An Interview with Jonathan Weinert

Weinert Photo
by Andy Fitch

After publishing my Sixty Morning Talks interview collection, I have begun work on a more focused, single-press interview series, offering a comprehensive oral history (a cinéma vérité, in prose) of Nightboat Books’ diverse and ambitious output over its first decade of publication. For this newer project, it particularly interests me to track interpersonal and intertextual constellations that have helped to shape the work done by Nightboat’s authors, publishers and designers.

This present talk focuses on Jonathan Weinert’s In the Mode of Disappearance. Weinert is co-editor, with Kevin Prufer, of Until Everything Is Continuous Again: American Poet on the Recent Work of W. S. Merwin. He has received the Nightboat Poetry Prize, the Copper Nickel Editors' Prize, and a fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Andy Fitch: Since the back cover frames this collection as a “bulwark against the forces of fragmentation and disappearance,” could we start with you cataloging some of these forces? At different points throughout the book, these might include personal forces, interpersonal forces, historical, political, ecological, technological, linguistic forces. We also could consider specific moments in the text, such as elliptical, autobiographical-seeming allusions to “the complications,” or to “every woman / I had ever lost, or would.” We could look at such localized instances, or we could speak in much broader terms. But if one were to claim, let’s say I were to claim, that the world always contains forces of cohesion and appearance as strong as those of fragmentation and disappearance, would you dispute that claim, and on what grounds would you dispute that claim?

Jonathan Weinert: I wrote the bulk of this book almost 10 years ago now. You would think if I wrote it that I must be very intimate with it, and I am in certain ways. I feel in some ways at this stage that it’s almost a book written by someone else. I have this kind of distance from it. I think that there are specific things that I’ve probably forgotten that may be fresher in your mind than my own.

AF: That’s part of the oral-history project here.

JW: Though to take your question in a broader, philosophical frame, I think that if you were going to assert that there are forces of disappearance and incoherence (and I think that there clearly are), and that the book investigates those, then disappearance and incoherence could only have a meaning against a background or a presumption of coherence and appearance. Something can’t disappear unless it has already appeared. Something can’t become incoherent unless there’s a coherence against which it could be measured. I think that this tension drives a lot of the poems in the book, and that the engine of them, the source of them is really fundamentally personal. A lot of these poems came out of personal pain and personal history, but they’re clothed in historical, philosophical, linguistic and artistic clothing, if that makes any sense at all.

One of the problems that I struggled with while writing this book was how to get at this kind of core sense that I’ve had with me ever since I can remember of there being . . . I don’t know if “forces at work” is quite the right phrase, but that there’s always been a struggle to feel as if my existence is on an equal footing with the world’s existence. I don’t want to psychologize myself too much, but there is definitely a sort of therapeutic dimension to this book that I think is important to mention. It’s not that the book . . . I wasn’t going through analysis or anything when I did this book. It’s not the result of that. But it’s really a result of questioning myself and questioning this experience and perception that I’ve had that it’s late, and that I’m always arriving a little late and that what I see and what I’ve experienced is always somehow slipping away.

inthemodeofdisappearanceAF: I’d love to explore how some of these questions and experiences of perception play out. For example, in terms of In the Mode of Disappearance’s paratextual scaffolding, the opening Bachelard epigraph on the cosmos and its narcissism, this idea that “the world wants to see itself”: could you begin to situate your poetics, or the place of this book’s poetics, as it mediates that desire of the cosmos? Maybe, for instance, we could introduce an axis or basic tension between your engagement with mortality and your engagement with analogy or description. This book’s opening “Song of Urthona” seems to establish a stark dichotomy between potential fate and accomplished fate: “Isn’t yet is heaven. / Is no more is hell.” But I’ll also hope to get back to that poem’s very first line: “Like is only like since the world was lost,” and to think through not so much “isn’t yet”/“is no more,” but how “being” or “is” relates to “like.”

JW: The Bachelard quote isn’t complete by itself. I feel like it’s completed by the Simic quote that follows: “Reality is very nice as an idea, but who wants to look at it in the face?” Which is funny as Simic often is, but it’s dead serious as well, which Simic also is. There is a tension between the cosmos wanting to see itself and this whole notion of wanting to and needing to turn away. That kind of contradiction is emblematic of what happens in the book, I think. That’s picked up in “Song of Urthona,” which makes a bow to William Blake, whose poetry is very important to me. He’s really the first poet I fell in love with. Urthona is one of the main figures in his cosmology. Blake was the great poet of contrarieties. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he said that without contrarieties there is no progression. These ideas are in my mind a lot. Whether it’s obvious or not (because it is a little bit oblique here), to invoke Blake in this way at the beginning of the book sets the stage for how contrary forces in the world attack each other or play themselves out.

