Ask the Author: Jeremy Allan Hawkins

The poetry of Jeremy Allan Hawkins is featured in the April issue. He talks with us about biblical pornography, the humor of poets, and more.

1. How do you know angels like anal?

When I was last in Berlin I had the chance to watch an unreleased Wim Wenders film, Wings of Desire 3: When God Isn’t Looking, and I learned quite a bit about what angels are capable of, not to mention German audiences. At one point, a man sitting next to me in the screening room—this was all very illegal—ate a bowl of tuna salad. I love tuna, but when Gabriel is getting double-teamed, well, I don’t really have a taste for canned fish.

2. What chapter of the Bible would you like to see a porno version of?

Definitely Kings. 2 Kings to be exact. It features Jezebel, who, before putting on make-up in order to be thrown out a window to her death, must’ve been a pretty amazing sexual presence. Not to mention Jehu, who drove like a madman and probably fucked like it too. All in all, Kings is about people screwing up and getting killed off quickly, and if you imagine living in that time, people must’ve really gone for it. If you knew that people were getting smitten by the agents of the lord every few verses, wouldn’t you lose your inhibitions?

3. What vegetables are serious when they get bigger?

Pickles (by which I mean cucumbers), melons, and peaches. Wait, some of those are fruits. Now I’m not sure. Why did you have to ask me that? I’m going to get in trouble for this, I just know it.

4. Are massage parlors funny? If so, in what way?

I think they are hilarious, so long as you aren’t in one. Then I think it gets awkward. A stranger oiling you up, rubbing you down, both of you wondering about the end—you wondering if the myth of the happy ending is real, and the masseur/masseuse wondering if you’re going to be one of the idiots who mentions it. God forbid you end up in an establishment where the staff are living under a modified slave status—then all humor flies out the window, if it came in the door at all. Why did you even come in? Stiff neck? Bad day? Me, I can’t go near the places. I’m way too uptight. It’s easier to stand outside and laugh at the all the straight white men, the ones who go in fantasizing they’re going to be pleasured by some servile anime character they’ve conjured out of comic books, only to end up with a 300-lb masseur named Bruce. Even funnier to know how upset they must get when they still get aroused.

5. Who or what are your biggest influences in your poetry?

That’s a tough call. Can I say that I found my angels in Rilke and my tomatoes in Glück? Sure, but I can also claim Barbarella and the Saturday farmer’s market. Still, it’s hard to deny that I’ve inherited, like most American poets, a certain image-based lyric drive—for me, much of it came from reading about how Levertov read Williams. And the further I wander away from that kind of “ideal breath” that you find in much of Williams, for example, the less I feel like a poet. As such, my anal angels really arrived from elsewhere, and in some ways, I don’t even see that piece as a poem. Maybe this is a signal that I should give up writing poems and start writing porno scripts? By the way, my father was a preacher for the first nine years of my life. There is no question that the intonation he had when reading the Gospels is all over me. There are some influences for you: the father and the Father.

6. Why are poets normally not very funny?

Being funny in writing is hard enough, but if you try to do it after being taught (and reminded) that every single detail in a poem matters—well, it’s like trying to get a Christian to stop feeling guilty. We labor over commas! We stress over stresses! How do you arrive at a good punch-line if you’ve been buried in your own ass-onance? Frankly, though—I think it’s damn difficult to be funny, and just as hard to write a good poem, so to have both things at the same time is like winning two lotteries simultaneously. For that reason, our truly funny poets should be celebrated doubly. I, myself, am almost never funny since I take myself too seriously. And of course there’s a difference between being laughable and funny. I have a tattoo in French. That should tell you enough about the kind of laughs I get.