For the Winter 2016 issue of West Branch Wired, Corey Van Landingham talks to West Branch interns Kaitlin Scagluso and Meghan Carroll.

Christopher DeWeese West Branch: The title of your book is Antidote and one of the poems is also titled "Antidote." What made you choose this as the title of your book and does this poem hold special importance to you and to the book? In what way is poetry an antidote?

Corey Van Landingham: A good friend of mine, poet Brittany Cavallaro, was helping me out while I was in the midst of a titling crisis. Things were looking fairly gloomy. I was asking if I could just call the thing Untitled. Once we touched down upon Antidote, however, I found some hope. I loved the idea of an antidote being taken against something, and the tension that arises from that. And I wondered, what is poetry taken against? In a collection of poems including elegies for my father, and other forms of valediction, I was interested in how art can, or, perhaps, cannot, assuage suffering, assuage grief. How, instead, maybe it transforms grief, but doesn’t lessen it. As an imaginative act, I think poetry makes grief an experience in which one—the poet, the reader—can walk around. This doesn’t make it any smaller—in fact the inverse might be true—but opening its cabinet doors, touching its walls…if one can participate in their own grief, or that of another, I think it helps to endure it. And that’s at least part of the role of art, no?

As for the title poem, I wrote it after I had found the title for the book, and had that phrase “given against” swirling around inside my head. The poem, for me, explores the impossibility of wiping love clean, the difficulty in leaving behind even the messiest of relationships. While the phrase is repeated over and over again, tries to become an incantation to summon some kind of an antidote, ultimately none is named, none is found. Perhaps this is bleak, but, then again, I guess the book is, too!

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