An Interview with AJ Urquidi, "Come City, December Dreams"


Can you discuss the meaning of the title?

"We Don't Go to Ravenholm..." is the name of a disturbing and nerve-wracking episode of Half-Life 2, a video game which which I consider a masterpiece of storytelling, tension, and visual power (elements linking to the poem's accounts of teenage anxiety). "Come City, December Dream" is a childishly suggestive inversion of the final line of the poemhomage to my confusing time in Manhattan when I constantly felt like I was drifting between eating falafel and navigating waking dreams.

You're on a deserted island with only one poem.  Which one is it and why?

William Carlos Williams: "To a Poor Old Woman"—They taste good to her. They taste good to her. It would help me appreciate the simple joys of my predicament. They taste good to her.

Who has been influential in your development as a poet?

Some poets whose work has impacted mine: Frank O'Hara, CAConrad, Kenneth Koch, Harryette Mullen, Adrienne Rich, Ginsberg, Kenneth Goldsmith, Dickinson, WCW, Robert Hayden, Robinson Jeffers, and recently Charles Simic (that's just the central core of my influences). Shel Silverstein and Ogden Nash got me started as a kid. Brian Kim Stefans, Reed Wilson, and Stephen Yenser guided my poetry exploration at UCLA, and they are really fantastic writers as well.

Where do you find your inspiration?

 I get hopped up on random selections from O'Hara's Collected Poems or Simic's New & Selected, then go on meditative walks. Thinking about suffering, elation, history, wildlife, geography, the supernatural, and found language rearrangements always help my juices to overflow.

What have you learned about the craft of writing poetry?

I've learned that readers have vastly disparate tastes, many of them debating what constitutes poetry and what pollutes its ranks. I believe in appropriating every style that interests me without knocking any, because there are certain forms of play you can't get away with in prose or film or music etc. but you can in poems. In its very lack of definition poetry is the ideal refuge for any language experimentation outside of and sometimes including prose, whether it's retyping an old newspaper, questioning the logical assemblage of word sounds, or putting forth a straightforward emotional narrative. I don't know where else I could put these ideas forth if not in the field of poetry, so I view openness itself as my particular craft.

Would you rather have the power of invisibility or the power of flight. Why?

I would choose invisibility hands-down. Being sneaky is a personal turn-on. Also I could just turn invisible and hang onto the bottom of a helicopter if I need to fly anywhere.