at Length’s Short Takes on Long Poems

I want to write the long poem, but I’m not sure I can.

Lately, I’ve been working with a particular form I’m tempted to call the singsong skinny sonnet and dismiss as hokey, but I don’t want to be ungrateful to something that’s been goading me to write more poems quickly. In addition, there’s also a commonality in the material that triggers these poems: they mostly have a specific focus on a pop-cultural artifact I barely remember or misremember (unintentionally or intentionally). That intrigues me, as it wasn’t part of the design. Finally, it’s also forcing me to think/write in shorter lines, which I wasn’t wont to do before, despite how much I enjoy reading, say, Graham Foust.

I don’t know how I’ll arrange these in my thesis. I can put them one after the other and call it a series; that would be justifiable. However, there may also be an advantage to spreading them out across the collection. We’ll see. I’ll think about these after writing more poems, whether in this form or another, as well as the critical essay.

(One worry that I do have is how I’m beginning to doubt my abilities to write in the jagged irregular-lined free verse poem I used to be comfortable in. Never satisfied, c’est moi.)

Anyway: I’ve loved at Length ever since I first read Jee Leong Koh’s ghazal sequence Barthes tribute “A Lover’s Recourse” some time back. I hope to submit something with length and quality to them someday. In the meantime, I’m very pleased they asked FIFTY writers to offer “Short Takes on Long Poems.” This is research, scoping out the landscape. Except that I wonder if a long poem is a mountain, because one reads it vertically on the Web, or a horizon, because it stretches in my mind as I read it.

  1. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 1 (Dana Levin on Anne Carson‘s “The Glass Essay“)
  2. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 2 (David Caplan on T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)*
  3. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 3 (Michael Collier on John Berryman’s “Homage to Mistress Bradstreet”)**
  4. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 4 (Darcie Dennigan on Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s “Three Cows and the Moon”)

Some brief comments:

  1. I could have sworn I’ve read Levin before, but nothing strikes me as strongly familiar. That said, I love “The Glass Essay,” and I’m glad they chose that over, say, the book-length works Carson usually likes writing.
  2. While Caplan’s first experience with this poem matches my own, it’s a little weird that this would be the Eliot poem discussed for this series of articles instead of, say, The Waste Land or Four Quartets.
  3. Choosing this over The Dream Songs works, partly because of my relative familiarity with Dream Songs over Bradstreet.
  4. I’ve never heard of Kelly before this, but I love Dennigan, so this is great reading.

Link Roundup: Weil, Wordplay, Dark Hopkins

After that mad rush of a previous entry, I’m going to take a breather before thinking my way through Jack Spicer’s “A Lecture On Practical Aesthetics.” For now, a link roundup showing some (other) recent preoccupations.

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SIMONE WEIL AND POETRY

First up is a blog entry that contains in its entirety James Lindroth’s 1987 essay “Simone Weil And Wallace Stevens: The Notion Of Decreation As Subtext In ‘An Ordinary Evening In New Haven’.”

I’ve yet to go through it fully since I severely lack context: I’ve never read Stevens’s essays from The Necessary Angel (an unforgivable insight, I know!), and my only encounter with Simone Weil is how she figures in Anne Carson’s Decreation (another review here).

Speaking of oversight, that’s the only Anne Carson book I’ve read. I’m somewhat interested in the way she uses Keats in The Beauty Of The Husband and her exploration of the theme of desire in Eros The Bittersweet, but I’ve yet to buy copies of those.

While looking through reviews of Decreation to use as a hyperlink, I found a critical review-essay on Carson’s book and Jorie Graham’s Overlord that also uses Weil’s notion of decreation through Stevens’s treatment of the idea: “Prayers To An Absent God: The Poetic Revealings Of Simone Weil.”

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PARONOMASIA, PUNS, AND WORDPLAY

Wordplay was not only how I rediscovered Stevens; it’s also a recurring device in the kind of poetry I’ve been writing for my MA, for better or for worse. (Someday, I’ll talk about how Northrop Frye’s “Charms And Riddles” works for the writing I do.)

Eleanor Cook has appeared here before, particularly for her work on, yes!, riddles, so it was a thrill to have discovered these essays yesterday, especially because of all the responses that followed:

  1. Cook, Eleanor. “From Etymology to Paronomasia: Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, and Others”
  2. Hecht, Anthony. “In Reply to Eleanor Cook, ‘From Etymology to Paronomasia'”
  3. Vaught Brogan, Jacqueline. “From Paronomasia to Politics in the Poetry of Stevens and Bishop: A Response to Eleanor Cook”
  4. Rosu, Anca. “In the Line of Wit: A Response to Eleanor Cook”
  5. Bahti, Timothy. “Palm Reading (A Response to Eleanor Cook)”
  6. Hollander, John. “A Note on Eleanor Cook, ‘From Etymology to Paronomasia'”
  7. Cook, Eleanor. “Paronomasia Once More”

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HOPKINS: DARK, TERRIBLE, DESOLATE

Although I love to read “The Windhover” aloud like Kwame Dawes, I’m pretty much a Hopkins n00b. While reading “The Introduction Of Fancy Into Hopkins’ Poetry” (an essential resource for my thesis), I noticed a reference at the bottom of the page to his “dark sonnets.” A couple of search results later, I learned he wrote these “Dublin sonnets” from 1885-1886.

Since I’ve just read “Spelt From Sibyl’s Leaves” for the first time, after I read about it in Cook’s article, and so was still reeling from the deliriously wonderful poem Hopkins once called “the longest sonnet in the English language,” I’m going to link to those sonnets Hopkins wrote during what seems, by all accounts, a dark night of the soul:

  1. “To seem the stranger lies my lot, my life”
  2. “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day”
  3. “No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief”
  4. “My own heart let me have more have pity on; let”
  5. “Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;”
  6. “Patience, hard thing! the hard thing but to pray”

Yes, those are their respective first lines, even if the next-to-last poem is already commonly referred to as “Carrion Comfort.” I’m going to read them later, ALOUD.

Three Reasons To Study Simonides Of Keos

For being “the first poet in the Western tradition to take money for poetic composition,” or so claims Anne Carson in Economy of the Unlost: Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan.

For being the seminal figure in the development of spatial thinking as a mnemonic aide, or so claims Joshua Foer in “Secrets of a Mind Gamer.”

For being a particularly contentious thorn in discussions of the dichotomy Plato establishes between poetry and philosophy, or so claims Adam Beresford in “Erasing Simonides.”