On today’s episode, we’re joined by Daniel Lassell to discuss his book Spit. Thanks for tuning in.
In a poem called “How to Be A Poet,” Wendell Berry insists, “There are no unsacred places; / there are only sacred places / and desecrated places.” In many ways an exploration of what makes a place sacred to ourselves and our memories and what might ultimately desecrate a place, Daniel Lassell’s debut collection, Spit, examines the roles we play in the act of belonging. 

The first-ever poetry book set on a llama farm, Spit is a portrait of a boy living on a farm populated with chickens sung to sleep by lullabies, captive wolves next door that attack a child, and a herd of llamas learning to survive despite the coyotes and the chaotic family. The collection explores the body in health and illness and how we treat of the earth and others. Trailing a thread of spirituality, the speaker treks into adulthood, yearning for peace amid the decline of his parents’ marriage. Driven by a “wish to visit / some landless landscape,” the speaker eventually leaves his family’s farm, only to find that return is impossible. 

After losing the farm and the llama herd to his parents’ divorce, the book’s speaker wrestles with the role of presence as it relates to healing, remarking, “I wish enough, / to have only // these memories I have.” Unflinching at every turn, Spit pushes the boundaries of “home” to arrive upon new meaning, definition, and purpose. As Rebecca Gayle Howell puts it, “Spit is at once a coming-of-age story and an elegy for that so-called coming-of-age, a necessary guidebook for anyone hoping to go home again.”

I’m happy to have Daniel Lassell here to talk about Spit, poetry, home, place, and, of course, llamas. He is also the author of Ad Spot, a limited-edition chapbook. His poems have been published in the Colorado Review, Southern Humanities Review, Puerto del Sol, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. He grew up in Kentucky, where he raised llamas and alpacas. He now lives in New York with his wife and children.

Spit is available at msupress.org and other fine booksellers. You can find out more about him and his work on Twitter @dlassell and on his website https://www.daniel-lassell.com. You can connect with the press on Facebook and @msupress on Twitter, where you can also find me @kurtmilb.

The MSU Press podcast is a joint production of MSU Press and the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. Thanks to the team at MSU Press for helping to produce this podcast. Our theme music is “Coffee” by Cambo. 

Michigan State University occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Anishinaabeg – Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi people. The University resides on Land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw.

Thank you all so much for listening, and never give up books.
MSU Press