I wrote the poem “Visitation” in the year following my father’s death. I’d written several somewhat wild and whirling elegies about him during this period, but after a sustained stretch of reading, where I’d been trying to come to terms with the magical understatement of both David Ferry and Richard Hugo, I decided to set aside (for a moment!) my abiding love for the inimitable Lucie Brock-Broido and attempt something plainer—in both diction and syntax. Once I made the decision to write in a plain-style mode, the poem, pretty much as you see it, came together in one three-hour session—all while sitting on the back steps of my third floor porch (“porch” might be an overstatement, more of a shared plank perch, I’d say) overlooking an alley, a weedy, abandoned lot, and the constant traffic snarl of Ashland Avenue (I live in Chicago). I’ve thought about this, and I cannot recall ever having written a finished poem that came together for me that quickly.
Obviously, I went back and made revisions and excisions, but the bulk of the poem was done in one sitting. I know we all have our own processes, and maybe putting together a long-ish poem in a matter of hours isn’t a big deal for some poets, but for me it was nothing short of a ridiculous damned miracle. I’m thrilled to have it appear in the North American Review, and out in the world at last—I hope my dad would be proud.