We’re visiting with Miranda Cooper, a writer who has a fascination with alligators. It’s resulted in the poem, “Space Gator," which is in the Spring 2016 issue of the Las Vegas-based literary magazine, “Helen.”
Why an alligator?
It all goes back to when I was little and made my first trip to Florida with my parents to visit my grandparents. I really didn’t like the state. I thought it was very strange, really hot. But loved the nature there, and all the wildlife. I was entranced by alligators – these huge dinosaur-looking things that had these yellow eyes and thin slits. They looked very strange but also very enchanting.
You actually saw an alligator when you were there in the wild?
I did see a few on a couple of wildlife ranches, but I also did see them in the wild, walking down a path and they’re there in the water and they just look at you and you keep going.
In this case, the alligator seem sort of friendly or approachable. Who or what is the alligator in your poem?
I think the alligator is a being that has been around for a very very long time. I feel as though he’s a creature that is all-knowing and all-seeing, but also very private.
What do you think the space gator is searching for? You write it’s of “epic proportions”, and it’s searching for “truth.” What kind of truth?
I think he’s searching for his truth. He knows why everyone else is here, and he makes his visits to earth and other parts of the galaxy, and yet he roams on his own, completely solo. So, I think he’s searching for his own truth, and why he is where he is, and why him? Why is he the creature that’s floating around?
You also write: “In the year two thousand and four, the president of the United States of America declared Space Gator a threat to national security.” Is the Space Gator misunderstood?
Definitely misunderstood. I feel as though human beings have automatic connections to mammals, but when you’re talking reptiles, they’re scary-looking. You can’t go up and pet them. They don’t wag their tail. So, I definitely think Space Gator is misunderstood probably because of the way he looks. He’s a giant floating alligator.
If you had to say what the underlying meaning of “Space Gator” is, what would you say?
We all come from, perhaps, a very strange place. And just because we don’t understand something doesn’t necessarily make it bad. It just makes it something different.
I understand that your favorite novel is Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Is there some kind of spiritual affinity between Space Gator and that great white whale?
It’s such a psychological novel, and you read it and you understand that that whale is so much more than a whale. Even though you think: how could it have a vendetta against a human being? But, it certainly does. I think that Moby Dick and Space Gator both perhaps are hunted in some way or frowned upon or people have something against them because they’re not cute or cuddly. They’re large and they’re terrifying. They could kill a man. But they are also both very deep. And more than just an animal on their own.
You’re a senior at the University of Nevada/Las Vegas (UNLV), and you used to be a music major. You still play the clarinet. Does musical rhythm translate to the rhythms and cadence of poetry?
Always. Writing poetry and then reading it out loud can often be two very different experiences. And when you read a poem, you’re not necessarily reading it in a certain time – but it’s very much a beat within yourself. Your cadences, your stops, where you even choose to take a breath is very similar to music.
Miranda Cooper, Poet
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