Thursday, December 05, 2002

My allusion, in the interview with Carl Boon, to “getting a complete version of The Age of Huts ready” generated a number of email questions. Carl himself may have raised the issue most succinctly:

There are three works in The Age of Huts: Sunset Debris, The Chinese Notebook, and 2197. What changes will appear in the complete version? Revisions of these works or additional new works?

The Age of Huts originally contained a fourth work, Ketjak, the first in the cycle of the four poems. When Barrett Watten offered to publish Ketjak as a separate book – an event that changed my life – I had not yet completed the other three works, which I worked on more or less simultaneously during the 1975-78 time frame. In addition there are two other poems, Sitting Up, Standing, Taking Steps & BART, written during the same time frame that have what I would characterize as an adjunct relationship to the cycle of four poems.

Ketjak proved to be the hinge work in my life. Once it appeared in 1978, four years after I’d actually written the poem, I was able to publish pretty much whatever I wanted, at least in journals, a process that forced me to be much more careful about what I consider “complete” or ready to publish. The 800 copies of Ketjak printed by This Press, however, were already largely out of print when The Age of Huts was published by Roof in 1986. Tjanting, written after The Age of Huts – it’s the bridge work between Huts & The Alphabet – was published in 1981 literally within a couple of months of its completion. So the narrative of publication has not been the same as that of composition.

I’ve tried at times to articulate the relationship between Ketjak & the rest of Huts, going so far in the Quarry West issue devoted to my work to publish a chart.* Now, of course, with both books out of print, the question of order is truly academic. But Salt is about to reissue Tjanting and I hope to complete The Alphabet by the end of 2003. Once that is done, I will turn to The Age of Huts and deal with that in more detail. I’ve had a number of conversations with Charles Alexander about it as a project for Chax Press, so my hope would be that it ends up there – but I doubt this would be anything that will get done until later in the decade. Then, after that, I’ll start to think more seriously about one or two books of critical writing. That is the plan.

* Albeit one that I think must be confusing to anyone who doesn’t realize that I use the name Ketjak not just to refer to that original text, but also to the larger writing project I am in the middle of, containing Huts, The Alphabet & the poem I have yet to begin. The chart also fails to deal with BART & Sitting Up adequately. I may be the poet most apt to use charts in critical writing, but that doesn’t mean I always use them well.