And I keep thinking about appropriation as a way of accessing the sentimental.

I read for Spare Room back in July 2006, and as always I was trying to write something new for the reading. But I was emotionally overwrought (oh, you know... boy trouble) and this got completely in the way of writing anything. I had too much to say. I had something to say and said it, and it was not poetry.

I won't publish the poem I ended up writing, as I don't see much of a point in it existing outside the time and place of that reading (which happily wasn't recorded). But think I'm happy with it as a solution, so I want to say a few words about that. But I don't want to do the dickish reductivist Conceptual Poetics 101 move of conflating the idea of the poem with the poem itself. Let's not do that. Reading about the poem is unlike reading the poem, and quite unlike being at my reading of the poem in July 2006. If you weren't there: This will not be the same. But perhaps it's interesting to talk about (which is the other thing they teach you in Conceptual Poetics 101).

I ended up working with "The Windhover", Gerard Manley Hopkins's emotionally charged poem. Both I and the cause of my tsuris were both deeply fond of Hopkins, and we had a "moment" over this poem, which he had memorized, and which I happened to be carrying a copy of -- well, enough about that.

I broke the poem into short fragments, a few words at a time, and rolled them on my tongue, surrounded each fragment with homophonic translations, changing the lines' meaning by placing them in the midst of a rush of other meanings, and repeating as necessary.

Hopkins' consonant-dense, stress-dappled, clumpèd-cluster-cluttering lines encouraged the repetition and sound-based reorganization. And Hopkins' ejaculations -- "O my chevalier!" -- and his overcharged vocabulary -- "ecstacy", "my heart in hiding" -- all... well, it gave me an excuse to write like this:

...the motion set in
motion, meaning
moored in minute
motions, minute
mentions, making
many million
set in motion.
More was said for

keeping off dangerous offers,
keeping off dallying dangers,
keeping off delight. Deep in the
kingdom of daylight’s dauphin,
center of dimly-dealt-with
inner endangered doings,

deeply damped down
deeply damped down
deeply damped down
deeply damped down
deadened dendrons, the
devil starts to
tap a tomtom.
Which, oof, is a bit much, especially on the page (or on the screen). But it was written as a text to be read aloud at a reading, in a particular time and place, for a reader who was in a particular emotional state, for an audience mostly made up of people who knew me (but who mostly didn't know I was in such a state) -- it became, of course, performative, but what isn't these days? And I am told that it was effective and striking, although what exactly was going on was obscured and deeply coded (because the details were probably not interesting and certainly not poetry). (Oh yes -- the obscuring of a romantic situation you didn't want to talk about, that also made Hopkins seem like a good choice...)

Still, I've already included way too much of the poem here (on the record!), and if I weren't such a packrat I would have deleted the file immediately after the reading.


  1. troylloyd said...

    no -- not too much,
    just the proper amount.


    i really enjoy'd the physicality of this poem, i felt it & it was enhanced by the bio-info preceding it -- when you wrote you were rolling the words around on yr tongue, i visualized you with little fragmentary paper-strips w/ the words writ upon them, either spitting them all out violently to begin the reading or pulling one out at a time -- again, here i am w/ physicality, but dammit, love is often expressed much more palpably thru physical interaction (& sometimes even more profoundly).

    i liked the way it looks on the page, the poem itself is very evocative & by L4 as presented here, i'm hook-line-sinker.

    the "deeply damped down" device works exceedingly well, conjuring in this reader visions of that elusive pipe which is not a pipe -- & to add the devil? it worked for me.

    overall this little excerpt is a tight well-constructed poem & golly, the language just fits so well & rolls rolling right together.

    oh yeah,
    you get bonus points for using the word "tsuris" so well, rarely do i come across the Yiddish stuff.  

  2. Chris said...


    It's entirely possible that I picked the best bit to reproduce here.

    "Tsuris" is one of the great New York words, and one that I have to be reminded doesn't exist everywhere. Another, less Yiddish one, is "bodega". I haven't tested to see if they know what a bodega is here in Toronto. (Though I did just find out what a "joe job" is, but I'm not sure I'll be able to work that into my actual vocabulary, plus it's not as clever a word as, say, "deke".)  


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