Showing posts with label DuPlessis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DuPlessis. Show all posts

Friday, March 30, 2007

Rachel Blau DuPlessis has a fascinating, even disturbing, critical piece in Jacket 31, which is technically the most recent issue of this by-now-fabled online literary project. Called “Manhood and its Poetic Projects,” the essay close-reads texts by Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley & Charles Olson, looking at how their work embodies, indeed creates, a code of masculinity in the 1950s that challenges traditional definitions of what it means to be masculine, but without any ancillary analysis of the role & social position of women. DuPlessis goes so far as to incorporate material concerning Olson’s professional behavior as an academic:

As has been documented, Olson made sexist remarks to women in the classroom (mainly sexual innuendo), and sometimes excluded women from the educational experience. For example, as Michael Davidson has carefully noted, Charles Olson told Nancy Armstrong “that [his] course [at SUNY-Buffalo] was going to be about ‘Men’s Poetry,’ and any women who wanted to attend would have to watch from the hallway” — an incident probably from the first of Olson’s two years at Buffalo, 1963….

DuPlessis goes on to note that Olson was hardly alone in this sort of abject nonsense during that period, nor was it a phenomenon peculiar either to poets or to one kind of poetry.

But I’m not sure that I would have read DuPlessis’ piece when, or how, I did, had it not been for the comments stream that flowed from my note awhile back on the selected poems of Edward Dorn. I may joke from time to time about there being a “Wounded Buffaloschool of American poetics, but it comes as a dousing of ice-water to think at times just how thoroughly gendered some reactions to certain comments and issues can be. I had not thought of Dorn as an index for White Male Rage, nor for that matter of many of my regular comment-stream nabobs as participants therein, but there isn’t much question that the comments stream skews heavily male nor that some of the commentators there seem perfectly content to characterize such behavior as the public wish of “the gift of AIDS” on Allen Ginsberg as merely “provocative.” What is the level of behavior required to cross the line, one wonders, if one is prepared to excuse that away?

I’m not suggesting that one shouldn’t read Dorn or Tom Clark. In fact, I think quite the opposite, even when I find it troubling or, as I noted re the last 20 years of Dorn’s writing, disappointing. But I do think one has a responsibility to discuss such events & behavior in any piece of writing one does about them. It’s as much of an 800-pound elephant in the room of their poetics as is Pound’s fascism or the anti-Semitism of T.S. Eliot or e.e. cummings. And to say nothing says far more about the critic than it does about the poet in question.

More subtly, tho, DuPlessis’ piece brings up the issue that there are certain poets – Dorn & Olson among them – who are peculiarly men’s poets, by which I mean that not only do they write as men for men but that the vast majority of their readers are guys as well. This is not the same, at least I don’t think so, as seeing the writing, say, of Judy Grahn, Adrienne Rich or Susan Griffin as being women’s poetry in a separatist model of feminism (tho the three did not all take the same position with regards to that, nor always express the same sense of that across time either – as Judy Grahn has said, separatism was a tool, not necessarily an end in itself). Or, for that matter, a somewhat parallel male gay liberation aesthetic that once would have included, say, the early poetry of Aaron Shurin.

Part of what makes DuPlessis’ piece worth reading is the inclusion of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” as one of the texts she takes on, and the ways in which she demonstrates how the homosocial construct of the New American poetry plays out “the same but different” in the hands of at least one gay man. She notes, of course, that it would have been different had, say, she focused on Jack Spicer rather than Ginsberg, although it might have been interesting to look further and ask how it might have been different in the hands of John Ashbery or Frank O’Hara, or of Robert Duncan. Or, for that matter, Amiri Baraka or Steve Jonas. Or if she had looked at other poetry by Ginsberg that touched on his relationships with women, most notably his mother in “Kaddish” or his Aunt Rose.

One of the dynamics that DuPlessis is most interested in – troubled by – is precisely the double-nature of this male critique of masculinity that could be shared by such poets while at the same time not expanding its reach to incorporate women. She quotes Susan Howe from a conference on Olson to drive home the implication:

After hearing conference papers by two of Olson’s committed commentators, Don Byrd and John Clarke, Howe remarked: “I am a poet. I know that Charles Olson’s writing encouraged me to be a radical poet. When I was writing my first poems I recall he showed me what to do. Had he been my teacher in real life, I know he would have stopped my voice.” Then, playing on her status as a “respondent” to conference papers: “Can daughters ever truly respond to factors that come into play in such a patronymic discourse?” (S. Howe, 166, 168). She follows with a cited catalogue of intensely misogynist passages by Olson and then balances this impression with some other citations. “When he is at his best, frontiers are in constant flux” (S. Howe, 172).

