25 November 2012

Diane Wakoski

[from Diane Wakoski's Toward a New Poetry, Michigan, 1980]

what I would like to do is be as real in my writing as I am in life, and I’m a fairly real character in life. I would like to come off the page, and be alive and singing and telling the truth, and telling the history, and at the same time making poetry out of it. I think of that as being what twentieth-century free verse is all about. . . .

I think that poetry is an act of problem solving, which means that if there are no problems solved there is no poetry to be written. . . .

The purpose of the poem is to complete an act that can’t be completed in real life. . . .

what real poetry was all about was creating a personal mythology rather than simply participating in the mythology of your culture. . . .

that’s of course our great quest: how to maintain the passion in its purest and its most violent — and I think I use that word advisedly — violent form. But have it in fact contained as an artifice. I don’t want the snakes in my head to turn you to stone. I do not want the heat of my anger to melt you into a puddle [laughter]. And yet I don’t think that art can exist unless there is that power to turn you to stone or to melt you to your gaseous elements. . . .

here’s a little discrepancy in my work because male and female sexuality are terribly important to me. If you’re going to ask me questions of how do I resolve them, maybe that is the problem solving that I am involved with because in some way I’ve always felt that it’s my destiny to be the spirit. And yet what I chafe about most in life is being treated as a spiritual person rather than a sex object [laughter] and woman by the man that I love. But, and maybe that’s what my poetry is really about, is, is, is this life journey between the body and the spirit. There’s no easy answer to it. I don’t think you become spirit by denying the flesh, and living in hair shirts. And yet in some way you do become spirit by simply not acknowledging the flesh. But again because we are body, that sounds like denial. I don’t think denial is the answer. Because what denial becomes in the physical son cutting off the head of the father, or whatever physical act that happens. So, so . . . these are problems that fascinate me, and perhaps what a lot of my poems are about. How do you solve these problems? . . .

“Vision” is what is most private, intimate, eccentric, unusual, unique, visionary about the person. By definition it would have to be that part of you which is somewhat repressed or put down because it doesn’t fit in with the forms. But it may be not be forbidden . . . it may not just be repressed or put down because of convention. It may be in fact the part of you that you have to create that is completely unique. In other words, the ability to create something unique about yourself. And you can still be quite an acceptable human being and a good member of society and a nice friend and a good lover and any number of other things. But you probably can’t be a poet if you can’t create yourself as unique in some way.

06 November 2012

Lynda Hull

[from Lynda Hull's The Collected Poems, Graywolf, 2006]

Hollywood Jazz

Who says it’s cool says wrong.
    For it rises from the city’s
        sweltering geometry of rooms,

fire escapes, and flares from the heels
    of corner boys on Occidental
        posing with small-time criminal

intent — all pneumatic grace. This
    is the music that plays at the moment
        in every late-night noir flick

when the woman finds herself alone, perfectly
    alone in a hotel room before a man
        whose face is so shadowed as to be

invisible, one more bedroom arsonist
    seeing nothing remotely
        cool: a woman in a cage

of half-light, Venetian blinds.
    This is where jazz blooms, in the hook
        and snag of her zipper opening to

an enfilade of trumpets. Her dress
    falls in a dizzy indigo riff.
        I know her vices are minor: sex,

forgetfulness, the desire to be someone,
    anyone else. On the landing, the man
        pauses before descending

one more flight. Checks his belt. Adjusts
    the snap brim over his face. She smoothes
        her platinum hair and smokes a Lucky

to kill his cologne. And standing there
    by the window in her slip, midnight blue,
        the stockings she did not take off,

she is candescent, her desolation
    a music so voluptuous I want
        to linger with her. And if I do not

turn away from modesty or shame,
    I’m in this for keeps, flying with her
        into fear’s random pivot where each article

glistens like evidence: the tube of lipstick,
    her discarded earrings. When she closes
        her eyes, she hears the streetcar’s

nocturne up Jackson, a humpbacked sedan
    rounding the corner from now
        to that lavish void of tomorrow,

a sequence of rooms: steam heat, modern,
    2 bucks. Now listen. Marimbas.
        His cologne persists, a redolence

of fire alarms, and Darling,
    there are no innocents here, only
        dupes, voyeurs. On the stairs

he flicks dust from his alligator
    shoes. I stoop to straighten
        the seams of my stockings, and

when I meet him in the shadows
    of the stairwell, clarinets whisper
        Here, take my arm. Walk with me.

