Friday, October 27, 2006


JH: Thanks! "Babylon is falling to rise no more" is my favorite of my prose poems. I intend to write more prose poems, but this poem is not part of a series. The lacunae may come from the reader's keeping an eye out for progression. The three sentences are re-phrasals of each other, with any detail added not adding to the action but to what the reader lacks in omniscience. The reader doesn't know what the narrator will witness (in the sense of speaking, as well as observing) until the third sentence, or why the narrator is a lamb until the second sentence. More sentences could be added to supply what is lacking in knowledge: is the lamb meant figuratively or literally? was the narrator always a lamb? is Babylon the historical Babylon? why and how exactly did it fall?, etc. The two sentences indicate that the first sentence is not inclusive of all it purports to say.

The in-inclusiveness (uninclusiveness) is unavoidable, as the first sentence is not linguistically obscure. More sentences could be added, without increase of this indication. Each sentence in this prose poem is uninclusive: whence the cat? is the cat literal or figural? is "a cat may look at a king" a quotation of the folk saying commonly phrased in just those words? how many towers before the last tower? These are not unanswerable questions, they are unaskable questions, as the poem cannot possibly provide them answers in its present form, though were that form altered answers could be provided them. Were every conceivable question answered, would it still be a poem, prose poem or otherwise? What makes this a prose poem - what about it is prose? The term "poem in prose" is a synonym for "poem" since all written poems are written in prose. I feel that if "Babylon is falling to rise no more" were longer, it would cease to be a poem, and turn into prose. The indication of uninclusiveness with words containing their basic meanings is what makes this a poem. Additional sentences that provide detail explanatory of previous sentences without increase of indication, or additional sentences that do not provide this explanatory detail, would be extraneous to the poem. But could one not have a poem with a long prose tail indistinguishable in appearance from the heading poem, or a prose-appearing poem in any area of the prose? Would the poem be corrupted by this adjacent or surrounding prose? We see how poetry is already and constantly challenged by prose that is not even on the same page or in the same book. A poem's title, being in prose (or is it always in prose? If not, is it a separate poem acting as an epigraph and thus a quotation and thus prose?), threatens the poem. Is a poem what is threatened, by the reader, by the poet, and by all that is not the poem, including poetry?

AHB: Some years ago I reached a point when the lessons of my reading got too weighty. reading commentary, particularly that of the LANGUAGE poets, was useful but it forced rules on me (a poem is this). so finally I just let constraint go and allowed that prose could be poetry, and prose was comfortable for me. but is it that easy? there is this tension of the word, to turn from 'ordinary usage' to poetry. this shows especially when language is appropriated. the use of search engines to create works is one means of appropriation, and there are lots of other ways, as well. the following is a find-and-replace job I did yesterday.


An electronic poetics has a sexual innuendo and has a poetry-sensitive "rhyme scheme" surrounding the sexual innuendo. Areas on the "rhyme scheme" are designated for controls used to operate the electronic poetics. Visual guides corresponding to the controls are sexual innuendoed on the sexual innuendo adjacent the areas of the "rhyme scheme" designated for the controls. poetry data is generated by the "rhyme scheme" when a user poetries an area of the "rhyme scheme". The poetics determines which of the controls has been selected based on which designated area is associated with the poetry data from the "rhyme scheme". The poetics then initiates the determined control. The poetics can have a sensor for determining the orientation of the poetics. Based on the orientation, the poetics can alter the areas designated on the "rhyme scheme" for the controls and can alter the location of the visual guides for the sexual innuendo so that they match the altered areas on the "rhyme scheme".
* * ** *

I suppose it may 'mean' something to the reader to know that the source text is the abstract to the patent for the iPod. but this is a poem because... why? 1) I said so. 2) the tension between its structure and its meaning. that is, the stiff dry language of the original remains in the background, at odds with the replaced words and my 'poetic intent'. I should mention that someone suggested that I misspell rhyme one time, a glitch to throw off the sense of the mechanical (in the way that knitters are supposed to blow a stitch, to show that the work isn't by a machine). poetry is threatened, yes, and poetry threatens right back. I think poetry IS the tension thus created. I think our minds constantly perform the boolean as we read: we look at writing as one or tother. of course it could be both, but that may be too much to wrap around.


At 8:53 AM, Blogger Anny Ballardini said...

A lamb, am I, to witness Babylon is falling to rise no more; a lamb to witness as a cat may look at a king; with the descent of Her last tower Babylon, I'll claim, disappeared hugely with such a burst my ear has a wolf's pang for its like again.

I did not comment on this poem. Also because I cannot keep on b/c-ing Jeff with an appreciation of his words, it might get too repetitive... (sort of Paganini-like style)
I am happy to hear that this is one of JH's favorite poems, and that he intends to write more. Since he says that the lacunae (lack of a series for "Babylon is falling to rise no more") might be due to the reader's distracted eye, I thought it was important to leave a further note.


Post a Comment

<< Home