Interview With D. Nurkse

D. Nurkse read at the Katonah Poetry Series on November 11th, 2012.

Andy Kuhn: Brooklyn means a lot of things to a lot of people by now, and it seems to be always changing. (I’m guessing that at least a third of the audience who will turn out for your reading will be former Brooklyn residents, like me). What are some of the compelling elements of Brooklyn for you as a place to live, and as a place for the imagination to take hold?

D. Nurkse: Brooklyn throughout my life has been a place of vastness and wildness. I remember immense ruined factories; neighborhoods where diners sold ake ake, saltfish, cowsfoot soup, comfort food from West Africa; neighborhoods where you would hear Malayam, Quechua, Ladino. I once accompanied a great Irish poet who read in Gaelic in Irish Brooklyn. I remember bars where ex-guerrillas spoke of fighting the Bloody Black and Tans. I love the sea and the mountains. Brooklyn really had the same sense of being beyond measure. I remember teaching poetry to Orthodox Jewish children. One young girl came up with the line “red is the color of dying in your sleep.” The parents were startled, halted the workshop, and consulted a rabbi as to whether the exploration of poetry was safe or psychically dangerous. The rabbi felt that confronting the depths was entirely healthy and the parents invited me back.


AK: How have your experiences working for a living affected your choice of materials and your approach to the craft of writing?

DN: I’m grateful that earning my living in different ways–blue collar work for many years–gave me a bye from the dependencies and politics of academia. I’m equally grateful that academia was there to shelter me later in life. I was given insight into different classes and sets of expectations. Carpentry and construction left me fascinated with processes, with the textures of unfinished work before the final coat which is designed to domesticate labor and make it invisible.