In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors—Joseph O. Legaspi

by Jun 24, 2024

Brick garden path with flowers on either side.

Your poem, “Weeding/Wedding,” is a beautiful twining of etymology and gardening. What inspired this poem?

The poem was inspired by my actually gardening—weeding, to be more precise. I was at Space on Ryder Farm in Brewster, New York, and as part of the residency, residents were asked to volunteer a couple of hours working on the farm. So, I got down and weeded. While in the dirt, I did hum with a sense of contentment and contemplation. Not quite sure why my mind drifted to marriage, to “wedding,” most likely because of the singsong-y alliteration of the words and that I was missing my husband. The pulling of the weeds also made me think of extraction and growth; fecundity; cultivation and care; the tugging of those two words in terms of their definitions, the excision and the union.

There’s a wonderful order of events in the poem, where the narrator’s musing brings clarity at the end, rather than from the setup. How did the poem take this shape? What sort of revisions did you orchestrate in its creation?

I feel this poem exemplifies my poetics in that its movement is that of discovery. I truly did not know, nor even have a sense of where the poem was heading. That the initial draft of the poem sat untouched in my journal for months surely gave it time to enrich like tilled soil. When I revisited it, I simply turned hound dog and followed the trail. Since the action in the poem is mundane—weeding!—I infused the language with a certain heft, as in “descend,” “earthen loam,” “symbiosis.” Biblical, organic, scientific. By the last line of the fifth stanza, the poem transcended from the present setting into the past, from day to night, into a history of heartbreak and loss, eventually culminating in the speaker’s marriage.

You mention “a litany of coupling” and yet this poem is written in lines of three with seven stanzas—all odd numbers. How did you decide to craft this piece that way?

For me the poem is about the push and pull, the defining and redefining. It is preoccupied by notions of totality or wholeness, in turn, nothingness, emptiness, or removal. I often think of the tercet as prayer, as trinity—the father, son and the holy ghost. (Even though I consider myself lapsed, my Catholic upbringing pervades how I view and move through the world.) Paired with that I also hope that the poem evokes the Garden of Eden. Its meditation on coupling against the poetic form then creates tension and dramatizes the diametrical, opposing states. Ultimately, I intend the poem to queerify the biblical creation myth, the gendered coupledom of Adam and Eve, and even their eventual expulsion. Gay marriage is an act of transgression. 

Plants and flowers often have particular significance (for example, some say that chickweed is a symbol for fidelity while nightshade is betrayal). Did you intentionally place certain plants next to each other within this piece? How did you decide on which specific plants to include?

I wish I could claim that I have such encyclopedic botanic symbolist knowledge with my placing of the plants and flowers in my poem, but I cannot. Oh, I did a bit of research on top of the little tidbit of horticultural knowledge I do possess, but the placing in “Weeding/Wedding” is primarily motivated by sound and rhythm. Purely lyrical, I suppose. 

Who are some authors that you admire? What are some of your favorite texts?

Aaahhh, too many to count, both authors and texts, hence, I’ll tackle this question simply by listing the books I’ve recently read that I’ve enjoyed and admired. During their National Poetry Month sale, I ordered a few titles from one of my favorite presses, Alice James Books, and dove into a couple of them quickly. Song of My Softening by Omotara James is a fierce tour-de-force by a debut voice who I’m certain will be around to continue to thrill readers with her language, vulnerability and bravado. Kevin Goodan’s In the Days That Followed was the best companion on a Metro-North train cross-states. Atmospheric, lyrical, contemplative, it was the escape and slowdown I needed. Lastly and currently, I’m devouring and savoring the delectable collection of essays Bite By Bite by my great friend, Aimee Nezhukumatathil. This book brings me such happiness by ways of nostalgia, wonder, humor, and Aimee’s irrepressible, infectious, joyful nerd-dom.


Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of the poetry collections Threshold and Imago, both from CavanKerry Press, and three chapbooks: Postcards (Ghostbird Press), Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts), and Subways (Thrush Press). His works have appeared in POETRY, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Orion, and Best of the Net. He co-founded Kundiman (, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature.

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