Friday, July 08, 2005

Steve Benson, who’s not a chronic reader of blogs, finally saw my June 24th note on the ball (30 times in 2 days) & posted the following note in the Comments section. More people will have the opportunity to read it, tho, if I repost it here.

I’ve never written to a blog before.  So I feel kind of raw and honored.  I certainly am grateful for what Ron wrote and that it received some diverse attention from others. I didn’t find it until last night.  I just want to comment briefly.


I think Curtis’s idea that I may seek a measure of invention (or awareness, or initiative, or . . .) has an appealing ring something like truth, but I don’t think the SATs would provide me with an acceptable model of measuring anything at all.  The term ‘measure’ has more resonances in the literature and experience of poetics that need to be figured in, and the statistical presumptions would need to be figured out.


I am not ‘insisting on’ any extemporaneity.  I am only documenting the method of composition, something that any other writer might do without requiring the Paris Review to come feature them in a lengthy tête-à-tête, but that rather few writers actually do in the instance of a work’s publication.  I myself often wonder how someone wrote a text and then wonder why they won’t just tell me in the same book (or magazine—like they do in Chain).


It seems to me that many of my contemporaries write only or always without revision.  I myself do sometimes no revision (usually after trying some and finding it misserves the work) or a little (to delete vocalized hesitations or mis-started words, to excise lines or verbal sallies that appear in retrospect futile and non-contributing) or quite a lot.  Some works like Briarcombe Paragraphs, Reverse Order, and On Time in Another Place involved extremely involved and effortful exercises in deliberate revision in order to arrive at compositions I chose to stand by—but it is also notable that in two of these examples the revision structured the work [a serial project in which each stanza or paragraph is a processed revision of the previous].  In the third I further revised the already- heavily-revised paragraphs by juxtaposing them interlinearly in a manner that owes much to fortuity and a little to minor edits but nothing to chance.


I don’t understand the difference between warts and perfection, either in my work or in a person who might become a friend.  I do not believe the body is stranger to the soul. 


The nature and relationships that become apparent and available to use in the complex dynamic organism that results from composition (which includes revision) become the index of what works and whether a useful kind of unity in diversity becomes grounds for publication.


What has happened in my writing project(s), over the past twenty or thirty years, that I would not have been able to anticipate, is that I have become aware of the poem (as printed or read) as a problematical site of documentation of the poem (that is not to be ‘grasped’).  Poem as event does not appear to me identical to poem as text, but I would be hard put to believe either can exist without the other.  Perhaps one could say they are coterminous.  By risking poem as event, one allows poem as text to ‘take place,’ and so one gains ground to reflect whether publication may be worth the candle.  (‘the ball’ was written much as stefen suggests.)


I wouldn’t pretend to do again what I did in April that weekend.  (Nor would I pretend to do it by a chic ruse if I hadn’t found myself doing it.)  That’s part of why I mailed it out to 39 friends who I thought might like to read it.  I brag to them by doing so, it’s true, much as a goose may brag of her golden egg.  Look how it shines!  Whoever would have guessed?  I was surprised.  The end-note is not the point.  It is just a disclosure, in order to put the material into perspective.  Without it, the material (I believe) would have another perspective (Wonder if – wonder how – is this like Bernadette’s Midsummer . . . But did she really?. . . If I were trying to do this kind of con, . . .  et cetera).  It’s still words.  Or are they moving after all?


There is an addition intention, however, to documenting by a note how a piece was written.  That is to make it available more widely—which does indeed mean to temper its potential elitism.  Others can try the same method, or one that it leads them to consider, if they so choose.  And people can consider its implications in their reading, in the way that and to the degree that they find it given to them.  There is not ‘right reading’ of an author’s note, any more than of a poem.  I’d like to stand by that!


Merzbook’s characterization of the sitting as a formal factor appears accurate to me in the case of this work and perhaps many others.  There is no need to argue for it as on a par with any other formal value or choice.  There are opportunities in this and other works to consider the resonances, shaping, valences, implications of a ‘sitting’ as a value.  I probably got the idea from Creeley’s Daybook and some of his other work, as well as my (illusory?) impression of many NYSchool writers (e.g., Train Ride by Berrigan, O’Hara’s swift lyric attacks, Mayer’s journalistic sessions). 


‘Transcript’ doesn’t say I didn’t cross out a word, and I didn’t mean to be making any claims.  It’s just reporting what I did (if not exactly warts and all). 


The actual chance to write (freely, as it were, or of what appears to be as close as I may come to actively exercising what I’ve been led to term my free will) is (in my experience) rare and also potentially joyous, potentially grisly and bathetic.