In celebration of National Poetry Month, The Writer's Center is spotlighting the work of Poet Lore contributors. This installment includes a brief Q&A with author Patrick Ryan Frank about his poem, “Body Double” (Poet Lore Volume 109, No. 1/2).
Photo Credit: Lawrence Kaplun.
BY PATRICK RYAN FRANK
Bare, and always my face is bent away.
I am modest and half-seen. My skin may
be laid there on the screen, but I stay vague
as sex or laughter half heard through a wall.
Maybe you think I’m all imposture, false
and empty semblance. So what? When I was young,
I played a game called Radio. Black sack
over my head, I’d open my mouth to sing.
I could be anybody in the dark,
and anybody could be listening.
Sarah Katz: This poem has an eerie and meditative mood to it, with the image of a body double made strange. The final image of the "black sack / over my head" describing the game of "radio"--reminiscent of Abu-Ghraib prisoner abuse--made me shudder. I'm most interested in how you employ sound in this poem--I noticed that most of your lines have either slant end-rhymes or internal rhymes ("half-seen / the screen," "skin may" / "stay away," "a wall" / "false"). How do these formal choices contribute to the mood of the poem?
Patrick Ryan Frank: Rhyme grabs the ear and lodges in the brain, and it comforts us. We're naturally terrified, so we try to control the world by putting it into order and understanding its repetitions. At the same time, that's not actually very easy, and it falls apart quickly. In a lot of my persona poems, I use rhyme and meter to look at how we exert ourselves, create expectations, and then deal with the surprises and disappointments that come from them.
Patrick Ryan Frank is the author of the poetry collections The Opposite of People and How the Losers Love What’s Lost, which won the 2010 Intro Prize from Four Way Books. He studied poetry at Northwestern University, Boston University, and the James A. Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas. He was recently a Fulbright Fellow to Iceland, and he currently lives in Austin, Texas.