In his hermetic essay from 1933, “Agesilaus Santander,” Walter Benjamin writes: “The Kabblalah relates that, at every moment, God creates a whole host of new angels, whose only task before they return to the void is to appear before His throne for a moment and sing His praises.” But in an earlier essay on Karl Kraus, he describes the angelic as a kind of monster — part child, part cannibal — a creature who, before passing into nothingness, is either “lamenting, chastising or rejoicing.” Inspired by Paul Klee’s painting, the figure of the angel takes o
I am always one volume behind in Rachel DuPlessis’s Drafts. Yet, I have been a loyal reader and realize to my surprise that she has been writing them/I have been reading them for the best part of twenty-five years now. We, author and reader, have been “strained companions” in the creation of this work. Often, throughout this essay, I refer to the “writer/reader” of the work to demonstrate the shared enterprise that is an intrinsic part of being in Drafts.
Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s Drafts is a bona fide difficult poem. The book is one of struggles, specifically as it redrafts modernism to address feminism, but also as it provokes a dialogue writ large between poetry and itself. Throughout its formidable one-hundred-plus sections, thepoem encompasses the historical, personal, aesthetical, and ethical, and it is pitched in a spectrum of modes, though most notably in the interrogative.
Each draft in Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s long poem Drafts can be read as the opening draft, the first one through which you can enter the work. Each draft in the work is autonomous and capable of standing alone but only through a collective reading of Drafts will a reader attain the enormously rich, unquestionably challenging, but inevitably satisfying experience it offers. Drafts is not a linear work, but a spherical one. Think of it as an endlessly unrolling scroll that begins to fold upon itself on a desk. The circularity is made up of the recurrence of its themes, its interrogations, glosses, and commentary; its borrowings, appropriations, and writing through old drafts. Rewriting in the project does not supersede what was written before but enriches it by creating deep layers of sound and imagery that foster a sustained resonance. Begin reading Drafts anywhere then continue forward or back. The continuation only takes you deeper underground to make contact with its many reverberant strands.