Five Questions with Josh Bell

Josh Bell is Briggs Copeland Lecturer on English at Harvard, and he has taught in the MFA program at Columbia University—where he was my professor in my first-ever poetry workshop. He introduced me to poets from Petrarch to James Tate; his knowledge is deep and wide, as is his kindness. Bell's first book of poetry is No Planets Strike, and I eagerly await his second, Alamo Theory, forthcoming from Copper Canyon in April. 

The New Yorker has described Josh Bell's poetry as "a concoction of the surreal and the hyper-real, the hilarious and the devastating." His poem "Sci-Fi Violence" contains all of those elements, and you can listen to him read it here. Over here he talks about his Vince Neil poems (as in Mötley Crüe Vince Neil?! you ask. YES!). And read a great intro to his work by Mark Bibbins here

— Alisha Kaplan


1. What were you like at fifteen?

I never had an idea, an idea about myself or anything else, until about twenty-five. Fifteen-year-old Josh, therefore, is a person still a decade away from having his first idea. 

2. What's the scariest thing you’ve ever read?

The scene in Mark where it takes Jesus two tries to heal the blind man ("I see men, as trees, walking").

3. Describe your ideal sandwich.

I'm not into lunchtime ideals. I don't have Plato's patience. I'm more Aristotelian: the sandwich, as it is (but also as it could be), in flux and moving through actual time, with mayo. 

4. What's the last video you watched on YouTube? 

I'm finding it impossible to be honest in answering this question. So here's a cool band:

5. Why break the line?

Because when you break the line, you control all space and time. 

Washington Square