Happy birthday, Lucie Brock-Broido! Here are some quotes from the poet.
“Wonderment I take as a word that implies luminosity, and I’m interested in that. But of some different metallic kind because my poems are troubled into being.”
“Real speech: what people say and what’s withheld from being said is of the essence to me. In real speech, that which is withheld hurts. On the page, that which is withheld is the most pure form of speech.”
“I came to poetry because I felt I couldn’t live properly in the real world.”
“In its first blush, a new poem is not cold at all—in fact, whatever has troubled that poem into mind has come straight from the warm-blooded, mammalian heart. The steely, more ruthless self is the Editorial Self, the self that seizes back the excesses and the wildernesses and the confections of the earliest drafts. It’s akin to what Wallace Stevens, in my opinion, was discussing when he wrote ‘Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour.’ The first soliloquy of a poem is—in the initial rush—all heat, indulgence. You let the poem Have Its Way with You. The big heart is in that translucency of how a poem happens into being. You admit a series of initiating realities, truths—but not yet told slant. After a long period of incubation, you muster the courage to become hard on yourself, on the poem itself. You keep it on a tight leash as you edit the thing. You yank the choke-chain harder. The final soliloquy, many, many drafts later, is the poem after it’s been raked and scarified and held tight. Then, finally, you let yourself Have Your Way with the poem.”
“What refuses to be restrained? In truth—everything. There is no stopping this. Blake’s lithograph: I want! I want! I want! I’ve coaxed myself to allow my feral instincts to run wilder still. To have less self-consciousness. Then I chisel down into my own odd, extravagant habit of what I call violent concision. Meanwhile, I try hard to contain the coveting that governs my every move: the idea that I want nothing, nothing (ever) to change. I have no instinct, no gift for hankering after (or even embracing) change, in what Kunitz called ‘the fullness of time.’ I really do yearn for every illusion to stay.”
“My theory is that a poem is troubled into its making. It’s not like a thing that blooms; it’s a thing that wounds. I had a terror I could tell to none, as Dickinson would say.”
“I don’t have a stoic bone in my body. Would that I could conjure even a feigned indifference to—anything. To the contrary, I am different to everything. In real life, emotion is easy; holding back is tough. On the page though, it’s the opposite: that’s what I strive for—the chill (of course), the stupor (a necessity), but never quite the letting go.”
John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.