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Showing posts from May, 2007

Susan Howe, The Midnight (3)

The Midnight, Parerga

It almost doesn't get started, like the inertia of inception, invention and inauguration is an almost lazy pleasure. We are, after all, in bed. It is midnight, more it is The Midnight, the meridian of meridians, absolute midpoint of total transition between the transparent daylight of prose and the obfuscation of nightly poetry. That each night when we go to bed we not only step into blank sheets but also into the blank sheet of the pre-poetic moment. The minute before midnight, the moment before the event of the momentary and momentous happening of the material word within the medium of the "page." We are in bed and we don't really want to get up but we have been lying there for hours now and it is simply not getting us anywhere, however Freudian it is to be held between the waking and sleeping state, susceptible to a daydreaming where our defences are down and the Id can walk amongst us with its growl and grizzle.

Like the endless delay of the w…

JH Prynne, The Oval Window

For a couple of years I have dared to teach Prynne to my undergraduate students and am surprised how a poet reputed by critics to be so impenetrable and elitist is handled by them with the same mixture of insouciance, confusion and excitement as Carol Anne Duffy or John Ashbery.

One thing that can be said is that each time I teach The Oval Window more comes to light, as if each reading clears another layer of grime from the glass so to speak. Yet I have never conceded to an actual conclusive reading, the allegorical/political readings of his work he encourages and some of his disciples insist on. For me Prynne is not a crossword puzzle to be solved. Treat him like a jigsaw you have thrown away the box to so you have no final picture to pursue.

Below is the seminar plan I have been working from based on my selections from the poem. Note I don't begin at the beginning and I end before the end as the poem makes more coherent sense for my students that way. I think this is a good way to…

Susan Howe, The Midnight (2)

In reading and teaching Howe’s work I always commence from an appreciation of the semiotic and graphematic elements of her work and find this invariably opens up the text to further understanding. The Midnight is no exception. From the very start of the poem with a fake frontispiece blurred by a false tissue paper interleaf, a frontispiece whose reverse or tain is also visible, the text rendered in mirror image, it is apparent that the visual is of equal importance to the verbal here.

A simple technique I often use when teaching Howe, indeed much postmodern poetry, is ask my students to first look at the poem without reading it. For example in “Thorow”, perhaps her best work and one of the masterpieces of contemporary literature, the simple exercise of looking leads one from the visual icon which opens the poem, through two types of prose, into recognisable poetry, ending with the remarkable three pages of palimpsest, anti-linear poetics.

The midnight is similarly a book to look at. The…

Thirsty Poems, Introduction

I have now posted all of the poems from my first, unpublished collection Thirsty Poems (1995). Quite a few of these were published and have indicated where. Thanks to those editors that showed an interest.

I wrote these well over ten years ago now while living in Poland, Dublin and London. Not sure what to make of them now, they certainly seem a very long time ago and lacking a full understanding of what poetry is and can do. But full of energy and enthusiasm all the same.

There are thirty poems in the collection overall and this will be the only place they are all available in one place. If you want a word file with the whole thing in one document, email me and I will send it on to you.

From Thirsty Poems (last work)

in there

codex:
in there is the rustle, the rustle is the bait, the vortice.
on leaves, what’s left of storm, weeps on veins.
open up the vista, let billowing go bellowing.
creatures, I am obsessed with obscene, impossible, creatures.
in there is all we have left to work on
with, where my intention monkey-shined with the happening.

dalmated polkadots dance archipelagos on the parquet


1.
in there is the rustle, the rustle is the bait, the vortice.
from the twitching bough, extrapolate my twitching heart.
where the hind’s hindquarters draw you in.
berry factories burn off the fuel that they can cobble together.
are you intrigued yet, are you, are you intrigued?
in there there is another chance to spree, to see.

emasculated transvestites prance amiably in civvies

2.
on leaves, what’s left of storm, weeps on veins.
you heave! you retch! you tight! you ululate!
not too much to go on for the weather detective.
nice to see the system throbs as much as it misses a beat.
come by, stop by, drop in and see me, see:
in…

Four from Thirsty Poems

it—

I am in too deep this time this thing
defeats me. in as much as it elevates no
I did not read up on conditions in all the usual sources
unheedful—of grape vines, of sooth-sayers—I
walking down the steep incline moss-grass
seeks to trip me crossing rock-beach breaching sand.
true. the plaintive in sight of the jelly fish
—water colour splash; violet, cerise, blue, blue-bottle, blue—
was plaintive enough, upending on the level strand me

these past four days—
men, in anoraks, ginger beards, tiny pups
replete with their pink erections—sounds from the wind negotiate
fat haunches of cloud hatch a brief peninsular of cliffs
like a mushroom the anorak is returning. his beard, on fire!
he staggers, he sings, he assails with his shanty
beaches his vessel on to my vessel
—the caravan shimmies, the portaloo shakes, the portacabin turns to stars—
released the scent of burning butter tweaks the air after
all, who can predict the fall of objects? contacts is what it’s about in
this game, gingerey whiskered, chance …

Three More From Thirsty Poems

“and there arose the power of the glittering phrase”

until:
unable to live our lives the way we wanted to we
were freed up to live our lives the way we wanted
to. no. unable to live our lives the way we wanted to we
moved on to living them, the way, we felt, we should. no. un
able to live our lives the way we wanted to for
reasons, pretty good reasons we lived in a diagonal fashion
we lived out the fiction of those lives we always wanted to
but before, because out of straight living we
were banned from living we were not able to live
our lives, the way, we wanted, wanted to want to
do so we lived those other lives, lives of the
others lovers who we also, ironically, were.

from then on:
we retire from living
why should we why shouldn’t we?
it is like one day to look at the sky and what you do see
is that your whole life’s course fulcrums on
the weather and the smell and colour and taste and touch and smell of
cut flowers, wholesome is the porridge of these mornings
twice as dull. we started over.
chang…