Web Feature

ALEX DIMITROV
in conversation with BENNINGTON REVIEW

 

LAYNE ECKENSBERGER

What do you think the relationship is (or will be) between your first collection  Begging for It and your forthcoming second collection Together and by Ourselves, in terms of voice and subject?

ALEX DIMITROV

I never want to write the same book twice no matter how it was received. I’m interested in constant change. So they’re different books in terms of voice, subject, and aesthetically. I don’t want to decode or explain that but I will say that Together and by Ourselves takes on questions like: what defines a life; is love ever enough; who are we in front of each other and when we’re alone, etc. We’re in a time in American life where we seem to be constantly connected to one another (social media) yet we’re more or less constantly alone. America—and its relationship to our personal lives and the world—is there in many of the poems, and my critique of the country’s obsessions with money, celebrity, escapism, fear—we’re all obsessed with fear and have begun to digest and live in it quite easily, which is disturbing. Love is there, sadness, and also maybe light; but not the easy light, not the transparent-for-sale-feel-good-bullshit of American capitalism.

LAYNE ECKENSBERGER

Could you talk about how your poem “Affairs” in the current Bennington Review came into being?

ALEX DIMITROV

Sure. I had unexpectedly spent the night at a friend’s house after a pretty wild night. I came home well after noon the next day and sort of couldn’t get myself to do anything productive because when I see this friend all of my emotional resources are tapped in some way, which is one of the reasons I like seeing him. I had an image of both of us in the middle of a lake, at night, and him rowing us into the deepest part of the water, yet we were safe and above it. And then the rest of the poem is everything that my imagination associated with and out of that image—a trip to Fire Island makes it in there, a piece of fruit I ate during a very happy time in my life, the troubling state of the world and how we as human beings have ruined the planet; you know, all the rest of it. 

LAYNE ECKENSBERGER

Most poems in Begging for It fit on a single page, though I wouldn’t really describe them as short. Boston Review published a poem of yours in April, “Days and Nights,” that certainly doesn’t fit on a single page. Do long poems allow anything that “short” poems don’t? And for the reader, do you think being able to see the first line and the last line on the same page affects anything?

ALEX DIMITROV

Well, I think one obvious difference just by looking at the poems in this new book, compared to the first one, is that they’re longer—they unravel and pool and unravel and pool on their own terms. That long poem “Days and Nights” took me almost two years to write. There were hard months in my life when one of the things that kept me going was waking up and writing one line, two lines, five lines toward that poem on a daily basis, and knowing it existed and knowing I had to finish it. I enjoyed coding so many references to literature, film, history, etc, into it. It was in many ways a complicated love letter to the world as well as a letter to one specific person who, at the time, I was not speaking with. When I finished the poem I was sad because that continuous, evolving thing was no longer there in my life. I wonder if novelists feel this way more than poets. Even at its most difficult, which really I mean the difficulties in my personal life at the time, it was a tremendous rescue to take on that poem. I feel that way about the book. This new book came out of need. I didn’t have to write it, if you know what I mean. I needed to.

LAYNE ECKENSBERGER

The Bennington Review issue you’re in is called “Misbegotten Youth,” and there’s a photo on your Instagram of you as a baby captioned “Baby’s gone” that I have to ask you about. There’s something funereal about it, both the photograph and the caption. That person is gone? Does anything stay?

ALEX DIMITROV

I love that you point to my Insta and that photo. I sort of went away from Twitter and Facebook the last two and a half years but always kept Instagram as a kind of archive for my imagination. It was a creative space for me. Facebook and Twitter got too crowded and everyone wanted to comment on whatever it was I was saying or not saying. I wanted to focus on my poems and unplug and come back with a new perspective. I’m back on Twitter now, not so much on Facebook because I find it wildly lacking in creativity, but all this to say, yes…I’m interested in the darkness of childhood and the things we only begin to hurt about years after we’ve experienced them because that’s when we begin to truly perceive them and see how they have impacted our lives, see them for what they are. That’s what poetry does too. It illuminates darkness, yet doesn’t diminish it or lie to us about it. The darkness is still there. It’s just seen, sometimes for the first time, for what it is. That photo you mention is haunting to me. My favorite photos of the past are those that reveal or foreshadow pain without knowing or trying to. And photos are incredible things because we took them, or we’re in them, and we think we know what we see or what we’re capturing but often times it takes years to really see what is actually there. The best photos develop deep in time. And no, to answer your last question, nothing stays. But if things stayed there wouldn’t be poetry.

LAYNE ECKENSBERGER

Please tell us about Astro Poets, the Twitter you’ve begun with Dorothea Lasky. What connections do you see between astrology and poetry?

ALEX DIMITROV

Well, that twitter is poetry. Dottie and I actually started an astrology twitter when we first met, maybe in 2011, but we sort of abandoned it and its focus was narrow (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, the fire signs). This time we’re taking on all the signs and the stars and the imagination. One thing I want to do with this, but also personally, is bring back the occult in contemporary poetry. Our Astro Poets voice comes from both the dark and the light. I feel that way about the new book too. That’s one reason it’s called Together and by Ourselves.


ALEX DIMITROV is the author of Together and by Ourselves (Copper Canyon Press), Begging for It (Four Way Books), and the digital chapbook American Boys. He lives in New York City.


LAYNE ECKENSBERGER is an editorial assistant at Bennington Review.



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