Saturday, July 18, 2009

Easy Green Proof Part 1

The notable changes I made between the magazine and book versions of this section were to change the ellipsis at the end of the line

Of dinner that lasts...

into a full stop

Of dinner that lasts.

I have to note that at the moment, as I write, I can't swear the change was intentional. In both cases, the punctuation is unique in the poem. I think the ellipsis fit better with my original idea of writing a "New York" poem with a certain amount of comic book diction allowed or required, but with every line having a pristine quality of its own emphasized by capitalizing the first letter of the line the way poets did centuries ago...

On the other hand, the bare couplet

Remember the inconceivable heat
Of dinner that lasts.

seems more effective to me now with the full stop. It forces a mock-monumental (would that be mockumental?) seriousness upon the nonsequitur, as it were.

The other thing I did in the first stanza/part of the poem was to remove the line

Please put them back in the closet

after the line

Into a lather, without meaning to

and before the line

If you want professional help you realize

This change was certainly intentional. I got rid of the line as I got rid of others (to be mentioned as we proceed). But why? It's not a particularly "bad" line in terms of the diction, or the non-flow, of the stanza, nor can I state with moral certitude that it's more unnecessary than other nonsequiturs piling on each other here. I believe I purged the line because I was trying to prevent the reader from going immediately to obvious social or political readings I hadn't consciously intended, or maybe no longer consciously intended.

And to get to the heart of that dilemma of mine, I need to think about the Ted Berrigan poetry I've been reading. As someone with a prejudice against most forms of political statement in poetry, I'm always amazed in reading Ted Berrigan at how he collages in political, sometimes incendiary phrases and feelings in a way that is fundamentally non-judgmental and aesthetic.

I have to think more about that...

I have to think more about that.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Easy Green Proof in Telephone

Telephone was definitely the biggest deal poetry magazine I ever got any work in based on cold submission, and to this day I look at "Easy Green Proof" in issue 16 and feel a quiet pride and self-importance granted to me by no other accomplishment. This is not at all to dismiss the pleasure of being published with equal care and effort by people who were friends, or friends of friends, but that element of being personally connected necessarily calls into question the purity of someone I didn't know, in particular Maureen Owen, a great poet in her own right, deciding my work should go into the mix of poems by people I considered real, if rarefied, presences, like Hannah Weiner writing to spirits or Andrei Codrescu.

It took me years to realize that I'd misspelled "harnessed" as "harnassed" and the editors of Telephone had taken my spelling as intrinsic to the poem. And for years after that, that was the only thing I wanted to change about the published version of the poem -- I felt that way about no other work of mine at the time.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Part One: Easy Green Proof

When I wrote "Easy Green Proof" I was finishing up my undergraduate thing by majoring in maths at U.C. Santa Barbara, 1979-80, and thought I was entitled to the figure. Actually most of what I remember about proofs during that period was sheer memorization. My favorite example of that was my final exam in the differential geometry segment of my topology sequence, a course that was basically out of my range, then and now, because I've never mastered advanced calculus (line integrals and the like) and basic calculus is often more misleading than not in the field. Anyway, our professor (a visitor from Britain who was never less than courteous, no matter the ignorance of myself and a few other laggards) gave us the option of going for a bare pass in the class if we could just memorize and regurgitate on paper the proof of the so-called Hairy Ball Theorem, which as I recall it now was a claim that any sphere with hair required at least one fixed point from which all cowlicks could proceed... I memorized, regurgitated, passed, and have no memory of the proof itself.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The dedication, continued: Christina Mengert

And finally, leading to the final poems in the book, I took another UCLA Extension on-line poetry class with Christina Mengert, who is able not only to support whatever her students are doing and offer critiques to make the poems better, but also is cognizant of everything going on in the world of poetry today. I highly recommend her book 12x12, for all the insufferableness of most of the poets interviewing each other, for an apercu into how the sausage is made these days, an anthropology (verging on anthropophagy) of the area just below the top of the poetry world's food chain in the twenty-first century, a preview of the history of our literature.