Poet Of The Week

Timothy Liu

     June 29–July 5, 2015

Timothy Liu is the author of nine books of poems, including Of Thee I Sing, selected by Publishers Weekly as a 2004 Book of the Year; Say Goodnight, winner of the 1998 PEN Open Book Margins Award; and Vox Angelica, winner of the 1992 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. His most recent book of poems, Don’t Go Back To Sleep, was a finalist for a 2015 Lambda Literary Award, and a novel, Kingdom Come, is forthcoming this fall. Liu is a professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey and lives in New York City and Woodstock, NY. He will read for the Brooklyn Poets Reading Series on July 2 at Smack Mellon in DUMBO with Sampson Starkweather and Amy King.

Building Trust

I liked it when he fucked me
when I was half asleep
as if I were a pot of coffee
he was used to putting on
before anyone else in the house
got up. Give him whatever
the hell he wants, my mother
said with shiners in both eyes,
heirloom Limoges smashed
on kitchen tile. The body
of my mother being rolled
into the morgue’s gas jets
is what I picture whenever he
enters me, knowing I can’t
bring myself to visit her grave,
not once. It would be
the most disingenuous act,
my therapist says, who knows
her only through stories
that I’ve told, most of them
lies. I actually don’t
like it when he fucks me
with skirt hiked past my hips
and our hour isn’t even up,
his impatience something
I’d rather deal with
off the clock, otherwise
what am I paying him for—
surrogate father who fucks
me better than my own father
ever did, who spares me
the command to look into
his face with blackened eyes
as he comes, knowing I can’t
be trusted, not by anyone.

–From Don’t Go Back To Sleep, Saturnalia Books, 2014.

Tell us about the making of this poem.

This poem investigates therapeutic transference and the forbidden as well as the unreliability of the narrator as a means to amplify the erotic tension.

What are you working on right now?

This interview.

What’s a good day for you?

Any day I feel uninhibited from doing my life’s work.

So you live close to, but not in Brooklyn. Explain yourself. Where’s home for you?

Home is in Manhattan and Woodstock, NY. The city rat / country mouse thing.

What’s it like being a poet there? As Jay Z might ask, Can you live?

Both homes are retreats from yet close to what stimulates my imagination.

How often do you come to Brooklyn? What neighborhoods do you go to? Share with us your experiences, impressions, etc.

I come to Brooklyn about every 4.3 weeks to steal from the rich and give to the poor, usually via the F train or the Q train, whenever I smell blood.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?


Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn?

Sauntering back and forth among Hart Crane’s former abodes in Brooklyn Heights.

Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?

BAM. Pratt Institute. Roulette.

Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?

Do I have to?

Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?

The Archetype of Initiation: Sacred Space, Ritual Process, and Personal Transformation by Robert L. Moore.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate the state
And what I masturbate you obfuscate
For every blank slate me as good love/hate you.

If you have time, write a nine-line poem using these end-words (in whatever order) from Jay Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard”: father, Dodger, jack, rob, sin, pen, love, Brooklyn, Biggie.

Go Hard
by Timothy Liu

Not lookin’ for a daddy but a father
Who ain’t no child-support Dodger,
Someone willing to jack

Me up on all four wheels and rob
My hood blind, never mind the sin-
Ful fluids leaking out of my pen-

Is—Van Halen’s “So This Is Love”
Blaring across the Brooklyn
Bridge with or without Biggie.

Why Brooklyn?

Why not.