Poet Of The Week

Megan Fernandes

     June 12–18, 2023

Megan Fernandes is a writer living in NYC. She has been published in the New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares and Poetry, among many other journals. She is the author of Good Boys (Tin House Books, 2020) and has received fellowships and scholarships from the Yaddo Foundation, the Sewanee Writers Conference and the Hawthornden Foundation, among others. She holds a PhD in English from the University of California and an MFA in poetry from Boston University. Currently, she is an associate professor of English and the writer-in-residence at Lafayette College, where she teaches courses on poetry, creative nonfiction and critical theory. On Thursday, June 15, Fernandes will read at Brooklyn Poets for the launch of her new collection I Do Everything I’m Told, forthcoming from Tin House Books.

I’m Smarter than This Feeling, but Am I?


I watch your film about fisting: orifice as cave,

as grave, as starlit wormhole dug in space.

You’re obsessed by interiority.

By the drunk shipwreck of it. By our inside rivers

so alien, we might as well call them Sweden or Pluto or 1973

and what’s the difference, all of them are out of reach.

I know we’re both smarter than this feeling

because we have talked about desire and her little games.

I cry easily as I watch. You’re old school.

You want what O’Hara wanted, I think, which is a kind of boundlessness

that won’t kill anyone. Edging. You don’t believe in bodies.

Everyone is dust, condensed by circumstances.

You see what I was before I was a was. An am.

What’s your thing with smut, I ask.

You say it’s not smut, it’s a love story.

To be taken apart is as important as being put together.

Near-annihilation reminds you of a limit

and ask yourself, who do you trust at your limit?

At a party last night in Chinatown, I invent you

walking through the door. It is warm and I smoke

a cigarette on the balcony. Everyone is a producer

and talking about Kathy Acker and what would I say

if I could? That I want our years to keep meeting.

I don’t want 1973 or a failed planet or even Sweden.

Instead of saying this, I ask about your film.

We put the art between us because the art exists

and we do not. This is called sublimation.

We puppet our meat in the grey twilight

of the real world and I pretend

I’m not speaking to Time.


—From I Do Everything I’m Told, Tin House Books, 2023.

Brooklyn Poets · Megan Fernandes, "I’m Smarter than This Feeling, but Am I?"

Tell us about the making of this poem.

It’s a poem about a filmmaker who works, among other things, on intimacy and queer smut. They had a short film about looking through a telescope at the stars, and then the film becomes about fisting and orifices and the cosmos.

What are you working on right now?

I’m reading. I’m thinking. I’m in that stage.

What’s a good day for you?

Waking up without a hangover. Getting a coffee, going to the gym, a bright clear sky. Reading without interruption. Writing in a condensed spurt. Eavesdropping on the city. Meeting someone for dinner, choosing to sit at the bar, drinking a Negroni. A little evening rain.

What brought you to New York?

A job. But also, I always knew I’d end up here.

Where’s home for you? How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other places you’ve lived?

I’ve lived here eight years, which is longer than I’ve lived anywhere in my adult life. Previously, I’ve lived in Santa Barbara, LA, Providence, Cambridge, Shanghai, Montreal and Paris for periods of between three months to a few years.

Nothing compares to NYC. It’s unfortunate because this can be a hard place to live, but for me, there’s nowhere else. I’ve got my hair person, my therapist, my gynecologist, my brow threader, a couple regular bars and my butcher. I’m set here. It’s home.

Spent any time in Brooklyn? If so, when and where? Share with us your experiences, impressions, etc.

I’m a Manhattan girl, but my Brooklyn associations are very summery. The long, uninterrupted stretch of meadow in Prospect Park. The tennis courts in Fort Greene. Walking along the Manhattan Bridge and looking down at the carousel in DUMBO. Eating a chicken in a cast-iron pan at the Vinegar Hill House. The micro-world that is Greenpoint. Listening to the gypsy guitar on Sunday nights at Barbès. Taking the ferry to the beaches. Watching a Cyclones game at Coney Island.

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

A few poets in the city are close friends, but most of them are people I see in a steady rhythm at readings or parties and catch up with in a more peripheral way and that’s cool as well. There’s something comforting about that peripheral intimacy, to see how the lives (and the work) of people we peripherally know unfold from afar, to think you know someone only to learn how much more there is to know about them. To be surprised.

On my more cynical days, I do think the community at large (not necessarily just in NYC) has become too transactional and over-professionalized. We have made poetry work. We sometimes forget who we need to answer to and what our answers could look like. We have become governed. Any artist community, I think, works best when it’s committed to challenge and disruption and impressionability, not cohesiveness. Community should not be equated with any kind of homogeneity, including an ideological one.

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

Living or dead? Maybe the dead are too easy to name, but in the land of the living, a close friend, Madeleine Cravens, has her first book Pleasure Principle coming out next year, and a lot of it is about growing up in Brooklyn and how her own personal history is intertwined with the urban planning of the borough. There is something very infrastructural about desire in her book. Everyone should pre-order it.

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

There are too many and I go through stages. For this last book, I read a lot of Etheridge Knight, T.S. Eliot, Gwendolyn Brooks and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I mean, I also just read a ton of sonnets from every era for this last book.

Probably one of my favorite living poets, though, is Evie Shockley. She’s a constant.

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

I reread Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain recently and it still hits. That book is incredible. What makes other people’s pain believable? If we don’t believe in the evidence of another person’s pain, then what are we after? Voyeurism? She writes a lot about torture as well and what the confession really means. I think that book was written in the ’80s, but it remains timeless, genius.

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

I’d like to spend some time with the work of Diane Ackerman, Joy Williams, Bhanu Kapil and Gabriel Garcia Márquez this year. I’ve read them all before, but I kind of go on these deep dives with authors and read their oeuvres obsessively for a few months and so those four are up.

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 read about two to three books at a time, but they are usually very different genres. When I read theory (which I love), I take notes.

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

I’d like to read like six different translations of a work simultaneously.

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

Scotland and Japan.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate a bad sky.

And what I sip to you spit at,

For every grey joy above me as good as vexes you.

Why Brooklyn?

Because Manhattan was busy.