As for the research and writing of the poems, this took place in different areas of the world over the course of those eight years. I traveled a bunch and kept notebooks. For the most part, I let the edits occur in my head at the time of composition, before anything touched the page. I found this process very bizarre at the beginning, because I normally type a poem out and save it and return to it later for editing. But there was something about the process itself—sitting still and parsing out a reality from what I was experiencing—that encouraged me to hold the feelings and images and thoughts together in a semi-focused cloud for as long as I could.
I wrote these poems consciously aware of my intentions: to find a place to sit and literally shut up and watch the world happen, but actively and intensely, as a kind of private eye investigating the what of things, hoping for a certain confluence of particulars to occur, which I could then sculpt into a poem, or which honestly at times created itself without my much interfering, handled perhaps by a sort of practiced underlying literary sculpting technique. The generative event of these particulars—an image, an object with emotive resonance, an internal intonation or external voice—was then paired with the musical play of language itself.
In this way a poem might come together quite unexpectedly and rapidly, like a hiccup—hence the book title.
I would test new words against the reality of the situation as I saw it, and let certain words or phrases that felt right remain fixed. Once the poems hit the page, many kept that form, although a good portion were edited by a word or two over the years, and certainly more when it came time to edit the book as a whole. Normally I espouse very much the opposite practice than the one I detailed—editing is usually where my best writing occurs.
Is it a single speaker or a chorus? It feels very much of one voice to me, but there is modulation. The voicing is a little hard to characterize—I was trying to kick-start writing by treating the sentence as a discrete form. The pronouns changed a lot as a result. I wanted Primitive State once I was willing to accept it as a work with a possible public future and not just an extended bout of self-training to function as something happening right now.
The action of each line being as in the present and disappearing behind that ongoing nowness , as it ought to be, without forcing the issue. I find the world is not very forgiving when one forces encapsulation on it, in any aspect. But it sounds like the process you describe helps keep everything from taking on the same kind of tonal surface.
And the cuts across time, too, help in making the longer sections happen. But I could be wrong. Am I wrong? Is tone your friend or your enemy? Pan: Tone is a funny thing. Like any stylistic variation, it can be a very useful tool in letting the reader in on an emotional state. The purpose of repeating the poems in my head was so that certain acquired words or feelings could magnetize and draw in whatever sensory aspects or words hovered near their fields.
The introduction of a new word or phrase would ultimately change the chemistry of the poem, the music, visual and spatial relationships, and the overall feeling. It was more about accumulating variables, keeping my options open, so whatever purpose I might have started out with was apt to change with the introduction of new language. I can say I often wrote from the same frame of mind, which was meditative and attentive and possibly over-caffeinated. I had also read a bit about object-oriented ontology somewhere early on, and tried to imagine at times, while looking out on the world, a deeper relationship things were having with other things.
So when writing the poems I tried to remain aware of where I was looking from, what I was looking at, and the relationship between things and things and myself and things. The poems ultimately had to endure my personal perspective, but recognizing a world outside myself helped me engage with a certain amount of humility. I like to think that a certain sense of place and time, in conversation with the music—itself created by a sort of stumbling, grabbing word-search by my subconscious—ultimately formed the path of each poem, allowing for a series of coincidences and random connections to create their own tension, urgency, and ultimate expression.
This is partly due to lived experiences, cultural backgrounds, circumstance, and place. These things help define values, vocabulary, visibility. Choosing autumn over fall, picking one filmic angle over another. There is also a cultural accountability to connotation—does the word winter strike within us a different tone than summer?
In winter you bundle up, which introduces a sort of leveled, quiet tone at the outset, whereas in summer you go outside and run around.
Maybe I should plant gladiolus in the front yard. Title: I look back Life can be lonley Their lives were rarely settled and calm for more than a few months at a time over the course of thirty years. Feelin A Little Too Good.
But that can be subverted—there are gray rainy days in summer and snowball fights in winter. With writers like Jorge Carrera Andrade, working with a kind of metaphorical surrealism, or Tsubouchi Nenten, who introduces baby talk into his writing, or Harryette Mullen, utilizing euphony, it can be an expansive music or a sense of the unexpected that is ultimately guiding the tone, and so we see a whole spectrum of modulation due to some relatively simple stylistic choices that produce entirely different universes.
What is the appeal for you? Is it that you like larger projects in general, or enjoy constraints, or that these ideas come to you and you take them as far as you can? As a follow-up, but continuing with personal universes: have you noticed if your poetry has changed as your children get older? Do you find yourself with more or less time to write?
Does your personal poetic universe expand with their aging, as you watch them learn and learn from them? Berrigan: The three lines immediately under your title or subtitle? I say that because I sometimes think I write from competing impulses: to either let a little bit of material take care of that glimpse of everything and nothing at once and move on, or to make these multiplying shapes that push my messes and holes all over the place. Deficits with regards to knowledge, imagination, character sometimes. I do not mean to imply that I am a poor specimen, but that I have to keep proving to myself that I can do something.
What the ongoing forms do, be they lists with no beginning or end, or made of scrolling irregularities all over the page, or a repeating frame like the squares which are actually rectangles , is forcing the music to go along and change, forcing habit to be undone, and pushing thought to replace itself with something unknown that is poetry, to make the thing be alive and have shape and not just be the sum of its sources. To come back to your questions, I find the shapes and I try to push them as far as I can, and that dovetails with your question about having kids.
Color, shape, exchanges of tenderness, violence, rooms, all the paradoxes and rips and displacements that constitute recognition. Composure is a series of practiced feints that sometimes feels natural.
I now know that I need to not think when I begin anything, which brings me full circle with my own dumbness, and leaves me out of sync with the industry of poetics. I say each line—they started as sentences, but in the making of the writing into a work, those sentences became lines. Writing Primitive State made me able to read novels purely for pleasure again after years of fighting with them. Allan Stoekl, Carl R. Lovitt and Donal M.
Leslie, Jr, in Theory and History of Literature, vol. Blanchot, M. Faux Pas Gallimard: Paris. Buck, P. Velvet Curtains Maidstone: Paul Buck. London: Penguin pp. Land, N.
CrossRef Google Scholar. Nancy, J. The Inoperative Community , trans. Sweedler, M. Personalised recommendations. Cite chapter How to cite?
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