Poetics

At-ladys-desk-light


Because a Lady Asks Me: On Poetry and Money.
Harriet blog. Poetry Foundation. At the invitation of Stephanie Young. April 2016.

Charlotte’s Cardinal: Some Thoughts on the Poetry of Robert Kelly. Forthcoming in 2015 in a volume edited by Pierre Joris and Peter Cockelbergh. Prague: Litteraria Pragensia Books

EXCERPT: Kelly’s poetry often moves from the space of Parsifal’s double bind to that of Gurnemanz’s sage, if too restrictive, wisdom. His narrators and lyric subjects can take on either role. They can wander in a space of wondrous confusion, and then suddenly display great wisdom. But in either case the quest and the question remain the drivers; it is just a matter of who—lyric voice, narrative character—is placed in which role. This accounts for the disarming doubling effect of many Kelly poems: they can perform percipience dispensed with great confidence and then suddenly seem innocent and unknowing. They are peppered with questions. His 1975 epic The Loom is, arguably, the great quest book, but as late as 2006 Kelly, the seventy-five-year-old innocent, can still ask, “When will my childhood end?” (Sainte-Terre n.p.).

A Deeper Older O: The Oral (Sex) Tradition (in Poetry).  Active Romanticism. Eds. Jeffrey Robinson and Julie Carr. U of Alabama P, 2015

EXCERPT: Going down is, as Jed Rasula reminds us, “an Orphic obligation.” Though the connotation was probably unintended, one can’t help but hear in Rasula’s phrase the Os that echo in the slang for cunnilingus: to go down on. Thus we arrive, simultaneously, at the O of Orpheus and, once again, at the O of oral sex. Fear of the female genitalia as a dark, mysterious, and potentially dangerous region, such as the vagina dentata—or “toothed vagina”—of folklore notwithstanding, the “going down” in this instance primarily refers to journeying to the underworld of Classical mythology. Orpheus is the most famous poet to make such a journey, ostensibly for the love of a woman . . .

Introduction to three essays written by Inside Out participants (a writers in the prisons program at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri). Inside Out. No. 3. 2014

An Encounter in New Hampshire. (For Burt Hatlen). Paiduema 40. 2014

EXCERPT: But there was something about him that I just kind of took to. I didn’t have to force it. Sure, that he was a ringer for Mitchum was part of it. But there was something more. A sweetness. Like he really cared. He didn’t conjure the scary Mitchum of Night of the Hunter but the well-meaning sucker for romance of Out of the Past—a private investigator determined to set the score straight before history catches up with him.

Introduction to Commentary (A Tale) by Marcelle Sauvageot. Trans Anna Moschavakis and Christine Swartz Hartley. Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013

Sonnet_en_xy_draftboard_unicorn

Mr. Unicorn looks over a draft board I used to compare three different translations of Mallarmé’s “Sonnet en xy” while writing my essay for the forthcoming Into English (see below).

 

 

Mallarmé’s Unyeilding Sonnet en xy: Three EncountersInto English. Eds. Martha Collins and Kevin Prufer. Graywolf Press. Forthcoming, 2017

EXCERPT: Fry, Aldan, and Manson faced this sonic tangle of Mallarméan themes and chose to re-tie it in English. All, thank goodness, also chose to include prose explanations alongside their English versions. Fry’s were written by his friend, the French critic Charles Mauron, while Aldan and Manson wrote their own. They share with us revelations of many an hours’ labor. All three thought better than to reproduce the rhyme scheme in its strictest guise, opting instead to gesture in the direction of Mallarmé’s soundscapes. Thus all partially sacrifice the sound vortex of “-yx,” which may be the poem’s point; as a result they have bequeathed us three experimental English sonnets, acceptable post-vers libre, that is to say, post Mallarmé.

Introduction to Throng by Jose Perez Beduya. Lake Forest, Illinois: Lake Forest College Press, 2012

Introduction to My Lorenzo by Sébastien Smirou. Trans. Andrew Zawacki. Serie D’écriture. Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck 2012

Dérive-ations: Pierre Joris & the Drift of Tradition. Pierre Joris: Cartographies of the In-Between. Ed. Peter Cockelbergh. Prague: Litteraria Pragensia Books 2011

EXCERPT: Celan, though generationally a father, need not be shaken off. He can stand alongside Joris as a contemporary. By choosing to translate and to include Celan’s work within his own, Joris in effect makes Celan a poet of his era and includes him in the Anglophone tradition. A bold move, perhaps, but key in that Celan represents something radically different from Joris’s allegiances in the American scene. As a polylingual exile writing in his mother tongue, he, unlike Duncan, or even the supposedly road-warrior Beat poets, can stand in as a model for the wandering, homeless nomad who will later be so central in Joris’s rethinking of the European tradition through the lens of outside.

