The Interview — A Roundtable by Robert Nazarene and James Wilson
Elle Macpherson: How long should a cover letter be?
Robert Nazarene: As long as you’d like, Elle. — But for everyone else, leave it at two or three brief sentences. A poet may have some time to write a four-paragraph cover with an ars poetica and the list of pets, ugghh! — but a busy editor won’t read it beyond two or three lines.
Norman Mailer: What about the Bio?
James Wilson: Two to four brief lines. More than that and grab for the Narcon, stat!
Robert Nazarene: Did I mention we highly value risk-taking in poetry? Bending the rules of form?
Jack Nicholson: No, but that’s just fine. Now all you have to do is hold the ‘risk,’ give me a check for the ‘taking’, and you haven’t broken any rules.
James Wilson: You want me to hold the ‘risk’? Wait. Don’t say it.
Jack Nicholson: I want you to hold it . . . you get the picture Jacques.
Kemal Amin: So, Robert, you’re not really a real editor — you’re more like a Poetry DJ — like me — you just spin the hits! Hell, I couldn’t sing my way out of a spousal conservatorship!
Robert Nazarene: Bullseye, Kemal. Hey, save me a seat.
Ratso Rizzo: Hey Jimbo, how’s things? Would your poetry outfit allow some kinda high-class guy like me in?
James Wilson: Hey Ratso! Glad to see you made it across the street. All are welcome to our online poetry journal. In fact, those persons with relatively little experience sometimes sit with the most renowned poets.
Ratso Rizzo: I got this pretty good tie from a guy around the corner. He wasn’t needin’ it.
Robert Nazarene: Oh man, I could see this one coming from a zillion miles away . . .
Rip Van Winkle: What is your opinion of ‘woke’ poetry?
Robert Nazarene: You mean joke-etry. It is the chloroformed pillow underneath which poetry and all other genres are dying. A tyranny against free speech and literature. Nothing less. And adding to that mess, much of what is being peddled as poetry today is prose arbitrarily chopped into one awkward line after the next. Or, instead, a Rubik’s Cube of such opacity no one cares to solve it. Had enough? But the real stuff is out there. You just have to read through a lot more today to find it. It is rare as gold. No, let’s say, more rare than gold.
Robert Nazarene: Good morning, professor.
Jordan B. Peterson: Hello Robert. I thought you might be interested in the three characteristics of ‘wokies.’ 1) A profound historical ignorance, 2) An overarching narcissism, and 3) Deeply hidden malevolence.
Robert Nazarene: Whoa! Get back Loretta!
Charlie Watts: Sometimes I got no idea what people are on about in poetry. I don’t really know what to make of it.
James Wilson: Charlie, we’re often stumped as well — sometimes in a good way, sometimes bad. Word Salad is a dish best served bicentennially.
Charlie Watts: Mmmmmm. Don’t really know.
James Wilson: Bobby, did you pay me back the cash for the pizza guy?
Robert Nazarene: Yeah.
James Wilson: I can’t find it any . . .
Edmond Hoyle: Mr. Nazarene.
Robert Nazarene: Mr. Hoyle.
Edmond Hoyle: What do you consider the first rule of poetry?
Robert Nazarene: Rule #1: Poetry is great. But it doesn’t taste very good for breakfast. Poetry is not a career . . .
Robert Frost: Hold it, that’s my line: To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.
Robert Nazarene: Exactly, Bob. The trains don’t run there; never have, never will. One suggestion: cell microbiology, 750K to start. Or, save all that MFA money to travel, absorb, read, read, read, read, then write. With an MFA and a valid membership to Amazon Prime you can get free shipping on orders over $35.
William M. Tweed: I hear poetry editors operate a patronage racket, closing the circle of who gets in and who doesn’t: mostly academics, MFA pals. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” I like that.
James Wilson: The American Journal of Poetry is the itching powder. Who you are, who you think you are, means zero. Like Mick said, “. . . chairs are on the table, out the door baby, closing time.” It’s all about the poem with us. That’s it. Oh, and if you know how to write cursive.
Solly “Chick” Grossman: Do you enjoy AWP, Bobbo?
Robert Nazarene: I went once. That’s where people look over your shoulder to see if there’s someone important they could be talking to. But I really love the Realtors® Convention. And the RV Show! Not that there’s a dime’s difference in any of ’em. Their drug of choice is more. So to answer your question, Solly, I enjoyed all I could stand. “Welcome to The Machine,” Man — bet you’ve got that on 8-track, Sol.
