Ask The Author: Michael Glaviano

Michael Glaviano’s Three Poems are presented in the August issue. He responds to our questions about his lines, his writing and where he came from.

1. How does a room affect what accent you take?

If there’s food in the room, I’ll probably talk like I have food in my mouth.

 2. “The way we say loss, we learned, never varies:” How true is this line?

So true, dude. Always ‘lawss.’ What’s not true is that “[i]t sounds like the word for topsoil / distributed by wind.” That’s loess, and it’s usually pronounced ‘luss.’ I’ve never heard anyone say loss like loess.

3. Why did you choose to shape these poems with couplets? How does the shape affect the tone and voice of these poems?

I could probably think of a good answer to this, but then everyone who knows me and reads this interview will know that I am full of shit. The real and somewhat embarrassing answer is that I pretty much wrote everything in couplets from 2008-2010. If a poem didn’t fit nicely into couplets, I wasn’t interested in writing it.

I started writing exclusively in couplets after I took way too seriously something my sophomore poetry professor said. What he said was that you should always try to have your strongest line in the stanza be the last one, the second-strongest be the first one, and put the rest in the middle. I interpreted this as “middles are for suckers,” and hopped on the first train to coupletsville.

But then I wrote so many of them that they became the only poems I felt I was any good at. Even the form I’m working in now is just a byproduct of me taking the aspects of couplet poems I like most and trying to amplify and complicate them. I’ve had the same piece of pedagogical spinach stuck in my teeth for coming up on four years.

To answer your second question: Poems written in couplets have a built-in reticence. The reader doesn’t know when to expect a turn, or even if there’s going to be a turn, because there’s no immediately obvious place for one. But because of all of those hard little stanzas, the poems still have the surface sheen of a formally rigorous poem. Each of these narrators is reticent in his own way, and I like to think the form amplifies that reticence. The hard part was resisting the urge to take advantage of the form’s looseness and getting the poems to live up to that sheen.

 4. Where are you from? Where would you like to be from?

I’m from a part of Metairie, Louisiana that is a literal minute’s walk away from the western limit of New Orleans. Naturally, I’ve always had a complex about this. My mom was even inconsiderate enough to go into labor in Metairie, so I don’t even get to say I was born here.

5. What would you do if we showed up in the same place wearing the same thing?

Stand next to you as much as possible.

6. Where would you remove an exit from?