“Ian Tyson reads us” — or so I wrote a number of years ago when the question first came up. He is illustrator of the work not as subject or as mood per se but as structure. The rest comes out of that, a play between the poet & the artist, where the poet’s words are taken, not for what they say at surface but for the directions they imply — the rules or inner structures that are there for him to read & follow, or evade. I am a poet with some feel for content, for signification, that may sometimes act to hide the structure. I began to come alive in poetry with a series of polemics arguing the primacy of image (“deep” or “surreal” or otherwise) as a concern to be explored anew in the awakening of the later 1950s. That part, the image part, had no need for picture as a form of illustration. And even later, when I used photos & other images to let the physical eye catch a glimpse of a mythical Poland disclosed through words, said photos were sparing & personal, my additions, often ironic, to a work that was proceeding as a whole by means of an already evident collage.
[Having written it originally for David’s Copy: Selected Poems (Penguin Books, 2005), I reprint my pre-face here in celebration of the republication by City Lights Books of his classic poetics primer, Two Way Mirror, concerning which I wrote more recently: “David Meltzer had set out, when he was very young, to write a long poem called The History of Everything, an ambition that his later poetry brought ever closer to fulfillment. Here, i
[Using the procedure of “variations” that I began with The Lorca Variations (1993) I turn it here toward my own earlier work & show, below, both a poem from 1966 & the corresponding autovariation from 2014. In the present instance I’ve gone back to a poem written & published as part of a book called “The Gorky Poems,” and, as in the “variations” I’ve done from other poets, I systematically remove all nouns from the original & use them as building blocks or what Jackson Mac Low used to call “nuclei” in the const
[To be published in 2015 as part of an expanded & revised edition of Diane Rothenberg’s Mothers of the Nation by Nine Point Publishing in Bridgton, Maine]
We first met Harry Watt in December, 1967. Stanley Diamond prepared a letter for us to carry along and telephoned ahead to introduce us. Diamond was interested in the experiments in translation that my husband, Jerome Rothenberg, was doing and thought that a meeting with some of the singers of the Allegany Seneca, a group among whom Diamond had worked, might be conducive to further explorations in translation.