Saturday, April 08, 2006


JH: Yes, I'm always interested in how a poem can preserve its self-sufficiency as a poem, more than its content being preserved 100%. Though how much content can be lost before the poem itself ceases to be a poem and starts to become an art-object (or if it no longer bears the appearance of a language, a plain object)? For instance, going back to our discussion of prose and poetry, how does a poem preserve its self-sufficiency when surrounded by prose on the page? The poem may be quoted complete as subject for commentary, or quoted complete for an illustration (illustration here also becomes illustration as in picture, for the poem may as well be the reproduction of a painting or drawing in such a context), or the prose-author's own poem may be provided as part of the story, as in Poe (examples include Ligeia, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Assignation). Why doesn't the poem stop being a poem that stands alone and instead becomes a part of a new preserved work - never to be reprinted except as part of the prose text that includes the poem? This happens in cases when the poem has not been preserved elsewhere, when the poet's works (Collected Poems, etc) are not reprinted, or when the poem is not anthologized. But in the case of canonical (no matter how tenuously) poems, why is a prose text that quotes the poem not the final text?

AHB: there's an act that says, here is a poem. The poet first says so, presents the work as poem. Then the reader say, this is a poem. It is interesting that a poem defines its territory. A lot of poems 'look like poems', having lines and stanzas. People have sometimes read my poems written in prose as having lines, due to how the sentences fit with the margins (tho line lengths is wholly arbitrary, certainly not produced by a musical or metric reckoning). WCW threw prose and poetry together in a number of works (Spring and All, Kora in Hell, Paterson). In his case, there is a right tension between the two, I mean gravitational. Whereas a critical work, say, quoting a piece, that's kind of the opposition of right and left brain: the two modes remain discrete. Seems like part of a word, newly found, by Sappho, would be regarded as a poem, just because we have this cultural acceptance. I've pretty much gone awk awk regarding the boundaries. A poem is this intense coalescing, a monadic chunk of language. Whereas prose is always rewriteable. I think your last question has something to do with left brain / right brain, but this is wicked slippery territory for me. Suffice to say that I probably can't suffice to say.


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