Monday, December 22, 2008


JH: Why do I not write a poem daily or yearly? Writing one poem a month is not a plan of mine. Once I write a poem, I spend time reading it by itself and in relation to other poems of mine (especially poems closely preceding it). The next poem I write isn't necessarily influenced by the previous poem. I don't begin a new poem until my thoughts of the previous poem are no longer in the forefront. The rhythm of this permits, so far, about one poem a month. When writing a series the poems follow each other more closely, chronologically and otherwise. My Virginia poems are not part of a series in this sense. I don't have a plan for the Virginia poems as a whole. In the last two years, I've only written six Virginia poems. It may be I am taking longer to read the figure that is Virginia. "Beneath The Ray" may be compared to "Mimicry In Ruins" (see Antic View #130 and #131). "Beneath The Ray" possibly quotes individual words, "Mimicry In Ruins" possibly quotes phrases. How to relate certain words within "Beneath The Ray" to each other to make an interpretation or a reading (is the difference between an interpretation and a reading a matter of degrees, with a reading occurring upon a person's seeing and/or hearing a text, and an interpretation requiring posteriority to a reading?)? The double meaning of "lyrist", one who plays on the lyre and/or one who composes lyrical poetry, in the second sentence is not invalidated by the appearance of "lyre" in the fourth sentence. If "lyrist" in "her lyrist" means an author of lyrics, it is possible that, if the second appearance of the word "her" refers to "Virginia" and not "rose", Virginia's mentions were authored by another. If "lyrist" in this case refers to the player of a lyre, this doesn't mean the lyrist isn't also a lyrist, or that Virginia's mentions weren't authored by a third lyrist (if indeed there are words accompanying the lyre). In "Beneath The Ray", the words "higher", "brighter", and "brightest" imply a hierarchy of lyrists. How to return to every single word in a poem ("O, the constancy of the rose, and how like imaginings!")? Within a poem, the first appearance of each recurring word is a lost Arcadia.

AHB: I learn from your method, which is not so much foreign to me as unthought of, or not yet incorporated in how I work. Periodically I look thru my archives, and by that I mean the last 9 years (since I met my wife, uncoincidentally: I almost never consult work before then), I find individual poems and working themes, that I ‘take back’, accept now. But I do not have a plan, nor have I the time to delve the mass (I await the MacArthur Foundation’s check). Each poem is a particular event (I started to use seems like as the verb but indeed I
), derived from previous events, each being a poem. I can see how you would say that your Virginia poems are not a series, still, they represent a consistency of your attention. I would love to see your work en masse, collected. Charles Olson did not just write Maximus poems, and he discarded a number that I think belong in them (I guess we have to trust George Butterick in this matter, and I do, but still…). The Maximus Poems highlight and asseverate Olson’s field of attention, or I mean focus. In sticking with the igniting energy as you do, you allow a fulfillment of the line of your thinking. I have long wished to find my Maximus/Cantos/A/Leaves of Grass, etc. Days Poem(makes a great gift!!!) is a microcosm of that possibility, it was each day’s attention span. It was also a wearing effort that I could not sustain in that form. I want to try staying with a poem in the way that you do. My writing is constantly an experiment, in a very plain sense of the word: a test to see if the present articulation provides a path. As usual, I am talking about myself, but I do want to remark on the short pieces that you have lately writ. ‘Mere’ sentences, which look so sparse and hopeless of endeavour, yet the Donne-like twists of their syntax and waywarding is lovely and new. Do you have a sense of these pieces in their brevity expanse, I mean in the concentrating poetic which endures in them? Oh, I imagine that you do…


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