Thursday, March 15, 2007


JH: I'm looking forward to reading Open Elegy. Could you say something about Open Elegy, please? Your comparison of a poem notebook to a diary is apt. A notebook in which one writes poems (and I, for one, transcribe finished poems into a spiral notebook, then throw the drafts away) resembles a diary in being a record of personal action, especially if variants of individual poems are part of the notebook, and/or if pensées are interspersed. What are your notebook habits, past and present and wishful? Mine have always been the same. I may some day publish a poem with variants appended. Are you interested in variants? Should every poem include variants? An unobtrusive means would be a note below the poem giving line and word variants, in chronological order if more than one per instance. Why, if I'm interested in variants, haven't I done this, or kept private records of my variants? I'm interested in variants other than my own, I suppose. But readers may be interested in my variants, which goes to the idea of publishing one's poems in case others might be interested in them. It is submitting to an interest other than your own, a potential, even unhoped-for, interest. Publication, variants, -- what are other things a reader may receive? Poetics, an explanation of individual poems, notes on references, auto/biographical information, and the poet's publishing history. These are incidental to the poem, and may be fictional. Could there be a fictional poem -- that is, a poem that is not a poem? Is a poem certain characteristics (lineation, non-prosaic use of language, announcement that this is a poem, etc) plus a reader? An author may create what could be defined as a fictional poem as a hoax and criticism (an example is Ern Malley) or to create a literary reputation (which raises the question, is literature the safety net beneath poetry?).

AHB: Open Elegy is a short series of poems I wrote last fall, under the influence of someone's death. I did post the poems to Wryting (I post pretty much everything I feel is finished there). I like the series, but it was more of an exercise, working with And I got to typeset, use my own photo for the cover and otherwise make decisions. And it is a pleasure to see the work in a finished shape. As to notebooks, I've used all sort of strategies with them. I've done inclusive ones, in which everything goes in: journal entries, poems, notes, doodles. And I've kept notebooks segregated. The segregation practice tends to fall apart because I'll want a notebook quickly and be unable to find the appropriate one. I like pocket-sized notebooks (like from Muleskine: love those) to carry with me. I used to disdain hardbound journals, and stayed strictly with spiral bound notebooks, but I've broadened my view. In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, we get a shot of Indy's father's journal: filled with notes and drawings and sheets tipped in: it's my vision of the perfect notebook. my use of notebooks tends to be incidental, off the top of my head. At a time when I wasn't writing much poetry, I still kept a notebook in which, every night before I went to sleep, I wrote 2 or 3 little poems. I'm interested that you discard your drafts. Why do you discard? In essence, I do this too, because when I make changes, I overwrite the previous version on the computer. When I worked with a typewriter, I scrupulously (as scrupulously as I can be, at least) numbered and kept each draft. I always dated the draft, and for some reason, noted the line count. I guess you don't consider the possibility of going back to a previous version. It is fascinating to see how a work evolves, that was something I liked in the Paris Review pictures of manuscript pages, tho mine doesn't evolve much anymore. What changes I make now tend to be cosmetic: typos and maybe some line adjustments. I kind of think of my notebook poems as fictional. They rarely get a real life, insofar as I don't often even type them out. Many of my notebooks went to the Ohio State archive that John Bennett oversees: they are completely out of my hands now. It sounds like what's in the notebooks are ready to publish when the opportunity arises. Do yiu have a publication plan of attack of some sort?


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