Saturday, December 09, 2006


JH: In "The Edward Gibbon of Phillis Wheatley", portions of poem titles by Phillis Wheatley are replaced by passages from Edward Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". A Gibbon passage replaces one letter or multiple letters which may or may not form a word. In TO THE KING'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY. 1768., the word "the" is replaced with a passage containing the word "the". Some passages contain the letters needed to spell the word it replaces. In these cases, the passage does not replace the word, but the word in the title, being, in the passage, surrounded by different letters and words. The passages, in this manner, may mirror words from other titles. Titles may mirror words from other titles, and passages words from other passages. There will be more actions in more poems in this series, which is the same unnamed series that include such poems as

"The Wasps of Zane Grey"

"Shakespeare Sonnets of Francois Mauriac"

"The Seven Wonders of Max Beerbohm"

Phillis Wheatley wrote in English, not her native language, the native language of Edward Gibbon. To use a word in any language is to possibly use the word that has appeared in the literature of that language. To write a word is to use the letters that have appeared in the literature of that language. This is unavoidable, but why would a poet, or a reader, want to visit texts of the past? If this conscious visitation of texts is unavoidable too, wouldn't there be a minimum number of past texts to read, with a very few random texts thrown in according to a reader's interests and access? Why the desire to read widely, or to re-read? Also, why would an author wish to quote an earlier text -- "quote" in the sense of appropriate, as well in the sense of an epigraph occurring anywhere in the text?

AHB: I have found that when I'm walking the dog or otherwise separated from writing implements, instead of lines of poetry, I think of possible Google searches. do you, in similar circs, think up methodologies? and—here's the whizbang question—do you consider that idea a poem? When I think of Google searches that I might try, or lines of poetry, something extends infinitely into poem space, a perfect poem, say. I am not so adept that I can predict how a Google search may turn out, nor can I guess that ensuing lines that I think of will be as enticing as that 1st one that lightning bolted to me. but the potential remains. when younger, I read widely out of a sense of duty. I'm less inclined now to read that way. a for instance would be my reading Eliot, who I had a bias against from the start. I read him, and begrudged him this and that, recognizing the prejudice under which I read him. perhaps tabula rasa could happen enough so that I might dip in more amenably. in fact, I did do that with Ginsberg. quoting is an interesting matter. quotes often are the most poetic parts of a poem. by which I mean, the most self-contained. one quotes for the eminent solidity of the phrase. perhaps too for the allusion and collision involved, invoking this writer at this time. I've done a lot of embedding in the so called novels that I've written, slipping in quotes from here and there that mayn't in the context be obvious to the reader. it's not so much a personal allusion as an invention of a universe of connections. if you've ever read Guy Davenport, you just about get swamped with intersections of people, who knew who and what not. when Jackson Mac Low used a specific text to serve an aleatoric work, he expects some meaning from that text, even tho his random exercise could largely eradicate the original text. poem space, where poems are...


At 2:47 PM, Blogger Anny Ballardini said...

You got me Allen, with that _google search_ to which I should add Wikipedia, ...
or my wish to read everything, I will never succeed in that, and unopened books just pile up.
As to write it all,


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