(Sort of) a Lonely Jew in Iowa: An Interview with Daniel Khalastchi
Daniel Khalastchi is an American poet. He is a professor and assistant director of the new Undergraduate Certificate in Writing program at the University of Iowa, where he obtained his MFA in poetry from the Writers' Workshop. His first collection of poems, Manoleria, debuted last year and was awarded the Tupelo Press/Crazyhorse First Book Prize. He is also the managing editor at Rescue Press. His latest poem, "Notes from an Adjunct Professor at a Major American University," is featured in the Fall 2012 issue of The Iowa Review.
I sat down with Daniel to discuss his new poem, rap music, and why the chicken man blew up in Philly last night.
SP: I see you a lot with your iPod, walking around Iowa City. What kind of music are you listening to?
DK: I'm very into rap. I get up every morning and spend about an hour and a half on rap blogs, checking out new music, reading reviews of albums and tracks, that kind of stuff. Rap, for the longest time—when I didn't really know there was contemporary poetry, or that I could be a poet—rap was the closest thing.
SP: So music has a place in your writing process?
DK: It's actually hard for me to concentrate while listening to music. I listen to white noise now. I used to listen to classical music. For a while—when I was in the Workshop years ago—I had this one mix I'd listen to while I wrote, and it became a kind of white noise. For a while, I used to turn off my speakers and just have my subwoofer and try to write towards a rhythm.
SP: So poetry, for you, is rhythm-based?
DK: One of the first quotes that I fell in love with was from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who poetically blew my mind with very interesting phrases, using sound to drive a point, talking about God, his relationship with God, that kind of thematic content and how it was really pushed forward with his use of rhythm.
SP: The twentieth-century poet Muriel Rukeyser is known for saying, "Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry." I know you've done work on Judaism before, and even in your poem in The Iowa Review, you talk about religion. As a Jewish American and someone who's written about Judaism, do you find your beliefs surfacing often in your work? Do you consciously attempt to write about any specific