Peter O'Leary

Instress, part 1

The secrets of clouds

Credit: Dmitry Makeev, via Wikimedia Commons

Some poems declare their interest in magic openly through formal choices. Some poems are constructed as and/or “after” ancient or occult spells and take the form of a spell, which has some generally predictable structures. If we go from the ancient spells exemplified in Joshua Trachtenberg’s work, we’ll find these components: appeal, historiolae (historical or mythological precedents/correlates of the situation at hand), invocation, enunciation of names, request.

The Spirit is the Conscious Ear: 'apex of the M'

apex of the M, issue 1.
apex of the M, issue 1.

The University of Denver (DU) Libraries recently acquired The Little Magazine in America Collection from Granary Books. It so happens that I’m a librarian at DU, and I’m a poet. As you might imagine, the prospect of spending time with this collection is thrilling.

The art of lyrical commentary

Michael Heller's poetic achievement

“Effacement is the action of shifting desert sands. Time rubs away memory, leaving only its remnants, its shadows. The poem comments on literature even as it makes it.” Above: Photo of a dust storm by NASA, via Wikimedia Commons.

Commentary: Notes, memoranda, memoirs, annotations, derivations, slips (of paper, of tongue), and, in the etymological sense of commenta, interpretation of scripture. Michael Heller’s work is replete with commentary, an ongoing lateral additive to the world around him, lyric in intensity, vibrant with life, literary and religious in its concerns.

1. Ozymandias, a commentary

An imaginal homage to Joseph Donahue

Joseph Donahue, 2014 (photo by Star Black).

Antique light shines simultaneously its primodiality and eschaton. The cosmos isn’t so much created as it is revealed. Which is to say, hidden in the prospects of historical time, unspooling and magnifying toward its expanded telos: a horizon, swallowing the great arc of the visible into a dark light, mirror of its apparent twin. What is it we see in this time, in this place, on this lucid earth?

Witness Mark Booth

A prosodic variable is the type of constant

Mark Booth, from T.S.I.R.B.A.I.S. (2)

Susan Howe’s recuperation of Emily Dickinson’s visual prosody marks a pivot point in American poetics, insofar as it calls attention to the long effaced but paradigmatically American enterprise of self-invention that Dickinson’s practice depicts. And in depicting her work, the picture is the work, hence the holograph images that for the most part replace block quotes in texts like Howe’s My Emily Dickinson and the essay from which I’ll cull this epigraph, “These Flames and Generosities of the Heart.”

This space is the poem’s space. Letters are sounds we see. Sounds leap to the eye. Word lists, crosses, blanks, and ruptured stanzas are points of contact and displacement. Line breaks and visual contrapuntal stresses represent an athematic compositional intention.

Howe, and by extension Dickinson, are reference points for discussing the work of Mark Booth, printmaker by training, a painter, who also works in sound and performance, but whose practice is in some sense reducible to writing.

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