Sunday, September 18, 2005


JH: I like this blog - dunno if I will go solo anytime soon. Poe's "Marginalia" is one of my favorite pieces of writings - also his "Fifty Suggestions" and "Pinakidia", genuine brilliant thoughts mixed with plagiarisms of scholarly observations on classic texts. I love reading the marginalia of others, and get to do so often, being a frequent reader of used and library books. My favorite is the phrase "damned idiots" written inside the cover of "As I Lay Dying". Recently, reading a library copy of aphorisms by E.M. Cioran, I saw this penned next to an observation about sex: "Cf. my diary note of 10 years ago." Who refers to one's diary in a public book? And on a topic guaranteed to catch the reader's curiosity? And is this diary a counterpart / rival to the Cioran collection ("All Gall Is Divided")? Did the diary ever exist? What marginalia or graffiti struck you, if any? What are the literary possibilities of such a medium?

AHB: Yes to Poe's “Marginalia”. I like William Blake's marginalia, because he carries on angry debates with the text. His offense is so palpable, I suppose because the words and the issues are for him. I have many used books as well, in which one notes the bored attempts of students to channel whatever blither their teachers are pouring out. To be honest, most of the scribbles by others that I see are of this ilk, as opposed to a more scintillating engagement with the text. I've seen a couple of books in which jeepers 90% of the book is underlined. Which is more like defacement. I've done graffiti projects a couple of times. While reading Clark Coolidge's book, In the Nameways, I started writing a poem per page (in the book). His poems were short riffs, as were mine. There was little if any outright allusion to the Coolidge text, just a flow from the feeling. I did a similar thing with the famous anthology of New York Poets. In this case, I referred to the specific texts a bit more. Jim Behrle is doing this now on his blog, posting scans of his scribbles (which amount to rewritings) of poems in the latest Best American Poetry. There's a satiric motive in his project that weakens his effort (satire wears out) but he produces 'real poems' that have more interest in them than the originals. When I brought up blogs just how, I was thinking of how they rework the sense of outlet: poets taking control of production. I've never looked at an edition of BAP, but I infer that it's a sort of laurel crown for poets in the game. I don't even care if that is an accurate assessment. Does that idea of the prize, success in poetry, suck out loud? Do you think I'm leading the witness?


At 5:57 PM, Blogger phaneronoemikon said...

Thanks guys,
I had never really thought about marginalia that much. I remember reading that Conrad (then Korzeniowski) had written his earliest works in the margins of his logbooks when a captain, so I was happy to see this discussion.


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