Monday, August 26, 2019

Erik-John Fuhrer, excerpts from The Voyage Out Sonnets

Er_s_ng Vi_gi_ia II, image by Daniel Y. Harris

excerpts from The Voyage Out Sonnets


Laughter grating dead silence, uncrumpling
from the wall. Love was movement crowded
into words of rhythmically stripping
nonsense. Into the darkness, breath so dark it numbed.
Dreams repeated chairs scattered
in a square box vaguely twitching as if paper. Metallic
sleep lit a cigarette impatiently. Lonely
minds look at the ruins in the garden facing
sharply cut spirits. Numbness disappeared, flung off.
Silence cut down a tree, big and splendid.
People are puzzled, pointing to smoking cigarettes.
Trees flirt with eyes: nobler than conversation.
A pale look shut up in heaps of sleep.
Fragmentary, hazardous instinct.


The clock scratched the sky.
Snowy limbs hum among firelight. Parasites
toss colour about faces. Brains rock
the sea. Stretched streets tie beasts
to each other. Nightingales muddy red earth
blue. Birds prick through smoke. Fingers fill the sea
with dark ships. Silence was the only human being
at risk. Love clasped the chilled
glass. Hands pulling flowers dust half-shut
eyes rung in the smoking room. Blood loathing
the sound of eyes shutting. Figs listening
to embroidered heat became annoyed by wrists.
Exercise dropped digestion in front of the mirror.
The dance demanded nonsense and heaps of flash.


Dim figures grace through the garden. Bent
eyelids dress sleep in bright fog. Breathing confirmed
interest in life. The world sat close to the bodies,
ceased to be. Calm engaged the railway, determined to join
people in the burden of the new generation. The mind dashed
legs into movement. The flies are particularly nice.
Under the nodded moonlight, tea flowed
with silver marks of pepper. Gloomy people treat
frowns as children. The eccentric was clear eyes and endurance,
playing tennis. Minds had very few thoughts. Snug below October,
life animated traces of fading eyes. Clouds smoked
the mist of tobacco in intervals of sea water.
A cold water signal sprung on the tennis court.
The gravel seemed reluctant they should go.


Breaking exhausted creatures under bricks, the air
drooped dry spines. The fall shapes could merely listen
in spite of the heat. Heads, looking at each other’s hands broke
earth. A heavy-eyed headache added
dark windows. Painful movement shut the thump
in a bed of ice. A song slipped through the heat. Glassy cool curling
tried to obliterate the world of sound. Isolated
bodies appeared drawn to the mist of the night.
Hollow hands come nearer across sleep
and toe the still hot shadow above. A tunnel
formed in drops, whispering the lives of other people.
Music plunged the room. A rose can’t roll
at the same spot as a child. Anxiety visits in waves, unwilling
to sit down. A high pulse slips out the day.


Hours pinned distance to grains of sand. Restless
nightmares amounted to boredom shut up in a white house of paper ears.
A long pause obeys the dark frown of shock suffered. Eyebrows shrugged,
leaving behind colour shut
white in ice and fresh milk. Days saddle
the minutes to a train in nervous jerks. Oblivious eyes
grasp sticky water rolling over dead light. Exhaustion paced
the grey light and passed away. The waves beat trees into nothingness. Rustling
rose the moon beneath one’s eyes and slipped down the pale, blue earth.
Glow-worms fold tiny suffering into their bodies. The dark wave of pain
replaced bare bone. A bird jerked the ceiling of its body round the room.
People drifted in low tones, too restless to uncork the mind of morning.
Buried alive, the afternoon struck the sun. The red hand of desire cut
the flesh of silence. The souls ceased death while they spoke.

—Erik-John Fuhrer

*These poems are from a longer work titled The Voyage Out Sonnets, a page by page erasure of Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out. During the process of erasure, I moved chapter by chapter and then formed what I had into 50 experimental sonnets. Solmaz Sharif has convincingly linked poetic erasure to government censorship, which every erasure project certainly risks replicating. Woolf herself had to censor herself in her novel in order to get published. Since the intent of this project is to celebrate rather than censor, I was careful and mindful not to redact but to highlight Woolf’s words. Rather than physically blackening out words during my process, I left Woolf’s original text clean and instead circled words that I believed revealed the multiple possibilities in the original text. I highlighted language over narrative and provided agency and voice to animals and inanimate objects, which Virginia Woolf often does herself in her later work, such as “Kew Gardens.” For the most part, I did not add anything to the text, with the exception of the rare addition of an “s” at the end of a word. I also occasionally cobbled together a word from individual letters. That said, Woolf's individual language remains mostly intact and unadulterated in these poems, which intend to pay homage to Woolf's original text.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Rachel Blau DuPlessis, a selection of nine works from Eurydics

