Friday, August 21, 2009


JH: An excellent definition of poetry, your "A poem is a surprise in the words you live with"! Is surprise, or perplexity (perhaps a facet of surprise), the same height as reading, hearing, or interpreting a poem? Is the divide between a poem's poet and public illustrative of the ideal plurality of reading (or hearing) a poem? Is surprise one of the responses that brings a poem into the light after it is written? Is the poem an obscurity that no light can illuminate? What is observed when one encounters a poem? Only the poem, recognized as being a poem, and any allusions, personal or historical, one adds to the poem. Recognition and ventriloquism, and recognition through ventriloquism, this is what is observed when one encounters a poem. Recognition and ventriloquism lie atop a poem, what lies beneath? AHB: A poem is an obscurity that no light can illuminate, indeed. Within that obscurity is the life of words, primeval, primordial, prime. In this picture, surprise is energy of involvement, of noticing the actions of words and our confrontation with them. Words as microbes, or something. Well, this seems to bring me to a recent poem of yours.

For Us Tempunauts

William Collins' Ode To Fear, to dissuade John Wilkes Booth
Youth And The Bright Medusa, to allay Lizzie Borden
Helen of Egypt, to daunt Cesare Borgia
Winesburg, Ohio, to dissuade John Wilkes Booth

Lycidas, to hinder Elizabeth Bathory

Baudelaire's Poe, to deter Gilles de Rais
The Case Of The Negligent Nymph, to allay Lizzie Borden
Would Une Semaine de Bonté turn aside Cain's hand?

The Ballad Of The Sad Café, to daunt Cesare Borgia
The Left Hand Of Darkness, to dissuade John Wilkes Booth
Milton's Lycidas, to hinder Sawney Beane

The Age Of Innocence, to daunt Cesare Borgia

Baudelaire's Poe, to deter Charlotte Corday
John Milton's Lycidas, to hinder Gary Gilmore

* * * * *

I have read me some Philip K. Dick, but did not recognize the reference to a story of his in the title. What is familiar to me is placed in unfamiliar (surprising) relationship here. The collisions and intersections here are invitingly baffling. And presented in something like a sonnet form. I want to present another of your poems that appeared on Wryting-L.


Issuance, pathless you had been
Unlikeness, pathless you had been
Nightingale, pathless you had been
Allurement, pathless you had been

And from whose hand, imposture, your voice?

Of fable, my words, and of my words, no fable
Of Virginia,my words, and of my words, no Virginia
Oh, for a verse to height sable Virginia with fêtes!
Of fêtes, my words, and of fêtes, no expectation

Reverie heights hours rich with imposture, cypress heights a shade
And from whose hand, nightingale, your voice?
Polis heights error, wilderness (heart or nail) heights voyage

First, you use the word porphyry more than I ever have, I am sure typing the title was the first time I ever writ the word. Beyond that, the weird rhythm, as of a rite, for instance The Tibetan Book of the Dead. You may now explain the procedure behind or beneath this gem.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


JH: The sonnet "Five Unicorns And A Pearl" has three lines that are repeated three times each ("Gertrude Stein, Three Lives", "Edmund Wilson, The Triple Thinkers", and "John Dos Passos, Three Soldiers"), two lines that are repeated twice each ("Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales" and "William Dean Howells, My Mark Twain"), and one line that appears only once ("Henry James, The Portrait Of A Lady"). I chose the titles that are half of the lines in order to name their lines. The "My" of "My Mark Twain" implies "one", certainly, bringing the polyvalence of language into the poem ("My" also refers to the lyric "I"). The title of the poem, "Five Unicorns And A Pearl", is also the title of a diary in Carl Jacobi's story "Revelations In Black" (first published in Weird Tales in 1933). The impetus for this poem was my wanting to write a poem whose lines equaled a one, a pair of two, and a trio of three. These numbers add up to fourteen, thus the sonnet form, which also allowed me to vary the placement of the lines. Aside from the mimicry of the sonnet form, what, other than patterning, is the reason for the lines being in their respective places? I have been wondering about the difference between procedural poems and patterned poems. A procedural poem implies a source text (or texts) and a specific (formal?) process that creates a new text from the previous text (or texts). If there are literary references (for instance, surface literary references such as titles and authors' names) instead of quotations, and no other linguistic material, is this a procedural poem? The alternation of lines in "Five Unicorns And A Pearl" implies movement, but there is no reason for the movement, such as in my GRANDUNCLES OF THE CATTLETRADE (see Antic View #83) or The Recital (see Antic View #115). What is the importance of movement to the procedural poem? Is pattern, in the absence of narrative, static?

AHB: A pattern poem may be ‘mindless’, in that the pattern might outweigh other energies of the work. Mindless in the sense of going forward mechanically. When writers are too betrothed to patterns, metre and rhyme, say, our interest as readers diminishes because the pattern is just repetition. Emily Dickinson’s subversion of the strict tempo patterns is the locus of most interest for me, and I suspect for others. Rhythm is pattern, and that’s interesting musically (or more richly, Terpsichoreanly), Bo Diddley beat or double jig, but I do not think the logopeian thrill resides in that rhythm. Procedure seems to be a sort of translation, or let me say transmogrification, because it has more syllables. Procedure activates in a text and a dissatisfaction or hope, finding ways to open text(s) to unexpected possibilities. In “Five Unicorns”, the reader recognizes that you have gathered (in you mind) these particular texts, and saw them connect somehow. There is a pattern to what you have done, but the pattern is not the engine of its motion. In the making of your work, you actively process your reading. All writers process their reading, but you do so consciously, and your interest is not to collect modalities that you can use, but, perhaps, to release found modalities into their own activities. I like that you cite Weird Tales, which certainly is a locus of weird possibilities. I play with procedure, but am awkward in the process.

I do not think the use of procedure versus the sort of practiced unleashing that I endeavour is a large differentiation. A poem is a surprise in the words you live with, however that may come about.