Find Dan's editorial work at With+Stand. He is pictured here with his daughter, Sonia.
A.) What's the first poem you remember writing?
I had a great English teacher in the 10th grade, Ms. Fuhrman. She was
young and hip, and so everything we did in the class seemed slightly
edgy and cool. We read Walt Whitman—"Song of Myself" in depth, but
also several other pieces—and then wrote our own songs of ourselves.
It was the first time I can remember sitting down to write a poem. At
the time, mostly I was impressed at the amount of teen angst the genre
allowed me to delve. Lots of what we'd now describe as "emo" poems,
about how hard it was to be me. But she also pushed us to play around
with forms a little bit—everything from concrete poems to open uses of
white space. At the end of the unit I remember having a little sheaf
of poems that seemed important, to me—they were the best creative work
I'd ever done, at that point, and they felt very true to who I was.
That summer and fall I wrote a fifty-page (single spaced, without line
breaks) stream of consciousness poem, and took it to another great
Berkeley High English teacher, Allen Miller, who is himself a poet. I
remember his reaction—sort of wowed and weirded out—and then thinking
to myself that I wanted to wow and weird people out more. From that
point on I identified as a poet, though it took until the end of
college before I really felt comfortable saying so.
B.) What are three songs you've listened to on repeat lately?
Lil B, I'm Heem—I am minorly swept up in Lil B hysteria.
Dirty Projectors, No Intention (live for Sirius radio)—these harmonies kill me.
Hallelujah Chicken Run Band, Kare Nanhasi—so good.
C.) Do you carry music around with you throughout the day? If so, what
are you listening to and when are you listening to it?
Driving to and from work these days, I'm listening to either a mix a
made for my wife (two new favorites from the most recent are Mountain
Man and tUne-YarDs), or Lil B's Blue Flame Mixtape, which is so
bizarre and awesome. Or books on tape—cause that's how I roll.
D.) Do you carry poetry around with you throughout the day? Whose
books are you carrying?
I wish I carried it all around more. But, what I'm reading/what is on
my nightstand/what I'm excited to read lately, includes:
Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young's A MEGAPHONE
Geof Huth's EYECAHRT POEMS
Roberto Bolano's BY NIGHT IN CHILE
Noah Eli Gordon's THE FREQUENCIES (excited for his new book too)
Jocelyn Saidenberg's CUSP
Yusef Komunyakaa's MAGIC CITY
I've also been having an amazing conversation/back and forth with the
poet Lauren Levin—I'm excited to read/see where that goes!
E.) In Issue A, your piece is a collaboration with poet erica lewis
based on work she'd written previously. What were your contributions
to the piece in Taiga? In general, how do you tackle the collaborative
process-- in what roles do you usually find yourself, and what do you
get out of it, creatively?
In my working life I teach 8th grade at a progressive all-girls middle
school. It's been one of my projects at the school to bring in
innovative women poets for the 8th graders to read, and meet—we have
to be the only middle school out there that has read books and had
visits from Brenda Hillman, Juliana Spahr, and Erica Lewis. So this
year I wanted to try out Erica's book Camera Obscura, because I was
fascinated by it, and I felt like it kept its ideas enough in focus
that the 8th graders could at least make a go of it. (I met Erica a
couple years ago when she was tagged for With + Stand #3, and then
hosted a reading/release party for the issue as part of the Canessa
Gallery Reading Series in San Francisco.) As part of the teaching
process, I have my students write various kinds of 'response
poems'—poems that try to get at different aspects of the source
material, from its overall form to a single word or image. I make a
point of writing these alongside my students, because it's always a
generative process for me as a poet and teacher.
This year a couple of those responses to Erica's work seemed to stand
on their own. I let her know that I was playing with them for Taiga,
and she and I started going back and forth with the poems. It was a
surprisingly easy process, really—I'd write and send, then she'd write
and send, with the pieces moving into and out of what came before. I'd
love to do this kind of work with Erica again—maybe something where
there was more writing alongside and through, as opposed to the call
and response model we used for this piece.
I do get a lot out of collaboration in general—I find it deepens just
about any work, and gives me a way to both get outside of myself and
get toward my best ideas—both of which are incredibly important goals
as a poet. But you need to have an equal partner in the work—I was
lucky to get to do this work with Erica. Thanks for the opportunity!