Nike (Victory) Adjusting Her Sandal 
Relief from the balustrade of the Temple of Athena Nike
Marble. 3 feet 6 inches high, c. 410-404 BCE
(Acropolis Museum, Athens)

a selection of nine works from Eurydics*                  

Animula, vagula, blandula

                                    Hello, Little Thing, wandering and ineffable,

                                    who now lives pleasantly (vaguely?)

                                    with me as my “soul”--

                                    once you've gone off, thinning, wan,

                                    to that barren, X-ed out location,

                                    we won't be together

                                    the way we're used to being--

                                    and you won't be cracking

                                    all those jokes you used to,


“O whither, whither dost thou fly,
Where bend unseen thy trackless course,
And in this strange divorce,
Ah tell where I must seek this compound I?

. . . .

Yet canst thou without thought or feeling be?
O say what art thou, when no more thou'rt thee?”

Italicized selection is from Anna Laetitia Barbauld's translation of “Animula, vagula, blandula”

                                    Authoritative words will range
                        beyond uncertainty, a sublime defining sound. 
                                    Yet I’ve made another zone, where the strange
                        orphics of the first will get turned around.

                                    I might have said it’s hard to give up icons.
                        For here's a further sonnet where the Femme-
                                    thing pivots, costumed as another paragon,
                        and locks into a poem. Is this the thing I am?

                        But really. Time for volta. Let it go.     
                                                                                    Open being, tune
                                    to that expansive resonance in the universe
                        of is-ness, its moody, gorgeous largeness. 

                        Marvel to walk here, on these paths of bliss
                                    even through rocky fields of sadness
                        with female compost rotting inside unmarked sites of ruin.


Yet hers another sonnet where the Femme-thing is given another please. I meant another plea. A zone. Here her; hear her. Dressed and re-dressed, custom after costume; is there any redress? You’d have to strip the poem, not the girl. 

Yes, the marvel, the orphic turn, transcendence. This is privilege. Who can avoid their little bit of that? One must be true to what one knows. This doubleness. The girl-children hanging from a tree, raped and murdered.  Or raped, and then self-murdered. Where does the resonant universe end and ethics begin? Shouldn’t they be co-terminus? simultaneous?

Punctual sites of ruin. Traces of the unmentionable sites of ruin. Ruins of the traces. Further erosion. How can the unmarked trace of the ever-whispered evanescent unremarked ever begin to be re-traced and tracked, un-murked and marked?

                                    I am Eurydice questioning what I am doing.

                                    Something bad had bitten me: I swelled up.

                                    I am angry again, reverting, inside the
                                    pretensions of poetry, its
                                    endless mode of mythic memory,
                                    its elegy.
                                    The Lily.

                                    I feel acute marginality.
                                    of flowers. But still flowers!
                                    Je est un diner at Exit 59,
                                    Open 24 Hours,

                                                                        the menu serving up
                                    the sweets, from centuries of Rose.
                                    Or its rancid opposite--diner coffee.

                                    But nothing will fit.
                                    Why am I questioning myself?
                                    Why again this?
                                    Nobody knows how to say me,
                                    what to call it,
                                    not even I.
                                    Can no one say a name, just one just name
                                    for this clot of blockage?

                                    But why do I insist
                                    on only “one name.”
                                    Or that someone else say it.
                                    Or that the names are me and my.
                                    I fail my plethora.
                                    My power lies
                                    in the generative dissolve
                                    of I's.


The sphinx was there before Oedipus. She was the mystery to face.

                                    Eurydic--what is it?  It's awkward change?
                                    while “orphic” is defined as long
                                    lament, loss, beauty, and the strange
                                    desire of trees, crept close to hear his song.

                                    Eurydics? empty presences? zero-hero-ness?
                                    a silent black intensity so strong
                                    it tempts his glance back. His loss
                                    lies in longing to see her, check her. He was wrong

                                    but right. Was she in fact following his path?
                                    Is she one thing, or pluralities of words,
                                    some uncontrolled cross-currents of morass.

                                    “The opposite of pain is pain, of ruth is ruth.
                                    Her song is secret. Her sound is dim, unheard....”

                                    A lie!

                                                            Such poignancy denies the truth.