Lynda Hull

05 October 2012

Aracelis Girmay

[from Aracelis Girmay's Kingdom Animalia, BOA, 2011]

& When We Woke

It rained all night. It did not rain.
I strapped my life to a buoy — & sent it out.
& was hoping for a city whose citizens sing
from their windows or rooftops,
about the beauty of their children
& their children’s eyes, & the color of the fields
when it is dusk. & was hoping for a city
as free as the rain, whose people roam
wherever they want, free as any real, free thing is free.
Joyful. Green. & was hoping
for a city of 100 old women whose bones
are thick & big in their worker hands
beautiful as old doors. & when we woke,
dear reader, we’d landed in a city of 100 old women
telling their daughters things. & when we turned
to walk away, because we did not think we were citizens
of this strange & holy place, you & I, the hundred old
women said, No, No! You are one of us! We are your
mothers! You! You! Too! Come & listen to our secrets.
We are telling every person with a face!
& they stood us in a line facing the sea,
(because that is the direction we came from)
& behind us there was another line of women
& another, & we sang songs. & we filled the songs
with our mothers’ names. & we filled the songs
with trees for our mothers to stand under,
& good water for our mothers to drink. & we filled
the songs with beds for our mothers to lay down in
& rest. We filled the songs with rest. & good food
for our mothers to eat. We made them a place
in our singing, & we faced the sea.
We are still making them a place
in our singing. Do you understand?
We make them a place where they can walk freely,
untouched by knives or the police who patrol
the borders of countries like little & fake hatred-gods
who patrol the land though the land says, I go on
& on, so far, you lose your eye on me.
We make our mothers a place in our singing & our place
does not have a flag or, even, one language.
Do you understand? We sing like this for days
until our throats are torn with singing. Do you understand?
We must build houses for our mothers in our poems. I am not sure,
but think. This is my wisest song.

Aracelis Girmay

11 September 2012

Cate Marvin

[from Cate Marvin's Fragment of the Head of a Queen, Sarabande, 2007]

Landscape with Hungry Girls

There’s blood here. The skyline teethes the clouds
raw and rain’s course streams a million umbilical
cords down windows and walls. Everything gnaws,
and the pink polish on their girl-nails chips, flakes
off as they continue to dig through towering heaps
of refuse. It’s a story, as usual. As usual, a phone
and dead silence. Or the phone: a lobster to the ear.
Girls resigned to being girls. The softer faces they
find in the mirrors. The limp shake, a hand placed,
a flower wilting moist on the man’s palm. Or hard
handshakes deemed “aggressive”: snakes. O, girls.
All of them carefully watching carefully the faces
of their sleeping men, even when their own faces
are more beautiful in their watching, and if only they’d
watch their own faces beneath the revolving lights
sliding between the blinds: they are blinded from
watching their men sleep so dumbly. The headaches,
the insistent grip of a gnawing stomach, eating itself.
Thinking hunger is strength, how hurt they are, girls
picking at food on their plates. I like a girl who eats.
Careful, what you say you want. The moon is distant,
yet cousin to her face: our genders worse than alien.
Bleeding is something everyone does. You don’t call.
Girls snack on skyscrapers, girls gut their teddy bears,
and girls saw their own faces off. What is it to lack
compassion? When you walk through a zoo, do you
not think the animals it houses could have been you?
Who would you be, how hungry, if you were a girl
feeding only on the meek sleep of male countenance?
Would you stand vigil, would you starve as they do?

Cate Marvin

09 September 2012

Marianne Moore

[from Marianne Moore's The Poems of Marianne Moore, ed. Grace Schulman, Viking, 2003]

A Grave

Man looking into the sea,
taking the view from those who have as much right to it as you have
      to it yourself,
it is human nature to stand in the middle of a thing,
but you cannot stand in the middle of this;
the sea has nothing to give but a well excavated grave.
The firs stand in a procession, each with an emerald turkey foot
      at the top,
reserved as their contours, saying nothing;
repression, however, is not the most obvious characteristic of the
the sea is a collector, quick to return a rapacious look.
There are others besides you who have work that look —
whose expression is no longer a protest; the fish no longer
      investigate them
for their bones have not lasted:
men lower nets, unconscious of the fact that they are desecrating
      a grave,
and row quickly away — the blades of the oars
moving together like the feet of water-spiders as if there were no
      such thing as death.
The wrinkles progress among themselves in a phalanx — beautiful
      under networks of foam,
and fade breathlessly while the sea rustles in and out of the seaweed;
the birds swim through the air at top speed, emitting catcalls as
      heretofore —
the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of cliffs, in motion beneath
and the ocean, under the pulsation of lighthouses and noise of
advances as usual, looking as if it were not that ocean in which
      dropped things are bound to sink —
in which if they turn and twist, it is neither with volition nor

27 August 2012

Ann Townsend


Restless, pulled outside by fog
and fitful rain, she carries scissors
and basket to trim the last wild things.

She crouches, wind-shaded,
before parsley, tarragon, thyme:
herbs weep into her hands,

spiders scatter across pine needles.
Half-dark, wholly cold,
the evening of first frost

falls down as rain, cool mouth
against her unprotected neck.
Across the lake her lover waits

in a room warm with smoke,
jukebox's muted melody,
deep brown bottles ranged

across the bar. Once she leaned
into his mouth, whiskey sweet
between them. The tiny napkins

beneath their drinks grew wet
with condensation. Then
their fingers touched,

an accidental convergence of the stars.
She shakes loose a bunch of sage.
It swings like a heavy skirt

in her hands, one caterpillar
dropping free. In the sky
the constellations fuzz and fade.

After the End

Because I left him there so you could see
        his body, broken by the fall, the hawk's

small relatives hopped from higher branches
        and called a kind of glee that he was dead.
               By afternoon, the ground around him dusted

with feathers and gravel kicked up, he looked
        like a bundle of rags tossed

from a car and tumbled there, but still
        graceful, neck flung back in the moss and dirt,
               and the yellow claws curled to question marks.

Then the trees were quiet, the other voices
        gone. When a car turned into the driveway,

I knew it wasn't you. They sat a while,
        four men, the same dark suits, carefully
               tended hair. Missionaries: I could tell

from the window where I stood beyond
        their line of sight. All their doors opened

as if by a common feeling, something
        unseen and insistent in the air.
               They did not see the hawk lying there, dead

from its long fall, or age, or driven down
        by the crows that nest in the pines above.

They did not see me. I stepped back, behind
        the curtain, and wished you home, who could see
               these things and know what is beloved, what is dead.

Mid-February, White Light

Country music and a black dog barking
on a chain, and the voices of grown children
complaining — Dad, when are we going to burn
this pile? — cast over from next door

on the first nearly warm afternoon.
Everyone has come out to see the sun.
Slow bees cluster at the porch step
and the cat has wakened in a pool of light.

So when the chainsaw coughs into gear,
to clear dead wood away from the gas line,
it's like some strange natural description —
the ground frozen in its dream of January

creaking beneath our feet,
the impetus of metal cutting into wood,
the urge to flight when the bee
hazards its way, wind-driven or scent-impelled,

into my hair — to touch, to continue.
Even our unmade bed, framed by the peeling
slats of the bedroom window,
looks not like a tranquil reminder

but disturbed, shaken from a measured stillness
of white sheets, pillows, red quilt
cast on the floor, a reduction from action to disorder.
Or the gift of a warm wind that feels wet.

