Michael Robbins was born in Topeka, Kansas. His poems and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Harpers, London Review of Books, Village Voice, The New York Observer, and several other journals. He received his PhD in English from the University of Chicago.
Kathryn Mockler: Why did you become a poet?
Michael Robbins: To impress a girl named Sarah Chesnutt.
KM: Could you describe your writing process? (Do you write every day? When? Where? How do you approach revision, etc.)
MR: I don't write every day. My writing process is erratic. Sometimes I'll write three poems in a week, sometimes I'll write none for a month. After I've written a draft of a poem, I send it to my friends Anthony Madrid and Tricia Lockwood, who happen to be two of the best poets now writing, and wait for their input. Anthony's responses employ a byzantine system of check-marks and insults. Tricia just tells me if she thinks it's good, what works for her and what doesn't. I don't know how people write poems without Anthony and Tricia to provide feedback.
KM: What is the best piece of writing advice you've heard or been given that you actually use?
MR: Well, with my students I constantly repeat Ezra Pound's "Go in fear of abstractions." I write it on the board like fifty times a semester. But the only real advice anyone needs, because it contains all possible advice, is: go to the library and read every goddamned book in it.
KM: What's the best thing about being a writer and what's the worst thing?
MR: Who knows. "Being a writer," that's not even a thing.
KM: What have you read recently that excites you?
MR: Poetrywise, Mary Ruefle and Louise Glück are just as good as poets get these days. Glück kills me, she just up and kills me dead, for no good reason, I hate her. D. A. Powell. Toujours Seidel. And lots of essayists: John McPhee, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Annie Dillard, Marilynne Robinson. I just got the Norton critical edition of the English Bible, it's fucking amazing. You wanna be a poet and you're not reading the King James Bible, you're kidding yourself, just go home.
KM: Your funniest or favourite literary moment, if you have one.
MR: I can't begin to imagine what this question means.
KM: What are you working on now?
MR: My second book. It's called The Second Sex. I've just started it, written about ten poems, but I have it in my head, I know what I want to do.
MICHAEL ROBBINS' FIRST BOOK OF POETRY
Alien vs. Predator, Penguin Books, 2012
The debut collection of a poet whose savage, hilarious work has already received extraordinary notice.
Description from Penguin Books
Since his poems first began to appear in the pages of The New Yorker and Poetry, there has been a lot of excited talk about the fresh and inventive work of Michael Robbins. Equal parts hip- hop, John Berryman, and capitalism seeking death and not finding it, Robbins's poems are strange, wonderful, wild, and completely unlike anything else being written today. As allusive as the Cantos, as aggressive as a circular saw, this debut collection will offend none but the virtuous, and is certain to receive an enormous amount of attention.
Check out some of Michael Robbins' poems in the following journals:
La Petite Zine
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