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Poet David Roderick Explores What It Means to Be American

What does it mean to be American? That’s the question poet David Roderick explores in his new collection called “The Americans.”

“It’s a series of meditations, I think, on the big, messy, beautiful project that is our country,” Roderick told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “There’s beauty and faith and grace, and there’s also some grit and some doubt too.”

Roderick also joined us on Thanksgiving in 2006, to discuss his previous book, “Blue Colonial,” in which he re-imagined his hometown of Plymouth, Mass., where English colonists first settled in 1620.

Interview Highlights: David Roderick

On Thanksgiving

“I think a lot of us are preoccupied, especially around the holidays — and Thanksgiving especially — with our past and our history. And so it’s a time, I think, to dwell on the passage of time and where we’ve come from and where we’re at and where we’re going.”

On his poetry about the suburbs

“It’s speaking directly I think, to the good fortune I feel and the prosperity I feel, but then there’s also a bit of — I don’t know, wonder or maybe even doubt at what makes this prosperity possible. And I hope that the book is suggesting a certain kind of context; that the suburbs aren’t this — they don’t exist in a vacuum; there are other dynamic things going on in the world and it’s related to those things.”

On what he’s saying about history

“I grew up loving history; I studied history in high school and college, as well as English, and so my poems have always been inflected with that sensibility that if you want to take stock of the present or examine it, you might do well to go back and explore what led up to it. And so a lot of the poems are inflected with or informed by historical events. A couple of the poems dwell on the Kennedy legacy for example. There are a few others that explore the Irish migration to America — my family, on both sides of my family I have Irish ancestors, and so these things have personal connection, but I guess I’m trying to connect them to larger stories as well.”


  • David Roderick, teaches creative writing and poetry in the MFA Program at the University of North Carolina. His new book is “The Americans.” He tweets @droderick77.

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