Sunday, September 25, 2022

Q&A with David Lee




David Lee is the author of the new poetry collection Rusty Barbed Wire. His many other works include A Legacy of Shadows. He was Utah's first Poet Laureate, and he taught for many years at Southern Utah University.


Q: Over how long a period did you write the poems collected in Rusty Barbed Wire?


A: Fifty years.  The oldest poem in the book was first drafted in 1972.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The title was chosen by my editor.


Q: How did you decide on the order in which the poems would appear in the book?


A: My wife, best friend and smartest organizer I have, and I sat down together and started going through all my books. Initially we decided for a chronological order for the poems. We each made a list of poems we thought ought to go into this book, let those lists settle for a couple of weeks, then went back and consolidated. 


Our first lists were much too long, so we did a lot of head-scratching and finally decided the book should not necessarily be made of the poems we liked most, but the ones that were most representative of who we were then, when I first made the poems based on our lives together. 


It was a strained and at times--for both of us--painful process, but we finally got a manuscript we both liked. We sent that to our editor and he thought what we sent was still too long, so we went through three more winnowings before we finally settled on the present book.


Q: The author Katherine Coles said of the book, “Lee carves a poetic path entirely his own, one unique in American poetry in how it joins true erudition with the deep forms of understanding laid down in the callouses and sinews of a hard-working body.” What do you think of that description?


A: Katie Coles is one of my oldest, brightest, and dearest friends. She wrote two comments for my editor, the one you have here and a longer, more detailed one. To be honest, I am delighted and honored by what she wrote.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Because of the Covid epidemic-sequestration, I have had a lot of time to write over the past two years. I have completed a new manuscript that I am letting sit, set and stew. It is a book based on jazz and the daily hours of prayer-meditation I have tried to abide. 


The title of the book is The Canonical Hours. I used seven of the canonical hours and worked my way through a symbolic day through music and meditation as metaphor for living.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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