Dan Chiasson: One Poem

Interviewing Janet Malcolm

To interview the interviewer, you need a mirror.
She’s trading privacy for peekaboo.
Janet Malcolm writes the questions that she answers.

Her apartment had the air of “New York Writer”:
The cat, the glass-top table, a park view;
On the far wall, facing us, an ornate mirror.

Her cat, and not her id, caused the disorder;
(This poem is partly false and partly true);
Janet Malcolm writes the questions that she answers.

The cat was just one detail in the picture.
The table was classic Mies van der Rohe.
Outside, the reservoir was a big mirror.

That day my objectivity danced with hers,
Our “journalistic egos” locked in tango,
She rewrote the questions she had answered.

She’d interviewed herself, I realized later;
I was bystander to a rendezvous.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror.
Janet Malcolm changed the questions she had answered.


Dan Chiasson from Bicentennial, Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

This poem originally appeared on Poem-A-Day newsletter celebrating Poetry Month in April: http://knopfdoubleday.com/newsletters/

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