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An Interview w/Tim Carter

Updated: Jun 12

On May 30th, Dead Mall Press began accepting pre-orders for Tim Carter's new chapbook, The Pigs. The book responds to the repetitive horror of gun violence in America's schools, also reflecting on masculinity, radicalization, policing, and the way selves are born, transformed, and destroyed. Its single, long poem unfolds with endless immediacy, its images colliding and braiding together, pulling us into the nightmare and yet never losing its intelligence and compassion.

A few weeks ago, Tim and I had a chance to discuss The Pigs a bit over email, and you can read our conversation below.



Thanks for doing this interview, Tim! Maybe we can begin with some basic context for readers who are unfamiliar with you. Would you mind giving us a brief sketch of your background?

Well, the easy part is that I'm a poet and educator living in Syracuse, NY. But I started writing poetry around the same time as I started getting into philosophy, back in middle school, bumbling my way along, so they've always influenced each other. I'm always asking myself what the difference is between these, well, acts of mind. What does poetry do? How does it work? I'm fascinated by how people answer these questions. My first book is Remains, which was republished in 2022 by Tiger Bark Press. My mum died in a bizarre car accident in 1995, and the book is my way of understanding her, I mean, the complicated, wonderful person she was, not just the fuzzy memory. I spent a couple of years talking with some of her childhood friends, college friends, talking with my family. We had two large trunks of letters and photographs and artwork in the basement. But Remains is also about how that whole idea, understanding her, isn't really possible. The Pigs is my second book, and I'm glad, kind of stunned, really, that I finished it. I changed so much while writing it, and it's so different from the first book.

I know that The Pigs is rooted in your experience as a public school teacher. That experience unfolded against the backdrop of multiple school shootings, from Sandy Hook to Parkland, as well as the increasingly hardened police presence in our schools. Can you tell us more about that history and how this book came about?

Hardened is a good word. After the shooting in Uvalde, there was talk about "hardening" schools by locking doors, restricting access, and increasing the presence of things like police and security cameras. These are often proposed with the conviction that they're protecting kids. This is how The Pigs began. I was angry. I wanted to open, and soften, this idea of what it means to protect kids, what it really means, especially in the context of a school, which is not about protecting but about growing. And I resist as much as possible these forms of love that are really forms of coercion and control. The more I read about school shootings and the people involved, the more I found myself writing about who I was in middle school. I was a violent, angry, lonely white kid. Change a few small details in my life and I imagine that things could have ended much differently. How did I make it out of childhood? What did I learn, then, to start becoming who I am now? I'd forgotten. I was trying to remember. The Pigs is my attempt to give that back to myself more intentionally.

This book originally began as a much longer manuscript. Can you tell us about the process of condensing it to its present state?

The first few drafts were much longer, each nearly a hundred pages that I kept throwing away and rewriting. A book called Points for a Compass Rose by Evan S. Connell was a huge influence for me. Basically, he's writing about his hatred for the Vietnam war, but he writes about it by taking you on a sort of time-traveling journey through all these other atrocities in human history. He's funny, he's enigmatic, he's rambling, but he always brings it back, somehow, to the war. The first draft of The Pigs felt like a bad version of this. But I was thinking about the relationship between school shootings and incels, white power groups, and the police. It didn't work for me. It was too much. Gradually, The Pigs turned into a poem about a single day in the mind of a kid. Less really is more, I guess.

While the book is motivated by historical and political conditions, and includes these in the poem, it also includes more philosophical questions about selfhood and continuity of experience. This is signaled in the marginal text, which is sourced from material that you cite more fully in an afterword, including two quotes from Lyn Hejinian. Can you tell us about these interests and how they are working in the book?

There’s Lyn Hejinian, whose work has always meant a lot to me. Then there’s Adriana Cavarero, whose book Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood I discovered while writing the early drafts of The Pigs. One question The Pigs asks is, “Where does the self end? Where does it begin?” What I get from both of these writers is that, yes, this is a philosophical question, but it is also a question asked by the poem’s form. I imagine the quotes in the back as a sort of conversation about this idea, one that’s touching at various points the entire poem.


Tim Carter’s first book is Remains (Tiger Bark Press 2022). He teaches poetry, organizes writing workshops, and runs an after-school program for middle schoolers. Syracuse MFA, 2018. Find more at

The Pigs will ship on July 3rd. You can place an order here. Additionally, 25% of every sale will be donated to the Urban Youth Collaborative, "an NYC student-led coalition fighting to end the school-to-prison & deportation pipeline." We feel that the UYC's work and its message are especially vital in a time when public schools continue to be a political battleground, and we're proud to support their work.

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