“Against the black”

                                    “my thoughts”


wide as woe and racing as the world of need--cry out!
I am the language and I am the shout.

note: cited words from H.D.,”Eurydice”

Ah, it is amazing, this desire for authenticity, for the life of life, insofar as lives are sacred.  And all are sacred. Therefore all are called. To hear is to be ready to answer. To answer is to build a shadow world: argument expands and thins, all so evocative, filled with hypotheticals but ready for risk. Thus to call out is to risk the risk. And to answer is to hope and to fear. All are scared, too; doesn’t sound as fine. Nor does scarred.

Such a practice, gaining and losing, rusting and disappointing says that no text, no matter how important, is ever finished and complete, but rather continuously generative, almost magical, even in its dramatic wounds. To write is an act of expansive unfixing; something rather demonic as well as something painful has happened. Intimate. Desirous. One day. Now. Frightened.

“The white fire of unnumbered stars.” It's true. Each star a little pint of milk, as for kids in school, giving you some new sidelight, lining up on the side of sidereal time.  
The stars….
Are fixed. But the planets present to our swimming ken just skim across the sky. One can see why they were called the “wanderers.”  I’m actually my own opposite. My stakes have blind spots, too. But look up, Look!  Venus and Jupiter hardly an "inch" apart. Right now!
Could I follow both their doubled wanderings?

“Three pinpoints of light” –did I have to choose among? I was locked in my half-gone body, could not exit and transcend; I had to wait, but why? Probably stupid doubt. The whole culture fell on my head. Oh, that! What did it cost to act? to travel out? to investigate? I gathered myself up, I waited for finality, but also failed to understand what love could accomplish with its precipitous yearning. I had once been on course, awkwardly tracing the rocky path, inclined to waver and become dizzied by this sudden exercise.

And besides, I was dead. Is this a metaphor, an image? who is this I--as mechanism here a tiny ticking machine run down. “Death cannot be lived,” he said, that man pulsing with knowledge of sexual urgency in everything, his thrilling energy. But my death was. I lived once then. And then I died again, but with a singing (intermittent? hollow? chipped?), a barely hearable exhaled breath. A cool draft from a side vent: that was me. I lived but also sepulchered a labyrinthine cave inside. It was beyond dark. Inside out was how I turned. I was an avalanche. I killed myself. A finding: There are grumbling under-numbered myths that hardly do get told. Or even made. Or hardly thought. But they hiss in the seams between porous sediments. Sentiments. And when I think them, if I do, reception staggers through darker broken shards from the erosion loosening the zones. The same, as though light. Like him I go as both, but all reversed. Verso verse. All reversed, but also turning, revolving.


Volta cannot happen only once. Like a bolt o’ volta. It is a way of patterning the ways of going. And now we have “proem,” we have “continuous volta,” we have sonnet as son-net, sondage, and we have the mind of the so-called author in a continuous limp inadequacy, painful to see, provoked to write (give it up! or get on with it!), backing off, sulking in remembered ooze of former wounds, and nursing “ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain.” So belated. So impolitic. So filled with notions.
And something else--a “place no longer to be found, / Yet the lost fragments shall remain/ To fertilize some other ground.” But is it true we cannot find it now? Or remake fragments as to what we need? Why insist that they are “lost”? 

Citation from Anne Bradstreet.

                                    Couldn’t there be a constellation
                                    called “Blue Rider”? Turning in the sky
                                    right next to “Moth”?  alternative creation
                                    of our zodiac, figured deep inside my eye.

                                    Rising and swinging, woven out of waste,
                                    pendulum-ed sidereal motion, human dust
                                    names the animals, tells the fables, pastes
                                    up shards from cosmic piles of cosmic rust

                                    with metaphor. Like a diagram of stars on cardboard
                                    with little lines between to make pictures of things
                                    like ours, not the stars’ things,

                                                                                    as if stars could sort
                                    out “Moth” or “Horse” or any "thing" at all,
                                    by what wings they have, or feather,
                                    or by what human primer clumps them all together.

Mine as good as any. Mine as seen. The stars are implacable. They
are not our toys or things, however much we want them ours.
Our human dust is really theirs.

The planets pass through conjunctions, wander apart, doll coins
the miniature
realm being gigantic--
a stylistic problem how to tell this fact. So big
that no one can see it. We’ve made them metaphors for us.
And for unicorns idealized in their tenderness and trust.

