Thursday, February 2, 2012
dinner party for annie finch
This is how I entered the house: quietly, a box of heart-shaped cookies from the local bakery, sock-footed. The steamed-up house. I wrote: "cluster of lucky students / the center circle on ranged wooden chairs." (Later that evening, I knocked one of those chairs into a paper sack of garbage, spewing spanikopita flakes onto Maria's carpet.) Later that evening, someone asked how many of those students had been to a poetry reading before and few raised their hands. What a lucky start: an intimate reading with Annie Finch in professor Maria Damon's living spaces.
She spoke of her work: her collaborations with composers and dancers and theatre. She sang a song of Aphrodite and said, "This is for Molly," and after, "That's because you have an infant." Oh!
Her poems with Celtic cross-rhymes. The troubadours. (To repeat a form was an insult, to be in love with someone new, there was a need for a fresh form.) Her book Calendars is "organized around the wheel of the year"--solstices and equinox [a shiver: my own current manuscript is divided into four sections, of which each is a kind of season, hibernation and renewal]
She had us repeating lines, chanting. She spoke of spring starting, imbulc and ewes with lamb.
Of course she discussed form, which I clumsily likened to an embrace when we spoke one-on-one. In the Q & A post-reading, Eric Lorberer of Rain Taxi asked about the debates within and around form. (Annie paused, clicked on her recording device and admitted, "I'm going to record this because I realized recently that I'm going to die." Maria replied, "Well, you're not the only one." And this is where I admit that anything I put into quotes is how I wrote it down, not, perhaps, exactly how it was spoken. For this, one must consult Annie's official recording.) She spoke of how she knows she can love a poem if she can return to it over and over. Finch mentioned "viscosity or stickiness"--that her best analogy was in relation to natural birth control [oh how familiar I am with that one] and that springiness of the mucous--"forgive me if I embarrassed anyone by using such a physical metaphor, but when something like that appears in my head, I try to honor it." She spoke of how too many are using form as a physical vessel, a mere container.
Which poets draw her in? Hart Crane, Langston Hughes, Sarah Teasdale's Mirror of the Heart, Hopkins, Marlowe, Spencer. She's working on Sappho in the original meters--she called it the quilted Sappho as she's filling in. Alice Notley, Rosemary Waldrop, Molly Peacock's first book, Audre Lorde's The Black Unicorn.
I asked questions I thought might be helpful to the undergraduates in the room.
Advice to new writers?
- Don't be proud in your reading. That good work can be anywhere. Don't have preconceptions.
- Read aloud--it's a physical process.
- Keep a flashlight by the side of your bed.
Revision? (Chicken or egg in regarding form) [I'm always curious about revision processes]
- She spoke of how there is a range. One poem she read to us was written as she read it. Others can take twenty years.
In the margins of my notebook, I wrote of two poems I want to write, titled already, each in multi-parts. My third manuscript has been nudging like the head of a cat, the urgency of wanting milk. My second seems to be settling. It's so strange to be in this place, so hopeful at the full-length finding a home.