Poetry News

Allison Cobb Discusses After We All Died at Jacket2

By Harriet Staff

Christy Davids interviews Allison Cobb at Jacket2, covering Cobb's "writing process, the significance of the material body, using poetry to explore new ways of living in an increasingly uninhabitable world," and the poet's newest book, After We All Died (Ahsahta, 2016). "I feel like Notley has already thought of everything I might ever discover," Cobb admits. From this conversation:

Davids: The word “coping” kept coming up for me as I was reading — the process of dealing — and poetry as a space in which healing can take place. One of the ways the text copes is through the use of contrasting sets of registers: the high and the low. In the writing, opposites work together by transcending the rigidity of opposition and endeavor to create a space for actual coping. For example, the seeming frivolity of popular culture — Taylor Swift, Jaws, Justin Bieber, Build-a-Bear, Sister Sledge, Poison — achieves a weightiness, a kind of legitimacy, because of our sheer need to escape the death we are all already born into. Talking about pop-stars, you write, “I drop these names / so my young friends will / not forget me,” suggesting a desire for relevance, the idea of keeping the work “alive” in a book that’s all about confronting so many kinds of death. I wonder, how does this poetics of contra work, what do you hope for it to do?

Cobb: I take popular culture really seriously because I see in it a mirror that reflects our cultural lusts and longings and desires. Pop music in particular is really good at distilling desire, and I’m interested in the ways that those deep things in us as individuals — our fears and our desires — feed the global machine of racist, heteropatriarchal capitalism, and how it in turn feeds us. It’s a kind of loop. And the terms really are death: global death, species death, even our own deaths — like being hooked on the sugar juice of capital, whether it’s food, or credit. So, I find pop culture to be really, really serious, and that’s why it is so present in After We All Died, because it is a very important mirror.

The idea of relevance is a funny joke because I’m a white middle-aged woman, and I am experiencing — in my body and in the world — becoming middle-aged, and the reality of becoming invisible in a way that a younger person isn’t, a younger woman isn’t. That’s been a very interesting moment for me over the past four or five years — I’m 46 — to experience this shift in my social position that is really tactile and real. So “relevance” is a kind of nod to that experience.

I also think it’s really smart, the contradiction that you point out about the work being “alive” amidst all of this death. That’s a core contradiction in the book. It feels like some of the most alive poetry I’ve written. I do think that there is a kind of wonderful freedom that could come from saying, “Well, everything is already dead! This is not working!” I experience this sentiment along with the kind of compassion that comes with forgiveness, and it is perhaps especially something that white people need, who have been the putative beneficiaries of a system that’s really killing all of us...

Read on at Jacket2


Originally Published: August 4th, 2017