Poetry News

We Like Dan Magers and Farrah Field and They Went on a Poetry-Reading Tour and Sometimes Aim for Controversy

By Harriet Staff

Fresh on/off their Brooklyning of the western United States, Dan Magers and Farrah Field (who were joined on their poetry-reading tour by Jared White) got into some real controversial conversation over at the Studio One Reading Series blog. Such as!

Farrah Field: During grad school, we were asked to go around the room and say something that we wanted to happen to our poetry, a way that we would want it to change over the course of the semester. I said I wanted more controversy. Everyone else had more complicated answers, treatises on form or language or grammar. At the time I wanted controversy on a surface level; I wanted controversy—discomfort, loudness, irreverence, something that you would want to talk or know more about. I like poetry so much that I need to do something to it to make it normal, like poetry is something I need to mud wrestle or something within one’s body.

Dan Magers: I think we are similar in that I was also looking for a chaos in my work and was less interested in consciously connecting it to a poetic movement or intellectual underpinning. While I’m interested in poetics, and the discussions and debates that surround them, it also seems strangely unmoored to why I write poetry. In my book Partyknife, I think I was finally able to replicate on the one hand the wild jumps that the mind makes between different thoughts and emotions that is almost destabilizing, and on the other hand, something close to a lyric “I” that is reasonably recognizable as such. I’m pleased when I hear people saying it is somehow both experimental and accessible and a quick read. Seems to me like the best of both worlds.

FF: This is an interesting equation: chaos + lyric = accessible experimentation. As a bookseller, I watch people physically react to your book, you know, the very act of opening it and saying “wow.” While selling books I encounter many people who don’t often read poetry and their most common response to Partyknife is that they didn’t know these things could be done in poetry.

DM: Do you still aim for controversy in your work? You said you wanted it on a surface level—does it now occupy a more subterranean level of your work? When you say you have an inclination to make your work more “normal,” is it because you think the chaotic or controversial drive in your work would make an unpalatable, or even unsuccessful, work? Do you think that people wouldn’t get it? Do you think your second book Wolf and Pilot is more—or less—“normal” than your first book Rising?

FF: I don’t think I aim for controversy as much as I did when I was younger, but I’m really interested in power! I want the power to constantly change and create and take risks; I want to write and be something powerful. Rising is so different from Wolf and Pilot because with Rising I had a gut-wrenching anger about being the surviving sibling of my murdered sister. It’s so uncomfortable to talk about, and the only way I could was to go after it in poetry. I know it’s probably cheesy to say, but poetry was how I could begin to sort out the feelings surrounding my sister’s death. Poetry is the only art form that listens while doing all the other things it does. Wolf and Pilot is so different in that I approached a genre, seeing what I could do with a sort of fairy tale, like Snow White meets Twin Peaks.

More more more. Band photo by Jared White.

Originally Published: October 10th, 2012