I think best in poetry. It is one way to understand some of the ultra-complicated mysteries of this world. Poetry is a tool of inquiry, problem solving, and introspection. It is a tool for documenting the historical-emotional complex of human existence. And, it is a way to compose a thoughtfully honest speech act in a society that often discourages such things. A poetic speech act can be a radical act of protest, examination, confession, and love. A really good poem can be all four at once.
Cornel West questions, "How do you generate an elegance of earned self-togetherness so that you have a stick-to-it-ness in the face of the catastrophic and the calamitous and the horrendous and the scandalous and the monstrous?" To his list I might add, "How do you generate an earned self-togetherness in the face of the mundane and the petty and the random and the heartbreaking?" For me, the answer is poetry. Writing is a contemplative practice of observation and scrutiny that can generate self-togetherness. A poem can construct a miniature diorama in which the reader can glimpse a fascinating and insightful tableau. And, sometimes the world, re-invented in miniature, feels manageable once again.
My poetry often studies the boundaryless relationship between the body and the landscape, and aims to examine the body-environment dialectic with unconventional perspectives. My poems respond to the disappearance of blue whales, the devastation of the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, the history of racial conflict in the south, medical crises, and anything else that breaks me open. Each poem works independently to prod, question, doubt, observe, and confess. Poetry connects us, and helps us survive the life-long challenge of getting unlost.
I am interested in the theory and practice of poetry translation, and I translate Italian poetry. My work in translation blends my creative and critical work, and it reminds me of the important role that critical reading plays in teaching the development of close reading and writing skills. Translation work has profoundly influenced how I see my role as a poet. Poetry translation fosters cross-cultural conversations, and it can kickstart important conversations about issues related to social justice. Poetry crosses boundaries, and if we take the time to translate, we cross the boundaries of place and language as well.