Thursday, October 19, 2006

I was just re-reading a blog entry from a year ago--something that I remember Susan Wheeler talking about when she was here, about the sort of "branding" of poets, in terms of style and subject matter. I've been thinking all along the last few years about the ways in which my work is changing, developing. Where I started out, which was a rather traditional, confessional (in the Sexton/Plath sense moreso than the contemporary Sharon Olds sense--some folks would say there's no difference, I'd disagree.) My models for a long time, in addition to them, were folks like Louise Gluck, Rita Dove, Carolyn Forche. Somewhere in there, Eliot snuck in, and that's what in grad school, started everything ticking. It was funny, because I'd read The Wasteland a few years before as an undergrad and it's had no effect on me at all. Eliot set loose the thing that became I guess, my voice. Who'd of thunk it--the quintessential dead white male. From 1999-2004, my poems were still what I'd consider traditional, lyric, slightly narrative. They started out sort of stumbling and eventually shaped up. The best of them, the most sure-footed, survive in the fever almanac. The earlier efforts can be seen in the chapbooks--especially The Archaeologist's Daughter. Most of the poems in full-length book were written in 2004 (or at least it seems like it)--still lyric and confessional to be sure, but changing. By then, I was pretty good at doing what I do (or did).

I think right after I finished those poems, as soon as the book was finished, all hell broke loose in terms in terms of what I was doing. Alot of it was what I was studying, the hybrid class, working on errata, reading more "experimental" work, utilizing cross-genre texts, studying with Stephanie Strickland. Those poems, which would become feign and instabilities, are VERY different. Or at least they feel like it to me. Not just the collage, the borrowed text, the fragmentation, the very focused thematic concerns, but even the speakers of the poems themselves...a different sort of "I" speaking. Almost as if I was learning what poetry can be in addition to what I always thought it was. And I always had this fear the that people who liked my older work hated the newer stuff an vice-versa. In some cases this has been true. In others I was surprised. I think they both have their audiences, with some crossover.

What's funny is I think I'm circling back around with the newer stuff, girl show especially. It exists somewhere between the other two projects, which is a good place to be. Definitely more lyric, but not quite so narrative, or should I say, resisting narrative. Of course, dulcet is a 180 in the other direction, probably far more out there (though it's still early) than even instabilities.

I still occasionlly still like reading Gluck and Dove and Forche, but also like Hejinian and Harryette Mullin. I like poets on either end of the spectrum and all variations in between. In fact, the only sort of poetry I dislike is BAD poetry...So, it sort of a dicey position to be in..people can't look at you say you're "mainstream", or you're "experimental." Sure, they can talk about the work itself as falling into one camp or another, perhaps, but not the poet. It feels very freeing somehow, not to be "branded", but also a little scary, precarious. Like some freaky no man's land...


Doodlebug said...

"No man's land" indeed. I feel that same feeling all the time and I think we share many steps along the same path, but also different (no MFA for me, in fact, no really "formal" study of poetry just an obsessed self study from a young age). But being a visual artist, and really having found my footing there, my voice there (and it's a voice that is concurrently speaking as and through poetry, a piece of mine fails if there is no back story which is to say a poem), I always feel I'm in that no man's land place. To poets I'm always trying to talk about my visual art because people who know me through poetry think that's all I do, and vice versa with the visual art.
And my poems are a mess if I don't have a clear visual on them before I begin.
So I'm never really sure what to call what I do, or how I do it.
But we can at least wave to each other in the no man's land -

wickedpen said...

I think definitely people who work across mediums feel the same you have this fracture between one sphere and the other. I've been trying to marry those two aspects in my work, which is what the Cornell project will definitely do, but still it's hard.