The Math Campers is Dan Chiasson’s fifth book of poetry. He is the poetry critic for The New Yorker, a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, and teaches English at Wellesley College.
The Math Campers has a thrilling and unique structure. Imagining a reader who narrates her correspondence with a poet named Dan Chiasson, the book contains poetic scraps, drafts, and blank spaces, which only sometimes lead to more completed poems. This “making-of” structure coincides with Chiasson’s continued investigations into his childhood and adolescence, as his sons enter adolescence themselves. Add a science fiction plot about a group of teen summer campers trying to stop time, and you have a collection both zany and elegiac that questions the nature of art.
We discuss where these ideas come from, and why poetry does what it does. You’ll also hear Dan read some of his poems and reflect on the lineage of poets cited in this book, including T.S. Eliot, James Merrill, and Frank Bidart.