|photo: Don Unrau
David Biespiel is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, a Lannan Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature, and has contributed to the American Poetry Review, Parnassus, Poetry, the New York Times Book Review, the New Republic and Politico. He is the founder of Attic Writers' Workshop in Portland, Ore. His works include four books of poetry--Shattering Air, Pilgrims & Beggars, Wild Civility and The Book of Men and Women, which was named one of the Best Books of the Year in 2009 by the Poetry Foundation--and a book on creativity, Every Writer Has a Thousand Faces. His new book of poetry, Charming Gardeners, is published by the University of Washington Press (October 1, 2013). He lives in Portland with his family.
On your nightstand now:
A Concise History of the Caribbean by B.W. Higman, a 7,000-year history of the Caribbean islands beginning with human settlement through the 21st century, including social and environmental devastation by European colonization and a violent slave trade, as well the story of Caribbean political independence during the past 50 years. Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens. If there's a writer who can match Orwell's clarity and verve--and nerve--it's the "Hitch," who believes that Orwell's moral outlook is indispensable.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It made the idea of lighting out for the territories, as Huck does at the end of the novel, something that was necessary for someone like me who was born too late for the psychedelic '60s and was repulsed by the Reagan '80s (I mean, I worked for Ted Kennedy's insurgency in Texas in the spring of 1980).
Your top five authors:
Czesław Miłosz, Yehuda Amichai, Tomas Tranströmer, Adrienne Rich and Seamus Heaney--all poets who blend the civic within frame of the lyric.
Book you've faked reading:
The novels of Wallace Stegner. We share a birthday even, but I can't get through a single one of his books. Or essays.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Robert Caro's multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Many! Mostly for kids.
Book that changed your life:
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. It's the poem that invented American poetry.
Favorite line from a book:
"I am driving; it is dusk; Minnesota." --from "Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River" by Robert Bly.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
John Keats's Collected Poems. I know his poems so well by now, perhaps even better than Keats himself--I mean, I've read them more times than he did--but I'd like to start from scratch in order to rediscover the perfections as magic.