Poetry News

David Trinidad Explains It All Very Well

By Harriet Staff

David Trinidad is interviewed at Amsterdam Quarterly! Who knew, DT: "Anne Sexton was the first poet I seriously connected with." More:

[David Trinidad:] ...I discovered her work in 1975, just months after her death. Her books were everywhere then. I came across Love Poems in the poetry section of the B. Dalton Books at Northridge Fashion Center. I bought it, took it home, starting reading it, and was hooked. I devoured all of her books, one right after another. Sylvia Plath was very important to me, too. She was also pretty ubiquitous at that time. Through Plath, I learned about Ted Hughes. Ann Stanford was my teacher at Northridge, so I studied her books on my own. She was friends with May Swenson, so I read her as well. Allen Ginsberg and Frank O’Hara were on my radar—I loved those City Lights pocket books. I learned a great deal from these poets. All of them had an honesty and directness that I responded to. Each created a world I could believe in and inhabit. I related to the feelings, no matter how different their experiences were from mine. They made me want to contribute something of my own, something of my self. That was key, the authentic autobiographical nature of their work.

Later, Trinidad explains his interest in narrow columns and lists (this is our kind of interview):

[Bryan R. Monte]: How do you respond to some critics who say that some of your poems list too many things? That sometimes they are only lists or synopses of TV shows or toy descriptions, such as “Monster Mash,” “The Ten Best Episodes of The Patty Duke Show,” and “Essay with Movable Parts,” which they feel don’t really make them poems?

DT: Aside from the joy of list making, I would say that in the poems you mention there were specific conceptual concerns at work. “Monster Mash,” for instance, is both a list of monster movies and a traditional rhymed sonnet. The payoff, for me, was in the juxtaposition of the two. I don’t feel I need to defend the list poem. It has a long and respectable tradition. I guess I like to play around with the form, see how far I can stretch it, what I can make lists do. Some results are more mundane than others. But some have a kind of sparkle.

BM: In Monday, Monday, you also wrote a lot of poems in narrow columns. How did you “discover” this short, poetic line set in columnar stanzas, which you’ve continued to use in your poems?

DT: Poets I admired used that form a lot—Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, Dennis Cooper and other friends. I was drawn to it, perhaps, because it seemed less artificial than the stanzas—tercets and quatrains and whatnot—that I’d mostly used in college. Those evenly chopped up stanzas suddenly struck me as bookish. The narrow column—or tube—felt freer and more natural, better suited to a colloquial way of writing.

Read it all in Amsterdam Quarterly.

Originally Published: September 18th, 2015