Wednesday, August 24, 2005


JH: No, I wasn't bored with that question - it raised a lot of interesting points. I need quiet to write - and inspiration, but it's of a moment, I can't plan for it. I've lately become interested in my directionless inspirations - enthusiasms, rather. Enthusiasms for an approach to a poem that never pans out. A note on a problematic word in one of Samuel Johnson's poems (would get into it here, but it's a long story - a word that may not be a word but a mis-spelling, but if it was a mis-spelling, then it is a word the editors, and certainly Johnson's contemporaries, would consider a mis-applied word) led me to want to use that word in a poem, but haven't so far. There's a word, a place-name, that Victor Hugo invented just for the rhyme that I wanted to use, but have never been able to find again. And other such lost avenues. Why not go back and write them all? If I couldn't remember the idea, I could start from here on out - setting aside a notebook just for abandoned ideas, even if the idea was discarded a few moments after its conception. Would this be a project you'd be interested in, or do you boldly go forth regardless of an inner censor? The problem for me is the word or idea just sits there with no paths leading from it other than my own wish to write something with it, but something worthwhile could be built around the word or idea standing alone. Tricky.

AHB: You get into something tantalizing. I sure would like to know what the Johnsonian word was. I may not be obsessive enough to be interesting (I'm a lousy scholar too, tho I've tried). I like the idea of impossible sounding projects, like Perec's book with no 'e' (which I haven't read). I do come up with project ideas. Like someone had left some romance novels in a box by the road, to be taken by whoever or the trash pickup. I took several, thinking that, somehow, a work could be made with one of them as a basis. Well I did riff on the cover illustrations, studly fellow in buccaneer shirt, and the fiery woman with the gimlet eyes who he, you know, would like to take to the spring social. But I didn't do any project with the books. A lot of other ideas have flickered away as well. So yeah, I like the idea of saving these impulses, however unlikely their materialization might be. I am not a planner, mostly. I like a vague idea in front of me, and room for surprise. I would like to plan something, and go forward on that path. But I think I have trained myself in a different manner of performance. I remember once as a stupid teenager trying to relate Vladmir Horowitz's achievement to Eric Clapton's. You mean, I said to my father, Horowitz plays the same notes every night???. or something the like. I like your penultimate sentence above, sense of paths. After (or while) reading Midwinter Day by Bernadette Mayer, I decided to write an all day poem. What took 4 days, amounted to 7 pages. Another time, Grenier's A Day At The Beach inspired me to try again an all day poem. That one took a month and filled 60 pages. So what's my point? Inspiration, like water, finds its own level. Or whatever. I think you should collect your directionless inspirations. Ed Sanders' terrific novel, Love and Fame in New York is replete with these descriptions of grand artworks that don't exist. Scads of hilarious conceptual projects. Are you obsessive at all as an artist? Do you think obsession is a central fact to creating art? I believe my question follows logically from what we are discussing now.


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