THOMAS MOWE'S first poetry collection, Michael Move in with Me, explores high and low culture. It's a book that quotes both Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and Planet of the Apes. It's also a book that sees a Mowe-like protagonist trying to convince a friend to move in with him by making hyperbolic claims.
MERCURY: Your poetry book Michael Move in with Me is more than just a petition for a person named Michael to move in with you. Talk about this larger concept a little.
THOMAS MOWE: As soon as I started trying to describe the house, describe his room, describe our lifestyle, what our lifestyle would look like when he was here, I realized how over the top it was, how riddled it was with half-truths... and I became very interested with how, when you know someone well, you can say as much by lying as you can by saying the truth.
So you lied a lot in this work.
Yeah, it's full of pretty outrageous claims. Such as, "Michael, your room is full of chocolate," "You can eat anything here," "You can become anything here," "You have these new magic powers here," "Say what I'm wearing and I'm wearing it...." There's something comfortable in recognizing when someone's lying to you. When you both agree to the terms of the conversation.
One thing that interests me about your work is that there's this really nice mix of the abstract—and often very experimental—and humor in a very upfront way. Do you work to balance those two?
I have to. Because as soon as I'm serious, I resent myself. Even just saying something that I think might be smart, clever, or witty... it's born with its twin, which is self-doubt. And the combination of those things becomes humor. Because as soon as I say something, the instinct is to diffuse it... it's the idea that as soon as something becomes large, it needs to destroy itself. It needs to become small again.
How does your work as a playwright, or work in theater, affect your poetry?
Maybe it keeps me from being too abstract. If someone just stands up on stage in a play and talks at you for 10 minutes, everyone's out. And I'm aware of that. When I write a poem, I'm imagining it being read up on stage. I wouldn't say that it's theatrical work, although there are characters, but when I'm writing it I'm envisioning myself reading it to somebody.