David Starkey’s Comments

These five poems are from a series of more than sixty I wrote in 2003 and 2004 that were inspired by three books published in the mid-sixties called Tell Me Why, More Tell Me Why, and, of course, Still More Tell Me Why. The books all had the same subtitle—Answers to Hundreds of Questions Children Ask—and, indeed, I read them when I was seven or eight years old. Well, devoured them is more to the point. Tell Me Why seemed to have an answer for all my own questions, and plenty more that had never occurred to me.

Fast-forward thirty-plus years. I was visiting my parents’ home, and I came across the books on a high, forgotten shelf. I took them down and immediately realized the poetic possibilities, which were all the richer for the fact that many of the author’s answers about things had turned out to be wrong. A lot of science happened in those thirty-plus years. I began writing “Tell Me Why” poems that very day, always taking the exact title from the book, then concocting a fifteen-line “answer” for each question that wove together fact, fiction, and outright fantasy.

Later, I strung together a number of the poems into a decidedly avant-garde play that will be produced in June 2005 by the Minneapolis company Theatre Limina.


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