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Wisdom

Morgan Parker

Poet

Morgan Parker’s first book of poetry, Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, was selected by Eileen Myles for the 2013 Gatewood Prize. Her second collection, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, was published by Tin House in 2017. This Wisdom is from a larger interview she did with The Creative Independent about poetry and the everyday.

Poetry is often viewed as a stodgy art form, but your work is influenced by pop culture. Do you worry that people might take it less seriously as a result? That it won’t be seen as timeless?

I know I’m supposed to care about timelessness, but I don’t. Honestly, the world might not be here tomorrow, so I’m just like, “Let me say whatever I need to say in the language that I need to say it and not sit here scratching my head thinking about how I can best describe a tree that will cross generations.” I don’t care about that. I think that it’s an unreasonable pressure to put on poets, and I think those poems are boring. They’re not really reflective of anything. Poems have always had time stamps. We pretend that they don’t, but we have an entire English class on how to read it based on the context of the time, so I’ll leave that to the internet. Folks can figure it out.

Poetry is often viewed as a stodgy art form, but your work is influenced by pop culture. Do you worry that people might take it less seriously as a result? That it won’t be seen as timeless?

This is hilarious: When I was writing the Beyoncé poems I was like, “Man, I better find a publisher really fast because I don’t know if she’s going to really still be popular or be relevant.” Whatever. You’ve just kind of got to follow instincts and I think that it’s almost like, “Okay, but how can I say this without removing time?” Maybe those just aren’t the kind of poems I’m interested in writing. I want it to feel a trillion percent like right now. That’s my project. I’ve never been interested in a kind of timeless art because art comes from a place and a time, and a body that lives in a particular time. That feels central to what excites me about poetry.

Poetry is often viewed as a stodgy art form, but your work is influenced by pop culture. Do you worry that people might take it less seriously as a result? That it won’t be seen as timeless?

Folks think of poetry as this timeless something that’s in a vacuum of beauty. It’s hotel art, it’s just nice. It sounds nice and that’s what it’s for, and all of the best poets that are writing today, in my opinion, do not write those poems. It sometimes doesn’t sound nice. It’s more reflective of their lived experiences, and I guess in our current American climate there’s such a need for urgent art, and poetry has a way of getting to the point. A lot of poets are able to say more and say it more honestly. A lot of people are just ready for it. They’re ready to hear something real. I think a lot of poetry is doing that. Also, poetry is scary to people because it isn’t always about logic or understanding.

Poetry is often viewed as a stodgy art form, but your work is influenced by pop culture. Do you worry that people might take it less seriously as a result? That it won’t be seen as timeless?

It has this way of interacting with all the senses. It’s sound and it’s feel and it’s color and all these things. It isn’t linear. I don’t think our brains work that way. They don’t think in sentences. It’s more splotches of things. I think that poetry has a way of reflecting the actual human mind, which is really fun but also scary to people.

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