In what ways might you consider yourself an American poet?
I'm one kind of American poet because my poetry combines a deep commitment to cheap indignation and an abiding presumption of complete innocence.
Do you believe there is anything specifically American about American poetry past and present?
The immediate answer is the idiom of American speech. But further, the omnivorousness of American English. One needs only to understand that poets like Gerrit Lansing, Bhanu Kapil, Anthony Hecht, Juan Felipe Herrera, Alice Notley, Helen Adam and Will Alexander are all American poets, and one sees that the language of American poetry is extremely plastic. John Coletti used "wackadoo" in a poem.
Is there American poetry in the sense that there is said to be American painting or American film?
Clearly. Poetry in English in other countries is strikingly different. Reading contemporary British poetry, for example, is fascinating, because of the clear differences between our Englishes. My America-Poetry is of the coyote type. Scavenging. Coyote. Coyotl. You know. Old words of this hemisphere are in it, and they glint off the hoods of cars with a mythopoeic sheen.
What role do historical and geographical factors play in American poetry and in your work specifically? What other aspects of your life (for instance: gender, sexual preference, class, ethnicity, religious beliefs) relate to your sense of being a poet in America?
I'm a topophiliac, and I can't stand the American portability thing – I am 'of' California in the same way that I am 'of' flesh, do you know what I mean? Not I 'am' California, but I'm a little teeny chunk of it.
More generally, I'm interested in the poetry from anywhere that's interested in the nexus of land, history, and reverie. So, that has to include, like, Jaime Saenz, poets of the compost. I live in a city with 20% unemployment, chronic violence, under-education, and serious health and infrastructure problems, so I find a "summons and challenge" in poems that attempt the ancient continuity of human rhythms, that deny the intellectual and emotional affects caused by the terrible disruptions of money, conquest, and industrial agriculture. Rock memory. Like muscle memory but concerning the old motions of rocks, dirt and water.
Is there something formally distinctive about American poetry?
The ambition to contort poems in and out of shape in order to re-order reality. Poetry disarranged.
What significance does popular culture possess in your sense of American poetry?
"Are you customized or readymade / Heavy metal, trick-or-treat?"
When you consider your own "tradition," do you think of American poets, non-American poets? Which historic poets do you consider most responsible for generating distinctly American poetics?
My American masters are Robert Duncan and Joanne Kyger and Captain Beefheart.
What are your predictions for American poetry in the next century?
Books will hover over people's houses, making a really tedious and sternly moralistic literature of surveillance and data mining. I hope I'm dead by then.