Fink Photograph

Why do you write poetry?

One reason I write poetry is that it is the truest artistic medium in which everything that compels my attention in the world can be included.  When you are writing a poem you are simultaneously a cinematographer, a drummer, a music conductor, a storyteller, a preacher, a lover, and an engineer (the list could go on).  These voices exist simultaneously in the mind as you are weighing and evaluating the relative merits of each word in a poem.  A poem welcomes an intensity of attention more so than any other art form I know.  What’s amazing about a poem is that all of these components are contrived from words.  Poems can be utterly unforgiving in the writing process because the materials are blameless.  In most other art forms, there is blame to go around—paint dries and hardens to a color you didn’t expect, a camera malfunctions and erases the film, the custodian accidentally turns off the heat to the kiln—but in poetry, any and every word is immediately and unfailingly available.  The pliability of language is both terrifying and thrilling.

The heat that simmered off the blacktop of the roads
and circled through my car (its windows down,

the air conditioner long broken) soaked my clothes
in sweat, my shirt so thin a strip four inches wide

revealed my spine as armpits dripped and swaths
released across my chest from neck to belly, pec to pec.

At work, I sat alone inside the walk-in freezer
as I waited for my shirt to dry, my body steaming

in a room so cold my skin felt like it tightened. Boxes full
of every cut of meat (from porterhouse to tenderloin)

surrounded me where I had spaced and stacked them
as a frigid throne. The freezer door was like a bank vault’s,

thicker than my chest. A knob some engineer designed
protruded from the inside of the door so that,

when pressed, the latch released (I often wondered
just how many men and women locked themselves

by accident into a freezer’s crypt before a knob
had been invented that would let them out).