Interview with Dale Favier
Sometimes I make an exception… not a podcast:
Dale Favier has taught poetry, chopped vegetables, and written software for a living. Currently he works part-time as a massage therapist. He is a Buddhist, in the Tibetan tradition.
Favier has an M.Phil. in English Literature from Yale, but he never wrote much poetry until he began blogging. His poems have appeared in Qarrtsiluni and The Ouroborus Review. His first book, Opening the World is available through Pindrop Press.
When and why did you start writing poetry?
I wrote a few poems when I was young, I’m sure, but it didn’t become a serious way of expressing myself until I was in my forties. I had read an enormous amount of poetry by that time, but I didn’t really think of poetry as something that modern people could do. I had a degree in medieval English literature, so I knew all the oldest poetry from Beowulf on — I loved the Romantics and liked the Victorians — but then my interest petered out. I actually learned to appreciate modern poetry by writing it. That happened by accident: I started blogging in 2003, and some of the bloggers I knew — Dave Bonta especially — had the startling habit of writing verse from time to time, as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do. So I just started playing with it from time to time, and it grew on me. And now that I have a sense of the modern community of poetry, I can read it with some understanding.
There is the great myth of the tortured artist. How do you deal with the “romance” our culture has with the poet-in-pain, in terms of your identity as a poet and as a mother, father, partner, friend, role-model?
I don’t identify as a poet, really, so all that stuff just goes on by. I’ve never wanted to make my living at it, and I have no ambition to make a reputation or gain immortality. I just like to read and write poems. For me it’s correspondence: love-letters, mostly. I don’t need more than a few readers. I don’t think of myself as being a special person, or wanting special recognition from the world, because I write poems. And contrawise, I don’t expect to suffer more than anyone else. We all suffer plenty.
Are you consciously trying to shape the story of your life?
No. My life is not a story. It’s just a life.
As poets we are continually exploring our sensual experience of the world. How does your relationship with your body, with your body in the world (interacting socially, with nature, through pain/change) affect your writing.
And vice versa?: In other words, does the practice of your writing, your poet’s attention to the word, affect how you physically feel, and interact with other people, with nature, through pain/changes in your body?
I’m a massage therapist by trade, so my hands are on bodies a lot: so I have a very embodied imagination. The facts of breathing and heartbeat make it into a lot of my poems; the sensations of the skin; facts of anatomy. A lot of my poetry is making verbal what my hands register when they’re touching someone — the moments when discomfort and tension resolve, and move into something else, the half-illusion of perfect sympathy, the outpourings of tenderness. I have a deep love of human bodies, all of them, including the ones that are breaking down and dying. So when I write I tend to write about bodies and touch, I think.
What is a favorite poem?
Yeats’ “Wild Swans at Coole” is a poem I’ve loved all my life.
How has it (the poem, not the poet) influenced your writing, and your life in general?
Golly, I don’t know. But I guess it’s the prototype of a poem, to me. A moment of excruciating unexpected beauty that has echoes of delight and loss and wonderment.
What poem of your own would you hope might influence someone else? Can you read it for me?
I think this is my favorite that I’ve written this year. It’s about the moth that we mostly know as the engine of the Mexican Jumping Bean:
Her First Dread, The Sun
Consider cydia deshaisiana,
how her first task, on birth, is to gnaw her way
into a womb. The womb closes:
the cool darkness is grateful.
There she begins to weave,
using hooks on her anal
and four hind abdominal prolegs,
binding herself within.
Only a sudden warmth
will make her spasm, blindly,
seeking a change, a coolness,
a shadow she can only imagine as the inverse
of her first dread, the sun. And
with luck, say, her shudders, kicking at the walls
at whatever cost, may roll her
to a damp and cool place.
What makes her begin to wonder,
to dream about the outside? What
revolution, what reversal of polarity,
takes possession of her mind?
Carefully, she chews a hole
plugging it at once with silk.
She is not ready to leave, but
she knows that when grown to a moth
she will have no jaws.
The day comes
when she craves the light
and she pushes through the silken door.
She will live only a few days, outside:
silver gray, pattern-winged,
fragile and confused.
She has just one more yearning:
to find a place like home,
to pump her swollen belly free,
and to lay her wondering, jawless chin
on a sweetly-scented rind.
Listen to Dave Favier read his poem “Her First Dread, The Sun”: