From Ben Doller’s interview with Poetry Society of America:

Q: In what ways might you consider yourself an American poet?

A: There are so many different Americas. My point of view is through a keyhole and I’m hesitant to speak for anyone else, so I won’t.

The America that is the throbbing heart of colonizing corporate capitalism, the military-industrial complex America, war-on-the-poor America, Agent-Orange-as-food-fertilizer America, that’s the America I think of when I first read this question. If my poems can begin to deal with my complicity in the face of this America, my irrelevance, and the perpetual hypocritical situation of my ‘citizenship’ then I think that’s a start. Here, I mean a poetry that enacts these conditions through its musical, syntactical, and formal strategies and the veer and range of its thought, as well as its acceptance of a kind of ethic of ambiguity. An aesthetics of ambivalence? This seems to me, personally, to be a way to at least approach my ‘American-ness’ in poetry, as poetry.

I speak some dialect of American, I punctuate my incomplete sentences with words like “like,” and I often have trouble looking people in the eye. I waste time. I’ve made these tendencies part of my writing for lack of an honest alternative. America is the worldwide leader in the manufacture of disposable noise and trash, and I’m all for making different things (art) out of those. Certainly I consider myself an American poet in this messy sense. If a poem I wrote ever happened to contain some landscape like, say, a ravine or something, I imagine this ravine would be an American ravine because most of the ravines I’ve seen have been in America. Then again, I have seen a few international ravines (mostly on television).

Poetry to me always seems a struggle between chaos and control, between thinking and forgetting, between singing and silence. This struggle isn’t particularly American at all, but you see it in all the best and worst things America has made. Certainly the US, a fairly young nation stained with revolution, genocide, and slavery has a history of such struggle. Are we speaking about “The Man,” or the men and the women?

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