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Kyle McCord Interview

Poet Kyle McCord is interviewed by Kaili Mora-Durate about the poem "Afterlove" published in The Bayou Review Fall 2022 Edition. 

Preview:

  • How do you approach your creative process? 

  • The lines from “Afterlove,”  “Doppler / Effect of corporate-speak,” and “repeats its elevator pitch” made me think of the relationship between the corporate world and the creative one; how do you keep your creative identity while working within a work landscape? 

  • I feel the poem is organized in a very intentional way. Can you speak to how you approached the organization of this piece? 

  • I feel there is something significant about the cat within the poem. Can you tell us more about the symbolism of the cat? 

  • When reading this piece, I think about how there is no permanent home to find yourself. One line I love is: “Still, everything shattered gives way;” We would love to hear your thoughts about the story behind this poem? 

How do you approach your creative process?

Hello, this is Kyle McCord. I'm the author of the poem “Afterlove” and I'm here to answer some questions about this particular poem, about my poems in general. First of all say it's an honor to be asked to share this and, so, I'll just kind of walk through each question and give you some ideas about how things work. So, the first question that I was asked is how do you approach your creative process; the answer is that I actually try not to use the same approach each time I work my way through a poem, but generally what I start with is a title and an idea, and so I say OK, I know this is either the corner I want to write myself out of, or perhaps this is the premise that I want to explore, and based on that the poem sort of winds out. Right, one of the things that I like to do especially as I work through my poem, is that I like to see if about 2/3 of the way through I like to start thinking about where I want the poem to go, and part of that has to do with thinking about what would be the absolute right word for this poem to end on or maybe it's the absolute wrong word, the place where it shouldn't wind up, right, it kind of depends on what I want the poem to do.  

The lines from “Afterlove,” “Doppler / Effect of corporate-speak,” and “repeats its elevator pitch” made me think of the relationship between the corporate world and the creative one; how do you keep your creative identity while working within a work landscape?  

 

So, a couple of lines that the editor has pointed out, that I'm really delighted to talk about, include “the Doppler effect of corporate speak” and “repeats his elevator pitch” and the editor mentioned that this made them think of, you know, the corporate world, and they asked, wanted to know, a little bit about, you know, where my creative identity collides with my working identity. And one thing I'll say up front is that, of course, I'm you know, I teach creative writing but also I do, I have had, a number of different jobs in my life; I was a pastor, I was also a fashion expert for The Express clothing line, have, you know, been a tutor- all sorts of different things and one of the things I'll say is that I don't privilege any one type of speech, meaning that I think that all forms of speech fundamentally belong in a poem and, so to my mind, there's nothing sort of anti-poetic or something necessarily about corporatism, right, phrases that grow out of company culture, right, in the same way that art doesn't come from just one place, right. I think that there are forms of industry that maybe don't lend themselves to it as readily, but generally speaking, I like to include features within a poem that don't-that would not necessarily be the language that everyone would use, right. One of the things I think is most fundamental to poetry is surprise, you know, Frost says “no surprise for the writer no surprise for the reader” and so, to my mind, if I find an idiom that I really like in a place that is highly unpoetic, I'm still delighted to include it in a poem.

I feel the poem is organized in a very intentional way. Can you speak to how you approached the organization of this piece?  

Afterlove, to give you some sense of it, without you know, being sort of didactic about the way the poem works or maybe reductive, is that the narrative within the poem is about a speaker who is coming back from Poland and is thinking about and has gone through an intense breakup and is sort of recovering from that, and part of their process is that this cat keeps coming around their house. This is a book, that for some reason, I've been writing-I've been writing about cats a lot, thinking about cats a lot- partially, because I think that they often inhabit margins of our lives that we may not think about, meaning that there is time and space within my life that, you know, early mornings or late at night or just sort of liminal spaces that a cat is often, right and so, especially during COVID, I got to know my cat better. I guess this is not what we asked about but, you know what-I'm going to answer about cats anyway. So, the way the poem is organized is meant to basically be elliptical in structure: we introduce the idea of what it means to be a whole person again after something like this right, so really the way it's put together-it is the last poem in my current manuscript- and so, when you think about the last line of the poem, you can think about it as a last line of the book too, and the book is very much about living in Trump America and also, especially during COVID, right, and considering the sort of the significance of that. So, it's meant to trace a kind of brokenness that tries to walk through to a kind of wholeness, even if that wholeness is inherently incomplete. So, that's really where the genesis of the poem came from and sort of the organizational structure.  

