Tuesday, March 28, 2006


JH: How does a work persuade a reader that it is worthy of attention, or persuade canon-makers that it is worthy of survival (continued attention)? There is the attention of time, straightening out allusions and meaning-tangles one by one, and there is the attention of focus, the reader getting the impression that the history of the language (or indeed, language itself) through the spectacles (as in glasses, a reader-sized window) of the poem. The poem as strata, and the poem as indivisible surface. Do you think that texts that are more obviously experimental in appearance fall into the second category (indivisible surface)? Which is not to say there cannot be commentary on such poems, but that the loose threads they present for unraveling are fewer in number and/or can unravel only so far, without straightening out the entire poem. Some ways of straightening out: partial paraphrase (into prose -- isn't this what all criticism sets out to do, to make parts of the poem into prose? Many lines in poems could be prose - do the surrounding poetic lines lend poetry to those prosaic lines - is the reader considered a prosaic text that the poem wishes to lend poetry to? What is ever completely poem?), how a poem moves within itself (motifs, structure, etc), and how a poem sheds light on the mystery of poetry or goes toward pulling out just a little more a thread in a particular fabric of literary history. But such unraveling, it seems to me, is always alongside the poem itself, hoping prose will lend its clarity to poetic lines - a collusion between the explicating lines of the commentary (which is the complete text of the commentary, aside from any lines quoted from the poem) and the more prosaic lines in the poem.
AHB: You open a lot of door and windows here. I shall riff along as the feeling strikes me. A poem like Shelley's Mask of Anarchy” (I hope I'm thinking of the right poem), isn't hard to get. It is a passionate political poem full of Shelley's utopian hope for revolution. Really, it is the passion of the poem that makes it great (I mean, I think it is a great). One doesn't doubt that Shelley was an armchair revolutionary, and poetically speaking, the poem is an anthem. Zukofsky's A is highly charged politically, but here you'd speak more of its indivisible surfaces. I think the reader is a prosaic text that the poem wishes to lend poetry to. My first interest in poetry began in 10th grade when an English teacher proposed this question to the class: what is poetry? The class answers centered on rhyme and other superficialities, and a general view of poetry's irrelevancy. The ensuing class discussion gave us a view of a subject much vaster and potentially more interesting than anything we'd assumed previously. Tho I didn't start writing poetry till the next year, it did intrigue me that poetry was not limited to what high school English had determined it to be. Theory and criticism are components in the reading of poetry, along with imaginative flights. I mean, one utilizes both sides of the brain. I balance more heavily to the right--at times it is a labour for me to take logical steps—but I do read criticism and theory. I don't write reviews but occasionally on my blog I will write enthusiams for things I've read. Such being part of the job, so to speak. I know you read widely, I mean you've mentioned the Swedish playwright whose name has totally vanished from my grey cells, and astrology and round about. When you read that nameless Swedish playwright, or astrology texts, are you anywhere near the region of poetry?is here a clear boundary? I ask because the lines are blurring for me.

Monday, March 13, 2006


JH: "The poem wants more than the next word, it wants the right word, because a poem is an organic thing" is an an excellent point. But even poems don't always get what they want. There have been poems that have inorganic words, lines, and/or passages shot through them (which brings to mind the previous mention of Poe's critique of long poems). Does insertion of language inorganic to the poem, lengthy or otherwise, have its own poetic purpose? Counterpoint, witting or unwitting? The poet may not have such counterpoint in mind, but it's hard to tell (even if the poet claims intent). Since, as we've mentioned, intent is hard to prove, perhaps this is where theory is useful (or necessary), a fiction referencing a real poem - more counterpoint. By "theory" I mean commentary, especially by someone other than the poet, after the fact. "Vision" could be defined as such theory a priori by the poem's poet. I do have vision, in this definition. I suppose most of my vision could easily be guessed from earlier answers - and questions - in this interview. I try to keep it updated (over blocks of years) and I do think that the Nature of the poem has its own ideas as how it should look (DNA: the poet as one parent, the impetus for the poem the other parent, with ancestry and chance combinations coming into play). Perhaps theory is a spur (whose?) to get a poem written, to provide impetus and process. Writing is a loss of self in order to let another self, the poem, come into the world. Is an ethics of poem preservation needed, a bill of rights for the poem? A poem has a shelf life different from a human, sometimes lasting a lot longer (millennia) sometimes a lot shorter (immediate destruction, by the poet or by misadventure). Are classic poems like famous historical personages? Both wind up being literary, with the poem speaking for itself beyond the earthly life of its author. What of lost poems - poems lost via critical and popular neglect? To want all poems preserved would be tantamount to wanting all people to be historical personages. And why not? But why can't it be (if it indeed is an impossibility)? Poems could be preserved via families (assuming the poet has a family) and local historical societies (assuming the poet does not move around so much as to be without this geographical family). That they are not, consistently, says something about the fear of literature, even by the most committed literary practitioners? What is good or bad when there is so much - and here I posit that a reader magically reads all the world's poetry in these hypothetical archives. Would so much classic poetry bring the sun too close to the earth (or vice-versa, I feel compelled to add)?

