“Every Word Is a World”: A Conversation with A. E. Stallings

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A. E. Stallings has authored four collections of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999), Hapax (2006), Olives (2012)and most recently, Like (2018), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She has also published three verse translations, Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things (2007), Hesiod’s Works and Days (2017), and an illustrated The Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice (2019). A volume of selected poems, This Afterlife (2022), was published by FSG in the US and Carcanet in the U.K.

She has received a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and fellowships from United States Artists, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. She is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She speaks and lectures widely on a variety of topics, and has been a faculty member at conferences such as the Sewanee Summer Writers’ Conference and Breadloaf. In October 2023, Stallings became the second woman to serve as Oxford Professor of Poetry since the position was established in 1708.

Having studied in Athens, Georgia, she now lives in Athens, Greece, with her husband, the journalist, John Psaropoulos. They have two children, Jason and Atalanta.

This interview was conducted during the summers of 2023 and 2024.

Brian Brodeur: The first poem in your first book depicts an accident, a near-fatal car crash. “This Afterlife,” a Petrarchan sonnet, also opens This Afterlife: Selected Poems (2022), a volume packed with poems composed in traditional forms. Throughout your career, your handling of rhyme has been so adept, and your meters so sure-footed, that I can imagine poets who have written only unrhymed free-verse poems finding it difficult to believe that anything random ever enters into your practice. Could you discuss the role of accident in writing formal poems?

A. E. Stallings: There’s probably more accident in a formal poem than in a free-verse one: you commit to a pattern, a scheme, you throw down a few lines and then are limited to other lines that rhyme with those, which sets you down a path. (Yes, much can be changed in revision, but we are talking about composition.) Put it another way: in a free verse poem, everything is a choice, and can be a conscious choice. (In practice it may not be, but in theory it can be.) In a formal poem, one choice (this will be a sonnet, a Petrarchan sonnet) sets off a concatenation of events—like a cue ball hitting a racked set of billiard balls—accidents if you will. There are choices to be made, but these choices are made partly by the poet and partly by another force. Rhyme (more than meter I think) has a way of introducing randomness—a word enters the poem not because I necessarily want it to be there, but because the circumstances invite it in, allow it to be summoned.

BB: Let’s talk specifically about what J. V. Cunningham called “The Exclusions of a Rhyme.” A rhyme scheme, in one sense, limits a poet, especially an English-language poet, to select the next word from a finite group of possibilities; only so many words rhyme, for example, with “yellow.” But it’s also true, as you’ve written, that “Rhyme frees a poet from what he wants to say.” Could you speak about the limitations and freedoms of rhyme?

AES: “Yellow” is a good example. Full rhymes include: bellow, cello, fellow, hello (in a strained pronunciation), Jell-o, mellow. I can think of a couple of partial rhymes also (Sello tape) that would work over a sharp enjambment. A poem would go very different directions from these choices alone. “Yellow” is also the sort of word (a two-syllable trochee) that invites good, musical slant rhymes: hollow, mallow, pillow, sallow, shallow, wallow, willow. The permutations of directions in which the poem could go are almost infinite at this point, and pretty exciting.

Look at how Edna St Vincent Millay pins a whole poem on the subtle flutterings or echoes on “yellow”:

Counting-Out Rhyme

Silver bark of beech, and sallow
Bark of yellow birch and yellow
……Twig of willow.

Stripe of green in moosewood maple,
Colour seen in leaf of apple,
……Bark of popple.

Wood of popple pale as moonbeam,
Wood of oak for yoke and barn-beam,
……Wood of hornbeam.

Silver bark of beech, and hollow
Stem of elder, tall and yellow
……Twig of willow.

The rhyme is leading the thoughts here. It’s a poem about the colors and textures of the natural world, how the trees and their shifting foliage off-rhyme with each other.

Rhyme is a rhetorical device also, because it is persuasive, because rhyme is reason. Many a conclusion owes its chime to a rhyme. Rhyme can also combine surprise with the inevitable. Rhyme is often essential both to a poem “clicking shut” like a box, and to one that takes off the top of your head.

To be honest, I think you really start to feel rhyme as a serious limitation or constraint only if you are rhyming more than two things. Strict tercets raise the level of difficulty by an order of magnitude. You might have to really reach and only get a slant rhyme, or simply rethink your original choice and start from scratch.

