Gerald So asked me if I’d be interested in participating in his 30 Days of the 5-2 Blog Tour in celebration of National Poetry Month. It’s not often I’m asked to participate in something that actually, you know, seems worthwhile, so I said yes. The poem I chose to feature is Keith Rawson’s “$25.” Which is apparently the most popular poem on the tour. But I think that’s because it’s a seriously cool piece of writing. Raw and based on Keith’s own experience, it tells the story of a time when he needed money and what he had to do to get it. For me, it’s the best kind of poetry: sparse, vivid imagery, powerful punch.
Which is much like Keith himself. He was kind enough to let me ask him a few questions about his work.
Your poem is called “$25.” Was letting that nurse jab you 20 times worth $25?
20 times was a bit of an exaggeration, I think it was closer to 5 or 6 times, but it felt like 20. And, yes, it was totally worth it because I was able to go and buy groceries with the dough.
I faint when my blood is drawn. Where do you stand on needles?
Twenty-year-old Keith would say No comment and get that camera out of my fucking face before I kick your fucking teeth in. Thirty-eight-year-old Keith hates needles with a blinding passion.
I can’t write a poem to save my life. Teach me how.
I’ll tell you what, I’ll teach you how to write a poem if you can teach me how to write a novel without me having to rewrite the fucker six times. Does that sound like a deal?
What is the best thing about living in Arizona?
It’s all sunshiny when the rest of the country is thirty below zero. I also find the crazy-person-to-sane person ratio very entertaining, as long as the crazy people don’t come busting through my front door trying to tell me why Obama is a modern day Hitler.
You’re always hanging out at Poisoned Pen. Best experience at an author signing there?
I can say all of them, right? No? Okay then, If I had to narrow it down, it would probably be the first signing I ever attended, which was Mr. James Ellroy. The guy was an absolute hoot and he ended up hitting on my wife HARD when he was signing our books. (Mrs. Rawson and me still chuckle over that night.) After that I’d say George Pelecanos, who gave me probably one of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received after the signing, and then I’d have to say the night the store debuted Phoenix Noir, because it was the first time I interviewed James Sallis.
But they’ve all been a gas to attend.
Why didn’t you rip off e.e. cummings and only use lower case letters?
Bukowski pretty much ripped off all of Cumming tricks, so writing in all lower case letters is all mined out. Personally, I’m all about ripping off Victor Gischler at this point in my career.
Are you a Diamondbacks fan? If so, I’m canceling this interview. (PADRES.)
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Wow, you actually like baseball? That’s funny.
What did you end up doing with the $25?
Groceries. I remember it had been a few days since I’d last eaten when I hit the plasma center, so I was all about getting some food. I think also bought a pack of cigarettes, which was a real luxury back then.
On a scale of one needle jab to ten needle jabs, how painful were these questions?
A five, definitely a five.
Thanks to Keith for writing a fantastic poem and for answering the questions. And thanks to Gerald for inviting me to participate.