Gregory Pardlo on his poem “Attachment: Atlantic City Pimp”

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Gregory Pardlo‘s poem, “Attachment: Atlantic City Pimps,” appears in our Winter 2010-11 issue, edited by Terrance Hayes. The poem opens with these lines:

Left of the @sign the e-mail address
was ethnically gendered with the nonce
noun sistah, which, I have to confess,

I scoffed at…

Here, Pardlo explains how an email from his aunt sparked the poem:

Although the finished poem depicts a pastiche of family members, the one “factual” detail that remained is that I received this very odd email from one of my aunts. I had no idea what the point of the poem was going to be when I began writing. I was merely certain that the image of the alleged pimp represented a confluence of urges, resentments, deep emotional wounds, and the cry for love. In other words, it epitomized my family dynamic. Initial drafts focused on attire. It wasn’t until I began to distract myself with the rhyme that I realized my construction of masculinity was at play. So I began to see the poem as a series of elaborate distractions necessary to get at the truth. My several aunts were my first babysitters. I spent a great deal of time with them while growing up. How they feel about men would certainly implicate how I feel about myself. It became terribly important then that I understand the character of the woman in the poem and the relationship between that woman and the speaker. These two who can’t admit they love one another resort to condescension and egotism to protect their wounded pride. It’s a very simple story, really.

Photograph courtesy of Sayers Ellis.