Introduction to Nicole Brossard: Selections. Poets for the Millennium Series. Eds. Pierre Joris and Jerome Rothenberg. Berkeley: U of California P. 2010

EXCERPTPleasure. This is the word that first comes to mind at the mention of Nicole Brossard’s poetry. There are other words, of course, words with historical and political resonance, Québécoise, avant-garde, feminist, lesbian, words which cannot be uttered casually, words which cause some to stop listening, and others to lean in and listen more closely. Brossard puts such words at risk, for under her pen they magically change. Heavy words become light, yet still maintain their gravitas, restrictive terms, “labels” as some dismissively call them, become expansive, utopian, inspiring.

Fragments of a Broken Poetics. Full text of 2006 chapbook plus a new afterword. Chicago Review 55.2 (2010) Reprinted in Poetry Daily and on the University of Maine’s Digital Commons.

Poundian Poetic Ambition on the Semester SystemPoets on Teaching: A Sourcebook. Ed. Wilkinson, Joshua Marie. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2010

EXCERPT: Two, maybe even three generations of poets in the counter-poetic tradition (to stick with Palmer’s term) went to school at the “Ezuversity.” This is no longer the case. Pound has not fared well in the post-sixties era. Though both Palmer and Duncan are openly critical of Pound’s “views,” they acknowledge the centrality of his influence. In addition, in both Palmer and Duncan’s origin stories the university is a conservative force, which they have the seemingly innate sense to resist. Neither story mentions wanting to go further in school, or to get published in major magazines, or to win prizes, or to cultivate a readership. The concern is to find a poetry that matters and enter into a dialogue with it. What sets a poetry that matters apart from everyday verse? It engages your whole being and changes everything.

On Writing The Middle RoomEsopus 13. (2009)

EXCERPT: Begun as a breathless twenty-five pages typed willy-nilly on my IBM Selectric one hot summer night in Providence, The Middle Room—my Bildungsroman—suffered ten years of violent expansion and contraction before finally being brought before the public by the small collective publisher Subpress in 2007. The final printed text is either 633 or 631 pages long, depending on whether you consult the first (typo-filled) or second (cleaned-up) edition.

Jennifer Moxley on Susan HoweWomen Poets on Mentorship. Efforts and Affections. Eds. Greenberg, Arielle and Rachel Zucker. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2008

The original title of this essay was, Invisible Company: How Susan Howe Taught Me to Be Alone, but it was cut out by the editors in the published version. I restore it here.

EXCERPT: Reading Howe’s poem at that moment in my life taught me to feel in the company of a book the comfort I had heretofore only felt in the company of other people. I began to connect my personal experiences to the ideational life I lived in books—a connection I had always been afraid to make, but without which I never would have become a serious poet.

Untitled Essay. Poet’s Bookshelf II. Contemporary Poets on Books That Shaped Their Art. Eds. Peter Davis and Tom Koontz. Seattle: Barnwood Press, 2008

EXCERPT: I take the metaphor of a “poet’s bookshelf” quite literally in that I actually have a bookshelf that sits facing me, to the left of my computer in my home office, upon which all of what I might call “my creative lifeline books” sit. Or perhaps I should say authors. The authors with whom I feel an especial kinship, insofar as in those moments when I want to give up in despair, I turn to their pages for hope and guidance. With apologies to Ronsard et cie., they are my Pleiades. They are also my historical ballast, for they keep me from taking my preoccupation with the contemporary too seriously. They are also my scolds, for should I look over at them with too much self-satisfaction, they respond with a definitive: “Are you going to be satisfied with that! Look what we’ve accomplished!”

From The Middle Room—Autobiographical Writings. Necessary Steps: Poetry-Elegy-Walking-Spirit. Ed. Kennedy, David. Exeter, UK: Shearsman Books Ltd., 2007

Subject and Matter: Interview with Fanny Howe. The Modern Review 2.3 (2007)

EXCERPT:

JM: Your essays have been collected under the title The Wedding Dress. It seems to me that the “vow”—matrimonial, religious, poetic—is a constant, if not always overt, concern in your writing. What does taking a vow mean to you?

FH: Paradoxically it was during a divorce that I came to believe in vows. I remember the hour when it hit. I was riding a bike in Reno, Nevada in the fall of 1964. The sun was blazing down. I didn’t want to go to my job at Harrah’s but I had no money. I didn’t want to go to anything or see anyone. I was a “walking breakdown.” I had been condemned to stay in the Biggest Little City in the World because I had run away from an early marriage and the husband said I was crazy for leaving him. For nine weeks I had to check in with the motel clerk every morning, so that my residence was on record. All of this is part of my collection of stories called Forty Whacks, which I wrote months after my release from Reno.

