For this 154th episode of the PoemTalk series, Al Filreis remotely convened Simone White, Kate Colby, and Angela Carr to talk about a prose poem by Elizabeth Willis, “The Similitude of This Great Flower.” The poem was first published in the Cordite Poetry Review in January of 2008. Our recording of the poem comes from a Close Listening session hosted by Charles Bernstein on March 17, 2008.
Angela Carr, Anna Strong Safford, and Mytili Jaganathan joined Al Filreis to discuss a poem published in Divya Victor’s book Kith (2017; BookThug/Book*hug). The last section of Kith includes a long alphabetical poem called “Foreign Terms.” The “W” poem in this sequence is “W Is for Walt Whitman’s Soul,” and that is the work we ponder in this episode of PoemTalk. At the autumn 2017 Book*hug launch, Divya chose the read this poem; a video is available.
Ardour: the flame of desire; a spiritual, sexual, or physical burning; a passion that the OED tells us now connotes only “generous or noble impulses” though once it could speak of evil. It’s a word I rarely use or hear spoken in conversation. When I think of reading it, I recall English novels. In these stories a girlish face turns upward to receive a kiss; it is the kiss that is imposed with ardour, the girl’s lover who is ardent. When I read for “ardour” online, the books at the top of the list my search returns are religious, moral, martial.
I read “A Substance in a Cushion” as a sexy, humorous love poem that plays on a little calamity and a little calm in the closet. Its sweetness and its resolution are very likely embodied in the same hand that does the sewing.
The corridors in The Rose Concordance by Angela Carr open onto the linguistic fountains of the Roman de la rose. The Roman de la rose (Romance of the Rose) was an extremely popular medieval French poem, whose initial variant was attributed to a writer de Lorris. A scholar, named Joseph R. Danos, then used this variant to create a concordance, that is a key word index, to the poem. The keywords are arranged in alphabetical order and under each keyword heading is a list of lines containing that keyword. Throughout the medieval age, the Roman de la rose was also copied many times by many scribes, and with each copy would have been altered, expanded, re-assembled, deleted, etc., bearing the marks of each copyist. The word copy comes from the Latin copia which means abundance, so one might say that the copyist doesn’t create simulacra but writes out of the spirit of abundance.