Constraints are freeing in themselves, though, as formal poets and avant garde poets tend to agree. They free you from feeling that you are entirely in control. They give up some control to language itself, or the subconscious, or, if you like, the Muse.

BB: At the risk of boring non-poets, let’s keep discussing technical elements. Among the more “open” forms you’ve preferred are the ballad stanza, ottava rima, and blank verse. Some of your go-to closed forms have included the villanelle, sonnet, and triolet. You’ve also written many poems in rhyming couplets, a form that can seem both open and closed, depending on how the poet negotiates syntax, enjambment, etc. Could you talk about when, during your composition process, you choose the form of a poem? Does the form find the poem or does the poem find the form?

AES: I should warn you that I will be inconsistent! Here I have been talking about the choice to write a Petrarchan sonnet, and that does happen. But not all of my formal poems start out with this sort of assertion. Some sonnets, for instance, were sixteen- or eighteen-lined poems in draft that I realized later on had a volta and a sonnet-ish argument, and then I thought: you know, I could cut a couple of lines and it would only be stronger. Some poems are recast from one form to another until something takes—“Bad News Blues” was not always a blues poem, but had been a sonnet and quatrains. If a refrain enters the poem I may wonder if the poem wants to be a villanelle (although those tend to be more fun to write than to read) or a triolet (a more explosive form). Often I just proceed as I start out (stanzas are often developed that way) and see what happens when I continue in the pattern. Syllabics tend to work entirely differently from metrical poems, and there I am weighing syllables and the number of syllables in a word. Sometimes I challenge myself to a new form, and that is itself the point of the exercise: oddly these are sometimes quite good poems, as the new challenge seems to call forth surprises. (A second exercise in the same form might feel more exercise-y, oddly enough.) Stanzaic poems, a somewhat different animal, tend to start as a pattern that I then see if I can continue to replicate productively. The trouble with writing poems, or the fun or challenge of it, is that really there is no formula. If there were, the poems would end up formulaic. So in a sense each poem has a slightly different origin story.

BB: Let’s shift to a different topic. In terms of word-count, you’ve published more verse in translation than you have original poetry; for example, your version of Lucretius’s The Nature of Things (2007), rendered in rhyming fourteeners, weighs in at approximately 300 pages, whereas Like (2018), your longest book, runs to 131. What kind of affinities have you found between translating Classical literature and composing your own lyrics? Have you brought any specific lessons you’ve learned from translating into arranging your own books?

AES: Yes, it is true, certainly by word count I’ve done more translation than anything else when it comes to verse. For me, translation is an escape valve from my own work, or maybe, in Eliotic terms, my own personality. You get to use all the same poetic muscles—meter and rhyme, in my case, and diction and syntax and metaphor—but you already know what the poem wants to say. It’s about how to say it. I enjoy learning, too, as I translate. (I knew next to nothing about Epicureanism when I set out on Lucretius, for instance, except that it was the alternative to Stoicism.) One thing I have learned from working on Lucretius in particular was something about how long poems work, and I have written some longer poems since. In an epic poem the action is often broken up by an epic simile, an extended simile that functions a little bit like a lyric poem—it is often descriptive of a peaceful domestic moment or of observed Nature—a window into the eternal present from the legendary bronze-age heroics. In a long didactic poem like De Rerum Natura, which aims to convert us to Epicureanism and its materialist outlook and to free us from the irrational fear of death, you have no epic similes. Instead, though, you have examples, and those serve the same purpose: lyric moments that are windows onto the domestic sphere (dust motes moving in a sunbeam to show how atoms move in the void, optical illusions such as spinning children feeling that the room is spinning around them, a sleeping dog twitching its feet in a doggy dream) or, again, the natural world. Lucretius’s obsession with the alphabet and its magic, as well as the possibility that Hesiod’s poem, Works and Days, which I have also translated, may be among our earliest documents written in the alphabet—these have been factors in my deciding to order Like by the random and yet powerfully witchy alphabetical system.

BB: Would you mind further discussing how you order the poems within an individual collection? It’s true that Like gains a lot of uncanny momentum from the ostensible randomness of its alphabetical arrangement. But this is the only collection you’ve organized in this way. What would you say particularly to poets writing in meter and rhyme about ordering a pile of (presumably) orderly poems? Are there unique challenges associated with wrangling formal poems into a manuscript?

