Monday, April 28, 2008


JH: I've yet to write a poem from beginning unceasingly to end. If a lyric takes hours to write, how is the poem's inspiration heard by its author? If a sonnet has, for instance, one hundred words, Erato could intone it under a quarter of an hour, though its sonneteer may take hours, in a day or over months, to complete the poem. Another hundred-word lyric may be written nigh-synchronous with its inspiration, and be as powerful as the sonnet in my example. In a poem there is an equivalence of nuance and definition. Definitions of a word lengthen with the shadows, and shade becomes foundation. One faces this when reading, and re-reading, a poem; one faces this when writing a poem. An author may record a poem's first appearance to his or her mind, the first reading, or an author may record a re-reading of this poem. In a re-reading, what happens to the first reading? If new information, minute or momentous, enters, as is inevitable, a re-reading, it is not a copy of the first reading. If by definition a poem is powerful, this is a lot of memory to discard, even if only one element is altered (this also applies to the re-reading of another's poem). What is the author who delays recording a poem's appearance until a given re-reading, whether the second or twenty-fifth, waiting for? Words can be altered once they are written; the literary does not prohibit re-reading.

AHB: I respond after a lengthy hiatus. Not writing is part of writing. The literary does not prohibit not writing. I have been busy but it is not as if I could not have stolen moments to limn a few lines in reply. That wonderful back cover blurb of O’Hara’s Lunch Poems comes to mind, with this picture of FO walking the New York streets, typing lines on stray Olivettis, and never missing lunch. I think this replies to your questions. There is a need to wait sometimes, to go inarticulate, to await the word itself. The poem knows its flowering just as does the mighty daffodil. I think how resistant I was to Pound’s chockablock, but not to Olson’s. Or Creeley, goodness! His work always betrayed the necessity of working within stricture, whether of form, or of thought pattern, or emotional inkling. Yet so much of his earlier work, parlaying rhyme and metre especially, that I could not abide. Only when Pieces showed some new (to me) extension, did I start to pay attention. I have been thinking much about Creeley lately, reading some but also reexamining my assumptions and previous ideas. What you say of the writer goes equally for the reader. What is a reader who delays recording a poem’s appearance until a given re-reading…?

You posted the following poem to the Wryting-L list. One listee wished that you had provided a translation. I get that, but I think he misses a possibility by not accepting the poem strictly on its own terms. Je parle un peu, but what if I did not have un poco Français? How would I to read this poem eh? (A friend of French-Canadian descent spoke of how his grandmother would say, I don’t know, me, more like a transition than translation into English. Just as my New England tongue actually bespeaks ay-yuh without my noticing. I could not ‘do’ a New English accent if you asked me). Your method with this piece, I know, is methodical random selection of lines. Do you have visions of readers approaching the texts like the Zukofskys approached Catullus?

The Pierre Corneille of Eugène Sue

«séduite» approuvez ma faiblesse, «encore» batailles; applaudir

«jaloux» aux murs d'Hécatompyle, «nous» vous; madame

«trompée» plus heureux le sceptre, «vainqueur» Parthes; Memphis

«batailles» occaison encor se renouvelle, «grotte» voyais; secours

«madame» mais puisque nous voici, «murs» jaloux; malheur

«Memphis» vainqueur vit ses prospérités, «plus» Pompée; trompée

«voyais» cette grotte obscure, «faiblesse» inquiétudes; séduite