Why did you give your book such an uncool title?

Yeah, I agree. It felt like it was related to the central concerns of the book, both myself as a father, but also the general concept of fathering, of responsibility. There’s a poem in the book with that title, that ends with the lines:

the children sleeping
alone in some
detention center
don’t need
our brilliant sincerity
it’s not enough
to give some money
make some calls
they are not ours
but they are
we are the first
new fathers
ours failed
where we cannot
stop waiting
there are no others

I was thinking about our founding fathers, and how they let us down. And all those fathers running things now, so destructively. And about what it would mean to be a new kind of father: what sort of fathers we all (regardless of gender) need to be now, to all kids, each other, the earth, ourselves.

Plus the word father seems very ancient and powerful, but also in need of renewal.


Who is that on the cover of your book?

That’s me and my dad. It’s a picture that we had in a frame in our house the entire time I was a kid. When I was thinking about a cover for this book it came to mind and I knew it was right.


How can you write poetry at a time like this?

I’m sure that whatever is in the best poems is what totalitarians and nihilists want to destroy. Not mere content, approved or toxic, which is everywhere. So much content. Tyrants love content, because it can be monetized. Poems are something more than content: they are a way of relating to language and each other.

No matter what poems are about, if they are true poems they resist the constant encroachment of degraded speech and thinking. It feels good and necessary to think freely and with exactitude in relation to language and reality. Despite all the current evidence, I still believe in the possibility that my mind and yours can commune in a space not commanded or owned. Poems are a form of love.

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MATTHEW ZAPRUDER is the author of five collections of poetry, including Come On All You Ghosts, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Father’s Day (Copper Canyon, 2019), as well as Why Poetry, a book of prose. He is editor at large at Wave Books, and was the founding Director of the Bagley Wright Lecture Series. From 2016-7 he held the annually rotating position of Editor of the Poetry Column for the New York Times Magazine. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is an Associate Professor at Saint Mary’s College of California.

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