AES: I think far more thought is put into the ordering of collections (there are whole courses about this!) than is necessary. I rarely read a collection in order.

When you are submitting a book for a contest or publication, it is important to put very strong poems at the start, and a strong poem at the end. Once it is accepted for publication, the editor might want you to reorder.

Honestly, I think we all agonize too much over this. I don’t think it matters that much, unless there is some sort of narrative arc. I like to see a bit of variety in length and so on, so I don’t want all the sonnets lined up, but really, again, I don’t think it matters much.

BB: I’m curious about your choice of themes. Across your four original books of poetry, you’ve married literature and myth with autobiographical domestic concerns, managing this difficult balance with humor and grace. I’m thinking of the early dramatic monologue “Persephone Writes a Letter to Her Mother” and more recent work like the poems indebted to Alice in Wonderland from Olives (2012) and Like. Of course, literature, Classical or otherwise, shares such domestic subjects—from Penelope’s anxious weaving to Hesiod’s unloading agricultural advice on his brother. Why do you think this combination of myth and domestic life has remained such an abiding pleasure? Does family romance and family tragedy seem particularly Classical, contemporary US-American, or just plain human?

AES: Thank you! I’ve started calling this the sphere of the mytho-domestic. Well, to be honest, an awful lot of Greek myth is about family relationships—mother and daughter, or husband and wife, for instance, or about birth and death, love and violence. Family romance and family tragedy. Our own everyday lives map on to this quite closely; we are just not used to thinking about them in the grand scheme or sweep of things. But what is more important than birth or death—two things that every human will experience one way or another? Maybe it is just that I spend so much time thinking about Classics (recently, the Iliad), and I tend to view things through that lens. (And of course, I live in Greece, which is an additional layer.) And there are poems about myth that I love and return to. So it is all a bit of a virtuous circle I suppose, the continued writing of myth poems, if one assumes this is a good thing. You are right to slot in the “Alice” poems with the myth poems. She seems a mythic figure to me.

Eavan Boland I think hits the nail on the head when she says, towards the opening of “Pomegranate”

And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere. And have.

So when you start writing about Demeter and Persephone (or Ceres and Persephone) you write from the point of view of the daughter, but later, you are Demeter and you have a daughter. You return to myths because you see them from a new angle as you age. Or to put it this way: you age, but the myth stays fresh and new.

BB: You mentioned your adopted country. Maybe this is too broad of a question, but: in what ways has living in Athens, Greece, influenced your poems? How has speaking Greek on a daily basis effected your thinking about, say, diction and syntax in English?

AES: I used to worry about this, that it was affecting my syntax, which was becoming less idiomatic. Now I don’t worry about it much. We think of English as having an Anglo-Saxon register and a Latinate register. I definitely also have a Greek register, using words with Greek roots with an eye on the etymology. There are occasional puns that might not be obvious. In some few cases, the English is almost translated out of the Greek, such that it would be difficult to translate it back into Greek without losing the meaning (“the hands of lovers always rhyme with knives”—in Greek, hands and knives do rhyme). I would say there is also a level of allusion to modern Greek poetry which might not be obvious. On Visiting a Borrowed House in Arcadia quotes a little from Cavafy and borrows the rhyme scheme of its stanza form from The City.

BB: Let’s talk more about word choice. You have a knack for mixing contemporary idiomatic speech with archaisms; in “Sunset, Wings,” for example, “oh well” and “Lo” share the same stanza. Yet such mashups feel completely germane to the context of each poem. Perhaps tone or voice—the combo of irreverent humor and sincere veneration we often encounter in your poems—makes such surprising phrases as “snuffed-out haloes” and “the window’s benighted mirror” feel inevitable. What are your thoughts about poetic diction, especially within metrical poems that rhyme?

AES: I’m glad you think these mashups feel germane! There are poems where you want a smooth surface, where nothing jars, but more often I like lexical texture, and I love getting in a word that doesn’t seem like it would belong, or when word registers contrast.

I was very pleased to get both “shitty” and “Pythagorean” into “On Visiting a Borrowed House in Arcadia,” for instance. Rhyme can be the “reason,” the permission for certain words. “Shitty” belongs in that category. Syllabic pressure too, in a syllabic poem, can call for and permit a certain word. “Oh well” and “Lo” are also “permitted” there because both are feeling their way towards “owl,” which isn’t quite spoken (except in “towel”), although I hope the “owl” is understood.

