When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
I was in a room alone when a large dracaena raised its leaves and lowered them. The wind from an open window made contact with my skin and my body – from head to toe, and every atom and molecule of me -- was ignited in a firestorm of unimaginable orgasmic bliss. This seemed to me poetry of the highest order and I wanted to write imitations of it as a way, however necessarily imperfect, of sharing what I had experienced. I thought how can I recreate this and not how can I explain or make sense of this which would have led me in a theological direction in pursuit of clarity which I knew was pointless.
Other things happened and I…
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
I write as often as there is compulsion to do so. The best writing, as Anne Stevenson told me early on, happens under compulsion.
I like to write outdoors. 3 a.m. is my favorite time.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
Always from some felt physical sensation. The more coiled the intensity of the sensation the better the outcome. My work is the chronicle of a single day in my life.
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
Virgil, Lucretius, Saint Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avilla, The Yahwist, Muhammed, Gautama, Nietzsche, Kafka, Proust, Becket, Blake, Emerson, Dickinson, Baudelaire, Crane, Borges, Celan, Mann, Toomer, Pavese, Harry Crewes, Lee Child, Marx, Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, The Last Poets, Early Masters of the Hasidim, Early 20th Century Japanese Poets.
When I was quite young, maybe 14, I had reading epiphanies with Jean Toomer’s Cane, Herman Hesse’sDamien, and Che Guevera’s Reminisces of the Cuban Revolutionary War. They were books that changed my life.
Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was is a project book? etc.
My friend, the poet and philosopher, Ferid Muhic, came up with it. He used the words “galactic milk” to describe his experience of my first book Virgil’s Cow. I thought it fit this book and asked his permission to use it. I suggested dropping the second part of the title but my editor, Nate Dorward in Toronto, liked it and urged me to keep it. I don’t know if there are over arching themes.
The process of assembly was the same as for my first book. The same three readers lived with it for six months and then told me what they liked and didn’t. Then, one of them, Nate, selected 60 pp from a 156 pp MS. Nate organized it into sections and, in a real sense, is the author of all my books. I just write the poems which is quite a different thing.
The book came out of a chapbook, Buber’s Bag Man, which Nate published with his imprint, Gig Press, in 2010 and read from at the post_ moot festival in Oxford, Miami for Miami University where Keith Tuma, who runs Miami University Press, first heard it.
Many of the poems were written during a tremendous creative spurt following the publication of Virgil’s Cow in 2009 which lasted until late 2012.
Language is a spirit wreathe in oscillation between the known octaves of human experience and the unknown.
I live in the outback of my faith with a box of tarantulas in my head.
Frederick reading "Dr. Death" from Galactic Milk:
You unearth me. And sendme packingback to the orbiting
tern of the self. You glo=itterr by the ocean’s edge, out beyonfd Edgar’s cape.
Go! make your appointed
roiunds. Painted dignitary
to the apothecary.
Chemist with a thousand stars in each eye.
Your pigskin freckles tickle me. Your heart built of a million spears
on fire. Noiseless as a printer without power.