We were first introduced to the work of Nick Flynn after he was recommended to us by his friend and fellow writer, Stephen Elliott. After devouring his first memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, we were excited when his latest, The Ticking Is the Bomb, landed our on desk earlier this year. While Bullshit tackles the subject of Flynn’s childhood in Boston and his relationship with his father (who just happened to wander into the homeless shelter where he’d been working one night), Ticking is a much different story, focusing instead on his daughter’s impending birth and America’s obsession with torture. The former has been optioned as a film that will be directed by Paul Weitz and star Casey Affleck and Robert DeNiro.
But Flynn first entered the literary spotlight as an award-winning poet (see: his two published collections Some Ether and Blind Huber), which is why he was asked to judge this year’s Discovery Contest at the 92nd Y. Now in its fifth decade, the contest is designed to attract large audiences to poets who have not yet published a book. Out of 900 applicants, this year’s winners — Chelsea Jennings, of Seattle, WA; Brandon Kreitler, of Brooklyn, NY; Tanya Olson, of Durham, NC; and Camille Rankine, of New York, NY — will all be reading at the Poetry Center tonight, and will have their work published in the latest issue of Boston Review. It should be noted that Flynn himself was a winner back in 1999.
Check out our email interview with Flynn below, wherein he reveals the best poet for the pre-school set and who he’d have read at his presidential inauguration.
Flavorpill: Do you consider yourself a war poet?
Nick Flynn: Sure, as much as Emily Dickinson was a war poet. Though she never saw a battle, the effects of the war, on those soldiers coming home from battle, seemed to have seeped into her work.
FP: Do you think Generation X has connected with poetry in the same way that the Baby Boomers did?
NF: From what I can tell, the life of poetry in America seems pretty strong at the moment. Poetry might actually be more a part of the lives of Gen X-ers, if the number of lit mags and reading series and good writing is any indication. Maybe it’s a response to the mediation of most other aspects of our lives, a certain calm center amidst the ceaseless storm of information, and also a way to make sense of the storm.
FP: Who is the first poet have read or will read to your daughter Lulu?
NF: Beyond nursery rhymes, something that is pure sound, like [Gerard Manley] Hopkins.
FP: In The Ticking Is the Bomb you self-soothe with swimming. Do you have a writer who provides you with that same kind of comfort?
NF: I seem to return to [Samuel] Beckett a lot, and [Rainer Maria] Rilke.
FP: You’ve been elected president. Who reads at your inauguration?
NF: Walt Whitman!