EW In the poem “Ex-Voto” you say, “My heart is good / But I won’t accept just anything.” The moment you make art, or poetry, is that about not accepting that your heart is good?
AP No, the poem is about when you reject the gift. When the poet says, “I don’t want to write, I want to make bread.” To continue protesting is a sin of pride. It’s like saying I don’t accept the gift of writing because I want to be God, and I’m not. It’s pride that tempts us to reject poetry, to say in anger, Why is God making me write? But in actuality when you give in to it and write, when you let your heart speak, that’s the best. The heart doesn’t argue. The poem is the best of me, the most perfect aspect.
EW So the poem itself becomes your votive offering and your salvation: “Choosing words to express my distress / I breathe better already.”
AP Exactly. I write it again and again in each new poem. We all have one main drama in life and that’s what we write about.
EW “God wants some of us sick / And others writing.” What a sense of acceptance.
AP You just said the magic word: acceptance. Sometimes out of infernal pride we reject the gifts we’ve been given. Sometimes, I want to be sick like others and God doesn’t want that. He wants the singer to keep singing, the poet to keep writing, the musician, composing—do you see?
AP I go pale when I say something like that. I go into a cold sweat, embarrassed.