cover image Passwords Primeval: 
20 American Poets in Their 
Own Words

Passwords Primeval: 20 American Poets in Their Own Words

By Tony Leuzzi. BOA (Consortium, dist.), $21 trade paper (232p) ISBN 978-1-934414-95-8

Poet and professor Leuzzi brings questing intelligence and a practitioner’s empathy to this collection of interviews with 20 poets who are diverse in terms of aesthetic allegiance, generation, and practice. Leuzzi talks—about craft, poetic history, a poet’s work-life balance, and more—to famous poets like Gerald Stern, Martin Espada, Patricia Smith, Mark Doty, and Billy Collins as well as to lesser-known artists like Gary Young and Bin Ramke, coaxing from all of them lengthy, intelligent responses to probing questions. Some of the best moments in these interviews come from the least expected sources, such as Young, a revered but still fairly obscure writer of quotidian prose poems who has a profound thought about a poet’s hope for fame: “If you know you’re doomed to failure, then you can work freely.” Patricia Smith reflects on the process of revision that developed out of her days as a slam poet, giving the lie to the notion of the poet as hermetic: “My process... was to go in front of all these different audiences and figure out interactively with the audience what the poem needed to be.” Espada describes how the Bush presidency turned into political writers many poets “who don’t normally speak in a political vocabulary... I felt like saying, ‘Welcome aboard! What kept you?’ ” The range of topics proves that poetry isn’t just for poets. This book will be a joy for anyone who loves the art of conversation, not just the conversation of art. (Nov.)