Q & A: Randall Mann

How are your lines, one long / one short, inflected by the “fear”—and “joy”—recollected in the poem?

I carried around the first four and a half lines for a while, so I knew the poem would be long/short lines. I guess, if you put a straight razor to my throat and told me to qualify my choices, I would say that the longer lines give the poem some breathing space, and the short lines provide an abrupt, tense contrast; also, the long and the short of it provide white-space distance between the couplets themselves, between the rhymes, just as there is distance between the sexual degradation in the poem and the speaker’s willingness to be degraded—i.e., to suspend disbelief—so that he might get something out of it, and get off.


“Suspend disbelief”? That’s Coleridge’s famous phrase, of course. He was talking about the state of mind one needs in order to be able to understand poetry. Is this poem in some way “about” poetry?

I suppose it’s “about” (awful word) the limitations of artifice, and what happens when one has a lack of “poetic faith,” to quote Coleridge, in a painstaking sexual setup.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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