As for your question about “like” and “is”: along with Blake here, there’s also the sense of paradise lost and the Fall. Blake deals with this extensively in his prophetic books. It’s also of course biblical. It doesn’t necessarily interest me to quote biblical text, but this idea of a paradise or a time of unity that has been lost, a golden age from which we’ve fallen—whether or not that’s true historically, it’s recapitulated to some extent in each individual life. There’s a sense of wholeness that children often have, especially really young children. That sense can get shattered for a variety of reasons, sometimes simply by virtue of becoming self-conscious, conscious of the world, and conscious of one’s separation from it.

In a world of unity and paradise (if you want to use that biblical language), there can’t be metaphor, because there isn’t any distance between anything. So in my book there’s a sense in which being able to see something is a loss, as is being able to compare things and to connect things. Even cohesion and appearance are predicated in some way on a loss of unity, because if there’s no difference between who I am and what I see, what I am and what other things are, then there can be no metaphor, there can be no language, there can be no relationship, there can be no literature. So there’s a kind of elegy even in the act of seeing that presides over this book.

AF: Well in terms of a child’s potential sense of unity, naming plays an important role. And again, I’ll want to get to a variety of modes of disappearance that this book addresses. But I’ll start with how naming seems to relate directly to disappearance here in numerous ways. This phenomenon perhaps gets literalized most concretely in the grandfather figure arriving and contriving some German-sounding name, resituating himself westward in multiple senses, moving as far as he can from the particularities of his Eastern European past. Then this grandfather takes as his assumed birthday July 4th, so that both personal and national identity suggest forms of self-invention but also of self-eclipse, also destruction of others. Likewise, the naming of oneself can take place in some edenic or narcissistic moment, but it also could suggest a desolate lack of any nurturing environment that names you. It could indicate freedom or devastation. And apocalyptic tones certainly circulate throughout the book, evoking prophetic traditions like Blake’s, like biblical traditions, but also I thought a lot of Thoreau amid these New England scenes—of Thoreau, as Stanley Cavell describes him, formulating America’s historical position of simultaneous morning and mourning. Cavell’s Thoreau asks whether we should consider this continent a discovered land or a stolen land, a land of opportunity or of genocidal aggression and ecological devastation. Similar tensions seem to circulate in relation to naming here, to how the world gets defined. Even the Charles River, let’s say, not only gets personified, but gets Anglicized, then subsequently gets poisoned. So, more broadly, how does naming abet and/or resist disappearance in this book?

JW: That’s a great question. It’s interesting that you point to my grandfather’s story. Some elements of this book are strictly autobiographical, and that’s one of them. At the beginning of World War I my grandfather indeed came to the United States from Romania. He claimed all his life, until he was 88 years old, that he came from such a small village that he didn’t have a surname. So he made up this name when he came to the States: Weiner (without the “t”), because he had uncles, so the story goes, in Germany who made wine. “Weiner” is winemaker. And then his wife, who was second- or third-generation American, my grandmother Esther, prevailed upon him to add the “t” to the end of the name because there were too many Weiners in the phonebook.

When I was a kid I heard the story repeated over and over again. It was only when I got older (in fact well after my grandfather died) that I started to question that story of naming, that origin story. There seemed to be some kind of mystery around my grandfather’s origins that nobody in the family either knew or cared to find out about or wanted to clear up. So there’s this sense of the great good fortune, which was accidental really, of my grandfather leaving Romania before the rise of Nazism and all the horrors that happened beginning with World War I itself and through World War II and after. There is a sense of his act of naming himself when he came through Ellis Island as somehow bound up with the history of the destruction of the Jewish people, and a sense that my existence depends in part on what my grandfather did accidentally.

Bless you for calling the book Thoreauvian, because Thoreau is one of my heroes. I’m living right next to Concord, Massachusetts, so I drive by his and Emerson’s houses almost every day. I think that comes through in the poems, especially in the long “Wellesley, Massachusetts” sequence where I had, on the one hand, this rather acute sense of myself as a member of a Jewish community that had been uprooted. We never could find out from my grandfather or even from anyone on my mother’s side of the family where our family came from. So there was this sense of rootlessness and also this sense of having just narrowly escaped the Holocaust.

