Friday, March 02, 2007


JH: Thanks! The names in "The Recital" are from the Appius and Virginia story (the tale of a Virginia who was the daughter of a centurion named Virginius. Virginius killed Virginia to save her from Appius Claudius Crassus, a decemvir - a member of a group of ten judges, which is said to have been the beginning of the end of the office of decemvir), first found in Livy, and repeated in many elsewheres. The 14 lines the characters tell are lines from 14 sonnets. The first line in "The Recital" is from the first line of a sonnet, the second line is from the second line of a different sonnet, continuing in this manner to the 14th line, which is from the 14th line of a 14th sonnet. Here are the authors used, and their sonnets, in order of appearance:

1. Barnabe Barnes "ah sweet content..." from sonnet 46 of "Parthenophil and Parthenophe"
2. Matthew Arnold "we ask and ask..." from "Shakespeare"
3. Christina Rossetti "loathsome and foul..." from "The World"
4. Sir Thomas Wyatt "do never appear..." from sonnet beginning "Some fouls there be"
5. Sir Walter Raleigh "my lost delights..." from sonnet beginning "Like truthless dreams"
6. Edgar Allan Poe "how many thoughts..." from "Sonnet - To Zante"
7. John Milton "and at thy growing virtues..." from sonnet 9
8. George Meredith "now the black planet..." from "Lucifer In Starlight"
9. Samuel Daniel "The world shall find..." from sonnet 33 of "Delia"
10. Robert Southey "restless through Fortune's..." from sonnet beginning "With many a weary step, at length I gain"
11. William Shakespeare "ruin hath taught me..." from Sonnet 64
12. Elizabeth Barrett Browning "Some prescience..." from Sonnet 20 of "Sonnets from the Portuguese"
13. George Gascoigne "each hour a day..." from Sonnet 2 of "Alexander Nevile delivered him this theame... whereupon hee compiled these seven Sonets in sequence..." (sequence begins with
"In haste poste haste, when first my wandring minde"
14. Ezra Pound "as white their bark..." from "A Virginal"

Each line from a sonnet is offered complete and largely unchanged from how it is found in editions of the author's poems: I modernized the spelling in the lines by Wyatt, Raleigh, Milton, Daniel, and Gascoigne, and I did not retain capitalization of the first word of any of the sonnet lines, nor did I retain end punctuation. In all of the Arnold editions I consulted, the "Thou" of the second line of his sonnet "Shakespeare" was capitalized, but I did not retain this capitalization. My lower-casing of the lines' initial letter led me to question if "ruin" in Shakespeare's sonnet 64 was an apostrophe. I retained capitalization of the apostrophe "Fortune" and the proper noun "Arctic". Although "Time" is an apostrophe in sonnet 64, I decided not to present "ruin" as an apostrophe. This brings to mind the existence of concealed apostrophe - an apostrophe that occurs only in a position where any word is capitalized. Such an apostrophe could be made made explicit by content that would encourage the reader to infer the word is an apostrophe, and/or by other apostrophes within the poem's lines. I use lower-case letters in my poems except for apostrophes, proper nouns, and dialogue within quotation marks. I use punctuation in my poems only when grammatically necessary; that is to say, where it pertains to the meaning of the line, to create discrete units. However, in my prose poems, so far, I use standardized sentence capitalization and punctuation. It's the presence of the line as opposed to the sentence (and vice-versa) that dictates my decisions on capitalization and punctuation. Speaking of ambiguity, the Laurel Poetry Series edition of Edgar Allan Poe's poetry (1959. Edited by Richard Wilbur, who was also the general editor of this series from Dell Publishing Company, Inc.) has line 3 of "Sonnet - To Zante" as identical with line 6, making the first six lines read

Fair isle, that from the fairest of all flowers,
Thy gentlest of all gentle names dost take!
How many thoughts of what entomb├ęd hopes!
At sight of thee and thine at once awake!
How many scenes of what departed bliss!
How many thoughts of what entomb├ęd hopes!

In addition to the new poem this typo presents, it changes the scheme of "The Recital" - the sixth line of "The Recital" is the sixth line of this "To Zante", and it is also the third line. What does unforeseen expansion do to form, to allusion, to quotation? Moving on to the plot, the action, of "The Recital", it can be envisioned as a theatre performance (the script of which is in the past tense, and lacks stage direction). The "bark" of "white bark" Virginia mentions could refer to white in lines 3 and 12 ("white" does not appear as a word in line 3, but "leprosy" is associated with white -see, for example, Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" line 192 "Her skin was white as leprosy"). Line 8 contains the word "snows", which is associated with white, but these snows are shadowed by the black planet. Association further expands the reading of a poem, as "white" could conceivably be associated with other words in other lines in this poem (after all, the word "their" of "their white bark" can admit two or a million). On the level of the sonnet, "The Recital" retains the sonnet by Barnabe Barnes, to use the first instance, but obscures 13 of the lines with other lines, 13 bodies overshadowing 99 percent of sonnet 46 from "Parthenophil and Parthenophe".

AHB: procedure fascinates me. Your use of sonnet is apt, as that form seems to be a re(con)straint for the writer, I mean beyond the metre/rhyme formality. A sonnet tends to be a specific occasion. I'm thinking of the sonnet writing contests that those rowdy English Romantics used to get all up side of. A sonnet seems to quantify an emotion or emotional moment in a formal, stylized way. It is that stylization that comes thru in your poem. Back to thoughts of procedure, I've used flarfian procedure to make poems. That means not just googling for phrases, but maintaining an attitude (just as the sonnet writer has an attitude towards the poem's subject, lofty and enriched). The procedure allows a letting go, not just of my vocabulary (by using the found words) but also my poem-making attitude. I'm not commenting on the real flarf writers, just myself, tho I will say that those who force the flarf writers to fulfill their own manifestos (what the real flarf writers have said about their work), or who invent manifestos for the flarfsters to fulfill, are just playing games with limits. Your poem here, and the way you often work, is a skewed re-visioning. You remove the lines from their born context, yet their nature is not obliterated. A similar transformation can occur with googled poems, in which the reader recognizes the original context of the words, yet can perceive a synchronous event that partakes of those words while still distinguishing itself. I've diddled a little lately with the sort of ways you've gone. I haven't your patience, but it is an interesting method for me even so. There are other ways of letting the poem find itself. Jack Kimball has recently been collecting what he calls romantic spam. I can't remember the name of the person on the Wryting list who has been using a Bernadette Mayer procedure to collect sentences from listservs. These methods all advocate an eye for poetry, eye and ear that is. That the hike up Parnassus isn't always the same path. Basically, if a procedure makes people nervous, it has got to be good.


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