J O S E P H  M I L L A R

i n t e r v i e w

COMP: These poems contain many rhymes and off-rhymes—evidence of a swerve in your aesthetic. Can you describe how you came to rhyme? 


Joseph Millar: I started rhyming sort of unconsciously, often as a way to end a poem. It starts to creep in more and more in the last collection, Kingdom. And then my son had this devastating stroke and I couldn't write anything for a long time. When I started up again, the rhymes were sometimes all I could manage. I feel like rhyme kind of infected me and sometimes today, I have to go back in and take some of em out. On the other hand, though it’s hard to escape, it’s hella fun.



C: In October, Carnegie Mellon will release your Dark Harvest: New & Selected Poems, 2001-2020. How did you approach such a monumental undertaking? 


JM: The New and Selected is not really such a huge undertaking. I decided to do it once the Lockdown became a reality, and I thought a project like this would be good to help fill the time. So I kind of made up an ms of Greatest Hits—which read poorly, sort of jaggedly. I got the idea to ask an ex-student of mine, Mike McGriff, if he would help me. And then my editor said No longer than 130 pages. McGriff wasn’t deterred by this, though. He put the ms together, except for the 10 or 12 new poems, and he chose poems that were not ones that had gotten much attention. He kept most of the work poems and the long poem “Ocean.” In spite of which, it’s sort of a modest book, I think. Which I like.