Sunday, April 08, 2007


JH: Only the best questions for the best answers, then! I try to give to poetry what I suppose is poetry's, and to poetics what belongs to poetics. Poetry exists as its own object, with its readable properties evocative rather than referential. Allusions in a poem to historical and literary events are as coincidental as any of the words used. Immoderate polysemy, whether unavoidable by the author or imposed by the reader, does not destroy a poem, whereas it turns prose from informative to formless. Form in prose is its meaning, which comes from without, from the reader. Form in poetry is its line - in the individual line, in each individual line. This form is replicated from line to line, and an allusion to form is made in any patterning that may exist, such as assonance and alliteration, stanzas and cantos, sestina and sonnet. Any prose sentence requires the definition, dictionary or personal, received or exploratory, of all the words in that sentence. Poetry allows this only as it is a text that can be read, and requires something that would stop it from being poetry, but this has yet to be found. The self-sufficiency of poetry admits poetry's definition only tautologically: poetry is poetry because it has something, poetry, that prevents it from being prose. This is why poetry is not "prose plus X". Can this consideration of poetry and prose be extended to the consideration of the line and the sentence? Is enjambment another punctuation sign? If so, what makes it unique to poetry?

AHB: I learned enjambment from Creeley, tho it was actually from you that I learned the word itself. Enjambment provides breath and anticipation to poetry. It supplies a punctuating function but I don't think of it exactly as punctuation. Enjambment is not a full impedance, as punctuation marks are, but rather something like a subliminal hint. Pound cautions the reader not to stop heavily on Browning's line ends because you'll lose the prose sense of his lines. Browning did not think so much in the line but in the sentence, yet his writing was poetry. Browning filled the space between lines, which seems like the definition of enjambment. I shift words a fair amount in rewriting my lineated work to play the enjambments the way I hear them. I read recently that Ben Jonson wrote his poems in prose first, then versified. He wanted the thinking clear before he proceeded to formating. Prose unreels itself in a measured way. One races from one mark to the next, obeying each one. Even wild, adventurous prose proceeds thus. Poetry lives by its metric, its breath. Even Aram Saroyan's lighght has a metric. In fact, you can call its doubling an enjambment, a suggestion of time in the word. In a public reading recently, I read a lot of prose pieces, and suffered Dark Night of Soul(tm) about how this prose was received by an audience expecting poetry. Perhaps I work a sort of enjambment by not fulfilling prose's completion. “Good English” is taught with the idea of complete thoughts. The stretch of words from the initial capital to the period is suppose to be complete. which is fata morganna, but the directive of prose proceeds with the illusion. Whereas poetry, as you suggest above, isn't so clearly delimited. Such work that allows for expansive, inconclusive meaning is poetry, whether in strict sentences or whatever. That's my expert opinion.


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