Your poetry surveys the urban landscape, and you’re currently at work on a book about the influence of public and private transit on city life. What you trying to convey with your work?
We live in this era of gentrification in which we experience constant erasure of history and community, so I’m interested in possibilities of collective power that can cut a different path—alternatives to capitalism and hyper-consumerism—as well as better understanding how we got here. I read and write toward another way of living, which I feel inside me and in conversation with people. The writing ends up necessarily political and is therefore often a documentation of what’s actually happening in the city.
What is your daily art-making routine?
Coffee first, then the news, then emails. Then some pacing. Then I sit down, look at what I wrote yesterday and continue, or re-write, or veer in another direction. Generally, I split the day between writing and reading (mostly poetry and history) in my apartment, and sitting there thinking about why I feel the way I do, how strange it is to be a living thing in the world. I try to take one long walk a day to air the brain out, let things in. At night, at least a couple of times a week, I hang out with friends—that’s a big part of the process, actually—the ongoing connection to people close to me. I also go to a lot of poetry readings.
What is perfection to you, in the context of your work?
When I finish something and can think about something else.
Why do you choose to work and live in Philadelphia? In your experience, what makes this art scene distinctive?
I’ve always lived in Philadelphia, and I have friends and family here, so it’s easy to choose it. But it’s incredible luck that Philly has this vibrant poetry scene that’s made poetry a thing you can live deeply here. The last 16 years have been another education for me. Part of what’s made the scene distinct is a tradition of working-class consciousness. Somehow we’ve managed to sustain that.