Howe’s point here strikes me as very much on target because it acknowledges the degree to which writers, including the most problematic among us, are not continuous monoliths, but indeed ensembles of complex layerings, some of which can be at complete odds with one another. There is the Gertrude Stein whose writing completely flung open the doors of possibility for women & especially lesbian women in poetics, whose attitude toward other Jews could best be characterized as ambiguous, and whose attitudes on all issues of class & privilege are cringe-worthy. Her presentation of African American female voices in her early prose is generous, but it is also condescending. She is always all of these writers. Leaving one or two of them aside robs you of the whole of Gertrude Stein, even if including all of them might not be as much inspirational or as much fun.

As the absolute number of poetry books expands so dramatically as it has in the U.S. over the past 20 years, it increasingly becomes possible for younger poets & readers to self-select & even balkanize their own reading, to become enmeshed almost exclusively in this particular branch of the post-New American poetries or that particular variant of the School of Quietude. And while it is certainly the case that it is better to be passionate about something than merely a tepid sampler of everything, I do worry about the ease with which these problems can all be avoided through the worst of all solutions, selective ignorance.

There’s no question in my mind that I think every woman writer needs to have both the collected Olson and The Maximus Poems on her bookshelf. Just as every male poet needs to have a comprehensive collection of the work of Judy Grahn on his. Even if her later poetry is, to my reading, as problematic as that of Ed Dorn’s. But it also means dealing with all these issues, whenever & however they arise, with some generosity one hopes (Susan Howe & Rachel Blau DuPlessis are both good examples of this, frankly), but always with eyes wide open.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The best reading I’ve heard in the suburbs of Philadelphia in the past couple of years took place last Thursday night, upstairs (and in the back – you had to know about it to find it, since there was zero store signage to indicate the event) at the Bryn Mawr Barnes & Noble. The readers were Jena Osman & Rachel Blau DuPlessis. Not counting the readers, there was an audience of exactly twelve. Maybe half of these were there at least partly to participate in the open reading that trails the featured readers. It felt odd to be in this bookstore within five miles of several great colleges (Bryn Mawr, obviously, but also Villanova &, to the south, Swarthmore, plus at least a half dozen smaller schools – this stretch of the western ‘burbs of Philly is second only to Cambridge in the density of high learning establishments) to have such great readers & such a small audience.

The reading wasn’t sponsored by any of the colleges, nor by any other public institution such as the Tredyffrin Public Library, where I’ve seen both Osman & DuPlessis before, in front of considerably larger crowds, albeit well outside of the “college belt” of the city’s inner suburbs. Instead, Thursday’s event was part of the Mad Poets’ Society’s (MPS) somewhat dizzying roster of readings. MPS has been around now for just under 20 years, having gotten started as a poetry support group in Delaware County. One way that MPS reaches the broadest range of people is precisely by not settling in on a single venue, but rather rotating between eight or nine locations. Nowadays, it sponsors readings everywhere from Kelly Writers House on the Penn campus all the way out to West Chester. There’s another network out in Reading, PA, that covers the territory from out there all the way up to Kutztown State University just west of the Allentown/Bethlehem metro. And there’s a group out in Harrisburg (and it would seem Lancaster as well). Indeed, I get the sense that I could stitch together a loose network of such reading scenes pretty much all the way to the Pacific. I ran a writer’s workshop in San Francisco’s Tenderloin in the late 1970s & while the participants may have been somewhat different than the folks in Bryn Mawr – I had drag queens & junkies & prostitutes, seniors who’d waited until they were in their seventies to escape from abusive marriages, plus all manner of everyday street people¹ – the scene itself was remarkably continuous with what I saw last week at Barnes & Noble.

These are, for the most part, people who write poetry passionately, but who don’t read that much of it, certainly not enough to establish a historical sense of writing over the past century, say – the young woman who introduced DuPlessis referred to George Oppen as George Open. That she mentioned him at all meant that she’d been diligent enough to do her hosting homework, but could she have talked about the role of Objectivism in American poetry, or of Oppen’s relationship to that? Unlikely.

