Three Letters to Stacy Blair (Adam Fieled

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5-1-09 Dear Stacy, First want to say that I’ve been enjoying your letters. Every writer dreams of an Ideal Reader, and you are probably as close to an Ideal Reader as I have now. Re Chimes: yes, there were explicit references to Charles Baudelaire in the text. After you mentioned him to me I went back and looked at Paris Spleen for the first time in ages. It fits with the book I am writing now, that is oriented around the influence of French thinkers like Derrida and Saussure (don’t know, btw, if this book will be much to your liking, it’s theory not poetry, but you’ll have to tell me what your feelings about literary theory are.) Anyway, I skipped to the Generous Gambler and was struck by Baudelaire’s reference to the soul, and to its worthlessness; the Devil takes his soul, and he feels like he’s lost a greeting card or a watch, something ephemeral that doesn’t really matter. I think that Baudelaire and Derrida fit together rather well here: Baudelaire seems really not to mean “soul” but to mean “sole,” the part of all of us that is truly individual, that is not in some sense a quotation, which subsists of its own essence. Derrida’s concept of difference shows that we are defined by a world of things that are not us; but what constitutes the subject is encounters with Others and different interrelationships. We are defined relationally. As such, our “souls” are really conglomerates of the Souls of all the different Others we encounter. Are they as worthless and “in the way” as Baudelaire seems to think? Maybe, maybe not, but for the first time I really felt that I had understood the basis for this iteration of his. I spent a good chunk of time last night talking to Andrew Lundwall, a good friend of mine who runs Scantily Clad Press. There was a lot of venting going on, on both sidesperiodically, I get fed up with the poetry world, all the flim-flam and mediocrity, and Andrew does too. What drives me nuts is the way both individual poets and groups of poets posit themselves as having transcendent importance while all others are marginalized. This kind of game is really a cosmic joke— ALL poets are marginalized, ignored and devalued in American society, made to feel Other in a negative way. But still, these groups all love to claim centrality, point to other groups and individuals and say “We’re not marginal, YOU are,” and the Other reacts by saying the same thing right back. It amounts to dogs barking at each other in the street. Poets privilege each others’ gazes, but envy and loathe each other at the same time. Successful artists working in other mediums have the consolation of an audience that will invest money in them and love them unconditionally— poets seldom love one another unconditionally and seldom get paid for their work. This creates a lot of negativity around poetry. In many cases, this is deserved— there’s a lot of bullshit poetry around, and always has been. Usually, I know the game and don’t mind it, but every so often I get sick of it and need to vent. Andrew feels basically the same way. Things at Temple are going much more smoothly than usual. As I near the end of my time there, I’m starting to get PhD fever— I want that Dr. in front of my name. It is, admittedly, mostly a vanity thing, but I have worked very hard to earn it. Congrats on your grad school acceptance. If I can get some money together (and I’m not sure how

likely that is), I’ll come and visit you in Paris. Of course, I hope some day you can visit me wherever I am (after Temple, it could be anywhere.) What else have you been reading? What else have you been thinking? I look forward to keeping up this correspondence. Love, (almost Dr.) Adam Fieled

Stacy, I get in trouble whenever I talk about “enduring value”— it cuts against the grain of the post-modern epoch that’s coming to a close. You’re right, it is elusive— but it helps (for me at least) in establishing some kind of standard of excellence. How much meaning can our work have, if we don’t have a standard of excellence? It’s dictated by our own subjectivities, but there’s no way out— everyone has to decide for themselves what is excellent, what isn’t. And if it is excellent, it should last, right? In an ideal world, that would be the case. But circumstance is an unspiritual God and posterity has a brisk way with manuscripts. In a sense, it doesn’t matter— give it 1,000 years, 10,000 years, 20,000 years, and Shakespeare and Plato will be gone, too. You can bank on it. Don’t want to be nihilistic, but I sometimes wonder if the human race is really up for another 1,000 years. Do you think we can make it? Maybe the formal beauty is the point, as you said— it’s very Aesthetic, the notion that we live life for moments as they pass, and the beauty is in these moments that we register, horde, collect. But does it lead into an Epicureanism in which “meaning” becomes impoverished? Tonight, I am going to cook myself an eggplant parmesan grinder for the first time. Unbelievably, I’ve become a decent cook. When we finally meet, that’s another thing I can do— cook for you. Just one way of creating “moments,” and a French way, at that. I’ve also gotten good with pasta; I have mastered olive oil, I know how much to put in, and I’m amazed that lots of people in America cook pasta without using olive oil to lightly coat it before sauce. And I have a new fetish for horror movies, particularly European horror movies. Dario Argento’s stuff moves me, and, a little like Quentin Tarantino, it’s really all style, not substance— the style is the substance. It’s certainly an Epicurean impulse (albeit a perverse one) to watch movies like Suspiria and Deep Red and relish the details of color, sound, and cinematography that make the films great. Typically, I am getting obsessive about film and watching as many as possible. Where art is concerned, I am incapable of doing anything by halves. I know you like Kundera (who I haven’t read yet); what do you like, where movies are concerned? What are the best French movies? I know Breathless, of course, and Cocteau’s stuff. I am working on a book called Apparition Poems. I have included a few of the sexier ones for you (many of them are more metaphysical, less immediately striking). There are stories behind each that I can tell you if you are curious. All my Temple stuff is buzzing along, and I am very much looking forward to the dissertation process. After Temple, who knows? I feel a strong pull westward, towards the rural, places like Montana— I have a secret desire to become a cowboy! But who knows, if I get a job in Baltimore, I go to Baltimore (or Memphis or Minnesota or Brooklyn). Anyway, I’m having a pretty good time, and I hope you are too. I will be eager to hear the details of your life in France. Send me some recipes!!! XOXO Ad

11/23/09 Dear Stacy, It’s an early morning in Philly and I’m planning my getaway. I’m just not sure where I’m getting away to yet. The usual boredom is being mitigated by some exciting things that are happening with my work. And also with the fact that last week I went into a visionary trance for several days and surfaced with some interesting ideas for a movie script. They revolve around the songs from the Big Star album “Sister Lovers.” I wonder what you’d think of it. The songs are both depressing and gorgeous beyond belief, and they’re dying to be used in a movie context. As far as my getaway is concerned, it’s either L.A. or Chicago, if I have my druthers, and film is a medium I think I may have some aptitude for, though certainly the first job I get will be an academic one. Two exciting things: I’m being taught at the University of Oregon, and my poems are being featured in a textbook being released by Northwestern University Press. That I currently exist as a Salinger-like recluse in relation to the city I live in pisses me off, but there would seem to be nothing I can do about it. How are you? What are you up to? How’s Paris? I miss your letters. Love, Adam

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