Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Saddened to learn of the loss of Guy Davenport. We will not see his like again anytime soon.

So the question of the moment is: should I shell out the forty-five bucks (less my employee discount) for the Library of America Ezra Pound? It's a thoroughly justifiable dissertation expense but sheesh that's a lot of money. Also I think I need to get my hands on The Spirit of Romance and the Gaudier-Brzeska book. Sigh.

Another question: should other people be shelling out a few bucks for your chapbooks? I've created a little chapbook display here at the Bookery which will probably only stick around for the rest of the month or so. But: if you've published a chapbook and you'd like me to try and sell a copy for you, why not send me an e-mail and I'll tell you where to send a copy or two to put on consignment here. You'll get a chunk of the sale and the chance to reach new readers here in Ithaca. How about it?

Leafing through the new AWP Chronicle, which continues to be a showcase for mediocre thinking about writing, but there is a lovely interview with the very idiosyncratic Annie Finch. Must get my hands on a copy of Calendars—check out these gorgeous little poems. A fascinating example of a formalist who's genuinely new:
After a while, gave up fighting against my body, my heart, my physical need for form, andI felt that if I wanted so much to engage and struggle and intersect with form, I would just have to go ahead and do it! I think as a woman and a feminist, I may have felt a bit freer to do this also. But this did not make me popular in my master's program in creative writing; people kept saying, "this poem would be a lot better if you wrote it in free verse." But I was set on training myself to use form well, so I just kept on with it. And a strange thing happened: the rhythm acted like a hypnotic spell, and all my poetry became primary process, dreamlike or disjointed in syntax and content. Now I know enough to tell certain students of form who need to hear this, "Don't even worry about what you're saying, just write in the form. It can be nonsense." I just wrote and revised without thinking of meaning, as if I were working in paint or sculpture, without worrying about whether it was clear to the logical side of my brain. If people asked me what kind of poetry I wrote, I would say that I was trying to alter brain chemistry with it. It was as if I was dreaming in iambic pentameter, which was the only meter I really knew about at the time, and I got very comfortable with it.
Inspiring and accurate. Although they (mostly) don't rhyme I wrote enough Severance Songs to hardwire my brain for the sonnet form: my sense of thought-in-language became naturally thorny and compressed, and without necessarily counting lines I'd find myself shifting the rhetorical ground between octet and sestet, or else building toward a hairpin turn for the closing couplet. Now I'm writing these prose paragraph thingies partly as a means of sonnet detox. Even though I don't choose to write in traditional forms in any strict way, I have always been formalist in my thinking—it's much easier for me to conceptualize the new writing as "prose" than it is to characterize its content or motive force. Probably I won't write any long, continuous prose—something that could be generically identified as a memoir or a novel—unless I can discover a formal or structural principle to keep my left-brain sufficiently occupied. That's why I sometimes think of writing a hardboiled detective novel, because the ossified horizontal rules of the genre would create more vertical breathing space, if you see what I mean. I must sit down and finish reading Gary's book, Dead Man one of these days because I think he may have been seeking precisely the kind of freedom I'm describing in writing it. Or I could just ask him.

Back to the old village explainer (great blog title, no?) and a sandwich for dinner. We're expecting serious snow here in Ithaca tonight.

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