11 August 2012

Noelle Kocot

[from Noelle Kocot's Sunny Wednesday, Wave, 2009] The Poem of Force after Simone Weil's Essay on The Iliad

How often have I lain beneath a roof of trees and sestinas,
Sestinas and trees, the chasmus of my timid hopes decked
Out in the styles of the day,
Losing myself in novels of corporeal sunshine and a home
Where a samovar is always gurgling on the stove, and men of frivolous
      or serious wives
Tie self-strung misery around their necks. And knowledge

Is a shining lamp that lights the hieroglyphs of love and suffering, and
      no knowledge
Is enough to put it out. I used to dream of a sestina
Whose very presence would ignite the longing of an ancient wife
Who'd swim the matrices of grace into the waves that swept the deck
Of a ship leaving its home
Of drowsy cows and frogs waiting by the river as the day

Blinked over never-ending fields. But today
I feel in almost perfect balance with the world, and any knowledge
That I had or have is but a lying down in the glass casket of my
      thoughts, the long small home
I can barely even find were it not for this sestina
Crashing like painted rain against my eyes decked
With brazen orchid light. And were I not a wife

 And mother to these thoughts, I'd take my wifely
Ringless hand and draw the curtains on the days
Of an atavistic reaching out and clear the deck
For something more untoward than the acknowledgment
That we are riveted between laughter and the abyss, like characters
      in a sestina
With all the lines crossed out. I find my home

When I travel the near and distant byways, I find my home
With the wives
Of absent heroes put to sleep in the sleep of bronze, and in sestinas
That haven't borne witness to a single day
Of war, arrows flying on both sides but none to pierce the knowledge
That we ourselves are a deck

 Of marked cards that decorate
The history of our homeless
Tribe. To know
This is to understand Hector's grief for the long-robed wives
As he stood outside Troy's walls in the rising of the day
Waiting for his death, and trembling, his soul mourning its fate of
      being trapped inside a thing — to understand this is to return to an
      age of epics, not sestinas.

For now I have only the bare knowledge of all wives
Who've ever decked their homes
With the talismans of the day, and my talismans are sestinas.

Noelle Kocot

22 July 2012

Javier Marías

[from Javier Marías's A Heart So White, tr. Margaret Jull Costa, New Directions, 1992]

