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"The Engines of Repetition": An Interview with Michael Bazzett 

Michael Bazzett’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, Oxford Poetry, 32 Poems and Poetry Northwest. His debut collection, You Must Remember This (Milkweed Editions, 2014) won the Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, and his verse translation of the Mayan creation epic, The Popol Vuh, is forthcoming from Milkweed in 2016.

His poems, "The Truth," "Homeric," and "Humbleman," appeared in Issue Seventy-Three of The Collagist.

Here, he speaks with interviewer Christina Oddo about numbing power of words, repetition, and the paradox of using words to dismantle illusions created by words (cool, right?).

What prompted a one-stanza piece?

It just seemed to come out whole, in a single moment & voice. The enjambment created momentum and kind of glued the poem together.

What holds the various images (cat, bee, the stone-thrower) together for you as the writer? 

I was just following the lead of the poem, which seemed preoccupied with the numbing power of words, how they can deaden and soothe. Clichés and proverbs, as a sort of fossilized wit, sometimes catch my ear sideways. I imagine the first time an observer remarked that someone was as single-minded, maniacally focused and relentlessly busy as a bee, it must have been fresh: “That dude was insecting!” The same with the wisdom of glass-house dwellers throwing stones. Where the phrase “the cat’s pajamas” came from, I have no idea.

What is the underlying truth arising out of repetition? What is the relationship between this truth and the man's announcement in the last line?

Say something 40 times and it becomes true. All ideologies have their dogma that infuse and influence us through repetition and replication, and it’s impossible to be fully awake and aware of the stories we inhabit. We would need to re-invent a new language every morning. But there’s a paradox in using words to pierce and dismantle the illusions created by words -- and at the end of the day, they’re all we have. I think the deafness to the man’s “announcement” at the end stems somewhat from the numbness that comes from living inside of the narrative equivalent of comfort food, but also from the fact that it, too, is a stock ending, something Montgomery Burns says on the Simpsons: “Release the hounds!”

What are you currently reading?

Notes on a Scandal – Zoë Heller  (Utterly delicious.)
Czelaw Milosz – New and Collected Poems
The Star By My Head: Poets from Sweden  

What are you writing?

I working on my next book of poems, tentatively called untitled & invisible.

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