David Kirby is Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University.
His recent books include The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems (LSU Press) and an essay collection entitled Ultra-Talk: Johnny Cash, The Mafia, Shakespeare, Drum Music, St. Teresa Of Avila, And 17 Other Colossal Topics Of Conversation (University of Georgia Press).
His previous books include the poetry collections The Ha-Ha and The House of Blue Light. His poems have been published in Best American Poetry 2000 and 2001 and in Pushcart Prize XXV. He is a recipient of the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and a Guggenheim fellowship among other honors.
The House on Boulevard St. was a 2007 National Book Award Poetry Finalist. Craig Morgan Teicher interviewed Kirby about the collection and his poetry. Part of their dialogue:
CMT: Let’s talk about the book. You call these poems “memory poems”: they’re conversational, far reaching, witty, referencing all kinds of things, from Dante to whatever happens to be going on at the moment. How did you start writing this kind of poem?Read the full interview, and learn more about the book.
DK: I used to write what I called “2 by 4 look-out-the-window-poems”: you look out the window and see something and give your thoughts on it. That amused me for a while, but I knew I wanted to change. Meanwhile I’d grown up on a farm in south Louisiana, and my mother, who was born in 1902, was an old school farm girl in a rough part of the world. There were actually people on her family farm who had been born into slavery and were emancipated. There were voodoo elements and conjure people in the woods, people who could talk the warts off your hands for a nickel and that kind of thing. My mother was always a great story teller, and she passed on a love of stories to me. In addition to writing these “2 by 4” poems, I liked to tell stories and my wife, the poet Barbara Hamby, said, “you should turn these stories into nonfiction essays.” I kept thinking about that, then one day a light bulb ignited. I said, “ooh, why not combine the two, cut out the middle genre, nonfiction, and make the stories directly into poems.” Then I ran out of stories, and I realized I could either hold up liquor stores and have more stories or do something else. That’s when the poems became more braided, referring to high and pop culture and something I had for lunch.