I just wrote a thank note to Davin for orchestrating epoetica – I haven’t had many opportunities lately to have FUN with thinking, reading, writing but this really has been a pleasure! And I’m completely grateful to those who have taken the time and car to read and respond to posts. If I had any suggestions for future epoeticas, I’d ask: can we do this again?? and perhaps invite more and/or other people to contribute? And of course, it’s also clear that we need to engage with each other more – a strange side-effect of virtual communication is either abundant, easy e-conversations or, as the poetics listserv can sometimes illustrate, a series of individuals talking to themselves, airing their own theories. Epoetica has abundant possibilities for collaboration and conversation and we really have yet to make the most of this forum.
I was planning to respond to the assignment for week 4, focusing on the ideas that I had been developing over the last several weeks. I found postings by Lori and Zephyr, and my path, quite appropriately, forked away from what I had intended to write about to something new.
Reading Lori’s entry on Karpinski and Howe’s open.ended, which ties previous discussions about three-dimensionality to the current one about chance, I was reminded of a work which I had forgotten about, but which I want to share: Brooke M. Campbell’s Choose Your Own Sexuality from Rhizomes 8. Campbell’s piece combines poetry, biography, and history under the familiar form of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel to create a queer biography of Emily Dickinson. Campbell’s piece takes seriously the implications of queer scholarship, shedding light on the general import of such work: The author is often just as much what he or she is as what he or she isn’t and that creative works reflect this similar tension. Decision-making is not simply the rational evaluation of two choices, rather they are heavily laden with cultural expectations, social frameworks, habits, law, and deep desires. Though Campbell’s piece uses the familiar framework of binary choices, the fact that Campbell’s piece is based on actual historical events loads the choices up with the questions: “What happened?” and “What do we want to happen?” The effect is not to simply fork the work, but to play in the imaginative spaces between the choices, to speculate about possibility.
I’ve long loved the aesthetic of Aya Karpinska’s/Daniel C. Howe’s three-dimensional poem space in open.ended. Although I’m not sure that there’s a substantial, thorough-going literary engagement here (lines such as “Eyes closed / I am / Anywhere” don’t particularly grab me), open.ended … entrances me. Here’s how the authors describe their work:
With real-time 3D rendering & dynamic text generation, open.ended attempts to refigure the poetic experience through spatialization & interaction. As visitors manipulate a joystick to control interlocking geometric surfaces, stanzas, lines, & words move slowly in & out of focus, while dynamically updating text maintains semantic coherence. Order is deliberately ambiguous & multiple readings encouraged as meaning is actively & spatially constructed in collaborative fashion & new potentials for juxtaposition, association & interpretation are revealed.
I’m late for a very important date with you all, but all the same: the assignment for Week Three prompts me to continue on with my thinking about Williams (another essay for you! but it’s what I’m working through right now—I can’t help myself), the way the variable foot creates a three dimensional poem (that, because it’s 3D, you might as well touch, feel!), and how his work sits next to (literally next to) a digital poem that also tries to be three dimensional. I don’t know what Week Four’s assignment is going to be BUT I’m guessing it’ll be broad enough to allow me to write out a nice long reading of a digital poem to echo my reading of Williams. I’m fascinated with how Williams, of all people, a canonical King of the bookbound poem, seems to be struggle to accomplish on the page what simply was not yet possible. But at the same time I’m fascinated with my own competely problematic impulse to be a technological determinist….Anyways, here’s what I’ve been thinking about Williams and Paterson for the last two weeks.
Still! thinking about Williams…and this week’s topic of context is a perfect fit for this passage, tacked onto the end of Part II of “Book Two” of Paterson. In response to his interviewer claiming that certain passages from Paterson “sound just like a fashionable grocery list”, Williams responds: “It is a fashionable grocery list.”
Q: Well – is it poetry?
Sorry this comes a bit late everyone! I promise to be more prompt from now on … Something I’ve been mulling over for awhile:In a letter to John C. Thirlwall, dated June 13, 1955, William Carlos Williams writes: “The passage from Paterson which prompted my solution of the problem of modern verse…is to be found in Book 2, p. 96, beginning with the line: ‘The descent beckons.’ That after having been written several years before, where the implication of the variable foot first struck me” (Selected Letters 334). He then goes on to say that Einstein’s theory of relativity, the new “space-time,” has made necessary the creation of a new poetic form: “When Einstein promulgated the theory of relativity he could not have foreseen its moral and intellectual implication. He could not have foreseen for a certainty its influence on the writing of poetry” (Selected Letters, 335 – 336). In other letters, other essays, Williams also writes of how this new measure—the variable foot—must both sound over time and spatially mark the speech patterns of Americans (ie the poem must rhythmically unfold over time and it must spatially mark this particularly American rhythm). So for Williams, there is no such thing as a poem that is not both temporally and spatially alive. I’m fascinated with the variable foot – with the idea that a bookbound poem, as a precursor to a digital poem, is an object with its own kind of pulsating time and space. But it’s also a particularly elusive concept – just look at this excerpt from Paterson that Williams claims shows us the solution to the problem of modern verse! And what an impressive claim to make….
The descent beckons
as the ascent beckoned
Memory is a kind
a sort of renewal
an initiation, since the spaces it opens are new
inhabited by hordes
of new kinds—
since their movements
are towards new objectives
(even though formerly they were abandoned)
There is something about the three-tiered line—strangely enough it’s the spacing!—that drives your eyes and mind on—it insists on a durational reading and insists that you not, as Williams writes only a few pages earlier, “Time Count! Sever and mark time!”