My first book of poems, Techne’s Clearinghouse (Zoo Press), sold out its original print run of 1,000 copies. My second collection, Night Vision, recently won The New Criterion Poetry Prize. It was chosen as the winning manuscript by the poet and critic Adam Kirsch and will be published by St. Augustine’s Press in 2016.
Generally, I’d say my poetry mulls over the grit and chime of a suboptimal world. Wars go on in the Middle East, my mother dies and the creatures of the field are “much the worse / for having been beneath the rotor blades.” My poems are by turns contemplative and savage, invoking Meister Eckhart but acknowledging that “we die like dogs in the deep snow.” They take account of what gets lost to war, accident and time. If they offer solace, it’s in a plainspoken, dark humor. Sometimes you have to wonder why a white-breasted nuthatch “flicks feces from the nest at dawn” or why a priest gives you a 1-800 number to call in case “you need additional resources on / the nature and process of grieving.” Enrico Fermi, the Italian physicist, ponders the absence of extraterrestrial life, asking “where, alas, / did everybody go,” and we channel our inner Jack Nicholson at the bar, admitting that “things could be better, Lloyd, / a whole lot better.” And then there’s Juno, once the wife of Jupiter, now a space probe voyaging back to her husband, “a dead gas giant,” to look her “antipathetic other in the eye.”
Whether serious or satirical, my poems cleave to the feel of living speech. I’m interested in how language plays out, prosodically, in that zone between the real and the ideal. There are things we do say and things we could say, in moments of perfect clarity and articulation. My poetry is a negotiation between those two states. It’s pinned down to the real but always reaching higher, with a form built into the lines through meter, unobtrusive rhyme and sonic echoes. Frost’s notion of the “sentence sound” is very important to me, as are the styles of Elizabeth Bishop and Philip Larkin. While my work relies on formal elements, the poems don’t sound like academic exercises. I believe that poems have to live as spoken language and do their job in a room full of people, and so I do a lot of public readings. The readings go well because my work seems to have an emotional immediacy that people respond to. I’m at home on the page and on the stage.
My poetry has been featured in the Swallow Anthology of New American Poets, The Best of the Raintown Review anthology and Rabbit Ears, an anthology of TV poems. My work has also appeared widely in magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, Poetry, The New Criterion, Parnassus, The Yale Review, The Hudson Review, The Hopkins Review, The Raintown Review, American Arts Quarterly, Alabama Literary Review, The Dark Horse (Scotland), Cimarron Review and Barrow Street. My poems have also appeared on line at Poetry Daily, Kin, linebreak, Angle, The Nervous Breakdown, Ducts.org and The Poetry Porch.
An MFA? Yes, I have one, from Columbia. I’ve taught writing at Harvard Business School, Columbia and Barnard. My essays and reviews have appeared in Parnassus, Contemporary Poetry Review, Kin, The New Criterion, The Dark Horse and other venues.
Paris was my home for many years, and I’ve spent much time in Brazil, but now I’m based in New York, where I was born. I live in Manhattan with my Brazilian wife, the painter Majô Lanari (www.mjlanarifoy.com), and our two children, Catherine and Chris.