Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Drawing: Rachel Blau DuPlessis

"Hairy stars refracting under the surface of water." One of the highlights of a conference I attended two springs ago at the University of Iowa was hearing the poet Rachel Blau DuPlessis read her work and deliver a lecture on the long poem and Pound. DuPlessis is an important poet-critic who lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Temple University (where Samuel R. Delany and Sonia Sanchez are also on the faculty), and though I'd been following her work for years, I'd never heard her read. In addition to many books of poems, including the marvelous, monumental Drafts 1-38: Toll (Wesleyan, 2001), she has also published several important book-length studies, including Genders, Races and Religious Cultures in Modern American Poetry (Cambridge, 2001) and Writing Beyond the Ending: Narrative Strategies of Twentieth Century Women Writers (Indiana, 1985).

DuPlessisDuPlessis's lectures had me scribbling furiously--both notes and fragments towards other pieces--and one of the points her creative work (I'm thinking here of Drafts, which is like a felt-and-fat-and-dirt-and-muslin maze I like to linger in every so often) I am particularly fascinated by (there are many) is how she manages to make "marginality" an aspect of her work, to embody it in the work itself, various kinds of margins and edges and othernesses and folds and the interstices of folds, what issues in and around the shifting registers of the margins of (her) consciousness, drafting a flow that is thrilling and, as another critic has suggested, "anti-monumental."

"Poem be mine": after her reading of "Draft 56: Bildungsgedicht with Apple," I mentioned how much I admired it ("the mind is clamped with questions"), and she handed me the draft she was reading from to me, signed in red with a little note.

Here is a quote from it, the poem performing as it will(s):
"This poem is not you. Except as if you are
yourself in doubt. The poem is doubt itself made evident.
Your trembling begins;
you guzzle at the twinkling beak of stars.
nothing I say can give the feel of it."
and it concludes, after the dialogue between the apples:
"Because in single language, the poem
could not be complete, but since it craves
a multi-lingualism it barely earned,
let it fantasize, for then it flew unwrappt,
and rose enraptured, then it came to flow
amongst its several wilder tongues,
floating bolts of uncut cloth
that did not care for top or back
but draped and few and blew like clouds
and grew and plunged like waves."
Nothing you can say, while giving the feeling of it, freeing languages metamorphosing as you open it: "O poem, sweet, sweet poem be mine, be yearning nodules rich, or touching, or lucid, or economic, analytic, chrysophantic with hairy stars refracting under the surface of water...":

"The long poem is heterogeneric."

1 comment:

  1. I'm way behind in catching up on my blog reading (and writing), but I've always loved folks' scribbled notes, and appreciate the glimpse into your hand and style--a nice touch that provides some insight into the blogger.

    Go O's!