David Hathwell

David Hathwell

Interview with David Hathwell, whose poem, ‘I’ll Be a Vessel,’ is in Issue Two.

Why do you write and what do you hope to achieve in doing it?

I don’t write “for myself” (I doubt that any writer does) but to communicate powerfully. And since, in successful poems, language does something it shouldn’t be able to do, how thrilling to play the magician who presides over the transcendence of normal expressive limits.

What are the major themes in you work?

What beauty feels like. The anxious self and its strivings for release.

What influences and inspire you most?

I’m a musician—a pianist and choral singer—and formerly a student of music theory. As much as any literary influence, music shapes the character of my poetry. I take a great deal from musical rhythm and sonority, and even musical phrasing and formal structure.

Any background info to your piece in Issue Two?

Irony is risky in poetry. It’s easy to see that the speaker in “I’ll Be a Vessel” isn’t seeking to be a vessel in the normal sense—isn’t seeking to suppress the self to host another force, or to benefit others. Hardly. A subtler cue for irony is in “Imagine / the beauty of the scene,” which I hope coaxes the reader to question the “beauty” of the condition the speaker is aspiring to, and the frame of mind of someone who sees it as such.

Where else can we find your work?

My debut collection, Muses, appeared in October. (For sample poems and critical praise—from, among others, Richard Wilbur—go to davidrobertbooks.com/hathwell.) I’ve published in more than a dozen magazines, national and international. Poems are accessible online at Cider Press Review, Cordite Poetry Review (“Finishing”), Birch Gang Review, and Angle (two poems in Issue 6).

What’s on the horizon for you with your writing?

My second collection comes out next fall. With its darker tone, Between Dog and Wolf will be very different from Muses, and have a special appeal, I believe, for Into the Void readers. “I’ll Be a Vessel” is its last poem, its capstone (nearly said “gravestone”).

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