Poet Of The Week

Edward Mullany

     May 21–27, 2018

Edward Mullany is the author of If I Falter at the Gallows, Figures for an Apocalypse and The Three Sunrises, all from Publishing Genius Press. He is also the creator of the comic strips Rachel and Ben and Excerpts from a Boring Man’s Diary. He is the recipient of a Barthelme Memorial Poetry Fellowship from the Inprint foundation, and his writing has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Carolina Quarterly, Tampa Review, jubilat and other journals.

Minneapolis in Winter

 
The argument begins in the car, on the way to the airport, and continues while we are in line to go through security, though once we are through, and have found our gate and are sitting in chairs, waiting for our plane to board, it dissipates, and seems to have ended, though it has yet to find resolution, and even an innocuous remark from one of us might be misconstrued by the other, so that neither of us speaks for a long time.

 
 
A Photograph of You

 
I have a photograph of you in which you are standing in someone’s back yard, during what looks like a barbecue, or an afternoon cookout, talking to a dog that is looking at you intently, as if it understands what you are saying to it, or as if it wants to understand, though I don’t know what you could’ve been saying to it, and though I don’t know, either, who took the picture, or whose house the back yard belongs to, or whether that person still lives there, or where it was, or when, though you seem in the photo to be only a little younger than you are now, though I know that this will not always be true, and that one day the photo will seem to me like it was taken long ago.

 
 
The Last Bodhisattva

 
“I am the last bodhisattva,” says a man, to me, at the party to which I’ve gone with a friend who I lost track of almost as soon as we entered the apartment, which is so crowded that I’ve decided to stay where I am, in the kitchen, sipping beer from a red plastic cup that the man who is speaking to me, and who is unbelievably drunk, continues to refill, from a hose connected to a keg that is immersed in a bucket of ice.

 
 

Tell us about the making of these poems.

I wrote these, and many others, after being away from writing for several months. They arrived easily—I mean that they seemed to come out of a part of my mind in which they already were, though I know this isn’t exactly true, because I didn’t know where they were going as I was writing them, or where they would end up, until they were complete, and their dramas had revealed themselves. But there’s always a feeling that what you’re writing is already there, in some realm you have to enter into, and that you’re discovering it through the work of articulation.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a book in which these pieces will appear. To me they are stories, though they have the appearance of poems.

What’s a good day for you?

If I’m happy at the end of it because I’ve risked something of myself for someone or for something I love, that is a good day.

What brought you to Brooklyn?

I feel like I ended up in Brooklyn by accident. But mostly I just arrived here from where I was before, which was the Upper West Side. Before that I spent time in Massachusetts, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Australia.

Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?

I live in Brooklyn Heights. I’ve been there a couple years. I like being near the water. Before that I was in Prospect Heights. I liked the fountain with the statues near Grand Army Plaza. I also liked walking down Vanderbilt.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.

Once I saw a man yelling at a dog that wasn’t his dog, but that was barking at the dog that was his, which he was walking.

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?

Poets become who they are through solitude as much as through community. But if poetry is an art that can be learned, then a community in which poets can practice it and study it, and impart their knowledge of it to others, seems important. I don’t know many poets, but they are my favorite writers to spend time with because they are the most fun. They seem to always be aware that life is at once serious and unserious. People in general know this, but poets seem not to forget it.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

Emily Toder. I like her imagination and the way she says things. She can speak easily and convincingly about that which seems unreal.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

My dad and my mother. They don’t write poetry, but they have influenced mine. They taught me to see the dignity in nature and in animals, the importance of treating people with kindness, and they tried to teach me not to be deceitful. These things have stayed with me, whether I abide by them or not. And I know that they exert some pressure on how I write, or what I write about.

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

I’ve been reading the Confessions of Saint Augustine. I recommend it, the entire book, but I especially love it toward the end, when he starts talking about the nature of time, how creation might have occurred, what is meant by eternity, and the things with which a soul should concern itself.

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

I wish Arda Collins would write another book. The only book I have read by her, and, as far as I know, her only book so far, is called It Is Daylight. It was awarded the Yale Younger prize by Louise Glück, who wrote the introduction to it. There’s something in her poems that is barely controlled, some fear or rage or desire.

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

I’m usually reading more than one book at a time.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

Maybe a book of villanelles or sonnets. That would be difficult, but also fun.

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I read on the train, and when I’m lying on the floor in my apartment. Mostly I write at home.

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

If I can’t sleep, and it’s early, I like sitting on the steps at Borough Hall, near the courthouse, and looking at the pigeons and the few people who are around. I like walking across the bridges, and any location where I can look at the river or the harbor. I like being outside.

Why Brooklyn?

No reason, I just ended up here mainly.