So if I'm being completely honest, my wife Laura picked the title. I decided early on that I wanted to extract a piece of a song lyric to use as a title, and I landed on Blink-182, one of a small handful of bands that both my wife and I have a mutual admiration for. I think (Blink frontman) Tom DeLonge is this interesting, somewhat tragic figure. He existed in this space that was genuinely very needed for a long time. And then he became less needed when so many of us moved out of our parents' houses. He kind of didn't move out with us. There are still Blink-182 posters in my old bedroom that I just never felt the need to take once I started paying my own bills. That said, I still return to Blink-182 because they remind me of a time when I was laying this really weird foundation, trying to figure out how to not suck as a person and still have people think that I'm a little cool. And so, it was that approach that I wanted to take to this collection. I wanted poems from good people. I wanted thoughtful people sending in thoughtful work, and I wanted to make sure the world would think it was cool. Cooler than me, at least. My wife was listening to some Blink-182 songs shortly after I told her I wanted to pull a Blink lyric, and on the song All Of This, the line "Again I wait for this to pull apart / to break my time in two" hit. She just said "I think that's the title." And here we are. That's why she gets paid to teach people.
2. I know your inbox was pretty full during the submission period for AGAIN I WAIT. Were there any overarching qualities in the poems you selected? Were you determined to represent as many different musicians as possible, or was it solely based on the work, or somewhere in-between?
Yeah, what a weird thing for me. I expected I'd get like ten submissions from my friends, would accept them all, and we'd be on our way. I woke up one day with fifteen submissions from the night before, and I nearly had a panic attack. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a real thing. I think the best poems about music aren't ever about the music. I don't know the secret to this. It's easy to hear someone say "Ok, so this poem is about Puff Daddy, but it's really about my dead goldfish", but there are so many poems that don't do that work, even when they think they are. I wanted poems doing that heavy lifting. I wanted poems about love, loss, identity, race, gender...all of those things. I wanted the musical aspect of it to be a backbeat. The best drummers just keep the time. They keep everything together, until they're instructed to do otherwise. I picked poems where I felt like the musical aspect of the poem was merely a timekeeper for the other emotions. So, sure, I wanted as many musicians as possible. Poets write about Kurt Cobain a lot. Poets write about The National a lot. Poets write about Prince a WHOLE lot. But I got really excited seeing some unexpected artists touched on, even though I wanted the artist to be the frame, not the painting itself.
3. Your bio always ends with a variation on "He wants to know your Top 5 Albums of all time" (which you asked our contributors to do as well, and their Top 5s will be in the book accompanying their poems). Are you the kind of music enthusiast who can discern something about a person based on their Top 5? Do you get all High Fidelity when checking out someone's list?
I think I used to be. But now it's a bit exhausting, to exercise it in that way. Sometime around early last year, when that bio/my work spread a bit more, I'd have people coming up to me randomly after shows or whatever, just firing their top 5 albums at me. Which is awesome, but it doesn't really serve the part of that process that I love. I like seeing how people arrive at their top 5s. The end result is cool, but I like the discussion about how we get there. The intimacy before the intimacy, if you will. I LOVED all of the contributors emailing me their top 5s and adding some conversation about why they chose the albums they chose. It's never just one thing. I'm interested in your top 5 albums of all time as they stand on this date, but I also want to know the top 5 albums that you love and don't tell your friends about because I know that's that shit people really want to get out to someone. I feel like if we can talk about that, then I know we're on the right track as music fans. I think that's where the honesty is. I loved seeing people list Nelly and Kelly Clarkson albums in their top 5s. It isn't to say that there's dishonesty in listing The Beatles, I'm just less interested in that discussion today, because I've had it for the past decade and I haven't ever gotten to know anyone better from it. Yeah, you like the Beatles? Cool. So does everyone's unhip uncle. Tell about what you listen to on headphones, praying no one else will hear.
4. The idea of ekphrastic poetry is hardly new. Are there other poems about music that you'd recommend to give readers a sense of what to expect from the upcoming anthology?
I don't know if it will prepare people for the anthology, but Tyehimba Jess has a powerhouse book of poems about Leadbelly (titled Leadbelly), and I think those poems move in the kind of way I was hoping for the poems in this anthology to move. As far as specific poems about music, that book has always been my bible. Blair, the late/great poet from Detroit has a poem called "Little Richard Penniman Tells It Like It T-I-IS". And there's this video of him performing it on the steps of the Motown Museum. I first saw this video in 2011, when I was slowly making the decision to give up journalism for poetry, and it gave my work such a strong permission. It met me with so much thunderous possibility. Blair has a lot of fantastic work that I found after his passing, but I owe that poem a lot. I still use it when giving workshops on how to infuse music into poems without having the music overtake the poem.
My top 5 right now? As of this day and hour? Ok, I'll start at the top and work down, because it's just easiest:
1.) The Clash - London Calling
In about 2007, I decided that I just had to pick a definitive greatest album of all time. And I know London Calling isn't perfect, but for the type of music fan I am, I'm not sure if any other album is as complete as it is. Also, it's one of the few "I don't have to justify this shit to you, dude" albums. Those joints you can put in your number one spot and not need to talk to anyone about. That aspect of it is a bonus.
2.) Sleater-Kinney - One Beat
Admittedly, this is largely due to my excitement for their return. But in any more definitive list I've ever made, this is still a top 20 album of all time. The day Sleater-Kinney reunited, I was in a hotel room in Ohio, and I nearly began hyperventilating. I get to see them live for the first time ever next month, and I can't promise anything except for the fact that I'm going to be weeping.
3.) Brand New - The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me
Brand New's entire discography is a big tug-o-war for me. This is a top 5 album today, might not even be a top 50 album tomorrow. I have these constant internal conversations about how good Brand New REALLY is vs. how good/important I need them to still be due to all of the sadness they rescued me from in college.
4.) Mariah Carey - Daydream
I'm a firm believer in what I call "The Stevie Wonder Rule". It simply states that sometimes, an artist has done enough in their early career to be forgiven for all late-career missteps. I don't know where I come down on Mariah Carey, but I think she's a lot closer to being granted immunity under that rule than not. I've really been overdosing on Mariah's golden era (I'd say from like 1994 until 1999. And then again, very briefly, in 2005) to kind of wash my mind clean of Mariah's present state. In the midst of that incredible run, Daydream is, for me, her most impressive collection of songs. I mean, the "Fantasy" remix alone remains untouchable, and shall remain untouchable until well after I have left this earth and left my children my old Mariah Carey cassette tapes.
5.) Black Sabbath - Paranoid
I really like metal. Like, a whole lot. Problem is, I'm not sure that there are any music fans more difficult to have actual conversations with than metal fans, so I enjoy metal the same way I eat pints of ice cream. Alone, and often times very uncomfortably.
You can pre-order a copy of AGAIN I WAIT FOR THIS TO PULL APART until January 13th HERE.