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"Silver & Black Hole"

Some years back, I was enrolled in Rebecca Morgan Frank's "Poetic Forms" class at the University of Southern Mississippi. Toward the end of the semester, Morgan had us write pecha kuchas, which are 20-stanza poems built around one referential source. Although the pecha kucha is best known as a structured form of public presentation (20 slides displayed for 20 seconds each), Terrance Hayes first explored it as a poetic form in his 2010 collection Lighthead.

In a pecha kucha poem, each stanza gets a title of some sort. The content that follows might not relate directly to that stanza's title, although it will likely have some associative connection. For my pecha kucha, I selected old Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders football players. I've been a Raiders fan ever since my dad taught me to read by looking at football cards and the Raiders had a nose tackle named Bill Pickel, which I thought was funny.

So I wrote the poem—all 20 stanzas—and revised it for a full year. When "Silver & Black Hole" was picked up Dante Di Stefano at Harpur Palate, I was pleased as punch. This was a new era of my writing life, I believed: I could work in multiple genres now. But my goodness, writing and editing a 20-stanza poem was exhausting. Afterward, I felt as though I'd used up the images and themes that were meaningful to me. Once that issue of Harpur Palate came out Morgan began referring to me as a poet—a fine compliment—although since then I haven't even kept the pace of one poem a year.