Vampires, the Interwebs, and the Voice of God: Sam Taylor on “#GodIs (2.0)”
Issue 11.2 begins with a raucous, sprawling, peripatetic feast of a poem that posits a contemporary definition of the Almighty: an omnipotent androgyne, both hilarious and terrifying, who “Says forgetabout in a New York accent,” “Reads self-help books,” and is most definitely “not going to attend your potluck.” Read on to discover the genesis of this expansive dialectic between maker and Maker, which includes a nod to the manic sixteenth-century author of Jubilate Agno, who was mistakenly confined in a mental asylum and eventually died in debtor’s prison.
Sam Taylor: I am a hardcore night owl—I jokingly call myself a vampire—and sometimes when I hit a particularly interesting flow of thought, I don’t go to sleep at all. I wrote what would become “#GodIs (2.0)” on one such night. I remember staying up all night writing and then going for a walk the next day with my friend, the poet Albert Goldbarth, in the groggy, altered state that skipping sleep often produces. While I knew I liked a lot of what I had written, I did not necessarily know if it was anything, or think of it as a poem, and I don’t think I even mentioned it to Albert.
The poem wears its writing process rather transparently, such that I feel a bit superfluous commenting on it. The writing began with the initial lines, with the thought of God getting reckless, revealing himself and her cosmic design rather directly in the infamous congressman’s name. But, it was really the voice, not the thought itself, that came alive there from the beginning. Once sprung, the voice surprised me with how much it had to say about everything. I kept thinking it was done, kept beginning to write other things, only to have the voice start back up.
For me, it was exciting because it consolidated the mystical themes of my first book and the political themes of my second book, while wrapping both of them in a new voice. I suppose the voice is part ecstatic and part ironic, part mystical and part outraged, part serious and part absurdist. It also discusses grand themes in an extremely casual vernacular that is irreverent and comic, but is not at all unserious.
The lines remained in my notebook for more than a year before I ever looked to do anything with them. Initially, I thought that the poem would need to be trimmed and tamed more. I thought I might select the best lines and shape a more focused, compressed order. But the more I worked with it, the more I thought the poem’s essential life really lay in being a sprawling, wild ride of excess, something like Christopher Smart’s “For I Will Consider My Cat, Jeoffry.” I kept cutting lines only to put them back in. Even the weaker lines that at first felt unimportant seemed to contribute to the larger pacing and rhythm of thought. So, in the end, the final poem is only slightly edited from the original writing. There are poems that take me years to write and others that arrive complete in a single day or in twenty minutes. This one took place in a few hours one night, but it took me years to know that.