2B or not 2B? That's the question. 2B is the answer.
English PhD student Michael Robbins, AM'04, perks up the pages of the January 12 New Yorker with his poem "Alien vs. Predator." This morning UChiBLOGo chatted by e-mail with Robbins about his poetic influences, following his sister to Chicago, and his current project intersecting Wu-Tang Clan and the twin towers.
What's the story behind your poem in New Yorker?
I suppose it's the old story: boy meets capital, boy sells capital to someone who can't afford it, who then loans it to someone who can never pay it back. It's a love poem.
Where can we find more of your work?
My poems have appeared in various places: Lit, La Petite Zine, Court Green, Columbia Poetry Review. The Hat published three of my poems last year, but they seem to have attributed them to my colleague Michael Robins (or 1B, as I like to call him), who is a fine poet in his own right. I wish the editors had asked themselves, 2B or not 2B? I also have a bunch of my poems lying around my apartment, if anyone wants to come over.
What brought you to the University of Chicago?
I arrived here more or less because my sister was accepted to the University of Chicago's PhD program in art history, and I didn't really have anywhere else to go. I was impressed by the English department, so decided to apply (took me two tries, though: I did MAPH first).
In what ways has your time at the University influenced your work?
My friend Paul-Jon Benson suggests I answer: "I first saw Alien vs. Predator in Stanley Cavell's course on Hollywood Comedies of Remarriage." (I haven't actually seen Alien vs. Predator, though.)
But it really is impossible to overstate how much being a part of the English department, especially the Poetry & Poetics Program, has influenced me. I've met so many great poets who have come here to read as part of the Poem Present series: Robert Creeley, Michael Palmer, Lyn Hejinian, Donald Revell, Augie Kleinzahler. Just the opportunity to speak with them about poetry—I couldn't have imagined such a thing before I came here. And the department's own Chicu Reddy has been invaluably supportive of my work: without his encouragement I might well have given up writing poetry some years ago.
What specifically are you studying?
I'm writing a dissertation on lyric subjectivity after confessional poetry and the avant-garde poetic movements that developed, to some extent, in response to it. It basically asks, what are some of my favorite poets—Paul Muldoon, Jennifer Moxley, Frederick Seidel, Frank Bidart, Allen Grossman—up to when they employ a more or less autobiographical "I" in their poems? What problems does their lyric "I" allow them to address that a conventionally effaced "speaker" would be inadequate to?
What poetry are you working on?
I'm working on a series of poems that advance my thesis that the Wu-Tang Clan brought down the twin towers.
What's your favorite place to find new poetry?
I really do think our own Chicago Review is the classiest place around.
January 5, 2009