[NOTE. I published this earlier in a nonlineated prose rendering in America a Prophecy, coedited with George Quasha in the early 1970s. Well-enough known as one of three Dickinson letters addressed to an unidentified “Master,” this version, following closely her handwritten draft, emerges (for me at least) as a near-projective forerunner to what would become a dominant form of North American experimental composition a century after her own writing. The result anyway is based on the transcription in The Master Letters of Emily Dickinson, edited by R.W. Franklin and published by Amherst College Press in 1986. It will likely be the version used by me and Heriberto Yépez in our transnational anthology of North and South American poetry, now in preparation for University of California Press. That the full-blown sense of thwarted intimacy here is both surprising and overwhelming is also to be noted, as is the quirky and volatile language that connects the voice behind the letter to that of her better-known poems. (J.R.)]
Amiri Baraka’s Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note . . . . (1961) addresses writing in the context of suicidal fantasy. The title refers to a possible suicide note, one that emerges in concert with what may be a life’s work, manifested in twenty volumes. The voluminous, nearly encyclopedic note is projected into the future.
Amiri Baraka’s Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note . . . . (1961) addresses writing in the context of suicidal fantasy. The title refers to a possible suicide note, one that emerges in concert with what may be a life’s work, manifested in twenty volumes. The voluminous, nearly encyclopedic note is projected into the future. “This is just the preface,” the title flirts.
Note:As I was considering the question of Seeking it Outside Poetry, it occured to me that many of my beloved contemporaries were struggling with the same question. Lara Mimosa Montes’s recent move into dance has helped me to consider the questions of silence, movement, and their relation to the work of unlearning.
Here is a link to an edited/condensed version of our original thirty-three-minute ModPo video featuring a close reading of two poems from Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary. It has been added to the main syllabus of ModPo, the free, open, noncredit online course on modern and contemporary US poetry.