Thursday, April 20, 2006


JH: A "monadic chunk of language" is an excellent definition of a poem! And that's an excellent point about prose being always rewritable - once a poem is through, then it's through. What then of different versions of a poem - are they different poems with similar lines, or an art project whereby parts of the poem are covered with new words and/or erasures? And, speaking of prose commentary, which, prose or poetry, provides the dead end for textual commentary? Can one go on and speaking about poetry, or must one eventually stop and defer to mystery? Or does prose cause commentary to end first? And whatever isn't the dead end, what kind of commentary keeps it in play - prose or poetry? When discussion stops, does it turn into allusion? Is the act of quotation (as in excerpt) prose or poetry? How much can a poem be commentary before its innards turn to prose?

AHB: Sometimes different versions of poems are different poems, more often they illustrate process. Emily Dickinson gave variant word choices in the fascicles she made of her texts. And those were each new poems. Like coming to a fork in the road and taking both options. When I've done flarfy things, I go thru a lot of intermediate steps. Those steps could be poems themselves, and radically different from the other steps. I haven't always retained those steps, they're gone. Some artist I read about in one of Peter Schjeldahl's collection of art reviews did a work which consisted of boxes in which works were placed. Supposedly this artist made new works to place in the boxes. These boxes were never to be opened but somehow it was important actually to do this, make new works that would never be seen. Making the gesture concrete, I guess. A poet has the freedom of saying anything is a poem. A reader can't really say no to that, but the reader can certainly declare that poem of no interest. Which is a position one should be wary of, critical surety being a step towards dogmatic limitation. Yes, you finally defer to mystery. Prose answers, but poetry doesn't.


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