* Some new poems are up at the PEN Poetry Series. It's an excerpt of seven pages from a sequence I'm working on (tentatively titled L'Heure Bleue, or The Judy Poems) based on the character I recently played in The Designated Mourner. Thank you to Danniel Schoonebeek for featuring the work!
* "Robots on an Escalator": A very interesting essay connecting The Self Unstable with the Black Sabbath album Technical Ecstasy (or, at least, its cover), by Rob Horning (AKA @marginalutility) at The New Inquiry:
I am conditioned by Twitter to read this book in what is certainly the wrong way, assuming the I is the same in all the pieces, despite the title’s warning, and eschewing the contemplation of enjambment to see juxtaposition as an arbitrary contingency and not an artful orchestration. Twitter makes me think everything can be an aphorism that can travel without contextual baggage. But the leaps between the sentences are where most of The Self Unstable is. I had to read it again to think about how the sentences worked off of one another, how the paragraphs grouped together gestured toward a whole, and what I wanted to connect everything.
The book seems preoccupied with this, among other questions: Does self-consciousness establish or unmake the self? Is such reflexivity always reducible to regret? “Whatever you do, don’t start thinking about thinking.” I think about this a lot in terms of social media, which demand reflexivity and invite a serial self-consciousness as a form of escapism, which guide me back to myself in ways I’m not expecting and which make me feel like a novelty to myself. “Where are the clouds of the mind?” I think they are governing the emotional climate of social media.
* The bit about the leaps segues nicely into this 11-question interview I did with Travis Nichols at the Huffington Post, on like vs. love, poems vs. essays and more:
What makes an essay "lyric"?
The farther it veers away from prototypical ("five-paragraph," "inverted pyramid") essays, the more "lyric" it is. In terms of poetry "lyric" just means that you're expressing emotions, but I don't think that's enough to qualify an essay as "lyric." In my mind it's more that formally, in its gestures, it resembles poetry -- more associative leaps, less linear structure.
I find that for a lot of people one of the hardest things about lyrics, essays or otherwise, is that they leave so much up to their readers -- either readers "get" them or they don't. And if you don't get it, if the associative leaps don't conjure anything in your mind, then whose fault is it?* Darcie Dennigan (one of my favorite contemporary poets, btw) did this nice little write-up on the book at the H_NGM_N Tumblr. She writes:
Both parties are at fault most of the time -- readers can be very lazy but then writers can be too. In general, though, it takes longer to write a poem or an essay than it does to read it, so I think readers should be generous and give the writer the benefit of the doubt. With some writers, the leaps themselves are pleasurable, even if they feel somewhat arbitrary. I'm thinking of extreme parataxis as in My Life by Lyn Hejinian or Ron Silliman's poetry. But you can't force people who don't "get" that stuff to like it. I don't particularly enjoy jazz.
I’d like to claim the book for poetry, because I like to call anything good, anything hybrid feeling, “poetry,” even when it’s published as an essay.I'd like to expound on this a bit. I've noticed that many readers are reluctant to accept the pieces in The Self Unstable as "essays," whereas I've seen pieces that look very much like essays called poems -- for example, this excerpt from "A is for Addis" by Anna Moschovakis, or Claudia Rankine's Don't Let Me Be Lonely. I suspect this is because people think you can call anything a poem the way you can call anything art; poetry is in the eye of the beholder. "Essay," however, they associate with rigid academic standards. What do y'all think?
Also, have you heard this Spoon song?