Geosi Gyasi interviewed me about writing, teaching, and poetry’s place in the modern world.
Missouri Poet Laureate (2012-2014) William Trowbridge is the third person appointed since the creation of the position in 2007. In this reading at Rockhurst University’s 2014 Midwest Poets Series, Trowbridge reads poems from his numerous books that are now included in his collection of new and selected poems, Put This On, Please. He shares his “Unofficial Missouri Poem” as well as his nod to Gwendolyn Brooks with his poem “We Real Old,” and reads works about his childhood, his father, and his own parenting experiences. Trowbridge also discusses his previous collections of poetry in this 2011 interview.
The author of three chapbooks and five poetry collections, including The Complete Book of Kong, Missouri Poet Laureate William Trowbridge is unafraid of incorporating pop culture in his work, perhaps because he felt deprived of it as a child. In his 2011 collection, Ship of Fool, Trowbridge takes on the Fool archetype, leading his character through humiliations and sufferings with his signature humor. In this interview, he discusses his affinity for complex characterizations and descriptive language and his belief that comedy is as necessary as tragedy in great literature.
The fool represents human fallibility, and mine also represents the human capacity for hope in hopeless situations and a basic will towards goodness, however unreachable that may be in a world that is most often veering towards its opposite. Fool represents what the novelist Stanley Elkin called the main theme of modern comedy: powerlessness — specifically the powerlessness of the individual in the course of human history, especially modern history. So there’s a seriousness beneath the comic surface in nearly all my Fool poems. This seriocomic element is present in the works of all my favorite writers and comedians. I think the tension created between comedy and seriousness generates an extra element of power in the works of authors who can maintain the risky balancing act.
Joe Milford interviewed me about Ship of Fool. Listen here.