© Marc Hauser.
Creatures of a Day
Louisiana State University Press
by Craig Morgan
Craig Morgan Teicher:
How does it feel to be nominated for the National Book
Gibbons: It’s very exciting, very
gratifying, and it makes me feel that my work is very
present at this moment in the U.S.. The country is so
huge and so many thousands of books are published, that
it’s not often enough that a writer can feel that
a book is present—you can publish it but it still
remains absent from the culture. There is a very small
number of newspapers that review books anymore—and
so getting a book into this finalist stage of the National
Book Awards really feels very big. I’m very happy
and very grateful to the judges.
of a Day is a book that takes everyday people and
things as starting points for poems. How much did “current
events”—9/11, the Iraq war, the Bush Administration—affect
how these poems came out?
I certainly feel that my book, which I spent a long
time writing, is somewhat unusual, because I’ve
tried to gather into one book a number of different
strands of American life. If you’re looking at
it in retrospect, if I had to summarize it, though this
wasn’t a goal at the time I was working on it,
I would say it’s about a variety of different
encounters, that I think are very American. It’s
not a book about extended human relations the way a
novel could be—it’s a book about chance
encounters, the testing of one’s sense of the
world that is produced by encounters with other people.
So I feel like that is something that’s very much
a part of this moment in the ongoing narrative of America.
CMT: Can you talk a
little about “Fern Texts,” the long poem
that closes the volume and that incorporates passages
I read a lot, though I’m not a
scholar—I don’t do scholarship, I don’t
do research. On the other hand I’ve read around
a lot of stuff that most general readers haven’t.
I was reading around Wordsworth and Coleridge, who have
always fascinated me. Coleridge was so unable to make
full use of his talents as a poet. Wordsworth was an
enormously insightful yet tedious poet. It struck me
how odd it was that there were these parallels between
the 1790s and the 1960s. I couldn’t help but feel
that my adventure through the 1960s—though I’m
no Coleridge; I didn’t find my way into some new
way of thinking about poetry—but nevertheless
looking back at it, I saw how unwittingly I had been
reenacting some of the same dilemmas, and not just me
but lots of the writers I know, were reenacting some
of the same dilemmas faced by Wordsworth and Coleridge.
They were in their 20s in the 1790s, and England was
going through all this turmoil with war. I just began
to think autobiographically with the aid of another
historical moment in mind.
It’s the 1790s, the 1960s
and the first decade of the 21st century. The third
parallel is again to be in a time when a writer can’t
help wondering, “am I writing something which
not only speaks to my world but speaks of my world in
a way that some future reader would find helpful?”
Interesting, not just helpful? Like when you read a
novel about a particular place that I know—you
get pleasure from reading descriptions that absolutely
nail down a particular street corner. I’m writing
in the first decade of the 21st Century, not about it,
but it’s the pressure of the now. I don’t
think history repeats itself, but I think there’s
so much uncanny echoing. Its’ because of politics,
I think, just over and over, those who have the power,
who govern, make the same mistakes, and those who are
governed make the same mistakes in their attitudes toward
those in power.
Morgan Teicher is a poet, critic, and freelance writer.
His first book of poems, Brenda Is In The Room And
Other Poems, was chosen by Paul Hoover as winner
of the 2007 Colorado Prize for Poetry and was published
by the Center for Literary Publishing. His collection
of short stories and fables, called Cradle Book,
will be published in spring 2010 by BOA Editions Ltd.