Tuesday, March 02, 2010


JH: The poem "On Eileen Tabios' Novel Chatelaine" comes from Eileen Tabios' novel as come, to take one example from the poem, "red roses / from immense crystal vases." The idea of issuance is probably what inspired me to write the poem. "Neglect oranges / a vineyard." is by way of variation -- the sentence could be re-phrased along the lines of "Orange comes from neglect". I've written two other poems on works by living poets: Seamus Cain and Lanny Quarles Theatre is one of three elements in literature that have occupied me lately. The other two are coincidence and, to put it quickly, milestone. Of coincidences, their appearance and also their refusal to appear: are coincidences more common with the literary? It's common for me to think of a book or a text and have it appear, or at least the name, soon after. Is coincidence the manifestation of memory as a map unfolding? Would the study of coincidence be the study of memory? Is coincidence analogy? Is there a relation (I almost wrote "coincidence") between coincidence and motif? There are milestones that are identified (as milestones) either at the time or soon thereafter, and there are milestones that are identified years later (and there are also lost encounters that are identified years later, and would perhaps be as ephemeral as though they had never happened). One milestone in my life that wasn't identified until years later was the encounter with reading Greek and Roman drama—the start, imperceptible at the time and some time after, of a fascination with Greek and Roman mythology—if it is the mythology fascinating me, and not the names which I must commemorate. Any such milestones in your life? If the personal is duplicable (by returning to themes in one's writing, or to habits in one's life), how personal is it? Is the aleatory, the milestone unacknowledged and unclaimed, more personal? AHB: I think I would answer yes to most of your questions, perhaps on the theory that doing so presents the most possibilities. I have just started reading a bio of Robert Lowell, by Paul Mariani. I do not care for Lowell’s work (I am trying to decide how fair my antipathy, longstanding, is fair), and I thought Mariani’s bio of WCW was a crock, but Lowell is interesting for his forceful sense of milestone. His poetry depended on important moments. That is fine but he goes awry, I think, and I think a lot of writers do likewise, by making a milestone. He had a practice of creating importance, which is of a falsity that wearies me, however much I myself am guilty of it. I think I have eschewed that tendency. I know that your own work is not so troubled. I am frankly fascinated by the restraint and direction of your work. Do you think in terms of purity? I know such a word is loaded, but I think your willingness to follow the strictures that you have discovered, that are implicit in each poem’s development, suggests purity. Just recently, you posted to Wryting-L this poem:
Of the Coronation
Doubtless, says Cephalophore, this head fell from a bough and I hitherto headless gathered it up: in a grove nothing is out of place. The world making sylvan study, Scylla has her hounds as surely as Actaeon. This crown that betimes gnaws me I name Absalom.
* * * * *
I love the phrase “in a grove nothing is out of place”. It seems like Poetry’s purest possibility. The names within this piece all seem earnestly invited. In that, I would hearken to HD. You do not seem to be investing the writing with the outer rind, id est, self -consciousness. You invite. I know that you use aleatoric techniques. I also know that you do not use them exclusively. Here is an impression, which I ask you to discuss. I feel like in my writing, I have worn off the excesses of manner, I have learned to avoid the sort of traps that Lowell could stumble into. Your method, in contradistinction, aligns with a ceremonial or ritualistic process that cannot step wrong. Is there any validity to such a sense? Do you, sir, write crappy poems at all?


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