There was a time – 1965, to be exact – when I was myself in just such a space as a writer. The open reading series on Sunday afternoons at Shakespeare & Company books in Berkeley gave me an opportunity to test out my new work and, perhaps even more important, to make contact with other poets who were not necessarily further along in their careers than I. John Oliver Simon & Pat Parker were occasional readers, and Gerard Van der Luen was positively a star in this environment. None of us grew up to be the same kind of poets as one another – Van der Luen was an editor at Penthouse for awhile before getting into the tech side of things.

It was when our open readings were pre-empted in January 1966 for a memorial reading for somebody whose name was entirely new to me, that I first heard of Jack Spicer, and where I first saw Robin Blaser. And it was through this series that I first connected with small presses that began to publish my work.

I stopped participating there after I’d gotten to a point where I knew that I could get the best possible reaction by putting jokes into my poems, and then began to worry about the poet as stand-up comic manqué. That wasn’t who I wanted to become and, as much as I liked humor, that wasn’t exactly how I wanted to use it in my work. I don’t think I could have articulated this all that clearly back then, but what I really needed to do at that point wasn’t to read aloud, but to read the work of others voluminously. And when I first got to SF State that next autumn and couldn’t get into all the classes I wanted, that’s what I did. I read the poetry section of the library literally A to Z. Even then I was blissfully unaware that Blaser had been the poetry buyer there and that, at that moment in time anyway, the poetry collection at SF State was remarkably complete, especially on the emerging post-avant side of things.

Osman & DuPlessis gave great readings last Thursday because they’re superb writers at the top of their game, and wouldn’t do less just on principle. Among other things, Osman read work for a libretto she’s writing & it’s wonderful. I can’t imagine how it would sound set to music (and, introducing the poem, Osman conceded that this was a mystery to her as well.) DuPlessis read two sections of Drafts, one literally built upon doggerel, both as form and institution, and it’s a loopy, daring, questioning & wise poem, perfect for this audience in a curious way, but even more well suited, say, to the Segue readings at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York, where people would catch its neo-Brechtian layer, its relationship to the poems of Charles Bernstein & post-Saussurean linguistics. It was one of those evenings where the poetry sticks in your mind for days afterward, tho I wondered just how many people in that audience heard the same reading that evening.


¹ The late Eskimo poet & novelist Mary Tall Mountain was an active member of the Tenderloin Writers Workshop, and, later on, Roberto Harrison was as well.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The University of Alabama is offering, via Charles Bernstein’s blog (& just until the end of this month) a 30 percent discount on two of the most recent publications from the Modern & Contemporary Poetry Series: Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ Blue Studios: Poetry and its Cultural Work and her newly republished The Pink Guitar: Writing as Feminist Practice. Any new publication by DuPlessis is a big deal, deservedly so, and while I haven’t gotten my own copies of this perfectly matched pair of critical books yet, just thinking about them sent me back to the title work in Blue Studios, an essay that has been up at the Electronic Poetry Center for some time. It’s one of those essays that makes you thrilled just to be living in the same time as such great work, that you can read it & absorb it & let it feed into your own processes as a poet. That’s something that only the very best poetry & critical writing can do – and both genres can achieve this -- & once you’ve connected with a text like this, you know it’s something you’ll return to again & again as a touchstone of what is possible. I feel this way about very few critical texts – Spring & All, Proprioception, Writing Degree Zero – so any addition to this list is a major event. Blue Studio: Gender Arcades – I feel a need to italicize this, even tho I’m referring here to the title essay rather than the whole book (which I have yet to read) – is the only text on my personal list of such critical works written in this century.

The poet Barbara Cole has asked DuPlessis a question whose exact wording we never quite get to see, but must have been something like What about all this feminism? or, perhaps worded at greater length along the lines of You’re a poet long aligned & publicly associated with feminism in the U.S. & yet your own writing is a far cry from the sort of poetry that is characteristically identified as “feminist,” such as that of Adrienne Rich, Susan Griffin, Judy Grahn or Pat Parker. What is that about for you? How does it work? Or does it? However it was originally posed, it’s a compelling question. I recall Kathleen Fraser, who founded HOW(ever), now the e-journal How2, with the assistance of DuPlessis, Bev Dahlen & the late Frances Jaffer, once telling me that the reception the newsletter got was exactly the opposite of what she had anticipated, that she had thought it ought to be greeted enthusiastically by the likes of Sandra Gilbert & Susan Gubar, only to be surprised at their silence, especially when compared with the extremely positive reaction the newsletter got from male post-avants, presumably the very poets who would be most threatened at this intervention into their traditionally male enclave (think, say, of the sexual politics of Charles Olson, or of the New American Poetry in general). And I recall how deeply suspicious of the word “feminism” so many of the women writers associated with language poetry have always been, perhaps precisely because of that term’s association with instrumentalist versions of the School of Quietude & its clarion call for conformity at all cost.¹ So to find DuPlessis tackling this issue directly is heady stuff.

DuPlessis’ response is multiple, organized as the subtitle suggests into movements or arcades, a term I suspect she chose less for the Walter Benjamin allusions (tho never so terribly far from the surface) as for the non-hierarchic experience of walking, literally, through a space with many alternatives.² There is, tho DuPlessis doesn’t say this at first, but rather arrives at it quite late in the essay’s progress, a distinction to be made between a feminism of production (think Susan Griffin) & one of reception (think Carla Harryman), plus, along the way, many, many different definitions within these two broad arcs of possible ways to constitute a feminist poet:

Feminist poet = one who talks a lot about gender and sexuality in her/his work. No, wait-that would be lots of poets--Olson, Williams. So try-a poet who marks the constructedness of gender and sexuality in her/his work, takes gender as an ideology about male- and femaleness and wants to investigate, to critique, not simply to benefit.

Feminist poet = woman poet

Feminist poet = woman poet consumed (studied, read, appreciated) under the regime of or in the economy of feminist perspectives, whether or not she is a feminist. One might want a different term for this-see the note on "feminist reception" below.

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who has certain themes in her work, themes (tautologically?) agreed upon as feminist. These themes - Alicia Ostriker names a number: self-division, anger, investigation of myth, assertion of the female body-are very palpable, valuable ways of organizing poetic texts, but have the flaws of their formulizable virtues: of being reductive or making the poem one-dimensional.

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who writes poems about the liberation of women

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who resists stereotypes of women-in her life? in her work? both?

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who resists stereotypes of women and men-again-where?

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who comments on gender issues in her critical work, who thinks about gender in the cultural field

Feminist poet = woman poet whose work is selectively seen, certain materials heavily valorized because of the existence of feminist criticism and its paradigms.

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who takes certain themes of "difference" involving women's experiences -menarche, menstruation, childbirth, kid life, sexisms experienced, rape, incest - as central subject matter (some of these topics are not exclusive to women)

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who tells the truth about her life as a woman. And with that verbal emphasis on truth and the unmediated communication of experience, one also might want to investigate the word "tells" or representation. As Margaret Homans so presciently said about Rukeyser's rousing manifesto "No more masks!": "Lines like Rukeyser's and the expressions of faith derived from them are always exhortatory, never descriptive, because to speak without a mask is an impossibility, for men and for women…." (Women Writers and Poetic Identity, 1980, 40)

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who used to be called a poetess

Feminist poet = [woman] poet in a certain anthology (like No More Masks!)

Feminist poet = poet who destabilizes the normative terms of gender/sexuality and makes some kind of critique of those issues in her/his poems. This is closing in on the word "queer" as synonym for "feminist"

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who refuses (self-censors) certain themes or solutions, certain images or insights because they do not explore or lead, in her view, to the liberation of women

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who calls explicit attention to the relative powerlessness of women and the relative power of men-or who exaggerates this positionality into female powerlessness, male power in all cases.

Feminist poet = [woman] poet historically coming to her production in some relation to the liberation of women, and to the cultural critique of female exclusions made by feminism in general

Feminist poet = [woman] poet writing something "politically involved…multi-gendered, …delicious to talk about, unpredictable" (to cite the Belladonna formulation from Rachel Levitsky)

Feminist poet = [woman] poet affronting the complexities of sexuality, eroticism, desire, odi et amo, frank and startling, decorum breaking (like Dodie Bellamy or Leslie Scalapino)

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who investigates language, narrative, genre and representation in its ways of constructing gender and gender roles. This is Kathleen Fraser's argument: "I recognized a structural order of fragmentation and resistance" that was anti-patriarchal; her argument for the crucial intervention of formally innovative and investigative poetry into a feminist field in Translating the Unspeakable: Poetry and the Innovative Necessity, 2000)

Feminist poet = a person who is a feminist, and who also writes poetry

Feminist poet = angry woman, writing poetry

Feminist poet = ironic woman, writing poetry

Feminist poet = [woman] poet who is "disobedient" (Alice Notley's term for herself); transgressive (like Carla Harryman); "resistant" (my term about myself); imbuing knowing with its investigative situatedness (like Lyn Hejinian's "La Faustienne") in full knowledge of gender normativities

Feminist poet = a poet radically skeptical about gender ideas and arrangements in a culture

Feminist poet = a poet who knows what she thinks about gender ideas and arrangements in a culture and does not particularly change her mind

Feminist poet = a poet who sometimes shows herself to be ironic and skeptical about gender and sexual arrangements, but other times is not, or not overtly

Feminist poet = a woman protesting the place of woman in culture and society (in her poetry? not in her poetry? I didn't say)

Feminist poet = one who finds herself "mounting an enormous struggle" within culture, including poetry, because of its deeply constitutive gender ideas

Note that not all of these definitions require the poet to be female. What is actually oddest, this morning, about excerpting this little list is that it really doesn’t do any just either to the breadth of feminist possibilities that DuPlessis entertains over the course of the entire work – this is, after all, from a single arcade in a work that contains 25 such arcades. It’s not so much that there are other lists to added to this one as it is that entering the question over & over from all of these different angles – each arcade is a very distinct intervention – many of the categories above split & divide & all but explode into many further possible configurations.

From my perspective, what is so fascinating about all this is just how deeply DuPlessis’ critique resonates with my own sense of a literary/political/critical project, which is not one I would necessarily call feminist, perhaps save as an adjunct to (or dimension of) a more broadly social perspective. And this, at least in part, is why I think this essay is especially important for male poets to read & think through seriously. Particularly if you think there is a political dimension to what you are doing, I think guys will find it almost spooky just how completely on target DuPlessis’ own takes are, repeatedly throughout this piece, not just simply on or about gender, but across the board. Case in point (from the 22nd page of the 23-page PDF version also available on EPC):

There is no doubt that poly-interruptibility and a sense of multiple vectors, the collaging of these, the play with "sequence of disclosure" and rhythms of understanding mark my work in both poetry and the essay. I have also made a serious gender critique of the "lyric tradition" and want to encircle, rupture, torque, destabilize lyric poetry as such. But, carefully (and with a little help from my friends - Hank Lazer and Nathaniel Mackey), I do not reject "lyricism" or melody as one effect built among many in a poem (sound, segmentivities, charms – though I do emphatically reject the charming, the decorative, the pretty. I have a principled resistance to "beauty" as a marker of verse, a serious claim of dissent and resistance, but my creolizations are not ignorant of beauty. Nor do I reject syntax as one means of directing attention, the "sequence of disclosure" - in George Oppen's wonderful phrase (Sagetrieb 3, 3 [Winter 1984], 26). I am fascinated by the way syntax intersects with and interacts with any poetic line or unit of segmentivity. I use sentence and fragment, argument and disjunction, putting rapture next to rupture, so to speak. I want the passion, sense of the ethics of writing synthesized with discursive variability, and linguistic/ textual creolization.

Gender is not the only reason one might want to encircle, rupture, torque, destabilize lyric poetry as such, but it certainly is one – class almost as obviously is another. There are a wide range of subject positions that might equally share DuPlessis’ principled resistance to “beauty.” A large portion – tho not all – of the spectrum that is the post-avant is aware of inhabiting these positions & it directly impacts the verse that rises from this juxtaposition. A sliver – tho not all – of the spectrum that is the School of Quietude does likewise. A writer who is committed to conformism as the hallmark of verse, but who is also an out-front feminist, is invariably someone living large in their personal contradictions. That might make their work more interesting, but also it might not. A lot depends on who & how well & in what ways, etc.

So there is no question that Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ Blue Studios is a major act of feminist literary theory, but it is more than that also. It has insights & lessons that go beyond gender, even beyond class. My hope is that it gets read by more than the already convinced.


¹ Indeed, I have sometimes wondered if DuPlessis herself might have become a language poet had she been, say, in San Francisco during the early-to-mid 1970s rather than France. Her own poetics, with its strong critical dimension, surely has elements in common with my own poetry, as well as with the likes of Barrett Watten, Lyn Hejinian, Steve McCaffery, Bob Perelman & Charles Bernstein. Yet when I think of DuPlessis’ associates, particularly on the masthead at HOW(ever), such as Fraser & Dahlen, they were in San Francisco & very successfully kept langpo at arm’s distance – if anything they, Leslie Scalapino & some male poets like Jerry Estrin & Aaron Shurin – all proved to be language writing’s strongest – and thereby most useful – critics. When I see these same people today sometimes referred to language poets – Estrin was the first to have that phrase show up in his obituary – it makes me realize not just the degree to which that moment of the 1970s is past, but also it’s true, absolutely, that opposition is the truest friendship.

² One might compare the experience to walking through a mall, but without a “master tenant,” which is precisely the point.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Rachel Blau DuPlessis has told me, on more than one occasion, that no writer of long poems before me apparently commented in any particular detail on the process of starting or constructing such a work. But DuPlessis has herself done so, at least partly (& to some degree indirectly), in an essay entitled “Haibun: ‘Draw Your Draft,’” in H.D. and Poets After, edited by Dona Krolik Hollenberg. It’s an interesting volume overall with poets Alicia Ostriker, Robert Kelly, Sharon Doubiago, Frances Jaffer, Kathleen Fraser, Brenda Hillman, Leslie Scalapino, Nate Mackey & Carolyn Forché in addition to DuPlessis writing on their relationship to Hilda Doolittle, each in turn followed by a second essay by a scholar on the same topic – Burt Hatlen contributes the companion to DuPlessis’ essay.

A sample passage:

No plan, no design, no schemata. Just a few procedures: placing works on the big stage of the page, making each be itself intact and autonomous but connected to themselves as they emerged. No continuous narrative. No myth as explanation. Here Drafts are very different from H.D.’s long poems and quite related to Objectivist ethos and poetics. The works are influenced by Objectivist argument and propositions about reality. That the image is encountered, not found, as Oppen proposed. That the and a (said Zukofsky testily) are words worth investigating, as suggestive and as staggering in their implications as any epic or myth.

Even though DuPlessis ranges far beyond just her relationship to H.D., there is no single summation here – indeed, DuPlessis warns in an end note, that this account is far from comprehensive, citing a wide range of other sources & influences as diverse as Rae Armantrout & Clayton Eshleman.* In an unnumbered note, DuPlessis comments that “I also follow the ‘hermetic’ encoding in H.D. that involves having an H and a D in titles that consider her.” Thus, “Draft 12: Haibun.”

The conjunction of these factors – the charged, but non-exclusive discourse with modernism, the concern with the letter, brought up something very different to mind, a poem, specifically this:

There is more here than memory.


Reading Paterson on the bus, back & forth. Across the city. The 210. A man & a city.

I am not a man & this is not my city.

Williams though as a guide. His universals as particulars, ideas in things. His rhythms. Every rhythmic shaking (like a belly dancer), splashing (like the Falls) lines. Insistences. Insistence on persisting. . . .

Stuck stuck stuck the W – a poem in the new Sulfur began with a quote from Bréton that the surrealists opposed the W to the V of the visible –

The W atop Woodward’s – the big, brick, block-long (almost – next building west was Woolworth’s – another W (west a W, was a W)

These excerpts come from the very first section of George Stanley’s Vancouver, which I found at the very end of his most recent book, At Andy’s, an echo of how the first of DuPlessis’ Drafts appeared at the back of Tabula Rosa (Potes & Poets, 1987). I’ve compared Vancouver & Drafts before, but these additional layers of correspondence amaze me.

DuPlessis, in “Haibun,” speaks also of memory:

At a certain point in this exploration of the rhetorics of “drafting” I realized that I was constructing a texture of déjà vu, a set of works that mimicked the productions and losses of memory. And that the works were my own response both to the memorializing function of poetry and to my own bad memory. “An exploration of the chaos of memory (obscured, alienated, or reduced to a range of natural references) cannot be done in the ‘clarity’ of a linear narrative”** . . . . Bad memory. Bad dog. Bad bad memory. The poem replicates (but neither reconstructs nor represents) a space of memory.

Part of what amazes me in these convergences is that if I were to construct a scale of the poets who had some relation to the journals Caterpillar & Sulfur, edited by Clayton Eshleman, according to the degree of Jack Spicer’s influence perceptible in their poetry, Stanley & DuPlessis would almost be the opposite extremes. Yet here are two projects that are, if not parallel, at least so filled with resonances back & forth, that each poem works in part to illuminate the other.

* Caveat lector: my name appears in that list. 

** Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays, by Edouard Glissant, p. 107.