Poet Of The Week

Dan Magers

     June 3–9, 2013

Dan Magers’s first book of poems, Partyknife, was published by Birds, LLC, in 2012. He is co-founder and co-editor of Sink Review, an online poetry journal, as well as founder and editor of Immaculate Disciples Press, a handmade chapbook press focused on poetry and visual arts collaborations. He lives in Brooklyn.


The poster looks like the artist had never seen a baby or a woman.

He really knew about hair though.

Private life is constructed,
but some constructed things are nice,
like houses. You build a table to make it easier
to eat off.

Engineering your problems into a monument
so immense and indelible
that modification means blowing up,

making your way through the crowds disappearing
into you.

A pamphlet called “What Kills You Must Be Really Beautiful”
posits an absolute belief in your instincts.

To marry the severity of the world and the lightness of the light.

At the party, she holds high the mandolin
to escape the harm we are doing.

–From Partyknife, Birds, LLC, 2012.

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I remember David Lehman was writing all these imitation-style poems “In the Manner of Wallace Stevens” or “In the Manner of Rilke” which I thought was really facile and boring, and I think the title came to me as a sort of snarky reaction to that. I guess the poem is about making art and maybe also how important it feels (to me) but also how ridiculous it ultimately is, though I feel like what I like about the poem, and most if not all of the poems I write, will start to fall away by trying to explain how they came about.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently having a dark night of the soul about that. I wrote hundreds of pages last year and early this year, but without much concern for finishing anything. I’m currently just reading through it all to see what could fit into a manuscript. It can be frustrating to have all this writing that doesn’t seem to lead in any really strong direction, but just spending a bunch of time doing studies or learning about new techniques to generate text has been very helpful to me.

What’s a good day for you?

That’s a hard question to answer because whenever I say I’m having a good day, it’s usually a really horrible day when I think about it. All days are different shades, and I don’t think any can be singled out that would characterize what I consider what a good day would be. What I would delineate as a good day would probably just be an abstracted idea of a good day that hasn’t yet happened to me.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?

I live on Graham Avenue about six blocks north of the Flushing stop on the J/M. I call it Bushwick, though some people call it East Williamsburg–none of that makes a lot of difference to me. I’ve lived in the same apartment for nine years (I lived a year before that in the East Village). I like living there because it’s affordable, close to the J/M, as well as the Montrose L, and the Broadway G, so it feels accessible to other places, while also being far enough from trendier, obnoxious places, though I feel like the neighborhood might have jumped the shark with the recent opening of a couple of establishments I won’t name. The street I live on is really loud, but I like the bustle of it.

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

Again, I tend not to think of one experience defining all the glorious and horrible times in Brooklyn. If you had asked about New York experiences, I would have mentioned moving here the day of the big blackout of 2003, which was one of the worst days of my life. I guess a really awesome day was when I did the Stain of Poetry reading last year with Jenny Zhang, Lauren Hunter, Kendra Grant Malone & Matthew Savoca at Goodbye Blue Monday (which is within walking distance of my apartment). It was the Friday before AWP, and I had just gotten copies of Partyknife a couple days before, so the reading was sort of a launch. All my friends were there, the reading went great, I sold like 25 copies of the book that night, and Thurston Moore, who blurbed my book, showed up towards the end of the reading. That moment will be pretty much impossible to replicate again.

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

My favorite Brooklyn poets are all my friends, and the idea of even entertaining the possibility of deciding a favorite would be impossible. I think one would be hard pressed to name another region or city in the US with such a high concentration of amazing poets, so I feel like that in itself, the totality of each poetry circle or community in this time and place, seems to me very special and unique.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

My favorite place right now is Mellow Pages Library, though that’s not technically a bookstore–it’s a lending library that basically carries only the coolest books you’d ever want to read: tons of new small press poetry and fiction, plus a great collection of literature and philosophy. I’m really inspired by the whole thing; it makes me want to start one in another city. Props to Matt Nelson and Jacob Perkins for coming up with the idea.

Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I don’t think there are other places in Brooklyn besides my apartment, where 99% of the magic happens. My other favorite place to write is on Amtrak trains, but they don’t run in Brooklyn, obvs. I sometimes pretend I enjoy reading outside, but when I do, mostly the thought “I’m reading outside” radiates through my brain until I’m ready to go home. Lines that will go into poems will often be stuck in my head when I’m walking around in Brooklyn or elsewhere.

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

Since I’ve lived in Bushwick for nine years, I haven’t really experienced other neighborhoods in the more intimate way that friends who’ve lived all over Brooklyn have. So whenever I spend time in Crown Heights or Fort Greene, it often feels new to me. I always have a rad time in Sunset Park, which is kind of wonderful, but far away from me, and reminds me that Brooklyn sometimes seems infinitely big to me. Sunset Park (the park) is the second highest place in Brooklyn, and it’s beautiful to watch the sunset there, or just take in the skyline. I love walking around a lot, though I feel like if someone at the end of my life were to ask, “What did you see?”, I wouldn’t really remember.

Last awesome book(s) you read?

I keep mentioning this book, but Dana Ward’s first book, This Can’t Be Life. I got really obsessed with it and wrote a nearly 4,000-word book review.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate time,
And what I lose you should have,

For every year of me as good eras end with you.

Why Brooklyn?

Because it’s the nerve center. You have the rest of your life to spend somewhere else in tranquility.