POETRY

Questions to Ask for a Paris Review Interview

By

Do you have a favorite time of day? Favorite weather?
Tell me about your writing process.
Is that so? I would never have guessed
Do you ever think about abandoning writing altogether?

I’m sorry but I have to ask you this.
How do you write when you have nothing to say?
(When I said “you,” I meant “one.” Is that okay?)
What do you think of psychoanalysis?”

You once told me that the greatest human subject is lust.
Have you thought about how and where you’d like to die?
Certainly I can clarify.
I don’t mean now but when you must.

But that begs the question. I mean, what is poetry?
In that case, what is prose?
What made you write The Romance of the Rose?
Is literary influence a Marxist heresy?

How do you feel about being labeled a Southern writer?
Let me play devil’s advocate here for a minute.
That split is revealing about America, isn’t it?
When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter?

Well (pause) how about Gore Vidal?
When your books appear, do you read the reviews?
How many drafts do you usually do?
What made you write Beowulf in the Mead Hall?

When did you begin writing?
If you could choose the place, where would you live?
What other advice would you give?
Has being a man influenced your writing?

(Or: Has being a woman influenced your writing?)
Can you say how?
What are you working on now?
Those who read your work in the original exclaim upon the beauty of your writing.

Would you like to comment on literary affairs in the Netherlands?
Can anything save humanity?
Does genius vary inversely with sanity?
Do you do any work with your hands?

David Lehman is a poet, writer, and editor. His eight full-length books of poetry include New and Selected Poems (2013), When a Woman Loves a Man (2005), The Daily Mirror (2000), and Valentine Place (1996). He is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry and series editor of The Best American Poetry, which he founded in 1988. In 2010 he won ASCAP's Deems Taylor Award for the most recent of his nonfiction books, A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs. He teaches in the graduate writing program of the New School in New York City.

I’m sorry but I have to ask you this.
How do you write when you have nothing to say?
(When I said “you,” I meant “one.” Is that okay?)
What do you think of psychoanalysis?”