I also had the sense of being this Jewish kid in a very Jewish middle-class family context growing up in the town of Wellesley, Massachusetts, which couldn’t be more blue blood if it tried. It was full of old money, very WASPy, lots of Christian Scientists, and Wellesley College, of course. My father taught at a private girls’ high school, so I grew up on this unbelievably beautiful campus. It was like a little Eden, now that I think about it. There was solitude there, which I loved. There was beauty there, which I didn’t fully appreciate until later. But it was really kind of an artificial landscape, almost an artificial place to grow up even within that town. All around me was the Cradle of Liberty, the Battle Road to Lexington and Concord, and the first Thanksgiving—all of the American origin stories which were fed to me in elementary school the way that they were to all kids in the ’60s and early ’70s.

This was the beginning of a more cultural questioning of received notions about America’s origins. There’s an echo here between my question about the received notions of the origins of my family and my family’s name and, on a more national/historical level, the origins of the country. In both cases there is something that seemed to be . . . “taboo” isn’t quite the right word, but there are secrets, right? The dirty secrets of the founding of America have to do with genocide and all of the horrors that we know about now. The Pilgrims weren’t necessarily the heroes of the story.

AF: I thought about “Wellesley, Massachusetts” here as well, specifically its abecedarian formatting, its alphabetized catalogue or index. Again, one could draw historical comparisons to a rhapsodic Whitmanian catalogue, but instead I recall a couple of more contemporary examples in which abecedarian formatting seems to track Manifest Destiny and its consequences, enforcing disappearances. With Cathy Park Hong’s abecedarian in her book Engine Empire, the narrative keeps pushing west but ultimately encloses the mythological Western frontier as we get farther and farther down the alphabet. Her project siphons off possibility even as it celebrates the lovely sunset always on the approaching horizon. Or Juliana Spahr’s list of disappearing animals in her long poem “Unnamed Dragonfly Species” also arranges disappearance in this alphabetized fashion. Similarly, in “Wellesley, Massachusetts,” your own abecedarian at first seems to trace the growth of the poet, at first seems autobiographical and chronological, though eventually that chronology splits apart or breaks down. So, within the broader context of your book: if the “isn’t yet” is heaven, if the “is no more” is hell, does it seem better or worse for semantic or alphabetical chronological order, for one’s steady progress through life, or across the continent, to break down?

JW: I know Juliana Spahr’s work though I don’t know that particular poem. But this also makes sense with what we were just saying a moment ago. If I can remember the circumstances of writing the Wellesley sequence, I had been reading Charles Olson’s Maximus poems. Something about creating a whole that is also internally fragmented very much appealed to me. That’s certainly the way that Olson’s book hangs together, or fails to hang together. But there’s an attempt there to create a whole. In the simplest possible way, the alphabet provides a readymade framework for holding something together. And the only person who would need a readymade framework to hold something together is someone who is afraid it’s all going to fall apart. I think that’s also part of the impulse toward counting in this book. I should point out that this book’s title poem, “In the Mode of Disappearance,” is numbered with all the digits, 1-9, and I think that’s an echo of the alphabet as well.

AF: Yeah, when I realize I’m reading an abecedarian, or perhaps also with 1-9, I’ll feel a sense of traction and room for growth as I start to get into the rhythm of it. Though then I’ll also encounter the anxiety of the impending end. Death already looms because I know a “z” must come. So even amid such an expansive sequence, closure seems present from the start.

JW: If you look at the “z” section, I really made a strenuous attempt to create an opening at the end rather than a closing, because I agree with you: the sense of closure is very strong here, because there’s “z” and then that’s it. There’s nothing after “z.” But I wanted to see if I could create this representation of something, of a life or part of a life, that would then serve as a prelude rather than as an epitaph. I think that even if I wasn’t entirely conscious of it at the time, there was a . . . I had to bring a fair amount of attention and energy to the problem of how to defeat the very strong closure of this sequence. I think of it almost as a chrysalis, where it’s closed and it’s final and whatever the life of the creature inside had been, that’s over. There’s no turning back from that. But there’s also the possibility of another life beyond that. To me, that’s how this poem works with the abecedarian framework. That’s one way to talk about it.

AF: That’s terrific, and I had forgotten part of my initial question, where I’d meant to ask if, as order does begin to break down a bit, near the end, that creates this sense of opening you’ve just described.

