FROM “BICYCLE THIEVES: AN INTERVIEW WITH MARY DI MICHELE” BY NATHANIEL G. MOORE FOR PRISM INTERNATIONAL
Was “Life Sentences” always going to go up to 100 verses? How did that poem evolve during the process of completing Bicycle Thieves? For me, the poem was a page-turner, something readers of poetry don’t often say, I would imagine, as one often prefers to read poetry slowly.
The first idea I had for the poem was to try to capture the arc of my life in a series of sentences—that was the constraint, each part would be composed of one sentence centered on an image, an event, an idea, a quotation, a reference, from my life or books and ideas influencing my thinking. I think we recall our experience in ‘spots of time,’ in fragments, not in a continuous narrative, so it seemed an appropriate form.
At first I thought I was going to write sixty-odd verses, to represent the years of my life. But publication and end of composition of the poem could be years apart so I decided on an arbitrary number, 100; it’s a nice round number, not that I expect to live to 100.
You called the poem a “page-turner”—that’s surprising! The structure is fragmented and so I would not expect a reader to feel the kind of narrative propulsion that causes page turning, the rush to see what happens next.
Mary Di Michele’s collection Bicycle Thieves is shortlisted for the 2018 Pat Lowther Memorial Award.