Despite what the title may suggest, Geoffrey Nutter’s new poetry collection, Giant Moth Perishes (hardcover, paperback), is not a long ode to Mothra or how she gave her life to save Godzilla (and us) from Monster Zero. Though as he admits in the following email interview — in which he discusses what influenced these poems — he won’t be offended if you think it is.
To start, is there a theme to the poems in Giant Moth Perishes?
Actually, I don’t really think there’s a theme in the book. It’s hard to think about something like this when you’re so close to the book, when you’re the person who wrote it. At least I didn’t have one in mind. But if someone told me there was a theme, I wouldn’t mind at all — that would be okay. It would be interesting to hear that. I don’t know if anyone would want to read it so carefully that they’d find one, but who knows?
Unless I’m mistaken, the poems in Giant Moth Perishes are all free verse…
I would say it is and it isn’t free verse. There is a naturalness and casualness to free verse that I like — but it shouldn’t be too natural and casual, of course. But that doesn’t mean I don’t pay some attention to the rhythms of the poems I write.
Giant Moth Perishes is not your first poetry collection. Are there any writers who had a big influence on these poems but are not people you’d consider big influences on your style in general?
I might say a few things I was reading were 19th century collections of curiosities and moral stories, and mid- to late-20th century stories and novels by writers like Brian Aldiss, Bob Shaw, Alfred Bester, Robert Silverberg, Judith Merril, Samuel R. Delany, and Ian Watson, to name a few examples. But…well, I actually don’t think they had any influence per se, but that’s what I was reading, so perhaps they had an influence.
What about non-literary influences; were any of the poems in Giant Moth Perishes influenced by music or works of visual art?
The title of the book is taken from the title of a composition by Brent Arnold, a fantastic composer and a cellist. He does really amazing things with the cello. He’s also my oldest friend. I love Brent’s work.
I also find buildings, both real and imagined, interesting and exciting. I enjoy looking at Brutalist buildings and models of buildings at the MOMA. I loved, for example, that exhibition of Bodys Isek Kingelez’s models of imaginary Congolese cities a couple years ago. I don’t know why that is — I just find these things exciting and they make me want to write poems. Same thing with artist notebooks. I like things that are beautiful and imaginative but aesthetically rather cold. They don’t tell you how you’re supposed to feel and they let you breathe and move around in their world.
Some poets read their work aloud, either on their own or in public, as a way of working out the kinks. Is this something you do as well?
I usually do, and do some on-the-spot editing when I do a public reading. It’s a pretty good way to really hear the music and whether it’s right. I always dread public readings, but then end up enjoying them. But I haven’t read many of the poems from this book in public, I only I did a couple readings where I read two or three of the poems.
Some of the poems in Giant Moth Perishes previously appeared in Washington Square Review, Foundry, and On The Seawall. Are the versions in Giant Moth Perishes the same as they were in those journals?
The poems in the book are pretty much the same as how they appear in the publications.
So how often, after you decided to call this collection Giant Moth Perishes, did someone jokingly ask why you writing poems about Mothra? And how much did you shake your head in disgust at me, I mean them?
Oh no, sir, far from shaking my head in disgust, I salute you.
And sadly, I have not been called upon to field any questions or jokes from anyone regarding the great Mothra. Perhaps it is a sign of the times. Which is too bad, because I would love to talk about the enormous lepidopteran (or “giant moth”). As I’m sure you know, it comes out of a gargantuan blue speckled egg that is pulled ashore by a team of several dozen Japanese fishermen. Its wings are beautiful.
Finally, if someone enjoys Giant Moth Perishes, which of your other poetry collections would you suggest they read next and why that one and not one of the others?
I feel very close to my third book, Christopher Sunset, so I feel inclined to recommend that one. However, I think The Rose Of January, my fourth book, has a nice range of different things going on in it — a longish poem, a somewhat funny poem or two, and a series of one-line “haiku” inspired by Hiroaki Sato’s translations of haiku. I invite you to read it and hope you enjoy it.