AHB: In a sense, we only need one poem, one work that is a world. Some writers proceed as if they felt their work demanded all your attention. James Joyce and Finnegan's Wake, for instance or Proust's A La Recherche. And sure, people read the Bible, or Quran, or Torah, as deep as they can get. But one can choose to read any work to the nth degree. You would then end up reading the history of language. The task is daunting, obviously. We all skim, because that sense of the task overwhelms, and besides we (writers) want to make our own work. There isn't any good and bad in the 'long run'. Aesthetics is a practical winnowing, as no one can read it all. The point is a search for meaning, tho meaning is way too loaded a word. The work of some writers is not relevant to me—maybe I just never came across it—and some is. Any writing could be relevant. I say all this while recognizing that some writers 'do it better' than others, a point that is perfectly arguable. Poems are lives just as people are. We live with some, we don't live with some. I suppose the classic poetry has survived the evolutionary shuffle, and can be snotty ass about that, but its survival owes to luck and happenstance. Theory seems descriptive to me, written after the fact. Perhaps some writers begin with theory and work out, but that don't work for me.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


JH: Thanks! When, in the writing procedure, whether of sonnets or mesostics, does the author, with taste good or bad, end, and the poem, tasteless always, begin? Is the poem responsible for the (its, perhaps) author's taste? These questions can concern poems written outside of set procedures (free verse). The choice of any form shows intent to display the qualities the chosen form offers, but does the poem have any intent other than to get to the next word and/or have a word reflect upon a previous word?

AHB: I don't know the line between author and poem. The author exerts influence but there's so much that happens without one clearly knowing why that it is too blurry to distinguish. I think in a sense, taste is always bad, insofar as it may be a determined factor (id est: it is bad taste to have good taste). If a poet chooses to write a poem in a form the poem does not wish, that would be bad taste, because yes the poem has responsibility in its own creation. Gosh, that all sounds slick, but I think it is a reasonable, obvious (as in naturally arrived at) viewpoint. The poem wants more than the next word, it wants the right word, because a poem is an organic thing. Having read as comprehensively as I could, as I assume most poets do, I can identify good poems (argh, let's consider that term) even if they don't reflect my taste. One makes choices, of format or manner of composition, but the reason for that choice may not be well thought thru, or the thinking may not even reflect the actual impetus. I've always been on the brainless side of the ledger re writing, which really is not giving myself credit. That I don't have big crunchy theories in hand when I begin writing does not mean I haven't pressed myself intently and intimately into the writing process. Sometimes (do you feel this as well?), the process is so seat of the pants that it becomes unnerving, especially in that I get little outside criticism of my work to bounce against. The process a kind of buddhist loss of self, allowing oneself to float on the energy without getting lost. when I am 'in myself', I may force the poem, exert for the benefit of some audience that, really, I just make up. Anyway, do you have a vision of poetry to be written?

Friday, March 03, 2006


J H: Ideas often become habits of the mind - writing poetry is having a certain, and hopefully evolving, set of ideas to work with or against the idea of a particular poem. What is self-conscious becomes with repetition subconscious. I like flarf - I find it very engaging and enjoyable. I especially like the plays. As far as the poem are concerned, I see them as revealing the stimuli for a poem, the object that's to be written about (the object as subject of the poem) brought to the fore with mediation likewise exposed. For example, the spam email line "Obtain a prosperous future, money earning power" is presented and not commented upon directly or via contrast. Re-working lines in flarf, and adding lines of your one's own, is presenting the (unmediated) writing impulse alongside the unmediated language. "Pierre Menard writes surrealism, found poetry, and Pierre Menard" is how I would blurb many flarfists. I don't think I would be morally opposed to any sort of writing. I have thought about writing in rhyme and established meter, and if the poem calls for it I will - that would be an interesting moment of discovery to see a poem that couldn't live unless it was in a certain rhyme or meter. Though how could I prove it to anyone other than myself (the dilemma of Poe's "The Philosophy of Composition" - is it autobiography or hoax?). Could one fake a flarf poem? Wouldn't it seem as if an author was faking the faking of a flarf poem? Could one compare texts prior to flarf with flarf poems to determine what is unique to flarf? Flarf has the historical fact of the internet and experimentation, but does it possess something external to a flarf poet's philosophy of composition? I'm assuming it does, re my comments above about unmediation.

