Gerald So is founding editor of the poetry journal The Lineup: Poems on Crime. A distinguished poet in his own right, So holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from Queens College/CUNY.
1. Edgar Allan Poe wrote that “Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem,” which raises this question: Can a poem about crime be beautiful?
Crime repulses me, people assuming they have the right to hurt others. To write the honest reactions to crime The Lineup seeks, poets have to deal with hurt, fear, and other forces that would keep them silent. That act of bravery is what I find beautiful.
2. Can a crime poem achieve something that a crime story (or novel) cannot?
Yes. Fictional crime stories and novels are structurally bound to beginning, middle, and end. Any story must establish expectations and meet them. A poem about crime doesn’t have the limitations of fiction. It can spend more time evoking a moment and show most intimately what it means to the people involved.
3. Are there any crime novelists whose writings you find to be particularly poetic?
I’ll go with Hammett, Chandler, Robert B. Parker, Reed Farrel Coleman, and S. J. Rozan.
4. Do you think that The Lineup has attracted readers who otherwise would never have picked up a poetry journal?
I hope so. Crime fiction hooked me on fiction in general, and I hope poetry about crime hooks a new audience on poetry.
5. In your opinion, what’s the single best poem to have appeared in The Lineup?
It’s difficult for me to think of each poem individually after they’ve been published in an issue. I can tell you I like the flow of poems in each issue.