Friday, May 16, 2014


JH:  A poem can make much of a word that would not be large on its own, and a word can enlarge a poem. In the latter case, this enlargement is often temporary, historical. Grand themes do not necessarily make for grand poems. How grand a poem is when all the words tower! Rhythm is getting all the words to stack up.
As a reader, I want every poem that a poet has written, along with drafts. As a poet, I want only what works well within a totality. Just as a poem is a totality (and I would not want my drafts appended to a finished poem of mine), a book is a totality, and I would not want a book of mine to have poems that would be appended to that totality. There are 16 Actaeon poems in this ideal totality, but I could add poems that I have yet to write, as I don't think that the poems I've selected move toward a point where the 16th poem must be read as the final poem.

AHB: Emily Dickinson kind of did want her drafts appended to the finished poem. Or, speaking of her fascicles, she allowed for alternate word choice. I see drafts as separate poems. Myself, I don't really have drafts. With the computer, I make changes, and the previous is gone. Word processors allow for the retaining of drafts but I do not bother.

When I worked on typewriter, I used to number drafts. And I would retype for the merest change, even the correction of 'h' before 't' in 'the' . In Three Poems, Ashbery ponders putting everything in, or not. You can make a case, either way. As the writing goes, do you at all strive towards the published article? The Internet allows for things to get out there, but the Internet is a field of niches and a squandering of scope. What I mean is, do you plan for an Actaeon for the ages?

Thursday, May 08, 2014


JH: A fragment speaks for itself. What, then, does the indicated missing text do? A poem can stand apart from historical context, biographical data, drafts, and commentary. Can a poem stand apart from itself? When it is a fragment, it can (and, one could also say, when it is a translation). What about a series? What if we had only one or two of Rilke's Orpheus sonnets, or only a few of the poems in Leaves of Grass? For that matter, what if we are missing -- and I'm sure that we are -- one or two sonnets that Rilke could have included in The Sonnets to Orpheus, or a few poems that Whitman could have included in Leaves of Grass?

There are 16 of my Actaeon poems that I would want preserved in a totality. These 16 Actaeon poems would be in a particular order. The rest of my Actaeon poems (I've written about 100) would not be practicable for this ideal book, though I have no problem with them individually.

AHB: I've always disliked anthologies that offer extracts from larger works. I guess the willful loss bothers me. It find it difficult to read a fragment as itself when one knows there is more. Yet each word has a life and conviction; each exists in totality beyond any fragment's existence. And yet, I imagine any lost Rilke Sonnet nonetheless influences those that we have. That is, Rilke's making of those lost poems created the possibility of the ones that followed.

I am thoroughly surprised that you would/could boil down the 100 to a mere 16. Is this a matter of winnowing and sifting, or did you always have a track in mind that the 16 fulfilled?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


JH: The translation of six of my Actaeon poems into Spanish was not a collaboration, but the work of Diana Magallón, who also did the illustrations. Diana, a great poet and artist, contacted me and asked if she could translate some of my poems. When I agreed (enthusiastically!), she asked which poems did I want translated. I selected a few, and the result is on weeimage.
Are words timeless when they are not received, when they are seen but not read, or when they are read but not read carefully? Lacking a fuller presence than when they are received (received fully, or more fully), do they lack time? The time is all our own, the time is each person's. A poem that is timeless lacks something, if only time; but aside from time, this lack may be what is felt in the text of certain poems, that which is evoked but not expressed, that which, though behind the word, is not found in a dictionary.
What loads a poem with time? Is a poem that is not timeless ephemeral, a poem that dates? If not timeless, then historical?

AHB: Interesting that her name is Diana. I don't know what words do when not in use. I think of the ancient Greek poems, that we have almost entirely in fragment (which is a conflictive phrase, no doubt). Sappho's poetry (for us) exists in scrids, guesswork, and the opinion of those who had greater experience of it. Her words are largely gone but somewhere her poetry is an effective living power or energy. Her poetry, then, exists in time but as we now have it, her poetry has no time. But if the scifi novel came true, and someone Went Back in Time, and fetched her work in toto, her work would have a different time.

What loads a poem with time? The ocular presence of slang or reference. I guess. Francois Villon wrote a French that differed from the modern, and he used much slang tied verily to a time. Same goes for Shakespeare. Et al. Time as barrier tho needless to say, not impermeable. It's a matter of translation, which is a loss of immediacy. For me.

The translation by time is inevitable and perhaps confusing. Hugh Kenner explained the Shakespeare's phrase “the boys of summer” as referring to dandelions. Someone used the phrase as a title for a book, and now it brings to mind Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers now reside in LA, where no trolley cars need to be dodged. And we readers are left with the tracings of intersections. Ah, well!

The latest poem I have seen by you is “Parthenius”:

Actaeon, could the hart speak; Parthenius, could the fount. The hounds, they know their names, and cannot give them. And what name would the bather give? The bather... Parthenius, I believe.

* * *

I have yet to research the name Parthenius, but it almost doesn't matter. Your Actaeon poems seem like multidimensional extensions of the figures on some Grecian urn. Do you have a sense of presentation of these gems beyond messages on a listserv? I have suggested cards a la Robert Grenier's Sentences.