Poet Of The Week

M. A. Vizsolyi

     January 19–25, 2015

M. A. Vizsolyi is the author of The Lamp with Wings: love sonnets, (Harper Perennial) winner of the National Poetry Series, selected by Ilya Kaminsky. He is also the author of the chapbooks Notes on Melancholia (Monk Books) and The Case of Jane: a verse play (Fivehundred Places Press). Recent work can be found in Crazyhorse, Pleiades, Ploughshares and Gulf Coast. He teaches creative writing at Purchase College and Goddard College.

[the curtains are up this morning i’m]

the curtains are up this morning i’m
feeling lazy which is the sexiest thing
you can be at anytime he said vacancy
is a novel i looked around my slippers
are vacant the very idea that someone
like you wears slippers is a novel &
there is a prairie just beyond this
building & so we kept walking 127th
st 128th st 129th st &
the swan i held in my arms asked to
be put down told us there was no prairie
there was no prairie my love i won’t
be mad if you leave me forever
& i’ll understand if you’re too lazy to write

–From The Lamp with Wings: love sonnets, Harper Perennial, 2011.

Tell us about the making of this poem.

This poem, like all of the poems in my first collection, was composed as part of an obsessional exploration of the sonnet form—both taking on and eschewing many of its classical conventions. This was just one of 200 or so sonnets, of which only a handful made the cut into the collection. This poem also owes a lot to an ex-teacher of mine, C. S. Giscombe, who inspired the idea of laziness as an erotic state of being.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve just finished a novel-in-verse of sorts that features Crispin from the Wallace Stevens poem “The Comedian as the Letter C,” which I’m pretty excited about. I’ve also begun writing some short fiction as a change of pace.

What’s a good day for you?

A good day is day when I can be lazy and lounge on the couch next to my window overlooking the city. I like to browse through journals, both online and print, and discover a poem that excites me by someone I’ve never heard of. Hopefully, it inspires a poem of my own. In the evening, it’s nice to be with a few poet friends at a cozy bar, laugh and complain and laugh some more, and look around and realize how lucky I am to have them.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in?

All together, I’ve lived here for about six years. I lived in Brighton Beach and Williamsburg previously. I now call Red Hook home.

What do you like most about it?

In Red Hook, it’s quiet. That would have to be the first thing I noticed about the neighborhood. I like hearing the horns from the ships and then nothing again, maybe some children playing or a young couple laughing on their way to somewhere. I also like the small community that I’m getting to know here. There’s a real sense of togetherness, perhaps due to Sandy, which ironically enough helped solidify the diverse community here.

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

When I first moved to the city, I found myself walking late at night down an unfamiliar street in my neighborhood. I was a little scared and tense. There was a man who ran over to me from a payphone and kept saying, “Hey man.” I kept my head down and walked on. He asked me, “Why do you live in this neighborhood, if you are going to ignore the neighbors?” When I got home, I realized he was right, and I felt terrible. I was letting my own fear go unchecked, and it was preventing me from really being a part of this town. I learned a lot about myself that day. It helped me to grow a lot as well. It was the first moment I can remember where Brooklyn really changed me positively.

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

The first poet who comes to mind is Auden, of course. He used to run a kind of writers’ commune in Brooklyn Heights, and I like to imagine the comings and goings of that community. It makes me realize how important the current community is and how important it is to sustain that community. Marianne Moore, too, comes to mind for the delicious darkness of her work. She has taught me, too, how expressive syntax can be in poetry.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

BookCourt on Court Street. Besides being an all-around great bookstore, if I’m being honest, it has a lot to do with the space. I get claustrophobic easily, and I like that I can breathe and spread my arms in there. It’s strange to cite that as a reason, but there it is.

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

I carry a little notebook with me everywhere. I like writing on the train. It is fun when the people next to me look at what I’m writing. Sometimes, I even start writing about them when that happens! I wish I could thank them for the inspiration!

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

I mentioned earlier that I am claustrophobic, which is a hard thing to be in Brooklyn. So I like going to Prospect Park and the docks in Red Hook to feel comfortable. I also like quiet and not-crowded bars that feel like they are going to go out of business any day now, but never do. I won’t mention which ones lest business should suddenly improve.

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

Someone Else’s Wedding Vows, by fellow Brooklynite and friend Bianca Stone, is just insanely good. It’s one of those books you want to make sure everybody is reading, and then you pester them until they do. I’m currently diving into Split, by another friend, Cathy Linh Che, which is really knocking my socks off, too. It’s just really powerful and reminds you that poetry instructs through feeling.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate the snow this morning,
And what I build with it, you should knock down,
For every idea that takes hold in me as good as in you.

Why Brooklyn?

I think this is a question a lot of Brooklynites ask themselves, particularly when the city frustrates us. I suppose, for me, this one is unanswerable. I’m at a loss. It must be love.