JW: That’s a happy accident, I suppose you could call it. If you Google In the Mode of Disappearance you won’t find a lot of results. You’ll find my book, but you’ll also find an essay written by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, whose work you may know, but I didn’t. The phrase “in the mode of disappearance” obviously was translated by somebody, but it’s this famous thing that he said. Because I was startled by that coincidence, I read some of his writing, which I found really fascinating. It had nothing to do with the origins of my book, but it’s curious that there’s that kind of resonance there. One of the things he says is that you never name a thing unless it is disappearing. Or the name of something only appears when that thing begins to disappear.

We touched on something like this earlier with the opening poems of the book, but here the attempt to gather together all the letters of the alphabet has to do with erasing something almost in the act of naming it. Naming it is erasing it. The letters in an abecedarian poem are there to create some kind of a whole, some kind of a unity, some kind of coherence, but they’re also unmoored from their function. You have the whole alphabet there, but it’s not performing an alphabetical task. It’s not doing anything. It’s not naming anything. It’s almost like the constituent elements of naming have broken down, even in this act of trying to put pins in things so they don’t fly away.

AF: I grew up in a suburb called Glendale, which didn’t have any remaining glens. Next to us was Fox Point, which had no more foxes. But as you refer to Baudrillard and how naming relates to disappearance, I wonder if we could bring in another point of literary reference: Wallace Stevens.

JW: He’s one of my very favorite poets.

AF: He emerges throughout, by direct allusion but also by philosophical implication. Stevens seems to serve as mediating angel between some of these axes of mortality and analogy, of being and naming, being and seeming, perceiving and reflecting, reflecting and disappearing. So could we place your poetics perhaps in relation to Stevens’ supreme fiction? Or we could just talk about the restorative power you find in a Stevensian syntax—in your own elegant, simultaneously spare and dandyish phrasings such as “the lake with something like / a lake.”

JW: After Blake, Stevens was one of the most important poetic discoveries for me early on. I love his work. There was a period of time when I tried to imitate what he did, which is not really possible. People don’t talk about him as much anymore, but his influence is still really vital in a way that the influence of a lot of other High Moderns is not. That said, I think that “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction” has had less influence here than a poem like “Anecdote of the Jar,” where there’s kind of the creation of unity through the assertion of unity, or the creation of a place through the assertion of place, which Stevens does so beautifully.

I feel that for me, or for now, or both, that this isn’t really possible anymore. That part of Stevens’ project isn’t something that can be sustained any longer. I’m not quite sure why. I’m not sure that it even actually worked for Stevens, except that in the moment of conjuring a poem like this one, and there are many others that I could name as well in his work, it does momentarily do what it says. I love that about Stevens. It’s that kind of moment in Stevens that is deeply moving and inspiring to me. I think that a lot of what I was doing in my book kind of moves against the background of that experience as a reader of Stevens’ work—knowing that although I could write a poem like his, it wouldn’t seem authentic to the experience that I’m trying to represent here.

AF: Well we’ve discussed a bit the importance of place, for providing some kind of grounding. And Stevens’ poetics certainly contains euphonic element, abstracted elements, metaphysical elements, but also tactile, place-based elements. I’d love to hear more abut how attachments to place shape your book. Here I think of birthplace, travel destination, sights and scenes of the everyday. In terms of a bulwark against fragmentation, place seems essential. I’ve asked concept-heavy questions, but I don’t mean to discount the pleasures this book takes in including the at-hand world, its crystalline particularities, its “jesting in that private language / only close associates enjoy”—or here even just talking with coworkers at lunch in a food court. We also encounter vibrant idiomatic inflections as terms like “skanky” appear, or seemingly sampled references and nostalgias such as the “is you is” recalling “Is You Is Or Is you Ain’t My Baby?” So could you correct some of my overly abstruse formulations by discussing the concrete importance of place, of shared sensory and sensual embodied experience, in this book?

JW: It’s a fair point. I look back through this book, and I find that the attempt to discover a place or to place oneself is very important. There are all these specifically named places. There are specific places where I hiked in the mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. Some poems give their coordinates by degrees and minutes, to place them on the map of the earth. There are poems about specific places in Mexico, two poems about towns in the South of France that get specifically named. All of these work together to try to find or name or locate a space where coherence and appearance can take place. Appearance has to occur in a coordinate system somewhere.

