Wednesday, August 16, 2006


JH: The title of that poem is "The Ducks of Cotton Mather". Others in this series include The Birds of Nikolai Gogol, Sharks of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, The Roller Coasters of Phillis Wheatley, The Wasps of Zane Grey, The Etiquette of Erle Stanley Gardner, The Geological Time of Aphra Behn, The Poisons of Felicia Hemans, Shakespeare Sonnets of Francois Mauriac, and The Comets of Edward Albee. I take a category, such as ducks, and write a description of individuals within that group. The descriptions are headed with titles of works by the author named in the title. Why use authors instead of just titling the poem "Ducks" or some such? To double myself as author, functionally. All description, prosaic or poetic, alters what is described. To place an author before myself in the poem - the name sharing the title with the subject and the titles of the author's works heading the description - allows me, personally, perhaps, rather than theoretically (theoretical: what is an attempt to prove, to persuade; the wildest theory mimicking an instruction manual or a handbook entry in intent... and the personal unable to persuade due to lack of empirical evidence; one can attempt to prove Freemasons are running the United States - or how a particular helmet can protect one from alien mind-control rays, the directions for construction bearing this information in themselves - and back it up with evidence outside of the author's head, but you cannot prove to an audience that the reason you are a murderer is an abusive childhood) to treat the subject ventriloquilly, how Jeff Harrison would write of ducks while keeping Cotton Mather continually in mind (or rather, the works of Cotton Mather as they've come to my attention). This series is personally procedural more than it is physically procedural. My explanation of GRANDUNCLES OF THE CATTLETRADE can be supported by comparison of the poems, the movement of their words are described by the commentary. My explanation of poems in the series (as yet unnamed) that includes The Ducks of Cotton Mather cannot be proven. Procedures, physical and personal, assist me in seeing the poetic, in regarding the poetic apart from the poem - the poem a shadow or halo of the poetic, the poetic a shadow or halo of the poem. Lines crop up for these poems, poems that are in a particular series, ("St. John Chapter Eight, Verse Six & Eight" is another series of mine) and no other. What do series say about the poetic? Why lines, themes, and approaches for a certain kind of poem and not for another? Do you consider poems that fall outside of series as more integrally poetic, or otherwise preferable? Procedure, and series, as an alembic, and poems that fall further from the author as purer? What of recurring characters? Do they but resemble series, or are they a series?

AHB: There's something time-fluid about series that seems necessary to me, I mean for me. a stand alone poem seems to drift, whereas in series, an anchoring proposition exists. I realize this is an odd attitude, for I surely see single poems by others as being complete (I was going to say universes but that's too forceful and imaginary). I feel I must relate all my work, ALL of it, as if each work were an unfinished sentence, accumulating towards some whole. I might be defining myself too carefully here. maybe I note a tonal consistency in series, or standpoint perhaps. but let me return to the time-fluid idea. series instigate commitment, for reader and writer, an involvement in passage. that attracts me. everyone has flashes, 'inspiration'. the returns, when one is not guided by that magnetic example, these are the work of the artist, where the artist thoughtfully configures the gift. does this sound fuzzy? in your series, you have a flash of how to proceed. you then labour to hold that flash. and by doing that, you extend the moment. recurring characters, images and themes propose solidities, touchstones. perhaps you are right, series as alembic, as the author falls away and what remains are the themes and characters, the word with living intent. whew!!! see how out of my water I am in speaking of this.


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