Joseph Fasano By: Nicole Tallman
oseph Fasano is the author of the novels The Swallows of Lunetto (forthcoming from Maudlin House, 2022) and The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing (Platypus Press, 2020), which was named one of the “20 Best Small Press Books of 2020.” His books of poetry include Fugue for Other Hands (2013), Inheritance (2014), Vincent (2015), and The Crossing (2018). His honors include the Cider Press Review Book Award, the Rattle Poetry Prize, and a nomination for the Poets’ Prize. His writing has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, The Yale Review, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, Boston Review, Verse Daily, the PEN Poetry Series, and the poem-a-day program from The Academy of American Poets, among other publications and anthologies. He serves on the Editorial Board of Alice James Books, and he is the Founder and Curator of the Poem for You Series. He teaches at Columbia University and Manhattanville College. More information, poems, and media can be found at josephfasano.net.
How are you doing in light of everything that is going on right now in the world? What keeps you going? Without a doubt, we live in interesting times. This has always been the case. When ancient hunters came back to their fires at night, what was the world to them except a place of sacred dangers? Teeth, disease, thunder. What did they do? They picked up pigment, or stick, or blade, and they made. Making keeps us going—poems, stories, a life. I’m no different. I try, each day, to make something, to teach well, to learn, to be a good father, a good partner, a good maker of what’s to come. Each of us has a hand in that.
What does your writing life look like? Do you have a particular schedule, habits, or process? When I’m working on a novel, I wake early every morning, as the light is rising, and I step back into the story. Often the story has gone on without me, and I have to catch up. I usually work on the novel for the entire day, stopping only for meals and the beautiful voices of my family. This kind of period of intense work on a book can go on for weeks or months, but usually there comes a time when the first draft has been accomplished, and then I spend some time away from it, working on other things, letting the life ripen the work. I let it breathe, be, deepen. When I return to it, often I can see what needs to be fixed. Revision lasts years, years.
Poems are always with me, thank God. They begin, usually, with an image—expressed in a particular music— crystallizing from the chaos of the day, the wildness of the night. I set that image down on the page, and the poem begins, if I’m lucky, to form. My task is to listen. Sometimes a lyric poem of twenty lines may take seven years. Other times it may take seven minutes; it has ripened in secret, and it is simply there. Or it has always been. Always, though, I am working on many things at once. I carry the poems with me in memory—I’ve been blessed, cursed with an inability to forget—and I work on them—sometimes consciously, sometimes half-consciously—until I figure out what goes where, and how. When a poem is finished, it banishes you. For better or worse, there is nothing more you can do.