Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Delighted by the experience of reading the titles of the poems in Jordan's new manuscript (my favorites include "HOW TO GET STARTED, HOW TO KEEP GOING, HOW TO STOP," which strikes me as a kind of answer to Gaugin, "SPRING IN THIS UNDULY MOSHPIT COMPARISON CHART," and "THE EARTH IS SUSPICIOUS"), I thought I'd share my own. This is the TOC to what I sometimes think of as Selah's brother (sister?) manuscript, The Nature Theater of Oklahoma:

A Threat of Courtiers
Noonday Demon
A Letter to the Body
The Woods
Britons Never Will Be Slaves
The Treatment
Stage Blood on the Mouths of the Eumenides
Ingram Frizer
Here I Am in the Forest
Un Chasseur de l’Hôtel des Étoiles Aveugles
A Forest, Children, the Darkling
The Bright Attenuated Image of Our Fame
Abramowitz and After
History of the Present Idea
A Jest Falls from the Speechless Caravan
Agave Agape
True Difficulty
Desire. Facsimile. Fate
L’Enfer Est d’Autres
Fog Said
Private Life
On Our Imperfect Knowledge of Void
Loose Birch
It Is Painted, Her Motion
A Fine Romance
The Language Works Extremely Well
The Kitchen of Francesca and Paolo
No More Marriages
Dissolved Soviet
History of Flight
North, Miss Teschmacher
A Pilgrim’s Progress
Ars Hollywood
Alternatives to Ohio
Landscape with Gettysburg Address
The Sweepers
The Glooms
The Nature Theater of Oklahoma
Caliban’s Orchestra

One thing I sometimes wonder about is how and why some poets decide to provide only what I think of as section titles in their tables of contents. Michael Palmer usually does this, Norma Cole has done it—it's a pretty "avanty" thing to do. In some cases it seems organic enough. My third manuscript, Fourier Series, has a TOC like that, because I want each section to be experienced as a single movement. These are not the quatres mouvements from Fourier's book of that title, but they do derive from my very literal attempt to overlay his theory of the passions onto the map of the Western U.S.:

Four Corners
The Five Senses
The Affective Passions
The Mechanizing Passions
Manifest Destiny

C'est tout. I suppose I've answered my own question: TOCs of this nature help to unify the sections of a book into something tighter, more chapterlike. Still I sometimes detect a whiff of snobbery around the practice, as if there were nothing more bourgeois than a simple list of individual poems with individual titles. Mais oui, c'est la guerre.

No comments:

Popular Posts