Carl Jung: What or whom is it that most influenced your poetry?
Robert Nazarene: Easy. Alcoholism and bipolar disorder. Madness is not all it’s cracked up to be. Sober 33 years, though being alcoholic I know I could be flopped in the gutter by midnight. Alcoholism is a walk in the park compared to the bipolar stuff, which is like taking a dog for a walk in the park, a dog that’s foaming at the mouth. Never write drunk or in the psychiatric throes. Lastly, but more importantly, country music legend George Jones taught me the essentials of breath, phraseology and timing. Youtube his “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Harriet Monroe: Hey, what the ‘ef’ happened over there?
Mrs. Ruth Lilly: I got snookered. Say, did somebody say something about a pillow?
P O S T S C R I P T
James Wilson: Our great thanks to all our panelists for participating today and for their mostly erudite inquiries.
Robert Nazarene: Amen. Keep coming back! It works if you work it and you’re worth it! Will someone please read “The Promises.”
The Panel Participants
Agent Clarice Starling: Former FBI special agent, now the owner of Clarice’s Wine & Liquors. Chianti on sale 24-7-365.
Super-Dupe Famous Harvard University Poetry Professor, Emeritus: Founded the one-room-schoolhouse of poetry, as a child, on the planet Nordo. It stresses the art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding. Z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z.
Professor Irwin Corey: Just Google or Youtube him.
Mary Poppins: Served 25 years in an Austrian prison for the abduction of four minors in 1965. Released in 1990, she lives the life of an urban pioneer in San Francisco, California. Oh! Wait!
Elle Macpherson: Elle Macpherson is Elle Macpherson.
Norman Mailer: Did not kill Marilyn Monroe. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what . . .”
Jack Nicholson: Nicknamed The Golden Bear, is an American retired professional golfer and golf course designer. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest golfers of all time. He won 117 professional tournaments in his career.
Kemal Amin “Casey” Kasem: An American disc jockey, actor, and radio personality, who created and hosted several radio countdown programs, notably American Top 40. He was the first actor to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers in the Scooby-Doo franchise (1969 to 1997 and 2002 to 2009).
Ratso Rizzo: Honorable Mayor of Miami Beach, Florida.
Rip Van Winkle: Died of sleep apnea.
Jordan B. Peterson: A Canadian professor of psychology, clinical psychologist and best-selling author. He began to receive widespread attention/derision in the late 2010s for his views on cultural and political issues, often described as conservative.
Charlie Watts: Every kid in America wanted to be a Rolling Stone. Every Rolling Stone wanted to be Charlie. RIP Charlie. Long live Charlie!
Edmond Hoyle: Author of Rules & Games and According to Hoyle in 1721. Its latest revised edition includes “The Rules of American Capitalism”: 1.) No more than 100 smash & grab customers per every 2,000 square feet of retail space.
Robert Frost: Most famously known as crossing guard at the perilous fork in the road. Son and heir to the “Frost-y-Queen” ice cream and hot dog stands throughout the south. Order at the screen window. It’s even better than gas station sushi.
William M. Tweed: Most commonly known as “Boss Tweed.” Tweed ran the Democrat political machine known as Tammany Hall for many years. His time in power was marked with threats, murders, bribes and extensive embezzlement. Like the Clintons.
Solly “Chick” Grossman: Chairman & CEO of “TRAILER TRAMP RV SUPERCENTER!” Don’t miss “GAS WAR SUNDAYS!” WE SHIP NATIONWIDE! At the Intersection of I-35 & I-80 in the middle of Nowheresville. Note: Never play Poker with a man named “Chick.”
Carl Jung: Coined the phrase "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." We think.
Harriet Monroe: Ms. Monroe founded Poetry Magazine in 1912 in America, where women were widely discounted. She discovered or early published Wallace Stevens, H.D., Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams and countless others. Monroe was a visionary whose vision has been trashed by the present cast of elites. Correction: effetes. The too-smart-by-half, snuff & hanky set.
Mrs. Ruth Lilly: Heir to Eli Lilly, the notorious drug kingpin. Upon her death she bequeathed $200,000,000 to The Poetry Foundation. Worth $400,000,000+ today, not counting the cars, Bitcoin, limos, jets, Sea-Do’s, etc. Died of asphyxia, peacefully, in her sleep.
Robert Nazarene is founding editor of The American Journal of Poetry. His collections are CHURCH and Empire de la Mort.
James Wilson is senior editor of The American Journal of Poetry. His other car is a Chevy Chevette.
Archive of Interviews & Interviewee Poems: