Monday, June 23, 2008

New book on a poet we've read


Author: Johnson, Ronald
Pub Date: 01 May 2008
Publisher: National Poetry Foundation
ISBN: 978-0-943373-75-1
Price: $34.95

Description from Small Press website:

Poetry. "I count Ronald Johnson as one of the defining peers of my own imagined company of poets, ageless and yet insistently specific to all one's life might seem to be here and now. The very title of his major long poem cycle, ARK--with its determining echoes, its senses of a contiguous, innumerable event, its measure of heart and time, all the wondrous, intimate, particularizing reflection and record--proposes the character of this work I so value"--Robert Creeley. "I have always thought Ron Johnson a terrific poet: everything he has written has surprised and delighted me"--Thom Gunn. "Poetry with a passion for exact, even scientific scrutiny"--Guy Davenport.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ghostly poetics, cont.

Here's a poem by Rae Armantrout appearing in latest issue of Poetry (USA). (Any copyright issues?)


Haunted, they say, believing
the soft, shifty
dunes are made up
of false promises.

Many believe
whatever happens
is the other half
of a conversation.

Many whisper
white lies
to the dead.

"The boys are doing really well."

Some think
nothing is so
until it has been witnessed.

They believe
the bits are iffy;

the forces that bind them,

Monday, June 16, 2008

tugging against closure

Hilary, just so you know that you are not blogging away into the void, see my post re: Jailbreaks.
Further to your thoughts re: Guest's thought on composition and poetics. Perhaps her "embracing an echo" is akin to your "tugging against closure."

Interesting that she talks about the "force majeure," a poem as force of nature that directs and connects all living things. This is what i was trying to do in Boreal Surreal. love the physicality of her description of how a poem emerges.
Wet and whining.. good poems insinuates themselves
into the (sub)conscious and onto the page,
demanding attention
demanding to be fed, nurtured

The phantoms are ideas that emerge out of ether, mist, air.
we know not where. but also in tandem with a memory, a word, an object:
"a knife a rope a book
on anatomy."

The poem . the movement, charge, energy - that makes it zing - is a fragile thing. It can easily be undone in over polishing. I agree with muscular control, not sure about fastidiousness.

Timing, stuggle, risk, yes.. yes, and sometimes the poem hurries the poet.. then there is nothing to do but take the chance, follow the lead. The steps can be practiced later.

Monday, June 9, 2008

My thoughts on a few of Guest's lines (last post, June 2):

"-a stasis and / pull in the composition physical-"

Composition involves a pulling-in by the developing thing--the forming thing--a centripetal force--what the form demands (fetal), from one line or block or layer to the next, one moment to the next

"a stasis"--the moment before movement?

"remember, a contradictory tug phantom-like– / upon the environs of the poem–"

But there is also something beyond this inward-pulling thing. Her choice of "phantom-like" to evoke this other indicates a ghostly side to the process of composition. This aspect is a "contradictory tug"--it pulls from the uncanny edges of the poem--from the unsaid around the poem. "upon the environs" -- coming from beyond the immediate environs, like starlight. It contradicts the forming thing, it says, "Not yet, not yet" and tugs against closure.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Barbara Guest --poetics

I am mired in revisions for an academic essay, and badly in need a poetry break.

Here is an intriguing "statement" of poetics that Barbara Guest apparently presented in 1998 at Naropa. It is reprinted in How2:

How about some posts on her ideas?

A Reverie on the Making of a Poem, June 1998

Arrived at the terrain of her sensibility

–a stasis and

pull in the composition physical–
remember, a contradictory tug phantom-like–
upon the environs of the poem–;

think of poem going through these stages
balance and non-movement
always an inert force in poem to try to bring it back and force this on the
surface of poem


darkening of the page and then withdrawal
of darkening:gradually the page lightens,
the invisible heavinesslifted itself.


this elevation.

With no warning (from inside the text,

mind attached to the text)

method to elevate poem from surface


and attacked by dizziness of atmosphere!

In the attack of suspense; a masterful

development of plot and erasure.


The echo the words grant us on page and off!
sound of the last few words–;
they will be abolished and this new movement
embracing an echo,

only discovered here the poem
sustains marginality



the timing of this substitution one ideafor another
Countdown!knuckle on the hand
illustrates itselftames–

the sentence covering it

with a fist, held loftily–

muscular control . . . fastidiousness

continual restiveness, also

timing supplant strong attack

struggle necessary–but not to let go



a blissful discontinuity
orders this estrangement of each

available word and the disinclination to advance (at
that point in time) or desiretohurry toward an abrupt

rushing or spectacular jumps over the hurdles–

as in conversation
do not hurry the poem

but take chances

motion, movement in poem


an advanced punctuation bursting from vases

into an arena of sound
the aroma continues as a cloud of invisibility shelters

ghost exiting

there from center right:solid objects merciless.


what else can poem perform in its arena

of possibilities

the phantom of possible ideas


(maneuvering inside a volume)

a force majeure to shred the atmosphere
this fist its imprint almost

poet in charge


and all the whilemovement coalescing
with the strict idea

Startling these maneuvers!

of idea and erasure.

not to lose sight of the ideas, and movement they must meet

not to tell all possible choices in poem