Keeping every vow or promise is stabilizing. It places you in time. When you break a vow, things go haywire around you. Time itself seems distressed.

Rimbaud’s Foolish Virgin, Wieners’s ‘Feminine Soliloquy,’ and the Metaphorical Resistance of the Lyric BodyTalisman 34 (2007). Reprinted online in Jacket 34 (2007). http://jacketmagazine.com/34/moxley-rimbaud-wieners.shtml

Notes on Politics, Form, & ExperimentReview of Two Worlds: French and American Poetry in Translation. Ed. Mousli, Béatrice. Los Angeles: Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2005

EXCERPT: And finally, there are those poets who do not set out to change anything, but end up changing everything, for possessed of a radical consciousness their poems represent reality in a wholly new way. Here I might name Blake, Dickinson, Smart, Khlebnikov, or even the Rimbaud of Illuminations. Such visionaries are often adopted as “honorary members” by more self-conscious avant-gardes; in fact, their work might even fit the “definition” of avant-garde to a tee. But there is always something more going on in the poetry of such visionaries, a powerful moment of complete and total disregard for the value scales of this world, an insight beyond the normal concerns of everyday existence such that the typical methods of rebellion would seem almost childish in the face of it.

Lyric Poetry and the Inassimilable Life. Essay on Robert Creeley and the Lyric. The Poker 6 (2005)

EXCERPT: These are the issues at the heart of Rimbaud’s Lettre du Voyant. Who has a right to subjectivity? To the privacy implied by that term? Only the public person, the citizen, is an individual. Only persons who own their own privacy know what’s at risk from the state—that very power supposedly formed in order to protect those rights . . . “until / death all so sudden / comes for the people / and we are one / in this covenant, all the nameless . . .” (“Echo,” from Creeley’s Life and Death). Which brings me back to my earlier statement concerning the “universal lyric ‘I.’” A linguistic universal to be sure, but one quite distinct from the universal language of the senses prophesized by Rimbaud. His project collapsed when he realized that poetry alone could not remake the world. No, the lyric “I” is not a political universal, nor the guardian of the rights of men, but neither is it the flaccid marker of an outdated bourgeois egotism. The necessary dialectic at work in the lyric stance is between the desire for the representation of a human totality, and the impossibility of realizing that desire except through its mute particulars. It is a paradox that proposes the need to risk settled definitions at every point, an idealistic proposition which, although impractical and perhaps even undesirable, is nevertheless crucial, for it challenges our tendency to symbolically conquer our surroundings and thus stop thought.

Ancients and Contemporaries. Essay on Alice Notley and James Thomas Stevens. The Poker 2 (2003)

EXCERPT: Out of the many ideas associated with Modernist writing, engagement with traditional folk cultures and/or ancient myths, texts, and artworks is not one that most contemporary writers interested in formal radicalism seem particularly inclined to continue. Granted this tributary had a healthy afterlife through Olson but even that fleuve seems presently to have slowed to a trickle. Ancient myths and folk culture are public forms of art shared and promulgated by a community, often through a bard, as religious rituals or to explain the customs of life (Kramer 8), and thus the Modernist engagement with them can be seen as arising from a desire to return the poet to a central and public role, or as a way to illuminate and perhaps even critique the present by looking to the past. If “Homer’s Art is to tell a public story, in a measure that makes that possible” (Scarlet 401) as Notley writes, then the question of the public and the private is also central to any examination of a contemporary poet’s use of ancient mythology and / or traditional folk culture.

A Personal Reminiscence Chronicling the First Documented Case of ‘The Waldrop Effect.’ How2 1.8 (2002)

Innovative poetry after Language Poetry. OEI 7-8, Sweden (2001). Reprinted on Ubuweb http://www.ubu.com/papers/oei/moxley.html

Too Common!—On ElegyLIT 5, New School University (2001)

EXCERPT: Should we, as contemporary poets, dispense with elegy, finding in its formal gravity a content too exploited for our critical minds which, force fed a constant welter of extreme human experience, via the arts both fine and corporate, are liable to resist excesses of any kind, be they emotional or economic, we would in that dismissal admit to a failure of imagination of the highest order; we would, in casting aside the elegiac as blasé, admit that we had collectively failed to give new and relevant form to an emotion which is, arguably, the universal through which individual poets have forged the mark of the modern poetic. Against traditional assumptions I believe this “modern poetic” to have begun when Tennyson penned In Memoriam A.H.H., the greatest elegy written in the last two hundred years.

The Sphere of Generality—On ContentOpen Letter 11.3 (2001)

Editing and Gender: The ImpercipientChain 1 (1994)

Invective Verseo•blek 12: Writing from the New Coast (1993)