Dustin Pearson is a McKnight Doctoral Fellow in Creative Writing at Florida State University. The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, Pearson has served as the editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review and a Director of the Clemson Literary Festival. He won the Academy of American Poets Katharine C. Turner Prize and holds an MFA from Arizona State University. His work appears in Blackbird, Vinyl Poetry, Bennington Review, and elsewhere. Millennial Roost is his first book.
1. “A brilliant rising star of American poetry, Dustin Pearson.” How significant is this adulation for you?
Dustin: I’m happy to be thought of so highly by my publisher / press, especially when I think about the poets I consider to be brilliant rising stars of American poetry. It’s a gift to return to when my confidence starts to wane.
2. What have been your thoughts behind naming your debut Millennial Roost?
Dustin: In the lower grades, I could only remember people having positive things to say about my generation. There was a great wonder and high expectation of this magical group of people that would come of age in the new millennium. I think that optimism has largely diminished for some, but when I was writing Millennial Roost, I kept thinking about potential and diminishment and expectation, and how those anxieties would crystallize or come to a kind of rest in the finished product, so Millennial Roost seemed perfect. I also think there are subtle references and perhaps a mentality in Millennial Roost that will be nostalgic and otherwise familiar for people who grew up in the 80s and 90s, but that’s not to suggest the book isn’t relatable to anyone. I hope it’s relatable to everyone even if it wasn’t consciously written with that goal in mind.
3. Talk to us about your general intimacy with poetry. Do you dabble in other forms of writings too?
Dustin: Poetry is the means by which I bonded with the English language on an artistic level. I didn’t have a compass for artistry on the sentence level before I started studying and writing poetry. I was merely using language to communicate my ideas with no thought or care to the presentation. I certainly do dabble in other forms of writing. I write short and long prose in a variety of genres, and I love playwriting and screenwriting, so I try not to be too conscious of form. All of my writing is an extension of my poetry.
4. Is Millennial Roost a product of a very taught approach to creating a parable or it is a lot of your flesh and blood, and if so, does this play a catharsis?
Dustin: I think of Millennial Roost as an allegorical documentary of my emotions filtered through a persona, and perhaps a persona that’s become a close friend of mine.
5. Jibanananda is remembered for Banalata. Coleridge for Christable and Kubla Khan. Would you be okay with people remembering you by Mr. Hen? Why or Why not?
Dustin: Mr. Hen is an abuse and an abuser. In an allegorical realm, he can be just those two things. His humanity isn’t obvious as an egg laying rooster and so the speaker’s voice is always paramount, which was the goal. However, I’d be okay with people remembering me by Mr. Hen if he’s seen an allegorical device by which a particularly insightful light is shined on the impact of such an abuse / abuser.
6. How much room do you save for a reader in each of your poems?
Dustin: I always write my poems toward a reading experience I would enjoy or haven’t had yet, so I like to think I save a lot of room for readers like myself or readers who have similar values or tastes.
7. How much would you rate your knowledge of Asian poetry both as a poet in your own space and as the editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review?
Dustin: You know, I’m not sure to what extent I would rate my knowledge of anything. I’ve had so many wonderful people in my life that for the longest have done that kind of thing for me. I can say, however, that I have a great admiration for the diversity of Asian writers and writing. Our team at Hayden’s Ferry Review certainly took pride in the Asian writers we published. I did a kind of spiritual apprenticeship with Suji Kwock Kim’s writing when I first started in poetry, and she’s remained a writer I admire.
8. What three things concern you about the American poetry scenario?
Dustin: I try my best these days not to have concerns, but I’ve invented a code of conduct for the three main modes in which I engage American poetry. As a person, I read and savor what I like and ignore the rest. As an educator, I try to read and research widely to enable myself to be the best mentor I can be for my students. As an artist, I treat every piece of writing as a potential source of inspiration for my own work.
9. Going back to that riddle of the chicken or the egg, is it the title first or the poem? And why?
Dustin: It’s always the poem first for me. I think I’d otherwise feel I was writing definitions, but that’s not to disparage anyone capable of starting with titles.
10. What are your three favourite poems from Millennial Roost?
Dustin: I cannot say. Millennial Roost is largely just one big fluid disclosure.
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