As a poet and a writer I worry, I actively worry, about loss of verbodiversity. Television and radio have been factors, and social media too, in a sort of flattening out of standard vocabulary, loss of regional and dialectical variations, and a limiting of range. That is partly because, with a few exceptions (I remember The Wire standing out as one), writers write dialogue that is much flatter and more standardized than how people actually speak, and then people unthinkingly learn to speak in writerly dialogue. A vicious circle. You see this in workshops, too, where a word or expression that stands out as odd or idiosyncratic is singled out for censure and then self-censored. I want to do the opposite of self-censoring, and the opposite of censorship is permission. Yes, I am deliberately going to use the word “drouth,” archaic and old fashioned though it be. And “shitty.” And “hypoxic.” And “scooch.”

I sometimes get a little shock when I see or hear a word, a perfectly useful regular kind of word (say Biden’s “malarkey,” which I like), that I haven’t in a while. Is it headed for a kind of extinction? Do I need to make use of it so it stays in the word hoard? Is my own vocabulary flattening? (The great danger of AI to literature—besides its just being terrible for the health of the planet at large—is not that it is going to replace writers, but that humans are going to start to sound like AI.) It isn’t as urgent as the need to preserve biodiversity, but in a way, they aren’t entirely unrelated. As Linnaeus said, “If the names are unknown, knowledge of the things also perishes.” That’s true of nature words, names of flowers and phenomena. But it’s true of other things, too. Every word is a world.

BB: In recent years, you’ve published several essays on topics ranging from a lively defense of rhyme (“Presto Manifesto”) to reviews of Fagle’s Aeneid and Seferis’s A Levant Journal. More recently, you’ve written a “climate dispatch” from Greece for London Review of Books and a more sustained piece on the Elgin Marbles. I wonder if you have any plans or aspirations for a volume of selected prose, or even a single-subject book. “Frieze Frame,” for example, takes up roughly the first 100 pages of the Spring 2023 issue of The Hudson Review. One can imagine you expanding this essay into a fascinating book-length study.

AES: I write and have written a LOT of prose. Prose is most of my output, a lot of it book reviews, but some longer essays as well. For some time, I tried to get the Marbles published as a stand-alone book, but it is an awkward length—many thought too short for a book, too long for an article. So I was thrilled when The Hudson Review took it en toto and made it central to their 75th anniversary issue. They even included images, which I felt was important. As it happens, it will in fact become a book after all, to be published by Paul Dry Books next year.

BB: I’m glad you brought up the Oxford job. In 2023, you were elected the forty-seventh Oxford Professor of Poetry, the first non-British-Isles poet to have earned this post. Congratulations! You’ve stated that, as Oxford Professor of Poetry, you’ll discuss not only anglophone poets, living and dead, but translation, Classical poetry, and modern Greek poetry, as well as keeping an open door to the Oxford community. Would you care to comment on any specifics regarding your plans?

AES: I’m both a bit daunted by and quite excited about this new post. I had run for the position before (in 2015 I think) and lost, so I was mostly braced for losing again, especially given the quality of the short list—poets I admire such as Don Paterson, Christian Bök, and Mark Ford. I think generally it isn’t the sort of thing an American poet dreams about doing or aiming for, but I guess in my case, for one, I had spent time at Oxford and had gotten to see some of Seamus Heaney’s lectures. (I vividly remember one on Marlowe’s “Hero and Leander.”) And then in 2015 Christopher Ricks (who had also served in the post) e-mailed out of the blue to ask if I was interested in “standing.” So I threw my hat in. I’m eager to bring a North American perspective to the position (as you say, aside from Auden, who was technically a US citizen, no Oxford Poetry Professors have come from outside the UK or Ireland in its 315-year history; in fact I am also only the second woman to serve in the post), and as a longtime resident of Greece and a translator, to bring in discussions of translation and of other traditions. Besides the inaugural “Bat Poet” lecture, I have now delivered one on Seferis and Eliot, and one on Byron and the influence of Greek poetry. In the autumn, I plan to return to more straightforward poetry analysis, with a lecture I think is going to be called, “Upping the Ante: How Diction, Quotation and Allusion Raise the Poetic Stakes.” We’ll see!

