Abe’s Penny’s Sarah Penello called Dave Landsberger on July 7th, 2011. He’s in Chicago. She’s in Brooklyn. She said of the interview, “I swear everything out of his mouth is a golden quote.”
So I found out on the internet that you’re a Chicago native, and a self-proclaimed “Miamian” as well. Where do you currently reside, and which city do you do you identify with most?
I was born and raised in Chicago, and I live there now. I went to Graduate School at FIU, and taught there for a while, so I lived in Miami for about three years, and moved back to Chicago after I finished.
It’s a bit of cop-out to say I relate very strongly to both! I identify very strongly with my Chicago roots, I feel it’s the most “American” of the big cities. And I’m way too into sports, which Chicago is as well.
But Miami has an oddness to it. I love the Miami, the different layers there. They have the power of the Ocean.
But when people talk to me about my work, mostly they relate to whichever part speaks to them most. Miamians tell me I don’t sound like someone who’s not from there.
Did you hear about Abe’s Penny through their exhibit at the O, Miami poetry festival?
I was in New York in March for a reading at at Tea Lounge in Park Slope. It was related to “Ballerz 2k10: Poems about the NBA,” a chapbook I worked on with Erik Bloch, Mike Stutzman, P. Scott Cunningham. It’s about basketball in general, but mostly about the players.
Scott Cunningham had worked on Abe’s Penny before, and contributed, so I did a reading with him. Anna and Tess came up to me afterwards.
They actually had a copy of Scott’s [issue], and they explained to me what Abe’s Penny was all about, and I was like “This is f***ing cool!”
During your time at FIU, you taught some classes, but also worked for the New Times, and alternative free paper which is a franchise of Village Voice Media. What is your favorite job out of: New Times Blogger, FIU Professor, Poet? Do you have any other jobs?
Right now I teach at Harper College, and that’s how I make my living. Being a poet is much better of course, but it doesn’t pay anything! It’s much more rewarding to spend an afternoon sitting down with a High Life and just writing for three hours. The best thing about being a poet is that you can wear all these different hats: comedian, historian, etc. The poet doesn’t have to specialize.
The reason I believe the poet has lost so much stature in pop culture and modern culture is that all of those different hats have been distributed to people who specialize. So yeah, being a poet is the best. But it’s kind of more a hobby at this point, than a job.
What are you reading now, and what is your favorite book of all time?
I just finished reading a book called Spaceman Blues, Brian Francis Slattery. It’s my favorite kind of fiction, which is extremely literary genre fiction. Really well written, whimsical and brilliant. My first love, even before poetry, is comic books. Right now I’m reading Akira, the very famous Manga. I’m still completely flabberghasted at how brilliant an illustrator and story-teller that Katsuhiro Otomo is.
I don’t actually really read too much poetry… What I’m working on right now is a chapbook of love poems, and so I’m reading Pablo Neruda’s 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair and I’ve been reading it for 14 months now.
But my favorite book of poems is called Actual Air, by David Berman, who is much more famous for being the singer of the band, the Silver Jews. He struggled with being a junkie, and is currently studying to become a rabbi. So I can honestly say that’s my favorite book of poems. He’s such a dynamo, he actually got his MFA first, but nobody was paying attention to him, so he was like, “I’m gonna start a rock band!” He came out with a book of cartoons like a year ago called the Portable February. I read it, it’s a little incoherent, but I hope he comes out with more work in the future.
How do you think that poetry fits into the “real” world these days?
Very poorly! And I honestly believe that is the fault of the poets. Yeah… poorly. It’s something that’s entirely necessary to humans, but the level of competition for people’s attention is something that poets never had to deal with before. Most poets are kind of quiet… But I do feel that it’s the responsibility of poets to get poetry out there in ways that people haven’t seen or heard before.
Writers have each others backs, and that’s GREAT, but it’s like… a bunch of kids sitting around in their parents basement playing Dungeons and Dragons. Nobody wants to hear their stories.
A lot of poets are like, University Poets. And now, I think poets need to get out there, and start doing poetry in new ways. I’d love to see poetry on TV. I know it’s on the internet but everything’s on the internet.
I think it’d be really great to create some kind of poetry performance art, something that’s not just Museum and Gallery members sitting around sipping wine. Why shouldn’t poetry just be out there? Why is it always just in books and journals that you have to pay for?
If you’re just writing poetry for people with literature degrees, that’s fine, but it becomes a class issue at that point.
I want to keep reinforcing that in poetry, there is room for everybody. Not to discourage the MFA poets and the literature degree poets from continuing to do that, but I think that the poets who have the capacity to do other things need to get out there and do that. and bring their poetry to others in new ways.