Real togetherness in married couples and indeed in any couple comes from words, not just the words that are spoken — spoken involuntarily — but the words one doesn't keep to oneself — at least not without the intervention of the will. It isn't so much that there are no secrets between two people who share a pillow because that's what they decide — what is serious enough to constitute a secret and what is not, if it is not told? — rather it's impossible not to tell, to relate, to comment, to enunciate, as if that were the primordial activity of all couples, at least those who have become couples recently and are still not too lazy to speak to one another. It isn't just that with your head resting on a pillow you tend to remember the past and even your childhood, and that remote and quite insignificant things surface in your memory, come to your tongue, and that all take on a certain value and seem worthy of being recalled out loud; nor that we're disposed to recount our whole life to the person resting their head on our pillow, as if we needed them to be able to see us from the very beginning — especially from the beginning, that is, from childhood — and to witness, through our telling, all those years before they knew us and during which time, we now believe, they were waiting for us. Neither is it simply a desire to compare, to find parallels or coincidences, the desire to know where each of you was in all the different eras of your two existences and to fantasize about the unlikely possibility of having met each other before; lovers always feel that their meeting took place too late, as if the amount of time occupied by their passion was never enough or, in retrospect, never long enough (the present is untrustworthy), or perhaps they can't bear the fact that once there was no passion between them, not even a hint of it, while the two of them were in the world, swept along by its most turbulent currents, and yet with their backs turned to each other, without even knowing one another, perhaps not even wanting to. Nor is it that some kind of interrogatory system is established on a daily basis which, out of weariness or routine, neither partner can escape, and so everyone ends up answering the questions. It's rather that being with someone consists in large measure in thinking out loud, that is, in thinking everything twice rather than once, once with your thoughts and again when you speak, marriage is a narrative institution. Or perhaps it's just that they spend so much time together (however little time that is amongst modern couples, it still amounts to a lot of time) that the two partners (but in particular the man, who feels guilty if he remains silent) have to make use of whatever they think and whatever occurs to them or happens to them in order to amuse the other person; thus, in the end, there's not a single tiny corner of all the events and thoughts in an individual's life that remains untransmitted, or rather translated matrimonially. The events and thoughts of the others are transmitted too, those they've confided to us in private, that's where the expression "pillow talk" comes from, there are no secrets between people who share a bed, the bed is like a confessional. For the sake of love or its essence — telling, informing, announcing, commenting, opining, distracting, listening and laughing, and vainly making plans — one betrays everyone else, friends, parents, brothers and sisters, blood relations and non-blood relations, former lovers and beliefs, former mistresses, your own past and childhood, your own language when you stop speaking it and doubtless your country, everything that anyone holds to be secret or perhaps merely belongs to the past. In order to flatter the person you love you denigrate everything else in existence, you deny and abominate everything in order to content and reassure the one person who could leave you; so great is the power of the territory delineated by the pillow that it excludes from its bosom everything outside it, and it's a territory which, by its very nature, doesn't allow for anything else to be on it except the two partners, or lovers, who in a sense are alone and for that very reason talk and hide nothing — involuntarily. The pillow is round and soft and often white and after a while that roundness and whiteness become a replacement for the world and its weak wheel.

Javier Marías

Margaret Jull Costas

13 July 2012

Steve Shavel

[from Steve Shavel's How Small Brides Survive in Extreme Cold, Verse Press, 2003]

How Small Brides Survive in Extreme Cold [excerpt]


Every word occludes another, just as
every perspective cuts across some larger circuitry — logjams
of purposiveness, the whole farrago
of incidence, everything a something
taken out of context, the stunned minnow
in the heron's crop
mouthing the vowels of horror, or the way
you wake up sometimes with a
loded word on the tongue
the odd fragment
of dream cipher (today no
kidding it was tatterdemalion).

But of the mechanism, spring-
wound, that drives these recirculating
waters, disgorged on the hill towns in
last night's storm or unlocked
from the rockface its last
blue icicle integument, trundling
past stubborn milltowns and
former milltowns, their trestles
cantilevers and
crumbling abutments,
their sullen smokestacks,
rosettes of identical split-
level around the cul-de-sac,

sluiced through the archaic reactor
whose lab-coated acolytes
scrutinize the apparatus, tending
the device
its dread core their queen
hived and bloated with light,

turning bend after bend
of perturbation to get here
where the currents slow to spread their snares
and drop their sediment —
we are all of us oblivious,
taken in entirely by the parade
of forms, the events and detritus
that drift across the meniscus of consciousness.
Only the sandpiper it seems
sees past its own reflection —
and the kingfisher, who lunges now
through the shattered pane
to that low strange corridor
its glimpse of minnow where
last year's leaves in a
spectral cortege, lit
with the amber half-light
of the after-life
leach their tannins or settle
little by little a skeletal tracery
into the bottom silt,
thick as the dust of an undisturbed

While above an unseen hand works feverishly
to smooth the sheet of other-being
over the ever-unmade bed of the river.
And while I'm going on like this
a something noses closer through the shallows,
something I didn't notice, nor
he me til
and recoil
the beaver startled startles back
his blackjack tail on the water's pate
thwack again
in spreading rose-windows
of concussion. The Willow-Manitou
looks on and marvels.
An after-sprite of droplets shivers down.

Several weeks now he's been at it
this waterlogged carpetbagger
interloping both the banks up and down.
Daylong the air endures the rasp
and crepitation of his handiwork, a
jigsaw of precision, each chiselled branch
a deftly-placed sprag in the works.