Some Oxford Professors of Poetry have held court, as it were, at a pub; others have been harder for students to approach. I aim to be more of the first type. Perhaps not at a pub, but I do hold some office hours when I am in Oxford, where people can make an appointment to show me a poem, or just to talk about poems or poetry (or poets). (I call this: “The Poetry Doctor is IN.”) I hope to work with refugees and asylum seekers, as I do in Athens. I have also been trying to drop in on student and community poetry events and generally be present when I am at Oxford.

BB: You’ve taught at an assortment of organizations and venues. If I remember correctly, we first met in 2013 at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, where you served as a member of the faculty for years. Could you discuss your pedagogical style, specifically when talking with students about writing poems in meter and rhyme?

AES: Formal revision is often pretty surgical. If you’re writing a villanelle, the weaknesses will tend to be in the middle lines, and will be easy to firm up once you figure out where the weak lines are. And I have a theory that where there is a technical glitch—meter or rhyme—that is simply the visible or audible sign of some deeper conceptual issue.

I confess I am not a big fan of the idea of workshopping poems in general—I think it is often better to use a problem in a poem as a jumping-off point to discuss a wider issue—the problem with titles, for instance, or endings. What happens when you shift point of view or tense? Rather than “perfect” the poem in a workshop or “fix” it (and I’m not sure at any rate it can be done by committee), which is the implication of the workshop name and format, I’d like people to be able to take tools out of the workshop to use for new poems rather than tinkering for hours and hours on an old one. Often I find people haven’t read very broadly or deeply, and I use a workshop as an opportunity to point people towards poets or books they should read. The other big thing I am finding again and again and everywhere (including Oxford) is that young or fledgling poets in particular are afraid of being understood, they are afraid of being obvious or clear, they think poetry is writing in a kind of code. You cannot be too obvious! You cannot be too clear! Show me a great poem that is not, on some level, very clear. That doesn’t mean the poem might not have levels or depth or mystery or ambiguity. Again and again I’ll say to a poet—interesting language here, but what is going on? What’s behind this poem? And the poet will then tell me an anecdote or an observation or insight that is amazing and certainly worth a poem, but that is absolutely not on the page at all. It is only in the poet’s head.

BB: I’d like to scratch a bit more at your ideas relating to clarity, imitation, and form. In discussing Cézanne’s obsessive depictions of Mont Saint-Victoire, Richard Wilbur (of all people) writes, “The relation between the artist and reality is always an oblique one, and indeed there is no good art which is not consciously oblique.” Wilbur is talking here about the artist’s need to establish a direct relation to subject matter, rather than merely imitating or emulating it. Yet this relation, at least for Wilbur, must be “oblique.” A respect and reverence for the immensity of reality necessitates the artifice of art. Could you discuss this complex interplay between obliquity and clarity—how a poet, in order to achieve clarity, might do so most efficiently through the obliquity of form?

AES: I’ll have to think about that a bit—I’m not sure what obliquity of form would mean exactly. Is it telling the truth but telling it slant? Even that is hard to define! I do do a lot of natural description in recent poems, where either stanzas or syllabics perhaps are doing the oblique-ing, the holding at arm’s length to get a better view. Or perhaps obliquity is in tone? If tone, perhaps it comes about more in diction and register of diction. All of this is happening, say, in Wilbur’s late-ish masterpiece “Mayflies.” Just take the first two stanzas:

In somber forest, when the sun was low,
I saw from unseen pools a mist of flies,
In their quadrillions rise,
And animate a ragged patch of glow,
With sudden glittering—as when a crowd
Of stars appear,
Through a brief gap in black and driven cloud,
One arc of their great round-dance showing clear.

It was no muddled swarm I witnessed, for
In entrechats each fluttering insect there
Rose two steep yards in air,
Then slowly floated down to climb once more,
So that they all composed a manifold
And figured scene,
And seemed the weavers of some cloth of gold,
Or the fine pistons of some bright machine.

