Joshua Beckman by Susie DeFord

Susie DeFord Tell us about your new book, Take It. Your poetry often reads as stream of consciousness, like you’re taking notes throughout the day, and doesn’t seem to have a particular form or even titles (as in Take It). Can you speak on your thoughts about form or lack thereof in poetry? Is there a particular theme to the book?

Joshua Beckman I don’t think so. I wrote it over a bunch of years. I don’t think of it as a book with a particular theme. You had asked about why there are no titles. There’s a movement from one poem to another, that while they are discreet, individual poems; they also blend into each other at times and I’m not certain what that does. My hope is that it happens differently each time.

SD What do you think your voice and this collection adds to contemporary American poetry?

JB (laughter)…I have no idea. I think it adds my voice.

SD You’ve written a lot in collaboration with Matthew Rohrer. In interviews you’ve likened it to playing in a band. When I was in bands we often had disagreements in the collaboration process. Do you and Rohrer ever fight about lines or ideas in your poetry collaboration process? How do you work that out?

JB The experience of the push and pull with us happens within the creating of the poems. Matt and I don’t edit. The only editing is deciding whether or not we make the poem public. There isn’t tension in that there is a sort of combined energy in that. My feeling is that each time you’re in a collaborative relationship it’s different, and there should always be an energy that isn’t purely simpatico. There should be an energy that can’t be resolved and that energy is what makes it happen for us. It’s why we enjoy doing it.

SD How did you become interested in translating Slovenian poetry?

JB I met Tomaž Šalamun, and he asked me to translate.

SD How did you two meet?

JB When my first book was published they (APR) asked me if there was anyone who could give me a blurb. I said, “I don’t know anyone.” They said, “Well if you could get a blurb from anyone who would you ask?” and I said, “Tomaž Šalamun.” So he called me and left me a blurb on my answering machine, and then we hung out cause he was working at the Slovenian Consulate and New York.

SD How does the nomadic life between New York and Seattle inform your poetry?

JB Probably the most important is that a good number of my poems have been written on airplanes, especially if I have a window seat. When I lived just in New York I wrote a lot on the subway or on the Staten Island Ferry. I lived on Staten Island for five years. I enjoy writing on public transit.

SD You’ve been quite successful as a young poet. Do you have any advice to other young poets wanting to be published?

JB Published? I don’t know, I sent out things a million times; it’s hard. I don’t think age or how much you’ve published matters. It’s always the same. Even a poet who’s reached the pinnacles of success still had the same challenges: they need to read, they need work, they need to think, they need to grow and learn. There are some really basic things about trying but there are poets I love who can’t get published. I think they’re doing everything right and I think the editors are doing something wrong by not publishing them.

Beckman reads his poems in a fake forest.

Joshua Beckman’s book Take It is out now from Wave Press.

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