“LOOSE WORDS”

Collocations_1_a

Collocations_2_a

Collocations_3_a

This poem is a kind of self-portrait in verse.  The formal problem was to reconcile several preoccupations that did not seem to be compatible.  I was interested in the sorts of writing that prevailed during previous centuries in English. I was also interested in translation.  I was interested in French poetry in general—of the sixteenth, seventeenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries—and the decadence and dandyism of the Parisian flâneur type.  I was also interested in history and politics.  The old metrical stanzas had been incorporated into passages of free verse before, notably in Canto LXXXI, and I wanted to make a shape like that, or rather I thought that if I could being something, a poem, into form by means of that shape, I could also, at the same time, being these various interests of mine into some relation with each other, position them or allow them to position themselves in a relation to one another that made sense, that felt right.  I had read Aurelia and Sylvie and Umberto Eco’s essay on Nerval, alongside a biography and Theophile Gautier’s memoir.  I had found, of all the poems I had read of his, this one to be the most interesting, because its stanza is that of a poem by Ronsard that I knew from a translation by Donald Davie, and I found these quatrains attractive and unusual; I had not seen them elsewhere in English.  I had learned from Joseph Brodsky that a stanza can be a kind of allusion and from Christopher Ricks that an allusion is a kind of metaphor, and I wanted to write the kind of poem that could be read in these ways. At the time I had recently spent a week in the library at the University of California, Santa Barbara reading the Paul Blackburn papers housed there, and I was possessed by the image of a writer who is equally involved in poetry and textual scholarship.  His approach to the projective verse method of Charles Olson also interested me, and my poem is in this manner. I wrote it on a Remington Quiet Riter manual typewriter. An ascetic, the poet sits alone in an apartment to commune with the idol he shares with a friend a few city blocks away. The stillness breathes a perverse kind of sensuality into him. The presence of projective and metrical verse on the same page in this poem, clearly demarcated and separate from each other, led me, after it had been published in the journal Amerarcana by Nicholas James Whittington of the Bird and Beckett Cultural Legacy Project, to imagine a poem whose lines could be both these things at once, and I thought that, as an arbitrary constraint, the fourteen lines of the sonnet might provide me with enough space to try to work out this new problem.  

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