It’s as if, on the one hand, Wilbur is taking a page out of Lucretius, who tries to help us understand the atomic nature of the universe by observing the random movements of dust motes in a sunbeam, but here Wilbur is instead trying to demonstrate a level of patterning and order at the level of a cloud of mayflies. There is the elaborate patterning of the stanzas—I feel I should know where he is getting this stanza from. Maybe you know! It feels metaphysical and Donne-ish, with its pattern of short lines and long, and then there is the flipping of the rhyme scheme from envelope quatrains to ABAB and back again, which feels like dancers changing places in a square dance, or “round-dance.” Scientific sounding words like “quadrillions,” and “manifold,” the Yeatsian “crowd of stars,” “entrechats”! And the images both of weaving (very Lucretian again) a cloth of gold (perhaps on great invisible looms), and of the universe’s bright machine.

Stanzas for me are also a way of elaborating, of drawing out subject matter and, perhaps, “figuring” it.

BB: Linguistic play is an essential element of your poems and prose. Rhyme, for example, is a kind of formal play through which the poet establishes a dialectic relationship between two seemingly dissimilar words through sonic affinity—at least, that’s one way to interpret rhyme. Similarly, in “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” Frost advocates, somewhat archly, for work that is “play for mortal stakes.” Could you talk about how you resolve (or hold in tension) formal and linguistic playfulness with often tragic subject matter?

AES: Yes, “stakes” again! Upping the ante. Well, I’m a great believer in puns. Puns are not the lowest form of wit to me, but the smallest unit of wit or even wisdom. Poetry for me begins in etymology (etymon, after all, comes from the Greek for “truth,” in particular, “things as they really are”), in the radical root meanings of words. Think of all the buried metaphors in our words just for thinking: to be “pensive” is about weighing wool, ultimately—like the phrase wool gathering. To “consider” is probably to stare at the stars and perhaps do some sort of dot-to-dot. To “calculate” involves the counting of pebbles. To mull! To chew on! “That’s a lot to digest”! To grasp! I think, for a poet, this feeds into word choice, or should. On some level, writing a poem is playing a kind of word game. I’ll misquote Frost here: no fun for the writer, no fun for the reader. There’s a thrill to just playing around with words—especially in my case with formal patterns—and inventing solutions to problems of your own making, making discoveries you weren’t looking for. If you play with words, they play back. Poetry gives us, I think, about the greatest kind of pleasure there is—both intellectual and sensual at once, and sometimes spiritual to boot.

BB: Let’s shift from etymology, specifically Emerson’s classification of language as “fossil poetry,” to metaphor. I’m curious about how you approach metaphor, which Aristotle viewed as the poet’s greatest asset. Northrop Frye later claimed that metaphor was inherently illogical, going so far as to define it as “an identification of two or more things which could never be identified except by a lunatic, a lover, or a poet.” Yet your poems, especially when you employ extended metaphor, resolve this illogicality by developing a logical conceit. I’m thinking specifically of a poem like “Explaining an Affinity for Bats,” which devises a brilliant metaphor that you elaborate in your inaugural Oxford lecture on “Poetry as Echolocation.” I apologize for this lengthy preamble (ramble). Do you view metaphor as essentially logical, illogical, or some lunatic combination of the two?

AES: I’m more interested in a way in simile than in metaphor. I think there is something pleasantly irrational to the metaphor—you look at (or hear or smell, etc.), two utterly different and unrelated things, and suddenly there is a spark of connection, even while the two things remain utterly different and themselves. A good metaphor probably rebuffs extensive scrutiny, being directly looked at. You just feel it or know, but it is always at the edge of sight or experience. Similes are themselves a holding up to scrutiny, and the emphasis is probably more on the points of dissimilarity in a way. It’s more of a stretch. (I would point readers to Ogden Nash’s brilliant, “Very Like a Whale,” for a wonderful exploration of metaphor and simile.)

In particular I love epic similes, where a whole scene is held up for comparison (Patroclus in tears, for instance, over the Achaean losses being compared to a little girl crying and tugging her mother’s skirts to be picked up), and the point is how far afield one thing is from another, held together only by one point of intersection, so that the brain has to hold the two unlike things together, vibrating somewhat uncomfortably against each other, with meaning kind of leaking into the gap between them in spite of itself, rather than metaphor, where the brain holds on to the flash of recognition-connection, like an elusive fading after-shine of déjà vu.

BB: Thank you so much, Alicia, for taking the time to respond so thoroughly to my questions. I’ve very much enjoyed our conversation.