get lost in that concept just by thinking about it. I do want to point to one more poem, the one titled, “These Were The Days,” where you basically state that if you were given the chance to go back in time to change something about your life, you wouldn’t change a thing. Which I found to be different from what most people would choose. You hear a lot of people say things like, “If I could only go back to this certain date and time, and live my life from that moment on, things would be different” 

AP: Is this the poem that ends in “I might not find you?”

JH: Yes, that’s the one.

AP: Well, that’s just it. I wouldn’t risk changing that, meeting my wife.

JH: So it’s the simplicity of how every single aspect adds together?

AP: People sometimes ask, “What would you do over?” Well if I had not gone through the things that I’ve gone through, not all of which I would have chosen at the time, it would not have led me to where I am now. And so I’m very happy with that. 

JH: I think that’s a great way to look at it. It’s a view that most people have the opposite of and long to restart from a specific moment. But if they were to see your perspective of it—how they wouldn’t be where they are without everything that has happened—they might have a different opinion. 

Just one final question. In several poems, I noticed this unique theme that involved random encounters with strangers. You seemed to take these encounters and connected them with a broader idea. For instance, I’m talking about the poem that mentions a guy by the name of Eric scanning your groceries, or the poem about the unknown caller when you answered the phone and no one was there. You take these random human encounters and create feeling behind them. How do you view these random encounters in life that cause you to spend time writing about them?

AP: Yes, if I remember that poem correctly, imagine you get a phone call sometime, and maybe there’s nobody there. There are vast reasons why there could be nobody there—they dialed the wrong number, they’re too embarrassed to say so, etc. Now suppose you go ahead and make that connection, just by saying something like, “Hi, how are you?” Human relationships are so  rich and sometimes so unexpected, that there is another opportunity there to see the phone not just as the means of communication in that way just to get what you were going for, because sometimes you don’t get what your going for. And it’s more fun and more exciting than if you would have realized the possibilities from the get-go. In visual arts, at one time, I was interested in taking an informational form and denying that information. For instance, I was painting maps for a while, in which I would paint out everything except the mobile gas stations or something like that. So, the whole map becomes a denial of it’s given possibilities, similar to the phone with the unknown caller.

JH: You know, I find myself thinking about those random encounters too—the person in front of me at the coke machine or the cashier scanning my groceries—but all these possible connections are just brushed over the shoulder and never thought of again. 

AP: Right! And suppose you said, “What do you care most about in life?” I asked somebody just this past weekend—we were looking at birds and such—and I said, “What is your most cherished animal?” And she thought, and she said, “I don’t think I have one.” Well now… how much of the world have you left behind by not having a favorite animal? And I know everybody doesn’t have to care about everything, but how can you not care about the world you live in? You just have to pay attention. The same way you need to pay attention to how your body is working. When I was a young professor, I began to be interested in the idea of learning about one’s body. At this time there was this method, I can’t remember the name, but I began charting the body. I’d take my temperature about eight times a day, checked my weight and how the weight changed, and I could graph those. And you could see biological rhythms. You began to learn things about yourself, and not in a general way like when you go to the doctor and he applies what he knows on a general level about everybody. But something that was specific only to me. I knew that if I was going to get sick, it would happen on a Wednesday sometime in the afternoon. The more you learn about yourself in that kind of way, you learn things that are quite specific. You could begin to change the way you organize your day if you know you work best at your high temperature period, if you happen to know when your high temperature period is. How things change when a storm front comes through, or the electrical environment you’re in and how that changes things, or sunspots, all that stuff, you know? I can just hardly stop smiling when going on with these concepts. 

JH: Wow, that just seems like a black hole you could keep going on and on about because potentially any and every aspect of daily human life could be charted in the system you described.

Well, do you have any questions you want to ask me? I had the opportunity to read one of the early-reader editions, but This Luminous will be out very soon. So any questions for me, as someone who just read the book that contains selections from thirty-years of your work?

AP: No, but I would like to say something about interviewing. I think it’s refreshing to not have you ask me about stanzas, punctuations, rhyme schemes, about sonnets, and things like that, because people usually do. But as you can see, it’s not happening in there. There are some with stanzas, but most of the poems don’t use punctuation or anything. We talked about substance, I like that.

JH: Maybe it’s because I’m not naturally a poet. I don’t look for those things. I tend to look for the bigger concepts and try to read between the lines as much as I can, even though, as we discovered in this interview, most of the time it’s way off from what the author had in his mind. But it is still so interesting to see how certain words can come together in certain ways and relate things differently to two different readers. 

AP: Bear in mind, you can’t go wrong. This is just somebody thinking or that person thinking, and nobody can bludgeon you about your reading and tell you you’re wrong. It’s like how I’ve seen so many…. really miserable works, but metrically they’re perfect. Well, I don’t care. I want the substance! I want the depth! I want the… surprise me! I don’t want to know what’s happening next, same thing with art. You try this. You try that, and with experience over time, where you end up is no place you would have predicted.

JH: And I think readers who enjoy that type of aesthetic will be drawn to a lot of your work, because that’s exactly what it does.