For these two are pitted
here and everywhere
one against the other:
the curving intelligence of river,
the Cartesian architectonic
of the beaver, part iconoclast
breaking the symmetries,
troubling the face of the waters, part
masonic artificer, geometrician,
master anaesthetician, plotting and fretting
to put the river under and
three or four in confederacy
equal to an entire
army corps of engineers.

But for now the river doesn't give a damn.
Rather it is the dam that gives.
And so on and so forth through the spate of May . . .

Steve Shavel
[photo by Jenna Sunshine]

02 July 2012

Daniel Nathan Terry

[from Daniel Nathan Terry's Waxwings, Lethe, 2012]

Photograph, 1984

Swallow this
house — bedroom window paned
like a roadside cross
erected for a reckless boy, wreath
of camera-flare, paper flower of real grief
with too bright a center, edges finally fading
in shoebox weather.
                               You know
what happened there.
                                  You know
this is more than a snap-
shot. Flat as it seems, it will swell
on your red tongue and will become
those rooms — that room with its pale boy
sinking to his knees, again, sinking
into shadowed corners.
fold into black origami.
                                     Come, unhinge
your jaw like the copperhead you saw
becoming a blackbird in the woods — mouth-first,
then your throat, your white ribs and pink gut.
All that's left of you
                               must muscle through
the flapping wing, thin legs trembling,
one skeletal foot curling inward.
                                                   It's in you now —
the song, the sin, the bones, the room, him
telling you it's alright, and every man does it
when a girl leaves him empty-
             Swallow this
house, blackbird-who-became a snake. Swallow
this house and keep yourself
                                             from remembering
how to sing.


31 May 2012

Evie Shockley

[from Evie Shockley's The New Black, Wesleyan, 2011]

dear ace bandage,

       the wound is hard to place.
the wound is not your job.
       i thought i needed you, but
things are already tight. you
       are like putty in my hands,
or is my thinking colored?
       flesh tone or dial tone? who
you gonna call? your pretty
       silver broach sets in, holds
you at a tension. could it
       clasp the skin together long
enough for two flaps to re-
       attach? miss match. rematch.
love. ace. deuce. game. open.

dear cuddly dharma,

       you make it easy to say no,
just. i turn a blind eye to
       temptation after staring hard
into your hydrogen smile. we
       spoon, and i hate to stir, but
fetish is always in the mix.
       even fate looks glamorous
by lamplight. spotlight. hot.
       wound or would? would or
wooden? batter batter batter!
       you have a dream of night-
marish proportions. where
       there's a will, there's aweigh.
unanchored. unmoored. off.

dear existential fallacy,

       i need you to be concrete.
you need me to liquidate
       my account. pour, pour me,
with my fluid tale. tail, to
       hear you tell it. fluent in six
currencies. dirty lucre. you
       tracking bills counterfeited
by the page. lyre, lyre, pants
       the town crier. griot. seer.
sikh. psyche. that, baby, went
       out with the dirty dishwasher.
cross my palm with olives:
       i will tell you your pastime.
your passive voice is dated.

dear gift horse,

       open wide. now bite down.
that incident was not an
       accident. don't. act like i'm
stupid. do you come with
       a saddle? which way to
the sunset? that's the thing
       about possibility: it's dark
in there. you can't judge
       an r&b song by its covers.
colors. dolores is blue: why
       must she give up her security
blanket? she's had it since
       she was born. my, what sharp
teeth you have! all the better.

dear ink jet,

       black fast. greasy lightning.
won't smear. won't rub off.
       defense: a visual screen: ask
an octopus (bioaquadooloop).
       footprints faster than a speed-
ing bully, tracking dirt all
       over the page. make every
word count. one. two. iamb.
       octoroon. half-breed. mutt.
mulatto. why are there so few
       hybrids on the road? because
they can't reproduce. trochee
       choking okay mocha. ebony,
by contrast, says so much.

