Interview with Tim Suermondt

Photo: © Tim Suermondt 2020

Please, introduce yourself and your writing.

I’m Tim Suermondt. I’m the author of five full-length collections of poetry—the latest: Josephine Baker Swimming Pool from MadHat Press—and four chapbooks. MadHat will also publish my sixth full-length book of poems A Doughnut and the Great Beauty of the World later in 2021. I lived and worked in New York City for many years. Among a number of things, I was a headhunter for stockbrokers and financial firms — my business partner and I had our own firm located in Brooklyn. I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2013 with my wife Pui Ying Wong who’s also a poet and a winner of a Pushcart Prize. I write poems and do blurbs and reviews and the occasional introduction to books. I’m currently a reader of poetry manuscripts for Bellevue Literary Review. Pui and I like to travel, but the pandemic has taken that away for the time being, although I think I know every crack on every sidewalk now in Cambridge.

Your latest writing projects?

Writing poems is my ongoing project. I have two full-length manuscripts sent out for publication (hopefully) and I’m putting together another. No rest for the weary.

How would you describe your work?

This is a difficult one. The poet Stanley Kunitz said that a poet no more knows why he or she writes poems the way they do than a cat knows why it scratches a post, and he’s right. I’ve dabbled in fiction and playwriting (I actually did a little bit of acting while I was in New York), but I always returned to poetry. If I have any esthetic it’s just to write poems as well as I can, not to take shortcuts, and hope some readers will do me the honor of reading and enjoying some of those poems.

Why do you write?

Simply because it’s what I want to do. It’s work, but it gives me pleasure, especially when I believe I’ve nailed the poem. I think it was Eudora Welty who when asked why she writes, answered: “Because I’m good at it.” I like that, though I have to be more humble and hope I get to the point where I can say that about my work. Stockholm will not be calling, but that’s okay. I will go along with Borges who said the angels in heaven already know his poems by heart. That’s not a bad consolation.

Who are your favorite writers?

That’s easy and why it’s so tough to answer. There are innumerable poets and writers that I like and often love. The big names are always there of course, but there are many contemporary poets who are friends that I could mention if I didn’t have the fear of leaving any of them out. Let me go to the Swedish side: there’s Tomas Tranströmer (a big name and deservedly so) and I like Aase Berg more than I thought I would. She famously said “I have a right not to be understood” and she sometimes achieves it. Here then, less of a silver of some poets I go back to: Jim Moore, Mark Perlberg, Greg Pape, Andrea Cohen, Linda Gregg and E. Ethelbert Miller.

Do you have a homepage?

No, not as of yet. Even though I’m a city boy there’s a part of me that can’t get rid of the bit of Luddite I have in me — Facebook is it. And maybe that’s good. We’re all waiting for the cities and the hills to return in full.

Thank you very much for the interview!