[The following is the critical postface to my new book, A Field on Mars: Poems 2000-2015 (Un Champ sur Mars), just published by Presses Universitaires de Rouen et du Havre in both an English & a simultaneous French edition. Christophe Lamiot is an active poet & the editor of the Rouen press’s Jusqu’a (To) series of books devoted to contemporary American poetry & poets in separate English & French editions. The complete French translation of my Shaking the Pumpkin (Secouer la Citrouille) was also published under his editorship. (J.R.)]
(...) poetry as elation
A Field on Mars. A field on Mars: this is how Jerome Rothenberg tells of his writings in poetry from the last ten years. A former title was “Divagations and Auto-variations.” “Divagations & Autovariations” now stands as a subtitle. I like this gesture of naming, then renaming—from one of the most prolific, far-ranging, active and successful poets of XXth-century Anglophone America.
[NOTE. Since 1970 Steven Kushner (“Kush”) has been known to many of us as the founder & sole proprietor of Cloud House, an amazing & constantly expanding archive of contemporary American poetry, largely audiovisual & equal in size to most institutionally sponsored repositories of kindred materials, or even greater. As his life work he has come to view Cloud House as a poetmuseum (or, as he likes to say, a “poetmusée”) of the spirit, carrying it with him from New York City to what has been its ongoing residence for many years in San Fr
In the course of expanding & revising Technicians of the Sacred, still in progress, my attention landed on the following – one of the opening poems in the original book – which had appeared there in a shorter version of my own devising. Nearly fifty years later my new strategy is to give it in Pliny Earle Goddard’s full 1909 version (more than twice the earlier length in Technicians), & I would add even more, if I ever felt free to do so. The additional quote from Gertrude Stein, not in the original edition, nails it even more firmly in place, for now as well as for then.
[In the course of expanding & revising Technicians of the Sacred, still in progress, my attention landed on the following – one of the opening poems in the original book – which had appeared there in a shorter version of my own devising. Nearly fifty years later my new strategy is to give it in Pliny Earle Goddard’s full 1909 version (more than twice the earlier length in Technicians), & I would add even more, if I ever felt free to do so. The additional quote from Gertrude Stein, not in the original edition, nails
The 100th anniversary of Ishi’s death brings to mind the publication several years ago of a small book, Songs from a Yahi Bow – really a mini-anthology of writings on Ishi – assembled by Scott Ezell & including poems by Ezell, Yusef Komunyakaa, & Mike O’Connor, along with Thomas Merton’s 1968 essay “Ishi: A Meditation.” Ishi (the Yahi word means “man” or “human”) is well known through the writings of Theodora & Alfred L. Kroeber as the last known survivor of a small Indian community that suffered displacement & genocide during the final European conquest of America. That memory of course is a warning of dangers & holocausts to come, and much of Ezell’s work is concerned with a range of non-state cultures & a chronicling thereby of globally diverse crises & survivals.
for the hundredth year anniversary of ishi’s death
Most discussions of prosody begin and end with metrics, but the contribution of meter to the sound structure of all poetry that was neither sung nor intended for musical accompaniment, when it has been at all specific, has been trivial. Yet because most writers on prosody would probably dispute this, and since some recent poets have worked out sound structures on the basis of implicit defects in metrical theory, it's probably worth taking a look at the metrical background. Almost all writers on metrics agree that meter is a compositional constraint. In this theory a particular meter is a pattern of distribution of some phonological feature over stretches of language. A particularly simple example is iso-syllabic verse.
[NOTE, FOR THE RECORD. Originally published in George Quasha’s magazine Stony Brook (number one, December 1968), Antin’s essay on prosody was accompanied by the following note from the editor: “Mr. Antin wrote these Notes as a paper, originally, which was not amended for publication. I persuaded him to publish it, though he is not happy with the presentation, because I believe it raises crucial questions. It is coherent if not thorough, and it may succeed in bringing about some relevant discussion, hopefully in future issues of STONY BROOK.