The poem “Air Routes of the World (Day)” is interesting in this context. The poem is based on a screen print that I saw in the Speed Art Museum in Louisville. That print presents a map of the world, just a standard projection with all the continents in silhouette. But then the air routes that some airlines fly (like you see in the back of an in-flight magazine) are traced over the continents, and the continents are erased. So all you see are the routes with the nexus of the big cities where the hubs are. You can see (even though all the places have been taken away) the ghost of the continents under this net. It’s almost like the artist has thrown a drop cloth over the earth, but you can still make out the general contours of everything. I thought that was really beautiful and also kind of disturbing.

There’s something here about how places get constructed. It isn’t necessarily the named place that one goes to. It isn’t necessarily the vacation one takes to the beautiful places in the South of France. It’s not even necessarily the place where one experiences one’s childhood as an Edenic birth. There’s an imaginative construction that has to take place in order to create the space where one can feel a sense of cohesion and wholeness. That’s one way that you could talk about the whole enterprise of this book.

AF: As you described that Louisville-based art project, I looked over your cover again, and, as you’d mentioned the ghost of the continents, I thought about how this cover has a Rothko quality. I also see an Edward Hopper diner-scene palette. And I also see Jasper Johns’s faded flag paintings. The Rothko stands out the most, with this appeal to the lumen of light and the numen of experience. So we could discuss your cover’s artist Anne Stahl at any point, but also Brenda Hillman, in her intro to your book, considers it paradoxical to talk about plural modes of disappearance. We haven’t fully addressed disappearance yet, but could you offer a more expansive sense of what it may mean to emulate disappearance within this book—perhaps particularly within the title poem, where a coastline might retreat as description approaches it, where understanding might make an object or its beholder disappear? Or later, in “St-Bresson’s” tactile depiction of how “the disappearance knits its covering: / one membrane at a time,” I no longer can parse disappearance from momentary being—from appearance itself. You’ve mentioned that perceptions of fragmentation or disappearance imply the presence or possibility of something whole. But at the same time, it seems that for something to appear, this other element of disappearance has to occur, has to insert itself into the world.

JW: I think this is one way that disappearance as a force, if you want to call it that, is both destructive and creative. I think that idea gets shot through the whole “In the Mode of Disappearance” poem, in lines like “Effacement’s not of novelty, / but everything adjacent to it seems / renewed.” So it’s nothing new, effacement. But when something is taken away, there is also the opportunity to see things in a completely novel aspect. There is the sense that one’s existence in the world impinges on other things in ways that you can both know and not know. There’s a kind of terror of what one does completely unconsciously, by virtue of existing, in terms of being a destructive force for other people, other creatures, other things. As you trace your path over the earth, you’re inscribing your presence. You’re inscribing your lifetime and your life, your being. But you’re also defacing the world, and you’re destroying something that might be more pristine had you not drawn the pen of your life across it.

I think that there’s a tension between disappearance and appearance, but there’s also a tension within disappearance itself. I’m very interested in that, and in how one can be a point of consciousness in the world without also being a point of destruction in the world. How one can see and be harmless. I think that’s a very troubling question, and it’s very difficult because it requires an unflagging effort to become more and more aware of the consequences of one’s existence. I think that there are serious limits to how much we can become aware of ourselves and the effect we have on the world we live in, and on others in the world, and by others I mean not just human others but nonhuman and inhuman others as well.

Sometimes I have a sense that the world would be better off if we weren’t here. I think that’s where the apocalyptic visions start to enter, through this fear that simply by virtue of how human beings exist in the world, that we are destroying something that would otherwise be perfect without us. Since I wrote this book, that sense has only become more and more pointed with the incontrovertible evidence of climate change and the destruction of species. It also has to do with the way that we act toward each other, and the violence we do to one another and to ourselves.

AF: I feel a question arising but it may seem kind of small in relation to what you just said. It interests me how we started this talk with you mentioning that your own self-perception can seem so much less substantial than the world. But now we’ve started to address how one’s presence can seem overbearing upon the world. I wonder if we could explore that threshold or tension, perhaps, if this doesn’t seem too much of a stretch, by tracking the place of shadows in this book. Here we might put shadows in relation to narcissism, in relation to mortality, to some sort of quasi-Platonic linguistic idea of perfection or wholeness. But more specific questions also arise for me, such as what discrete hue or significance should we attribute to “the shadow of a blue-veined hand?” Why do we need to hear of its blue veins while considering its shadow? Or what allusive edge to the Eliotesque “double” streaming behind the “I” while this “I” walks along Eliot street? How and to what extent do shadows stand in for this “I,” which seems at times to pick up shadow-status in its own life, which refers to serving as its mother’s ventriloquial device, “the bellows for another’s breath”?

