1. What’s the title of your new book?
Résumé, which sees life as a series of jobs, jobs splendid as the ditches of old Russia.
2. Where did the idea come from?
Poets are beautiful, but useless. Indeed, our uselessness is part of our beauty.
3. What are some of the jobs you write about?
A pimp’s assistant, lost pet psychic, petting tent attendant, target changer, aviary security. I’ve had and not had many of the jobs described in the poems. Most of my actual jobs are more the stuff of prose, sadly.
4. What’s an example of a prosaic job?
Anything with the words “Director of” in the title. It requires safe pants and many meetings and many words to describe how wrong it feels.
5. Anything more than job poems, you know, to alleviate the pervasive sadness?
Slipped between pages of work, you find a series of “Jobless” poems—a recurring state of being. Also poems about the jobs of vital relatives—in my family, mangy is not a bad word—I come from a long line of absurd sad men like myself with perfectly strong legs, all chasers with nowhere to run. In the end, the work of poetry becomes a refuge in the book—it’s somebody’s life and its one day after another and we rarely notice the sky.
6. What actor would play you in these poems?
John Cusack…that is, if he stopped coloring his hair and never got those wickedly good hair plugs.
7. How long did it take you to write the 1st draft?
4 years. I am a consummate craftsman with an exquisite ear.
This is an enormously complicated book about what divides our lives into paid and unpaid chunks.
9. Did you draw inspiration from any other poet?
After I started the book, my friend Elise Paschen sent me the following bit from a New Yorker article on Joseph Brodsky:
Judge: Tell the court why in between jobs you didn’t work and led a parasitic life style?
Brodsky: I worked in between jobs. I did what I do now: I wrote poems.
Judge: You wrote your so-called poems? And what was useful about your frequent job changes?
Brodsky: I began working when I was 15 years old. Everything was interesting to me. I changed jobs because I wanted to learn more about life, about people.
—The New Yorker (except from Joseph Brodsky’s employment trial, Soviet Union)
10. What’s your greatest hope and fear related to this book?
Fear: That my 6-year-old daughters will grow up and have any jobs remotely like the ones I describe. Hope: I want them to always exist in an unmonied paradise where they continue to make perfect art.