Saturday, November 20, 2010


JH: A poem's arrival, often named inspiration, is swift. The composition of a poem is likewise swift, though the revision may take some time, such as hours or even days. If almost all of my revisions of "These gargantuan hounds" and "This dawn" were omitted and the page of each poem were to include only the first appearance of the poem (the first draft) and the final (finished) version of the poem, not a lot of words would be removed or added. Why aren't the first appearance and the final version of a poem always identical? Are they identical, just not in the world? Can we regard differing versions of a poem as being the same poem reflected in different surfaces? How then to find the most accurate mirror?

I too often think of poetry as oracular. If poetry is oracular, what isn't oracular? Is the revision of a poem oracular?

"These gargantuan hounds": The hounds are much larger than the hounds of the Actaeon myth and my Actaeon poems, while Actaeon is not enlarged. Once again, a poem's space brings Actaeon and the hounds to the same place, allows them to move together in the same place, the place where, in the myths and previous of my poems, Actaeon was killed by the hounds. In a poem, space and place are superimposed.

"This dawn": Actaeon imbruted, Actaeon metamorphosed into a hart, has, figuratively, a new dawn, a dawn as new as an infant's. The infant Oedipus was also defenseless in the wild. In a poem, the figurative can be underscored by an additional figure, which can more strongly contrast the figurative with the literal: "This dawn of Actaeon will be dragged from the skies by hounds."

AHB: I think my interest in fiction stems from the collision of figurative and literal. And this interest... I want to speak a little about fiction and poetry.

As a reader growing up, I liked stories and I liked biographies. That is what writing meant to me, tho not in the sense of me putting words to paper. I liked the resolutions and completions, however false, that such writing offered.

When I started writing myself, those resolutions and completions were not available to me. And what interested me was indeed 'real' things and 'imaginary' things jostled together.

I find that I allude and refer often to historical events and persons. This would be a direct and conscious understanding received from Charles Olson and his sense of history. I just recently finished reading, for maybe the 3rd time, Son of the Morning Star by Evan Connell, about the events at Little Bighorn.

The massacre, to apply that term, has become a fascinatingly immense icon of some great complexities of this world. People take plenty of meaning from it, yet that meaning is fluid and far from set in stone. That fluidity seems essential to poetry. By the same token (I think) 'your' Actaeon shares space in the literal world with a figurative sense that is 'yours', you as the writer of the poems.

With both movies and novels, I merely put up with the resolutions that seem to be the intrigue of plot. The resolutions do not satisfy me because they are from the figurative world, yet read from the literal. That is, to achieve these resolutions, a lot of fakery goes on. I think I combat that fakery by simply not concluding what seems to be plot.

In your poems, especially these Actaeon ones, I see an effort to dismay the literal with disjunctive jumps that the reader must make. The literal remains, yes, but not at the sacrifice of the figurative. I believe that different ways are sought in poetry to relieve the literal from its control of language.

The crappy poetry that I see fails most for mindlessly proffering figurative expressions as literal, i.e.: whipping up a load of malarkey.