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.

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