JW: Shadows still appear in my work as much as anything else. I haven’t ever quite put it the way you just put it, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not onto something. If you look at the poem “New Earth,” maybe this offers a way into that topic. The poem is talking about shadows. This is definitely one of the kind of apocalyptic moments in the book. The poem is not placed specifically, whereas other poems are very specifically placed. And here’s this fantasy of the last day of the earth, again with biblical overtones: “Everything was passing out of sight / like shadows blown apart by wind.” So here we encounter this notion that, as substantial as everything may seem, everything has a shadow life as well, and that may not be different—it may be the same existence, the same materiality, even, seen from a different point of view. When the boy walks along Eliot Street with the shadow streaming behind him, there’s a sense in which the boy and the boy’s shadow are not really different, so that the boy could be the shadow’s shadow. There’s something potentially overwhelming about one’s existence, but also there’s something exceedingly ephemeral about it. That is on the one hand a sorrow. It could be a source of sorrow. But it’s also a mercy on the other hand.

You mentioned the Platonic world. I do think that that is also at play here. This is a world of shadows, according to Plato, and unless we wake up and question our perceptions and are rigorous with ourselves, with what we believe, to try to arrive at some kind of truth, then we are looking at shadows of shadows of shadows. The manifest world itself is a reflection or a shadow of a more perfect world. So now we’re back again to another version of the Fall, aren’t we? It’s philosophical rather than religious, I suppose you could say. Yet I think that it functions in almost the same kind of way.

If there is a world of forms, if there is an ideal world, it’s somehow affecting everything that we experience and that we are, but it’s also out of reach. We can’t get back to it, if we were ever there. It’s not something that Socrates talks about in death—he doesn’t talk about going back to the world of forms. He says we don’t know what’s going to happen. But this sense of a wholeness that’s just out of reach, it exerts a pressure both to find a way to break through to it and experience it directly, but also the pressure of a beautiful idea that will only ever remain an idea. That’s another kind of a shadow that follows everything around.

AF: In terms of shadow text, your acknowledgments cite Christina Davis for her ingenious editing and generosity of spirit. Could you flesh out a bit how those elements of Christina’s shadow presence contribute to this book’s final form?

JW: I think this was the third Nightboat Poetry Prize winner. The press was very new at the time. Kazim Ali had called me to give me the good news, but between the time I won the prize and the time the book came out, he had handed the reigns over to Stephen Motika. Christina, who was the poetry editor at the time, was the constant for me in the process of shepherding this book from a manuscript to a finished publication. She worked with me very closely on the manuscript, and questioned a lot of things. We backed-and-forthed quite a bit. She did a lot of very careful line-editing, asking about the necessity of certain things or how things were related. I remember making not an enormous number of revisions, but some crucial revisions based on her commentary. I remember also she made some suggestions that I didn’t take, but she helped make the book quite a bit stronger in the end.

I also spoke with Brenda Hillman for a couple of hours after the book was accepted. Brenda had some comments on the poems as well. I remember taking one poem that was five stanzas long and cutting it down to one stanza or two stanzas based on her commentary. So there was certainly a collaborative spirit which I found very useful and very enjoyable.

I ended up designing the book myself, and typesetting it. I really appreciate Stephen allowing me to do that. I was able to extend the theme of the book and the feeling of the book all the way through in a way that to me was . . . I felt very fortunate that I had the opportunity to do that.

I had picked this cover art that you mentioned, the Anne Stahl painting. I was trawling the Internet to try to find something that I liked, and I found an image of this painting, which turned out to be a very bad JPEG of a painting. The color that you see, this green color, is not the color of the painting at all. When I got in touch with Anne, the painting had been sold to a private collector in Dublin, so she arranged to have a photographer go to the collector’s house and take a high-resolution photograph of the painting as it hung on the collector’s wall, so that I could use it for the book, because I only had this really crappy JPEG. When the photo came back, I was startled because it wasn’t green. It was all different colors. It was red and slate and so on. So I asked Anne if she minded if I distorted the color spectrum to make it look like the bad reproduction I had originally seen on the Internet. There was a collaborative process there too that reflected some of the other things that happened with the book. I love Anne Stahl’s work. She calls herself an abstract landscape painter. I thought that was just a remarkable way of putting it. You can see that in her work. There are a lot of parallels with what I was trying to do in the poems.

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