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Michael Robbins says he wanted to be a rock star even more than a poet. His devotion to music, from rap to rock to pop and country, is audible in almost every line of his verse — not just in the lyrics he samples and remixes, but in the sonics and the syllables themselves. “Poetry for me has always been a kind of magic produced by sound,” he says, “like a spell or incantation.”
Michael’s just released his second poetry collection, The Second Sex, following up on 2012’s critical smash, Alien Vs. Predator. In this interview, he read a few selections from the new book while discussing some of the works – literary and musical – that have ensorcelled him over the years. Also, his thoughts on pop music tropes; ornamental overreach and epiphanic excess in poetry; rappers and their rhymes; faith and rationalism; and the virtuosity of Taylor Swift.
Here’s a mini-syllabus of some of the works discussed and heard in the interview:
- Sunday Morning: the Michael Robbins poem, the Wallace Stevens poem and Velvet Underground song.
- Michael’s poem Lose Myself (you can read it in The Second Sex) and Stevens’s The Man on the Dump.
- Country Music, Michael’s poem set to music and sung by Shannon McArdle
- Cadillactica by Big K.R.I.T.
- Blank Space by Taylor Swift
- Hart Crane’s To Brooklyn Bridge
- Robert Lowell’s For the Union Dead and Franki Valli’s Grease
- Young Thug’s Danny Glover
- For I will consider my Cat Jeoffrey, from Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno