From: (Michael Magee)

Hi everyone,

I thought it might be interesting if we had a discussion of why we do what we do - not why we right poetry, but why we write the *way* we do, an attempted explanation of our "moves" in keeping w/ my pragmatic mood (Allen Iverson uses the cross-over dribble becuase it allows him to shoot a layup instead of a jumpshot, why do I write in couplets? etc). Why Kristin G have you been doing long, thin prose poems? Why Kirsten are you working w/ free-associational rhyme schemes (Kerry might be able to speak to this too), these are just examples, a couple moves of a couple people but I'd love to hear from as many of you as are interested in having a go at some aspect of your own work: a kind of impromptu statement of some aspect of your poetics.

So here's mine: I figured I'd try to talk about what I've come to call "homophonic phrasing." (it just occurred to me that the n & b keys are right next to each other and that I need to make sure I don't accidentally right "homophobic phrasing"!). Homophonic phrasing as I've been thinking about it is related to the pun but I think has some distinct advantages at this late date over a Shakesperean or even Joycean/modernist model of punning (though in F's Wake Joyce plays more & more w/ something like what I'll call homophonic phrases). Among other things, the pun seems largely culturally determined: son/sun; utterly dependant on the Christian narrative of death and resurrection, interestingly so, but anything new you'll be doing will be in reference to the normative reading(s) of that pun - so john Donne rides Westward on Good Friday, subversive, complex in the way the pun cast such a wide net over the culture, the mind of this individual, the theology of the time; but ultimately the parameters of what *kind* of work the pun can do are drawn rigorously. This is doubly true it seems to me in a present intellectual culture where the narratives of Christian humanism are both more normative and more alien than ever. Ok, so, back to homophonic phrasing (keep in mind I'm making this up as I go along). I don't have any of my work in front of me so I'm trying to think of an example that will be useful. One way I find myself using this technique most often is at moments when I want to say something political/didactic. Rhetorically the didactic statement inspires shallow reaction and no engagement: ok, so I've remembered an example: so, if I say in a poem, "We've let our social structures erode and abandoned the poor," this is going to sound awfully familiar; some people will agree, some people won't, with an equal lack of depth. But if I say this: "the games haven't been changed to protect the indigent," I'm hoping for a different reponse to what, on the level of content, is the same sentiment: the echo of the homophone for this phrase, a pop culture reference (Dragnet's "the names have been changed to protect the innocent") runs interference so the political sentiment can't simply be met w/ recognition and either tacit agreement or knee-jerk disagreement. This is related to what Nate Mackey just calls "noise" - an interference in the message which broadens the possibilities of signification. I like too how you get multiple layers you didn't expect: implied connections between names & games, indigence & innocence, social politics as game, naming as political act. I try to do a similar thing at the end of one of the sections to my poem "Morning Constitutional" which some of you heard me read at the grad reading. It ends, "attend to a diverse Univers. or take a dive and do it then." I want at least the faint echo of "attend a University" (hence the capitalization and clipping off of what should be "universe") to interfere, also some thought to occur regarding the difference between attending something and attending *to* something, the difference btwn passive and active involvement (attending either a University or a universe is one thing, attending *to* it quite another). Then there's the sound-connection between diverse and dive: the obvious suggestion that one either gets diversity in life or in death; also a play on "taking a dive" which is a kind of false submission. But then also a sense of diving as in Adrienne Rich's "diving into the wreck" an implication that diversity is *achieved* through a kind of diving-like process of discovery. Anyway, the point being that the dialogic aspect of this echoing - most of it unplanned really - hopefully gives to related impressions: 1) that there's more to this that a single statement of a singlular politics & 2) that I'm not totally in control of what I'm saying (something I consider to be true: in order to make sense of what I'd done I had to literally become a reader of my own work). Mackey says that the insertion of noise into the assertion is the gesture that "opens the field." In that sense I'm looking for something more collaborative. Last example which seems to be an expression of that desire:

"the body plod, a tick (nervous) a
stutterant of the game(s)"

the homophones, "the body politic," "a student of the game," here work in reverse - the political is buried: one should be a student of political games. But more important to me is just the suggested relation btwn the small body (your own) and the large body (the nation or whatever) - one or both are plodding forward, perhaps the suggestion of a causal relationship; then the noise: a suggestion that students in studying should also stutter, b/c the games ain't simple enough for a more staight ahead approach (stuttering being a matter of reversals, stops and starts, back tracking, mind untranslatable into mouth - this interests me in part I guess b/c I used to stutter a bit).

So, I guess that's enough. I'm *very* interested in alternative rhyming techniques - we talked a bit about it last night w/ Kirsten - and would love to hear from one or both of the 2 K's - how about it guys?


From: (Nathan T Chinen)
Precedence: bulk

Mike, hubversers:

I'm glad we opened this discussion. I'll probably need more time to come
up with an appropriately self-conscious discussion of my own poetics, but
for now, I wanted to respond to Mike's post.

I think the idea of aurally-suggestive "homophonic phrasing" can be a
really effective technique; it's certainly employed successfully in many
of Mike's poems (and in Kirsten's new poem "Four," which she read at last
night's meeting). I like Mike's description of the unintentional and
oft-unexpected results, "multiple layers" which, as Mackey puts it, "opens
the field."

Mike, the thing that I found telling is that the homophone has asserted
itself in your everyday speech! Look at the following excerpts from your

   "...not why we right poetry, but why we write the *way* we do..."

 already, in the second line of your message, we see a homophone, and one
which could easily assume significant meaning. to what extent dou you
attempt to "right" poetry? what's wrong with it?

   "Anyway, the point being that the dialogic aspect of this echoing -
    most of it unplanned really - hopefully gives to related impressions:
    1) that there's more to this that a single statement of a singlular
    politics & 2) that I'm not totally in control of what I'm saying."

 what does it mean to give *to* related impressions? this implies that we
are contributing in some way to the impressions as they already exist. the
ostensible typo here is undercut by "2) that I'm not totally in control of
what I'm saying." By acknowledging his lack of control, Mike explains the
simple mistake ("to" for "two"). But can we take this at face value? The
fact that he openly claims a lack for control may be an ironic gesture; we
*think* there's a lack of control, but Mike is actually toying with us,
he's very much in control, more so than we ever could have imagined.

well, I just wanted to point that out.

take this mess, age with egg rain asphalt.


From: (Greg Djanikian) Nate, I think you're making me (though I'm not sure it's an altogether bad thing to become--who wouldn't want to be dizzy--dizzy) dizzy. I'm walking into lampposts, more so than I could possibly have imagined. Greg