Drafts and fragments

Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s (counter-) Poundian project

Rachel Blau DuPlessis reads at Kelly Writers House, Philadelphia, February 5, 20
Rachel Blau DuPlessis reads at Kelly Writers House, Philadelphia, February 5, 2008.

It is among these three epigraphs on Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s ongoing (since 1986) serial poem Drafts, what she calls a “series of interdependent, related, canto-length poems,”[2] that this essay positions itself. “Drafts and Fragments,” of course, both is and is not Poundian, invoking — to state the obvious — the title of Pound’s late book of Cantos, Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CX–CXVII. But my title also marks DuPlessis’s Drafts and its relation both to Pound and to fragments.

“To say this project [Drafts] was involved with and against Pound from the start is almost tautological”

“I wanted to make an alternate Cantos, a counter-Cantos.

Drafts explicitly positions itself as not-Cantos”

— Rachel Blau DuPlessis[1]

The plural of us

Uses and abuses of an ambiguous pronoun

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 brought with it a surge in the use of the first person plural. While most would agree that this tragic, history-changing event must be memorialized, I know I’m not the only one made uncomfortable by the ready invocation of this public We. It seems at once abstract and presumptuous, and it plays to a dangerous human desire: to become part of a crowd, and to define oneself against Them. Does this “we” have any real antecedent for an unbounded, diverse populace? Does it claim to speak for me? Whatever the founders may have meant by “we, the people,” it rings hollow in the arena of contemporary politics and popular journalism. With Tonto, I want to ask: What do you mean we, kemosabe?

The first person plural is an indexical pronoun, dependent on context for meaning, but the boundaries are often unclear even to the speaker. And there’s something not only ambiguous but also incoherent in the pronoun.

On Różewicz and contemporary Polish poetry

The way the poetry of Tadeusz Różewicz (1921–2014) is used by the school system in Poland shows how we disfigure some poets to make them palatable. The educational package has it that his was an attempt to rebuild the basic powers of language after the catastrophe of human slaughter in this part of the world during WWII.

'It Wasn't a Dream, It Was a Flood'

Approaching realness in Frank Stanford

Frank Stanford is an anachronism in late twentieth-century poetry. Like many of his southern contemporaries, much of his work is driven by a narrative impulse — his poems nearly always have stable, embodied speakers; they tend to use fairly normative syntax; they generally feel grounded in a particular geographic location; and they’re concerned with identity, memory, and depicting external action.

Poetry after the Siege of Leningrad

Montage, ekphrasis, allegory

The theme of war should be named as one of the most urgent and, ironically, productive, for contemporary Russian poetry. We find its various incarnations in the works of such striking and dissimilar poets as Elena Fanailova, Mariia Stepanova, and Stanislav Lvovsky.