 

I feel there is something significant about the cat within the poem. Can you tell us more about the symbolism of the cat?  

Our cat is named Gladys, we have a corgi named Keats-like the poet, we have a Bunny named Louise, right, and they all live in our house-they're all rescue pets right. So, why the cat? Um, so, I actually have a number of poems that I mentioned that are out there talking about cats. One of the things that I find increasingly interesting about cats is, as I get older, is they're complex animals, right. A dog is complicated in its own way, but I think it's a way that I've understood earlier in my life. Cats are interesting because I feel like at least cats that I've encountered are very measured in the way that they want to interact with you. They would like you to pet them this many times and no more, right, they would like to be, they would like a little bit of your sandwich but they don't want everything out of your sandwich-or at least that's my cat-and partially, I think that I meant I mentioned that a little bit about why that the symbolism of the cat earlier. I'll also say that during COVID, so many of us got to know our pets better, our houses better, ourselves better, and maybe that's sort of a representation of that in so many ways, right. The cat in this particular poem is meant to, it's the cat’s ambivalence that I want to highlight; the cat doesn't really care about what the speaker has been through, it doesn't really matter. Everything that's going on in the outside world doesn't matter, right, the cat is able to inhabit a kind of love that is uncomplicated, right, and I find that very admirable and very interesting as a sort of paradigm or maybe as form of mercy in the world, right, which I think is something that all of us could use more of. So, that's really what drew me to that, sort of an image and then also as, you know, something I wanted to actualize within the poem. 

When reading this piece, I think about how there is no permanent home to find yourself. One line I love is: “Still, everything shattered gives way;” We would love to hear your thoughts about the story behind this poem. 

The last question was: when reading this piece, I think about how there is no permanent home to find yourself; one line I love is, “still everything shattered gives way.” Thank you, I really like that line too, I think one is allowed to like one's own line sometimes, and I do like that. We would love to hear your thoughts about the story behind this poem. Sure. Without naming names, another close friend of mine whose a poet-went through a very unpleasant divorce and sort of journey around the world to find himself again. So, like all forms of my poems, at least nothing is pure biography of anyone-including myself-it is true I went to Krakow, it is true that I had a fairly unpleasant breakup shortly thereafter, but, you know, none of it's organized in that same way that the poem sort of suggests. It, also, this poem draws from another sort of relationship debacle that another close friend of mine went through, and so, one thing I'll say is that this is meant to be sort of generic in a way, even though my belief is that the hallmark of good writing is the ability to be specific right, I ultimately think that there is a sort of accessibility that's meant to be inherent in the way that the story is constructed, right. You'll notice that with the title, I've made it one word the Afterlove right in the same way that they, that like, one lives in the afterlife, right. This is meant to be a space, especially as I've gotten older, that you think about, you inhabit with yourself or with somebody else, where you're past the point of love, right, and now you exist in this space beyond, right, and obviously there's people in our lives we never want to inhabit that with, right, but it's complicated and it's meant to be complicated and the poem itself is complicated. It's my fundamental belief that this is one of the things that poetry should do, which is explore complex relationships within ourselves and within others, and this is really meant to capture the ways in which there is a sort of, how shall I put it, oh, releasing of the self from the bonds of what one expects, right, you know in so many ways the arrangement of being in a relationship often puts one in sort of a situation where there's an expectation that you have to play, that you place on the self, right. This is the world beyond that and what it looks like and if there's grief for that relationship this is how one moves beyond it, and so, sometimes it takes an outside actor, the sort of day ex machina out the cat, to remind us that we can be somebody else, and it's OK, right. So, it's meant to be a very forgiving, very generous poem, and really invites you to that. Well, thank you so much for asking me these wonderful questions, and I hope that this provides you some meaningful answers to that thank you

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