National Poetry Month Spotlight: T.J. Beitelman

Scene: Trafalgar Square. Jude Law meets Gabriel
Garcia Marquez, calls him Gabo.
Marquez slaps the boy and calls him puta,
Bitch, and they are instantly transported
To a deserted island where they must listen
To evangelists until they repent and kiss
On the lips. A stand-off for months. Then the rainy season.
The droplets, open mouths. The two men kiss like dust.

Q: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the day you wrote the above poem?

A: If I’m not mistaken, this poem was written in the summer of 2001, which feels like another lifetime now. (Did they even have computers then? Color TV?) I was living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, had just received my second professionally untenable degree in the humanities, didn’t know if I wanted to write poems or stories, etc, etc. For those and other reasons, my soul felt a little bifurcated. This poem — the subsequent sequence of poems — came from that place. Like nuclear fission. Or something.

Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?

A: Darcie Dennigan’s Corinna A-maying the Apocalypse. It restored my faith that poems can be strange, intuitive, otherworldly — breathtakingly so — and still make perfect sense. Or a perfect sense. Writing is an act of connection. These poems connected. Still do.

Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?

A: Seriously? Ever? This is like choosing between children. Jesus. Uh, well, lots of great meals flash before my eyes, but one recurs: Christmas Eve dinner at the home of my brother-in-law’s friend and business partner. Authentic Lebanese. Kibbi. Fatoush. Grape leaves. Toum. Hummus. Lebneh. Etc. Mounds of all of it and a fugue of conversation, mostly in Arabic (which I don’t speak). All of it strange, intuitive, otherworldly — and it still made perfect sense.

T.J. Beitelman is the Spring, 2008 winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition with his chapbook manuscript Pilgrims: A Love Story, which will be available for purchase later this year. His full-length collection In Order to Form a More Perfect Union will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2012.