Interviewed by Zoe Brigley
Every year I try to write a sonnet, and every year I succeed at writing something else.
16 The Academy
Capitalism is natural—healthy, actually. We had too many rainforests, we needed more upmarket cafés. We needed austerities like food deserts and mandatory minimums, retirement ages vanishing behind the Earth’s curvature. What we need are less ecosystems! Hunter-gatherers never built a sky pool. Revolutions are unproductive, so I’m working only on myself now, and by which I mean getting sexy and hotter, unstable-r. By which I mean, suffering? I don’t know her. By which I mean, I don’t want to be orphaned by a century inside the heart of an iceberg, waking up to the war.
This is part of a sequence based on the major arcana of the Tarot Deck – I am also really interested in Tarot! Could you tell us how you found inspiration in card 16, the falling tower?
The Tower is a card that’s all about revelation and transformation, and its name drew a direct link to the contemporary use of the phrase ‘ivory tower’. I was thinking about how we arrive at our beliefs and erect monuments – rhetorical, architectural or otherwise – to justify what we believe about the world.
I’m intrigued by how the voice subtly changes through this poem. It seems to believe the propaganda at the beginning but the moment that it turns to the self, it seems to hit some difficulty and the true nature of the situation is exposed. How did this voice come about?
Half of the poems in this tarot sequence were written during summer 2020 when lockdowns and mass protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder were sparking intense debate about prison abolition and what our world could look like if we were willing to change everything. And I was watching this revolutionary spirit, this deep desire to remake the world, get co-opted in realtime by both advocates for reform and advocates for an expansion of the carceral system. So this voice began as an attempt to sit with a perspective that’s attached to the idea of capitalism as the inevitable form of economic and social organisation, even in the face of global inequality and climate crisis, and then to fall from that tower and take a look around.
Was the beginning inspired by government pronouncements?
The opening line was inspired by articles and political manifestos decrying any alternatives to capitalism, as if this economic system is immutable, like the sky or gravity.
Could you also talk about the couplet form? Do you favor the couplet? What do you like about it?
Every year I try to write a sonnet, and every year I succeed at writing something else. The first poems I wrote in this sequence were couplet sonnets. Then I sort of abandoned the metre, but I kept the couplets because I found something persuasive in the pairing of lines and images giving momentum to a central idea, and then the final singlet acting as a thesis or, in this case, an anti-.