David Yezzi is passionate about the performance of poetry.
“I don’t think a poem is alive until it is read out loud,” says the Albany native. Yezzi, an actor and the co-founder of Thick Description, a San Francisco theater company, has performed in works by Shakespeare, Shaw, Brecht, Goethe, and Williams, both in the United States and abroad.
Yezzi is the author of three poetry books and the editor of The Swallow Anthology of New American Poets. In addition to poetry, Yezzi composes libretti. Yezzi was the Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University from 1998 to 2000. His poems have appeared in such places as The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The New Republic, The Best American Poetry, The Yale Review, and Poetry. A former director of the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York, and is currently the executive editor of The New Criterion. In addition to his poetry, his literary essays and reviews have been published in such places as The New York Times Book Review, The New York Sun, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The (London) Times Literary Supplement.
Yezzi will be reading with author Kaya Oakes as part of the Frequency North reading series on Thursday, March 21, at 7:30pm, in the Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary, 959 Madison Avenue. He’s looking forward to reading at Saint Rose, especially since it falls during Social Justice Week. Speaking to him over the phone in New York, where he lives with his family, Yezzi and I discussed his career, his motivation, his connections to Albany and the Capital Region, a fellow named “Dirty Dan,” as well as his latest poetry collection, Birds of the Air.
How is Birds of the Air different from other books you have written?
This book is my most dramatic. By that I mean it contains dramatic verse. There are four monologues, and one of them, “Tomorrow & Tomorrow,” is actually a duologue with two voices speaking. In my last book, Azores, there was one long monologue about a father, but this was more of an isolated poem. In Birds of the Air, the characters are more dramatic as well. It’s also important that my poetry sounds natural. A lot of poems, especially monologues, sound like verse, but I wanted these to sound more like natural speech. Continue reading