“Inside art, poetry would succeed — perhaps — in withdrawing from art; it would exit art within art. Thus we must think, in art’s greatest intimacy and as this intimacy itself, of a sort of spacing or hiatus. A secret gaping. Perhaps intimacy — the ‘heart’ of the same — is always such a gaping, as the possibility for the same to be itself and to join within itself to itself; the pure — empty — articulation of the same.
A story that all readers of Drafts know well: in 1982, almost twelve hundred sculptures were discovered by trash collectors in a Philadelphia alley. The subsequent search for the artist who produced these pieces was unsuccessful. The working theory is that the artist had died and the pieces were discarded by those left behind — a family member, a friend, perhaps a landlord. The artist was dubbed the “Philadelphia Wireman,” assumed to be a man due to the physical strength necessary to work with the resistant found materials: “a wire armature or exoskeleton firmly binds a bricolage of found objects, including plastic, glass, food packaging, umbrella parts, tape, rubber, batteries, pens, leather, reflectors, nuts and bolts, nails, foil, coins, toys, watches, eyeglasses, tools, and jewelry.” Additionally, the demographic of the neighborhood, coupled with the apparent influence of African figural aesthetics on the sculptures, leads critics to believe that the artist was African American.
It’s kismet. When I left the Poetry/Rare Books Collection a few days ago, Jim gifted me with a signed broadside of Rachel’s poem “Some Codas,” illustrated with a detail from Duncan’s drawing for the cover of his Fragments of a Disorderd Devotion. And now — upon returning home after a month in Duncan’s archives at Buffalo and Berkeley — I have received Patrick Pritchett’s invitation to write about Rachel’s work.
I first encountered Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s Drafts when the first two sections appeared in Leland Hickman’s journal Temblor 5,an issue in which I had an essay on the evolution of the sentence in George Oppen’s poetry. I had known DuPlessis’s work at that point for maybe ten years and had met her on several occasions. In 1984, Rae Armantrout & I had traveled down from New York City to read at Temple at Rachel’s behest.