Evie Shockley

10 May 2012

Julie Carr

Julie Carr’s Sarah — of Fragments and Lines, Coffee House, 2012]

Conception Abstracts

                            Heat teems from the meat of the form

      Tame heat if tame form, if maimed form then fierce.
                       Seems eaten, this mate, this timed tenant.

Tenured member of my own passive nature, I tested the
tine of the task. Desperate for some apt rapture, tapped
the lap of the master. Faster. Water and laughter, the
last splatter of summer, later, the hot slap of not
sleeping. Walled by fault, the taut self slipped. And to
what heights after?


In the second week of solid rain, Sarah. You woke at dawn with 
a head of dream. Clover’s fell enthusiasm expands in the 
perpetual bath. Sarah. The lamp suspended in the garden, 
Sarah: Cheshire-like and falsely dear. We make boats of juice 
bottles, houses of cereal boxes, cats of toilet paper, eggs of 
lavender and stone. Sarah. At the festival of water we watch an 
orchestra of children sway to the music of their strings. And in 
your room you succumb. Learn as you are dying how to 
behave like one near dead. As magpie, you are eave-bound, 
acquisitive, indiscriminate. Beak clipping the scraps of your old 
existence, the strings of your future weave, Sarah. As duck you 
are industrious, with a reed in your possession, across pond 
you slide. But here, tatter-head, you are forced into days, 
broken into hours, and those hours mercilessly sliced.

Julie Carr

08 May 2012

Arecelis Girmay

[from Arecelis Girmay's Kingdom Animalia, BOA, 2011]

Small Letter

do not go, this day, the red
of bridges, my little, stay

beside me over
the ruins of san francisco.

go, but do not go
from me, my one,

my love, my very kin
who I laughed with in our sleep

every night, my dream
beside your dream, for a year.

wrecking ball despedida, wreck
the great rooms in my chest & take

my last song, but do not leave me
on this earth, my one

without my one. how would
the hand ever live, if it knew

it would never braid your hair
again, or hold your face?

it would get up & walk
away forever then.

one by one my breaths
would go out looking: a procession

of homeless dogs,
                                                  or clouds

22 March 2012

Robert Duncan

[from Robert Duncan's The H. D. Book, California, 2012]

Threads are spun out and are woven, from event into event. Hands work the dancing shuttles of a close net to make things real, to realize what is happening. A tapestry of a life appears in the mesh of many lives, a play. But just as when we weave a complex of lines a cloud or atmosphere appears, a texture or cloth, something more than the threads told, and out of that texture appear, not only the figures we were translating into our design, but other figures of the ground itself; so a “life” appears in the work itself. The weaving or the painting or the writing is “subjective,” is an act out of however we can do it; the “subject matter” is “objective,” is some thing or event as actual as ourselves which we reach out to capture, to draw into a texture with ourselves. In the medium, our work and this thing become mixed, changed then.  A ground appears as a new condition of what we are doing. . . .

“the mind is upborne upon the emotional surge” [Pound]

There is a threatened chastity of mind in Pound that would put away, not face, the thought of hellish things, here in considering the Divine World, as later in considering fascism, where also he cannot allow that the sublime is complicit, involved in a total structure, with the obscene — what goes on backstage. Spirit in The Cantos will move as a crystal, clean and clear of the muddle, even the filth, of the world and its tasks thru which Psyche works in suffering towards Eros. . . .

The style of the artist, his signature or control, is . . . analogous to his character, the operation of energies in repression, of challenge and attack upon the world about him . . . The grace of the artist is analogous to his nature, a given thing, the operation of energies in freedom, of response and self derivation from the world. Style, being wrested from Nature, is mastery; Grace, being given, is the service. The Art here being to keep alive in one process mastery in service, service in mastery. . . .

Paradise or first Eden survives in its never having yielded satisfaction. A rapture that leaves the poet hungry for rapture.