How does being Jewish affect your own poetry? Is there such a thing as American Jewish poetry, in your opinion?

I do not feel particulary Jewish except in my rejection from Christian or Moslem society. It's their hate that makes me identify with Judaism. It's like "Fuck you. You want to despise me, I'll knock you down three pegs lower."  I did a rap album in 1993, The Renegade Jew. I did this after Crown Heights when I wanted to bring the blacks and the Jews together. I felt we were both cast-off peoples and I wanted to reel us into shore. That we were fighting with each other was ridiculous. It was like we were doing Christian whites' work for them, knocking each other off. The blacks wanted to identify with the powerful white Christians so they stepped on the Jews. They secretly thought it would make them white. But hatred never empowers you. And if you're black you'll never be white, even if you kill Jews.

I'm not really a team player. I hate baseball. I'm a fighter, tennis player and ski racer. I'm a Jew but I don't play for the team. So if there's a Jewish poetry I don't really want to be part of it. I just want to be part of David's Jewish poetry, which is distilled alientation in a jar of words (like a Vlasic pickle).
David Lawrence teaching boxing. Photo by Robert Ecksel
Boxing is poetry and poetry is boxing that is all ye need to know in life. I like to bleed. I like to feel things deeply.  Every poem comes from my arteries no matter how cute or clever they may seem. I feel therefore I feel.  Thinking is an over-rated device that leads to destruction. I have a book out by Pudding House Press called Blame It On the Scientists. Their ideas in the wrong hands blow up hands. Leave me with the mute, the homeless, the idiots, the boxers.

Why do you think that formal verse has almost disappeared from most of today's literary journals? Should poets write sonnets?

I think that well-written is the sonnet's own indictment. Poetry should be the soul in pergutory. Writing well has no place in the fire. It is an ice cube in mixed drinks on a Westchester patio. As a publisher you probably have an obligation to publish them along with other varieties of poetry. But I have the luxury of not being a publisher and can call a fish a stink or a stink a fish or a fishstink something awful. 

Even if a sonnet doesn't seem forced, it is forced. It is fit snugly into its container and shaped by the dictates of the past. I don't live in the past. My memory is a little fucked up by brain damage. I live in the ever-receding future.

I also almost vomited when Seamus Heany came out with a translation of Beowolf. He is so far from the immediate pains of a real poet that I think he should be buried in an academic vase.

When you were a professor, did you still have your students read formal verse?

I did teach formal verse. But I was a punk. I hate formal verse. Poetry is blood. Formal verse is molecular structure.  You can not possibly arrive at the truth when you are busy counting rhymes and lines. It's a distraction for timid souls who are afraid to strick out. I particularly hate sonnets. What kind of a fag would write this shit? Of course, I wrote a bunch of them when I had no confidence and no voice. I am standing on the edge of the grand canyon trying to stay up and there's no way I'm going to worry about iambic pentameter. I want to speak to the wind about how I don't know why I feel so bad or glad and that I want to stay up here and that I hope I don't fall or throw myself off. Craft in poetry is dead. It must come from years of crafting poems so that it automatically comes out tested. When I used to fight I never thought about what I did. If I had time to think about the next punch I'd throw, then I would be knocked out while thinking about it. I had to let my hands flow. My fists did the thinking for me. My brain trusted in my fists that did the work for me. A sonnet is not organic. It is a superimposed form. My fights were organic. Superimposition of a fight plan that was not organic to me would end up on my sleeping on the canvas, waking up and looking in the doctors eyes and laughing.
Do you find the Left's response to Israel's position surprising, given that Jews have traditionally supported the Democratic party? In your poem "Palestinians," you allude to the fact that young American college students are "offering...Israel" while they forget how their own ancestors stole the land from the American Indians "so they had nowhere to go home." Why do you think the Left seems so unwilling to see Israel's side of the matter?

The Jews side with the Palestianians because they hate themselves. If the world saw fit to annihilate us in Nazi Germany there is a secret side of the Jew that can't help but ask maybe they're right. Then they identify with the aggressor and become anti-Semitic, writhing with self-hatred while they're pretending they're open-minded enough to accept the enemy. Thus and thus the Jews and the Left who see the Palestinian side make me puke. It's embarassing that we need President Bush to stand up for us. The Christian Left has always been looking for a way to poke holes in the fabric of their brotherhood with leftish Jews and they're delighted to side against us. It's amusing how the left always takes an imaginary moral position. They pat themselves on the backs and say what good boys are we. It doesn't matter that they have turned against the most beaten up, torturted, picked on, weak, religious group in all of history. It's not so bad when the Nazis want to throw us in the ovens but when the our putative liberal humanitarian brothers want to do the same thing then I must sincerely say, and in all humility, fuck them!

Osama is the most popular Arab name. If the Arabs had rejected Bin Laden as someone who had kidnapped Islam then this whole ongoing philosophical and military fracas would not have escalated. But they sided with Bin Laden and endorsed Christian and Jewish genocide. George Bush tried to make peace and said there were good moderate Arabs. Where?  Hardly one had the courage or conviction to come out and say how much he hated the terrorists.That's because in their jealousy from their primitive societies they secretly identified with the terrorists. People who don't have the courage to build destroy. Because women have wombs they know gentleness. Because men can't have babies they kill, filling our jails with what I call vagina envy, their wish to be creators.
Tell us about your boxing career: How did you get started in professional boxing? How do you relate poetry to boxing?

I started boxing when my young chauffeur died on a motorcycle. (I was driven around in a chauffered Rolls Royce.) I was practicing motorcross on a professional dirt track in West Hampton. My wife and 3-year-old son said they wanted me to give up my bikes before I died. I said, "I'll quit if you let me box." My wife said fine. Who knew I'd do it for the next twenty years and become a ranked professional in New York State. 
The Adirondack Review
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Photo: Robert Ecksel
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