An Interview With David Budbill
There are many different uses of language. There’s the politician’s use of language, which is too often an outright lie. There’s the diplomat’s use of language, which is carefully worded so as not to anger or offend, yet calculated to achieve the intended goal. The supreme diplomat these days is UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. And then there’s the poet’s use of language. Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” I think she meant that the truth, like the sun, is too bright to look at directly. Allegory, for example, is a way of telling the truth but telling it slant. In my own poems, though, most of the time, I try to tell it blunt and straight.
I have heard it said that most people die as they have lived. Judging by my sample group of one (me), I can also say that people plan their suicides as they have lived. Even though I was too depressed to read a book or watch a movie, I was going to have the most well-researched, most thoughtful suicide of all time.
Once upon a time, before Donald Trump was elected president, there was a woman who lived on a cul-de-sac where an orange cone in the middle of the road reminded drivers to slow down because children played in the street. The houses were built around a grassy circle with a fire pit where grown-ups gathered after the kids’ bedtimes.
Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon. She wasn’t looking to make history; she only wanted to run. But in 1967 the marathon was closed to women. So she entered as “K.V. Switzer” and ran in disguise for four miles until the race director, Jock Semple, jumped off the press truck and shouted, “Get the hell out of my race!” The picture of him trying to rip the number off her chest made headlines.
Everyone thinks that awful comes by itself, but it doesn’t. It comes hand in hand with normal. No one talks about this. You’re watching the basketball game when the phone rings and you find out your grandfather didn’t wake up this morning. At the scene of the terrible car crash there’s a baseball glove that fell out of one of the cars. The awful is inside the normal. Like normal is pregnant with awful.
In 2015 more than a million refugees came to Europe seeking asylum. Most were fleeing the fighting in Syria and Iraq or escaping Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Bringing only what they could carry, many crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece before continuing on to wealthier countries such as Germany and Sweden.