Al Filreis and Divya Victor co-curated this episode of PoemTalk and it was recorded on a day when Divya Victor was back at the Kelly Writers House for several events, including a marvelous reading from her new work and discussion with Julia Bloch. Earlier, we had entered the Wexler Studio and convened Whitney Trettien and Dagmawi Woubshet to talk about two poems in Douglas Kearney’s book titled SHO, which was published by Wave Books in 2021. The two poems we discussed were “Welter” and “Static.”
As a writing teacher, I am relentlessly bugged by the question of how to move students toward an organic practice of critical inquiry, to help them feel pulled by it at the most basic, creaturely level. In my search for a pedagogy that feels right and real, I look toward the texts that have become my own exemplars of compelling argumentation and analytic integrity, only to realize that my favorite works of critical writing are, in fact, poetry.
From Deleuze and Guattari’s essay on “Minor Literature” to Alfred Arteaga’s work on Chicanx poetics, theorists have studied the relationship between power and language, describing how creative writers find inventive ways to interrogate monolingual and nationalist logics. Often, personal as well as historical conditions shape an author’s linguistic choices. My interest here lies in how poets use citation and translation as craft techniques in forging poetic languages that challenge powerful configurations and histories.
For me, that tension between poetry, writing, and drawing is utterly captivating. So much so that I have spent the last two years writing poems that enter into conversations with Twombly’s work, a project I have found both humbling and transformative. In fact, the last real public outing I engaged in before the pandemic lockdown was a visit to the Cy Twombly Gallery at the Menil Collection in Houston.
Interpretation, based on the highly dubious theory that a work of art is composed of items of content, violates art. — Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation”
The Golden Dot: Last Poems, 1997–2000 (Lithic Press, 2022) is a white-hot summation and extended last word of a poet who was most alone in the company of others and frequently his own worst advocate. The Shelley-infused lyricist, familiar to us from more than a dozen books across forty years, is still in evidence, but there is a newfound clarity and urgency to the work, which is like meeting a long-lost friend after decades apart. It was my pleasure to interview longtime Corso compatriots and editors Raymond Foye and George Scrivani, who have accomplished the heroic task of transforming the fluid manuscript Corso left into the poignant collection we have here. Like many folks from New York City’s poetry community, I knew Corso had a final great book in him, but I doubted the unrepentant hellraiser would ever pull it off.
Note: The youngest foundational Beat is having a revival. After a folio of new poems appeared a few months ago in The Brooklyn Rail, the full collection from which they were excerpted has arrived, and it couldn’t be more of a surprise — and a delight.
I tasked myself with saying one or two things I know about grief and loss and why so many people feel the compulsion to write through them. As an essential motivation for writing, especially poetry, loss events appear to make us both speechless and verbose. I’ve been there, I keep being there. I’ve written a “grief book” a few times now and frankly, I can’t say I find that its product is catharsis or repair. Irritatingly circular, I’d describe it instead — a marathon in a six-inch arena.
Autthor note: Jacket2 has our permission to publish these poems. The original publisher has gone out of business so the rights have reverted back to the author. In turn he has granted me full permission to translate and publish the prose poems of his book Android i anegdota, which translates to An Android and an Anecdote. The working English title is Mr. Z. — Peter Burzyński