Any poems memorized?

A few. Dickinson: My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun, etc. Blake: Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright, etc.

What the hammer? What the chain? / In what furnace was thy brain?

Exactly. Blake.

Blake—he came to Ginsberg in a vision. And then to Patti Smith. He came for you?

No, never—maybe I never believed enough, though his poems are alive, to me. Breathing, feeling things. Same with Dickinson. For I have but the power to kill, / Without—the power to die—

Dickinson never left her room.

Yet out her window soldiers came limping home, bandages around their heads. Dickinson was a war poet, who never left her room. I think she’s like many of us now, who only watch our wars on television, for a few moments, before turning the channel.


Exactly. Blake. Dickinson. E!

Your first memoir was about homelessness, and now you’ve written a book about state-sanctioned torture. Both books, formally, seem precariously held together, yet they are of a piece. Who is your architect?

Melville for the Another Bullshit Night in Suck City—the form is taken from Moby Dick. The Ticking is the Bomb was a DIY project, loosely based on the structure of a galaxy, held together by invisible tensions —I saw photograph of a galaxy in an old National Geographic. The third memoir will be either a triptych, or more like a jellyfish, which I also saw in a National Geographic.

Third memoir? A trilogy?

Trifecta. Hat trick. Holy trinity. Third rail. Third leg. Third wheel. It always comes in threes.

In an interview I read somewhere you said that if you feel good about what you’re writing it usually turns out to be worthless. Does this mean one should feel bad about their writing? If so, is there a way to achieve that golden bad feeling without actually feeling bad?

Drugs, but they can be wildly unpredictable. Or wildly predictable. That’s it: life is wildly unpredictable, drugs are always the same, it’s just we do unpredictable things when we use them. Or we do predictable cruel and dumb things when we do them.

You have been described in a review of The Ticking is the Bomb as having a grossly irresponsible lifestyle.

Ah yes, that review, which, yes, does hover in my consciousness, daily, unbidden.

So you are not denying the allegation? Or rather, the reading?

Well, any decent work of art is really a Rorshach test. Just like the poems you chose to memorize become a part of your body, and end up becoming you.

And what shoulder and what art, / Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat, / What dread hand? and what dread feet?