AHB: I brought up flarf just because it has been focused on some lately. This has much been done by evaluating it as its own phenomenon, somehow separate from the work itself. A curious critical employment where the group term replaces the work. I think this might be synedoche, or maybe I've got that backwards. Anyway, this happens often, where the (presumed) group impetus gets discussed rather than specific works. Not all flarf is grrrrEAT!!!, but I wasn't expecting it to be. Much of it, tho, so obviously is a poem that, without the hullabaloo, would be read as such, and not as a blow against the Empire of Poetry. This happened with the LANGUAGE poets, and any strong artistic group. There's always a reluctance against something somehow deemed new. Flarf isn't so much new as technique, but the people are new, that interaction of in fact a very few writers. And I think flarf has helped to look at today's dilemma. I've worked flarfingly and often have produced laboured work, but I have also produced work that feels like mine, (if I may be so possessive). And how flarf addresses bad taste, the uncomfortable and unpleasant, is instructive. I shy away from the really ranty coarse stuff that one can easily find in internet searches but I've forced myself to play along just to face that which makes me flinch. I think a value exists in bad taste, not as an advocacy of bad taste, but as consideration of my own presumptions. Which I think touches on the mediation you bring up. That whole faking stuff, I think it shows. I've noted it in the world of LANGUAGE poetry (which may or may not exist!), where some poems of LANGUAGE ilk work, and some seem like imitations. i.e.: anyone can write disjunctively (I know I can), etc, so there's more to it than that!!!.It's a matter of sinking deep into the procedure of text development, whatever procedure that may be. Even to the point of disappearance. Or might you not think so? By the way: "Ideas often become habits of the mind": good line.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


JH: Very clear, thanks! So language, you think, is a human invention or was always a part and parcel of being human? Prehistoric literatures are lost, instead of non-existent? Those are hieroglyphs on cave walls? If hieroglyphs, this would lend credence to the idea that letters (as in alphabet) were originally shapes found in nature (speaking of Borges - see his "The God's Handwriting"), and also credence to the idea of the book of nature (though a more problematic, unexamined credence - since the writing of nature in this scenario was found by humans). Is the splitting of image and word something that literature does or is something the brain does in order to process information? Partitioning as a storage function? Writing a poem, though often an invention, is storage. Things stashed away take on lives of their own, as much as the mind that stores them. What are the qualities that make a stored item distinct from the mind that stores them?

AHB: The idea of storing works for me. I must say that these speculations are anything but definitive. I don't often proceed with my work with such ideas in mind, and would suspect that no one really does. I mean it's too distracting to be that self-conscious. And yet these are essential concerns. I was thinking about my visual work, in which I often do pictures of trees. Usually quite rudimentary, or child-like (consistent with my technical ability), renderings. And tho trees are powerful... um... symbols for me, I don't attach wordy meanings to these images. Such translation into words would be a dilution or limiting. I think these events of language, in which the meaning of works (whether a word, a poem, a gesture, a painting) opens something wild and advanced to us, are central intensities. The stored item is somehow the shared thing. We can have an idea of green or apple or phlegmatic and this can be brought to another person. And not just to people but the world around us. I'm scuttling about in Jungian territory, which I lack the confidence to do, so I better back off on pronouncements. Some recent talk regarding Flarf the Phenomenon (tm) has circled around the issue of appropriation. Flarfists frequently make use of texts from elsewhere (internet searches often). Have you issues with that? I mention this because the idea of right way to write a poem insinuates into such arguments. Not to lead the witness. Are there means of text-production (which we used to call writing) that you refuse to use in, shall we say, moral terms? And, given your reading interests, have you ever written in formal ways, like sonnets or such?