See By So (Prynne)

Highly fragmentary work (I used most of its punctuation as dividers) which I couldn’t find a unitary meaning of except perhaps for the motif of hypocrisy.

(I spent a fair time trying to parse things into a manageable set of repeating settings, and the closest I got included an argument about falling over: “foot path step overseen / declaim, abjure by foresworn…”).

It could be just what I wanted to see, but feel that, in different ways, each fragment (“up sticks effective”; helping swallows nest; ‘time off’, etc.) expresses middle class hypocrisy. The satirical punchline on that might then be in the last phrase “in later willing spooned”: I would suppose that our willingness (literally, to agree to do something that can’t be expected as a matter of course) is ironic, stating the normality of it, though I can’t place the sense of ‘spooned’ (it could be used figuratively – perhaps for Englishness and cricket – ‘a possible pun on one page mentions ‘wet wicket’ – and be about the language that preceded it).

If a viable reading, its conclusion is both reassuring and forcefully reached; another interesting short collection.



I will try to edit all I’ve written so that grammar disrupts narrative development, as if nothing happened. That is how I’ll combine – and go beyond – the three poetics I’ve mentioned, and I hope it makes for something meaningful and yet also a poem.


Lopez, False memory

The poems here are a lot easier to crave up when you stay focused on the people that inhabit them. E.g. the start of Blue Shift:

You can tell by the landscaping we’re off the route.

Two Sundays a month except for film shoots

And special picnics…

This is something that comes up in The New Sentence, how coherence is limited to repeating protagonists. If you do, you can make out landscapes, approaching something like Surrealism: clashing goals anchored in the reader’s will for community.

I’ve also been reading some early Levertov poems today, and wondering how and why her subjects appear and disappear, at turns a diarist or more engaged, as if she were pacing herself. I have a collection of her essays, and maybe there’s some overlap with Hopkins there: diction a slave to perception, or artifice. Difficult to know what her better poems are here, but I have a preference for the ones that reminds me of Moore.

Lopez’s is obviously an open poem, both in its difficult coherence and in its “gaps” (arguably well thought in terms of ‘belonging’). I wonder, is Levertov’s process (meant in the general sense)?


Settling my nerves

Trying to work out whether my gradual non scholarly groping for poetics is coherent will come off weird. Trying again to move on: my process: keep the narrative outside content so that the former is out of focus. I think I noticed something again

What’s INTERESTING about this is how in editing the above as desired I seem to have stumbled on another claim I have complete conviction in: that due to ‘narrative tension’ and ‘structural resolution’ grammar (which I know very little about) alone dictates collage, or fragmentation (not just meaning). I won’t argue, and there is a lot more to a poem and its interpretation.

My tentative yet rushed conclusion is that it is a poem’s appearance of newness and negation always – if a narrative collage – involves its use of grammar (so we can say that in The Waste Land, cruelty as a general quality is quite sensibly thought to breed “lilacs”, I assume loss, yet, because e.g. he uses the superlative, ‘cruelest’, the speaker might also suggest his unreasonableness: it negates itself).



The problem with ideology is not the belief that we get it, and not, by extension, a sense that there is nothing we can do about it; that is a simplification. Rather, it is a bad faith, so that our ideology offers no room in our role for our opposition to anything we encounter (in the everyday?).

Art attempts a closure of art.

So if I am not drunk on the poems of some friend, I am dissolving the modernist manifesto; make it multiple!

And evermore inclusive…

Molly Bloom



If the innovations of modernism were truly radical but we deny any social or artistic autonomy to their development, then we are fetishizing art


‘Duets Infer Duty’ (Prynne)

A long poem in ten parts, each titled Deck 1 to 10. Like ‘Of Better Scrap’ these sound like lyric instructions, which raises the question of what the lyric subject is actually doing (let alone what the symbolism is). The first word of the first poem is ‘Sycamore’, and by Deck 4 I was fairly sure he was pruning a tree:

coppice afforded flight manifest once only sent satiric offended child-light yours inclined: –

With that, each line can perhaps be unpacked. E.g. being unsure that the local birds aren’t as if mocked by the pruning. Though, even if this is reasonable, there are still asides:

principal aeon nothing ventured same to win, den skillful dwell ready parable agreed condition: –

Here, does the subject contemplate the age and its passivity?

We may wonder what tree is being cut back. The last line reads:

catch as can swim toil swung deputed carbine plum far drove limit eastern upswept on.

Which suggests, if not a sycamore maple (other plants or trees are mentioned, spurges, wattles), then perhaps – fitting with the poem and the sweetness of its diction as a whole – then Prunus mume, the Chinese plum tree, especially with its rich history in poetry (and it was someone else’s plum tree).


A horse that runs to and fro

The amazon blurb says it is “neither homage nor criticism”, but it feels like both. Presumably the recurring figure of an escaped horse is in reference to Stevens’ claim that “Time is a horse that runs in the heart, a horse / Without a rider on a road at night. / The mind sits listening and hears it pass”. Near the close of this long poem, the authors say “there’s nothing abstract, miracle body of beauty, of power… the mind can barely think it; / it beats and beats deep inside all…”.

It feels like a lament, that time and Stevens’ poems take us away from the “heart” itself, a moral entity

The crux isn’t how I looked in the poem before last

but who I was and whether I still hold myself culpable…

The poem is unusual, wild, willful even, without being showy. Reznikoff seems to be a surprise foil, and Pound and Williams are mentioned in passing “to write about the normal in a normal way’s better”.

The meaning of the poem seems elusive but isn’t; its music – the sound of a horse bolting – the opposite.

What is it running to and fro over? Not the page, but something else open.



For the past three to four years, I’ve been – slowly – trying to find a way to combine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, Projective, and Objective poetics, and then go beyond them, so as to work with something meaningful.

More recently, I though the ‘grotesque’ might be a theoretical hinge to do this, and specifically the idea that language should be restless, unlike Images, which collapse into meaninglessness, with no parallels to the “primary pigment”, when grotesque. I noticed that when using theories of the grotesque to begin to get away from what’s there, in shaping a poem, the whole (always fictional) seems to recede, and form is pulled out of focus, and that this makes names at the beginning of a line more meaningful – something that the poem can be shaped around, in place of arbitrary constructions (I often felt unable to edit a poem constructively for so long as I had no focal point).

I intend now to write so that each moment in the poem is contained in the others (there is no narrative development) and its shape – the rest of its features – reflect that, so that there is the suggestion of additive content: the whole – created by devices that are coherent and shift the semantics of the poem but leave the whole unchanged – is formed from parts as parts only, is just their sum.

Then the language does not shift our reading of the whole: so the form is just out of focus, as grotesqueries are:

There is a felt contact with experience beyond words, the text is open, does not enact narrative resolution (New Criticism), but not due to “gaps” to be filled by the reader’s ideology (Hejinian), nor coherence being limited to the combination of adjoining sentences (Silliman), but because the poem is inorganic, just the sum of content.