Saturday, May 24, 2008


JH: In "The Pierre Corneille of Eugène Sue", the first line of each couplet is the title of a Eugène Sue novel. In the second line of each couplet, the first word in quotation marks is followed by a sequence of words from the first instance of speech in a Pierre Corneille play, and the second word in quotation marks is followed by one word from the second instance of speech in that Corneille play, as is the semicolon. Capitalization in the play's lines, except for proper nouns, is reduced to lower-case, and punctuation marks found in the play have been removed. The chronology of word order in a "The Pierre Corneille of Eugène Sue" couplet is the same as that of the Corneille play - the word following the semicolon doesn't precede the word following the final quotation mark.

Each word in quotation marks is from another couplet's second line. A word after a line's final quotation mark is quoted at the beginning of another line. The second quoted word is from the phrase between another line's quoted words.

couplet one partakes of couplet seven and four.
couplet two partakes of couplet five.
couplet three partakes of couplet six.
couplet seven partakes of couplet four and one.

schema of the above:

couplet 1. couplets seven, four
2. five
3. six
4. one, seven
5. two
6. three
7. four, one

I garnered words from Theatre choisi de Corneille (Editions Garnier Frères, 1961):

1. Horace
2. Suréna
3. Rodogune
4. Nicomède
5. Le Menteur
6. La Mort de Pompée
7. L'Illusion comique

No word outside of quotation marks is used twice, nor does a line share a word with a title. The pair of words after a line's final quotation mark mirror the instance of words in quotation marks. So far, I've written two other poems in this series, "The Jean Racine of Georges Simenon" and "The Victor Hugo of Jules Verne". The selection of words for these poems are invisible: the Verne, Simenon, and Sue titles that were not chosen are invisible, and all Hugo, Racine, and Corneille titles are invisible; the words in the Hugo, Racine, and Corneille plays that were not selected for inclusion are invisible. The selection of words within these poems are visible: the words not placed in quotation marks are visible.

I intend to write more poems in this series, which is part of a larger series containing poems like "The Ducks of Cotton Mather" (see Antic View #84) and "The Edward Gibbon of Phillis Wheatley" (see Antic View #103). This series allows for development. For example,


"The Victor Hugo of Jules Verne" mimics "The Pierre Corneille of Eugène Sue". Five of the couplets in both poems share words:

Couplet one. "séduite" is quoted in both. "encor" appears and is not quoted in "The Victor Hugo of Jules Verne", and is quoted in "The Pierre Corneille of Eugène Sue".

Couplet two. "jaloux" is quoted in the same position in both.

Couplet three. "vainqueur" appears and is not quoted in "The Victor Hugo of Jules Verne", and is quoted in "The Pierre Corneille of Eugène Sue". In both poems, "Memphis" appears and is not quoted (in "The Victor Hugo of Jules Verne", it is before the semicolon; in "The Pierre Corneille of Eugène Sue", it is after the semicolon).

Couplet five. "jaloux" is in the same position in both. "madame" is quoted at the beginning of this couplet's second line in "The Pierre Corneille of Eugène Sue", and appears (capitalized, as it is in the source edition of Hugo's "Angelo, Tyran De Padoue", where "Madame" is the last word of a sentence; in the Corneille source edition "Suréna", "madame" is not capitalized) and is not quoted at the end of this couplet's second line in "The Victor Hugo of Jules Verne".

Couplet six. "vainqueur" is quoted in "The Victor Hugo of Jules Verne", and appears and is not quoted in "The Pierre Corneille of Eugène Sue".

(The source edition for the second line of "The Victor Hugo of Jules Verne" couplets is the 1964 Pléiade edition of Victor Hugo's complete plays.

1. Hernani
2. Lucrèce Borgia
3. Irtamène
4. Ruy Blas
5. Angelo, Tyran De Padoue
6. Amy Robert
7. Marie Tudor)

One need not know the language to read the poems in this series (which it has in common with many of the poems in my series GRANDUNCLES OF THE CATTLETRADE - see examples in Otoliths issues four and five). Readers could approach these poems like the Zukofskys approached Catullus, and the form would remain the same. In these poems, can the dictionary definition of the words be anything more than coincidental with the form, such as, in "The Pierre Corneille of Eugène Sue", "encor", "murs", "plus", "séduite", etc.? What do the coincidental (with the form) meanings of these words do to the meanings of the other words? Do the quoted words bring their phrases with them? Do they bring their Corneille plays with them? Speaking of the Zukofskys, you mentioned one of them in your superb poem

"Unpwned Momentum on Worcester", posted to the Wryting-L list:

accept these jet skies. remain unpwned but
surround a topic with servile pleas, for instants.
the dam seeps sanely. a whiff of common
ground seems like poem. no one relies
on Louis Zukofsky except
when the dread of melting seems
most dire. we relate in penned
moments, and come again. this sex
that stills the waters also ignites them.
those waters, sour when the rain is old,
charges us supremely.
we wr ite of daffy fiends, nuclear almonds,
cousinly trapdoors, and more than
enough. enough is a surcharge yet
when we exceed, primroses, pure as
water. water went the way, into the
breath of Worcester. we write
poems as staggering targets, gullies
for freshets, lapsed pining in the daily
reward program. such reefs and poems
that we assay, trying times but love
intends. it has this hold, it is
our boat. we right in deed and that's our
place. place is the name. such, that is,
that Worcester, least of all, can
hold. Zukofsky rips a
new one there, every day.


You've written many Worcester poems. Could you speak about them, please, in addition to "Unpwned Momentum on Worcester"?

AHB: There is an obsessive necessity in your methodical details, which fascinates me. And that your work indicates the boundaries, or possibilities, of the thing there. That thing being the presence, or present, of a poem.
Regarding my poem, I wonder if I meant jet skis when writing it. Maybe not. I feel real edgy in using the negative of pwned, pwned being a word I got from my son’s vast experience of internet communication and gaming. I began writing about the Worcester series for you but that was only descriptive of what I had done so far, not useful, so I dumped it. I realized that I didn’t know why I was writing the series, what was pulling me. I can reveal that the poems are, modestly so far, a collaboration. I have been instructed to call my collaborator “an unnamed correspondent”. This person is en scene, and inspires and informs what I have written. I have taken words therefrom, as well. The Worcester poems, still in progress, continue in their way from my Brockton Poems, which were written full 8 years ago, in the early blush of my late blooming (I sort of rebecame a poet in 1999). I should explain that Charles Olson, Frank O’Hara, Elizabeth Bishop, Abbie Hoffman, Robert Benchley (Benchley being a surprisingly strong influence on my writing) all lived in Worcester, as did rocketman Robert Goddard, and John Adams taught there. And when Freud and Jung visited the US together, where did they go? Clark University, in the 2nd largest city in Massachusetts. Shades of Guy Davenport. It is a basis, let us say, Worcester is, for poetic cogitations and divagations, if not method. Thus I have Zukofsky in its midst, and so forth, as can be seen. This all directly goes against your own more considered methodology, I know, but I think we arrive at similar places, i.e., the poetic.
As I wrote about the Worcester series, in what I discarded, I relished the specifics of my method and interest. Which are participles of the work but are more rumours than dynamic instances. This is problematic for me. My anecdotal evidence of a working means does not seem useful to others, or is so only in haphazard. I find a keenness in your description of your method. My Worcester series stems from an eagerness. I think clarity would come the more I work on it, and the more I intrude my correspondent’s input. I should add (because it may look suspect) that the correspondent is a real person not a literary device, and it was this person’s choice to be referred to thusly.