Knoblauch and Dibble was “Knobloch and Dibble”
Bethlehem Shoals: It’s funny that no one’s acknowledging that the Heat made the NBA Finals. They’re four wins away from winning an NBA title, but everyone’s still talking about Derrick Rose. The silent treatment they’re getting today is in some ways even more annoying than the persistent yammering about how awful and snobby they are. Are you a long-suffering Knicks fan?
Anselm Berrigan: Not exactly. I get interested in the Knicks, or the Nets for that matter, when they’re interesting. That hasn’t been the case with the Knicks for a while, but I’ve paid attention to both of them since the mid-Eighties. Basketball is my number two sport, behind baseball. There, I’m an unreconstructed Yankees fan. In basketball, I just like the sport.
BS: That’s the sense I get from your poetry. The basketball references are sort of all over the place, whereas the baseball stuff is a lot more New York. That makes a lot of sense to me, given the roles the two sports play, culturally. Baseball is more resonant, personal. It does a better job of attaching itself to people’s lives, whereas basketball is primarily about a love of the game. With local fans, basketball has much bigger “what have you done for me lately” problems.
AB: It might also be that when college basketball players go pro, they’re essentially migrating to some other part of the country. With baseball, you don’t really get attached until they get up into the major leagues, so you wind up sticking with the team a little more particularly. And in baseball, there’s so much space in the sport. The pitchers are doing a lot physically, but at the same time, they’re also standing there. You have to get interested in a slower sense of time passing.
BS: I hate to admit it, but baseball does lend itself much better to contemplation. Incidentally, I just sent someone that line you have about Knoblauch and Dibble.
AB: When the sports stuff gets into the poems, it’s because I like the way the name or the word combination sounds. Knoblauch and Dibble was purely “Knobloch and Dibble” as material. I’m always fishing for language and odd combinations of sounds that appeal to me. The reasons aren’t always explicable in a reasonable sense. I would put both of the sports almost on an equal footing, except that I’ve probably watched more baseball than basketball, and read about it more. So there’s more to cull from.
“Knoblauch and Dibble” is in that poem because I was writing right after my kid was born, and my brain felt completely empty, so I would let things in as I was hearing them. A lot of them were song lyrics, sports stuff, headlines, or things that people were saying around me. I like to write in public, so there will be a certain amount of sonic activity around me. I can let that come in and fill the gaps between things that I’m thinking or conjuring up and trying to put together. There’s also a whole vocabulary to infants and newborns that I wasn’t really aware of.
BS: I’m also a big proponent of working with what people might consider noise or distraction. I watch movies while I write. I listen to disco. I’m sure that does something to warp what I’m writing. If I go out in public to write and there aren’t people having an annoying conversation by me, I’m at a loss. I need something to feed off of. So there’s definitely something to “polluting” writing in that way.
AB: There’s the old Wordsworth notion that writing poetry is “a recollection of emotion in tranquility.” I don’t know anyone who does that. I’m sure there are people out there who do, but the recollection of emotion I don’t do and the tranquility part I definitely don’t do. If things are too tranquil, it’s almost a problem.
BS: I think for a lot of writers, whether it’s prose or poetry, there’s this idea that being serious looks a certain way. You reach deep within and that’s where great work comes from. You’re describing the ways in which you get jarred by the external world. It doesn’t take you over, but it certainly serves as a catalyst.
AB: When you’re writing, a large part of what you’re doing is arranging material. If there’s material all around us, putting something together is partially about grabbing it, rearranging it, and putting it into a form where it has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. If you have a sense of that, then you don’t have to make it from point A to point Z.