Preface

One reason I'm interested in poetry: it is an activity that approaches the satisfactions in silence—the knowing after & without words. I would agree that 'thought' is a construct of words, but there are other considerations for approaching quicksilver 'consciousness'. One of the most important realizations I have had during my time in the MFA Program at USF may be that my experience of the ineffable is not what is beyond language, but what is language itself. I have tried to write poems that seek various kinds of enhanced intentionality, poems that rely on psychological locations within 'sitting' (or meditation) as I practice it. My writing

often originates in this kind of heightened waiting for a subject to emerge from free writing; I spend a lot of time letting my moving hand find its subject. I hope this receptive stance enlarges my perceptual filters so what lies in the liminal space, in the margins of sentience and insentience can be brought forward through the physical habit of placing myself at my desk. I liken it to an organic tuning up to the larger biological rhythms. So, in my own way, I cultivate an embodied site of consciousness at my desk or favorite café table that is not unlike translucent green algae making its hold in the borders of what is not wholly earth, what is not wholly creek, a mental activity of in-betweenness that a daydreaming child might engage in. I found the first example of a poetics that approximates this“poetry of steady light” and a poetry that “leaps” between the “three brains” in Robert Bly's Leaping Poetry.

Since my college days, I have overburdened my poems with my 'self', putting a premium on 'telling the truth' as the foremost concern in my poetic integrity. Writing had become a desperate act to find meaning & purpose in the chronic absences of depression, the diminishing graces of mania and the withdrawal from language itself that often seemed to obliterate clear

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thinking. David Booth’s memoir class was pivotal in helping me to rethink my negotiations between 'self', writing and 'audience' as I was having difficulty loosening my grip on the factual when I wrote poems. I have also re-examined my uneasy relationship with beauty. It informs my life to the point I fear I may curtail my poetic integrity: I look over this computer screen at my decorated flat and know how wealthy I am in a world of deprivation. And yet, I have been fascinated with beauty since I was a little boy in the grass, hiding behind the garage, chewing a stalk of grass gone to seed, and staring at the clouds wishing to fly far away from my life. The

beauty of the physical world confirms the process of knowing the 'self' as the agent that notices the 'beautiful'. Certainly, I lack the courage to live in a world that denies the

necessities of beauty, and the way government functions as the colonizing mechanism for corporate globalization distresses me with its narrow definition of the 'profitable'. What kind of world will it be in which interiority no longer exists as a human right, but only as a commodity for those who can afford it? That is a question I fear my children's children will be forced to live. It is my hope that my concern with the humanness of my material celebrates the body politic without unconsciously adhering to paradigms from my privileged positioning as a 'white', 'heterosexual' 'male' living in these disunited states.

In this manuscript, I've arranged my work into three sections oriented around the various formal strategies I’ve explored as I've aimed to enlarge my poetry beyond the 'self'. I think so much of my project returns to the nexus of world & time in the sensible body, the body of appetites and the constructs of sexuality, intimacy and love because I am interested in how one achieves that reintegration with the aftermath of the humiliated core. I hope my work evidences a calculus that sets out to reenact some of the origins, modes & limitations of knowing the body/mind in such fields of experience as they are translated in time, myth, memory, and desire.

The first section contains poems that reveal my exploration of the line from attenuated free

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verse poems pressuring diction and syntax via line breaks and erasures. I no longer think I can write lyric poetry in a way that's meaningful. My work may be 'lyrical' in the sense of a deep import of feeling or in its various gestures toward intimacies, but I don't think I can capture the in-betweenness of sound in the ways that I experience it in other poetry. I don't know how I will return to the sort of meaningful lyric I find in the work of Michael Palmer. This is something I feel moving further away with each new poem. This section also includes a few examples of poems that begin to explore the sentence as line. I have attempted to invite the reader to construct a hermetic narrative through the erasure & reorganization of narrative pacing, I hope to place pressure on the reader/listener to simultaneously suspend demands for linearity and to provide metaphoric leaps via speculations & their hermetic associations in the service of narrative expectations. This work is the first movement away from the praxis with which I had entered the program that assigned too much meaning rather than allowing meaning to accrue. A piece like "Iconostasis", still fairly close to a traditional narrative, utilizes space between lines to manifest the blurred boundaries, the perceptual borderlands that shift perspective, order, and thematic weight. I suppose this is true for much of my work: these poems often seem to restate my feeling that to engage with something is to know its absence. One way I try to enact this is by enlarging a sense of temporality: the expansion of a moment across syntactic & lexical fields as well as the

compression of duration via empty space & juxtapositions that suggest elapsed time.

The second section is comprised of narrative poems in which I use couplets to reinvent binaries partly to serve turning something deeply subjective into a set of objective surfaces. Here, thinking becomes refracted through a risk to approach the ‘other’, which is dramatized through the relationship of the ‘he’ to various actors. In some poems this exploration of identities is an effect of ‘his’ body. What I mean by ‘body’ here is both the physical body and the body as it encounters and constructs the 'world' or 'other' in conditions which make the body better known to the poem's speaker. Even in a poem like "The Redemption of

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Hunger" which is cast as a description of a 'she', my goal is to use the third person objective pronoun to enact the viscerally intimate. This is a continuation of Whitman's project: the body's ability to feel and create its truth, the circularity & its tension, not risking solipsism but risking immersion where self & other, body & soul, dissolve, reemerge, dissolve, emerge again, etc. Or as my therapist would describe it: “boundary issues.” The final poem in this second section, "Feasting on only the largest muscles" is a work-inprogress. I imagine it as a chapbook in which I engage in the suggestions of narrative and simultaneity and shifting localities to enact absence through fullness. The poem began when I was considering all of possible lives, the stories, present in the café and outside the window and how they were/are an invisible force realized by infinite absence. All that is not immediately a part of my milieu is yet present in 'mind'; it is material from newspapers, documentaries, television, memory, invention, etc. All sources are possible worlds equally driven by desire, equally informative, equally meaningful within the powerful nexus of class, race, nation, age, sexuality, and occupation. My goal is that this work contributes something that acknowledges multiple frames without privileging any of them.

Section three engages another kind of enlargement: an opening of my compositional strategies toward 'randomness' & further exploration of the limits of line via the disruptions of linear narration & normative syntax. I am trying to erase 'self' by revising against the usual distillation of experience that I have previously sought. I'm working to reinhabit the experiential without the continual winnowing that often happens for me in revision. These pieces were revised with the goal to escape the 'personal' and to embrace the invented to a further degree. I think it has helped me to welcome new ways to generate language that don't pressure meaning but engage in process, in the constraint or strategy of rejoining sentences. I find new/old coherences in this work, which was less concerned with "making sense" in normative ways.

It is clear that I could not have made this movement without my discussions with Rob

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Halpern this summer. It was his guidance and suggestions that helped me to take the necessary risks to move my writing in the directions it was seeking somewhat haphazardly. And I would be remiss to not mention that I have been reading & rereading work by Norma Cole, Rusty Morrison, Michael Palmer, Stephen Ratcliffe, Ron Silliman and Aaron Shurin. I am humbled by their achievements and can only continue to work in the fields, which they have so vigorously & rigorously explored through their lexical dexterity, invention, and exemplary poetic integrity. I am wholly indebted to Aaron, Norma, Rob and Rusty as well for being teachers who are as brilliant in the classroom as they are on the page.

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