Contributor Reads, COVID-19

William Fargason, whose poem “Sieve” appears in Volume 36.2-3, has a debut book of poems, Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara, now available from the University of Iowa Press. We asked Fargason if he would be interested in sharing his experience of putting poetry into the world during this time of shelter-in-place and COVID-19 as well as what has inspired him.

It feels a bit strange to put my first book out during the pandemic. I felt a bit guilty for having the good news of a book coming out—for even wanting to celebrate anything right now—but I truly believe sharing poetry right now can act as a bridge between isolations. To share what I’ve worked on with other people finally, after working on it for seven years, makes me feel so much less alone.

There is a relief that comes with honesty about pain and loneliness that I find in writing my poems and in reading my favorite books. My poems often discuss my struggles with depression and anxiety, and one of the worst things that could happen with those struggles is keeping them all inside my head. Being open and honest about mental health is so important, and I do that with my poems, which I hope encourages other people to do the same.

During the shelter-in-place I’ve been using poetry as I’ve always used it—as an escape from reality. I’ve been reading more poems lately than normal, and existing there on the page with the author lets me escape for a moment as well. There is a connection between myself and the author when I read their poems—a shared experience—and I think we need that connection all the more right now.

About Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara:

In his debut collection, William Fargason inspects the pain of memory alongside the pain of the physical body. Fargason takes language to its limits to demonstrate how grief is given a voice. His speaker confronts illness, grapples with grief, and heals after loss in its most crushing forms. These poems attempt to make sense of trauma in a time of belligerent fathers and unacceptable answers. Fargason necessarily confronts toxic masculinity while navigating spiritual and emotional vulnerability.

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