Sunday, March 06, 2011


JH: I agree that fluidity -- rhythm -- is essential to poetry. Rhythm points to something else, and, via rhythm's recurrence and variation/error, this pointing is itself evocative, and evocation is another essential of poetry. Is poetry an essentializing machine? After writing the word "machine", I wonder if it should be replaced with "entity" or "process". I prefer a word such as "entity" or even "machine" to "process" when describing poetry. Does poetry essentialize myth and history? If so, are they essentialized only within poetry?
I wrote my first Actaeon poem in 2007. It wasn't until 2009 that I wrote another Actaeon poem. In 2010, I've written quite a few Actaeon poems. It seems like the Actaeon poems will never end, but there have been several characters who recurred in my poems who now occupy the area between hiatus and cessation: Virginia, William Wormswork, Aglaia, etc. I'm more aware, more self-conscious, of Actaeon's presence in my poems than I've been of my other characters. I don't know if this is due to Actaeon (or Artemis) or to my current stage as a poet.
You also have had characters that appear in several poems, and you have written Welcome to the Billiverse. Could you speak of this excellent work, please?

AHB: Yes, we both use characters in our work, which seems to be uncommon. Your Virginia and your Actaeon clearly have a wide and personal meaning for you. For myself, I guess I like the locus of otherness that a character supplies.

I have used Fu Manchu and his nemesis Sir Denis Nayland-Smith (from the novels of Sax Rohmer) extensively, and Tarzan and Jane. Additionally, I come up with names that just interest me, like Captain Element and Professor Radiant. These names seem implicative without being specific.

I am not sure that I can speak of Welcome to the Billiverse, altho I say that in prelude to speaking about Welcome to the Billiverse. The main character(s) derive(s) from someone I knew, but took on a life of its/their own.

I just let the weird stuff out, basically, in writing the stories. I allowed myself to serve slapstick humour. I wrote the thing nearly 20years ago, then maybe 15 years ago, when I was not writing much poetry, decided to see the work as a whole, not just a bunch of stories. For maybe 10 years it was lost to me, because it was in Word Perfect format and I no longer had access to that program.

I am wickedly unsure about the thing as it stands. A writer friend wrote to say it was genius, if only I could cut it down to size. I actually have cut it enormously, but I see the point. I just haven’t had the focus to work on it.

I guess I consider the book my Confederacy of Dunces, albeit without the tragedy attached to the author of that work. Dunces has flaws, for sure, the plot becomes tiresome, but the main character is so splendidly presented that one reads on. I feel like the central characters of Billiverse offer a similar extended human weirdness.

But anyway.

Your Actaeon embraces of multitude of concepts and implications, both personal and cultural. Cultural, certainly, because that mythic character is ‘well known’. But also personal, as your involvement is not expressed but intimated. Here, then, is yet another appearance of your Actaeon:

Familiar Actaeon

The wings of cygnets were attached -- with cygnet, often, and without -- and by nail always; one nail per wing, one wing per cygnet -- cypress by cypress, but it takes deity to attach a deer to a vanished man.

* * * * *

The imagery is surreal, yet reasonable also in a mythic, dreamlike way. What’s this with nails and wings, etc. The last phrase booms. It telescopes the ‘familiar’ myth into something personal as well as archetypal. It is a transmutation.