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What Gabrielle and I closed with at the Writers Center last week.
Note on the Poem “Tide Rocks”
I wanted to tell you about certain things
important to me, a group of images
close in space and time, encompassing so much of what I see,
things that insisted on themselves as a related group
and individually. But I want what I want only
to come in to the poem as another thing, I want to let the poem have control.
The poem would tell you
of a lock and key controlling access to another side,
symmetrical pieces of glass play-emeralds
scattered in a wood by hand unknown
for others to find,
a dancer and a dance,
heart flowing with blood, ocean tide.
Actions and reactions.
Things whose belonging impulse demanded “Tide Rocks,”
appearing in and around the time I was reading
the book Circles & Boundaries by Kate Tarlow Morgan
and with Kate visited the neighborhood in Gloucester
talked about in the poem. And I was struggling
as I am still with questions of how poem life or world
is formed, I was struggling between wanting
to tell you in a poem
and not wanting my own wants
to have influence. I was and am longing
for form, and not to be afraid
of dissolution. I am struggling with how to tell you
when what I want to tell you
can only be poem, when what I want might not
let the poem be.
I want to say something briefly about my poems, Gabrielle’s drawings, and why we are putting them together tonight.
There are the fragile, doomed arrangements of everything, despite intuitions of another, everlasting world that touches this one, that enfolds us and extends beyond our knowing: as in my or anyone’s words of lives in houses and on the forest floor; as in Gabrielle’s woods and rocks and people.
There is a closeness in space and time, in place and era, which are holders of importance in my imagination and in Gabrielle’s, but it is not just the temporary qualities that we live by, as we must, in our temporary bodies, that brings our work together.
As a poem is not merely about something, a drawing is not merely depiction. A work of art emerges from and has its being in places that are both inside and outside the artist; places that are inside and outside simultaneously. Places where living images grow, coming again and again to the artist, once imagination finds them. This view of art reflects the view that our being extends beyond our selves, and the being of others extends into our selves, and that what we call the self is a tangle of shared being.
Gabrielle’s being is strewn with wild care through her drawings, together with the being of others, of otherness that is not so other as we might think.
Currently popular, the comedy music video “What Does the Fox Say?” perhaps unintentionally attacks this view, mocking those who understand that there is a tie of body, soul and spirit between what is human and what is not.
But the fox asks the little prince to tame him. Gerrit Lansing’s fox is heard laughing in the woods, and the poem shares in that laughter. Tornonk, the half-fox half-man of the world of my novels, is the child of a fox who never read a book and an imagination that has been with many. The fox that is me is also an other.
As with distinctions between self and other, distinctions between humankind and all that is not human are, by nature, always as clear as they can be, and energy spent trying to make them clearer is spent at a loss to what we know of how the human reaches through the nonhuman and the nonhuman reaches through the human; to what we know of how our other selves make us.
Along the way, in the growth of that knowing─a knowing which love is one word for─a fox sits a flowering vortex of green otherness.
This past winter, Cape Ann Museum exhibited a show of Gabrielle Barzaghi’s drawings. Her work is all visionary landscapes and nightmare fantasy situations, and I was immediately taken with it.
Gabrielle will soon be showing a huge new work at Trident Gallery in Gloucester. The show opens October 18, 2013.
Gabrielle and I are doing a presentation together on January 22, 2014, at The Gloucester Writers Center. We’ll be projecting images of Gabrielle’s drawings while reading my poems and other writing; but more about that event as it draws closer.
I was tagged in “The Next Big Thing,” a self-interview chain for writers with books coming out. Thanks, Mark Lamoureux, for tagging me. (Mark is one of my favorite poets, and two new books of his are about to come out or just out. I’ve already spent time with both; they are fantastic.) The timing for this interview is good, as I only just learned there actually is a book coming sometime soon.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The publisher, a book arts studio in England called Some Odd Pages, suggested we do a handmade, limited edition of out-of-print poems. The artist behind the studio, Meg Green, does beautiful, beautiful work. There has been a kind of collaboration between us for many years, the art of one feeding the other, a back and forth; but this is our first book.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Adaptations are wrong more often than not. But for the sake of the exercise… Rock and or earth could play the trees and other flora, and the trees etc could play the birds. The birds could play the quadrupeds. And the quadrupeds could play all those with a greater number of legs. And those with the most legs of all could play the ones with the least, the humans. Music and measure could be weather, air. No one could play water. Ghosts, maybe.
What is the one sentence synopsis of the book?
La prière est la porte et l’amour est la clé. …Not really. Maybe? I don’t know.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Seems like a long while. It gathers four books of poems into one. The first is from the early nineties.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
If you can say when you are thirsty that you are inspired to drink—it was or is like that. Part of a life system. Within which is room for many “others.”
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I should mention specifically the earlier, out-of-print books the new book will gather: Girding the Ghost, The Man in Green, Hickory Bardolino Poems, and a fourth that has not yet been published.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Another chance to plug the great Some Odd Pages, the publisher.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:
Here’s a poem for the day from my book The Man in Green, published back in 1996 by Lee Chapman’s First Intensity Press.
The Pumpkins at Panther Lake
Another ambivalent landscape, October
a boy hangs a dummy
from a flagpole into dark late morning
of interior embered still
with years into the earliness, the myth residing
at a barned-in shore, a
ghost-burnt afternoon gone north
for pumpkins on the swell of
all the riches of the childish and innocent
grotesque, affirmed in what the great
pillaring oaks by the lake suggested; scarecrow-witches
of delight come longing
tight in the mask’s mold
through eye-holes into the image-lode’s
permission, about to return
to memory the inside