But the sight of 20,000 light year stars actually exploding
            outside the state, outside the home, outside our solar rounds,
                         outside anything
but their own acts in the universe--
            what is the biography of this implacable instrument
                        filled with minerals, chemicals and chance?
Looked at from there, I am nothing.
            But I am already nothing--why do I need this nothing underlined?
                        Because here, in the sight of movements we can see, were created
stories of these stars,
            chasing and fighting, abducting and killing and romancing.
                        An endless repeat of who I am--! is what is said. Do I believe? 
Am I obliged?
            Are only these tales true?

There is some space—from whence did it emerge?
how does rogue insight get to be deployed?
The oddity is I still feel space unscathed inside
and comfort in its generative void.

“No coward soul is mine.”

note: cited words from Emily Bronte

                        The in-between is evocative in theory, fraught in practice.
                        Any discussion is riddled with the unsaid.
                        I want to confess something, but I’m not sure what.

                        Is it scraps of the past in which I lived so dazed and vulnerable
                        that thinking of any event or what befell is like being blinded
                        by oncoming cars appearing over hills and suddenly fast curves?

                        A narrow road, at night. That's it? The past recedes still further. 
                        How could it not?  Me so in the dark, my memory
                        is no advantage. But worse still when it gets erased.

                        Sealed time. Unopenable. The perfect evocation
                        of the crypt.  A cavity in which “conceal” itself is what
                        it won't release. The verbs are covered with mucus. Is this

                        the original, or the second trauma?  If I’d said, joking,
                        something about an aesthetic crisis,
                        if I’d said this without meaning it, just playing

                        the way one does, who would be surprised
                        to find out I’m inside it, that it’s true. 

                        Not you. You’re not surprised. But me--I am. 


This work without value in the 1920s
got indifferent reviews
degenerate in the 30s
forgotten in the 40s
naïve in the 50s
an awkward bumbling in the 60s
purchased with excuses and cover stories
in 1970, either from prescience or pity,
but then hidden in storage by the Museum
as a shame, as a false move, as a waste of funds.
One of those curatorial errors
to be deplored.
And finally, a triumph—a triumph of the depiction of war, of men, of women,
of life in our time, a work that seems to know everything we needed to know,
a triumph of insight and understanding,
brilliant about its time, an original masterstroke
and thus by 2000 or so, we know it is a triumph, a triumph
because we finally know what we should know.
Should have known, And what it showed us.
Now we really understand it!
Am I right?

Three findings

                        First finding, random. At least two figures
                        taken as distinct, implying different, even alternative
                        choices. Both golden. Both darkling. Met together. In certain lights.

                        Second finding. We are “socked in.”
                        Stick with the feeling, bottomed out.
                        Can’t see where we are, that fog so thick
                        in a timeframe and a built substance.
                        Like being buried alive.
                        Again, once the initial surprise
                        has been assimilated, shock remains generative.

                        Third finding. Or provisional conclusion:
                        Thus distance is vital: never feeling
                        quite at home. Epistolarity
                        often normalizes it (home? distance?), so the question
                        becomes who are you writing to, as if there were a “who”
                        or “what” (“dear tree, O tree”; “dear you” “dear O------“).

                        No one. The thing itself. The it. Uncoupled
                        from sex, love, knowledge of the past,
                        imagery, factoid,
                        although all these saturate, as well;
                        still, uncoupled from everything except
                        the necessary and undefinable void.

                        In feeling.
                        It was an open/omen operation--
                        an epistolary exchange between shapeliness
                        and shapelessness, happening again and again,
                        rain blowing across the sightlines
                        with drops so thick and large they catch light’s
                        refractions. Curves. Several distortions
                        use the same palette, but different tonalities.
                        The compulsion is not timelessness but time.


To enter the space of being, it is a constant struggle, lifting the whole with a small lever, pitting one force against another, like pushing an imaginary rock off the mouth of an imaginary cave. 

                                    Which of these flames is “the stranger”?
                                    You are.
                                    There were smokescreens and guff,
                                    disinformation from the myth—who was
                                                                        the singer after all, what was
                                                            the name
                                                of the figure who got lost…

                                                and was there a ghost?
                                                            Where was it hiding?

                                                You threw it higher yet, the highest ever
                          that pink Spaulding ball
                          and moved under the underhanded throw
                          and watched it hover at the parabolic top                 

                                                Up there, hanging, suspended as such—
                                    How is this possible?

                                    The thing looms whose
                                    evanescent solidity
                                    and everlastingness
                                    is haunting.

                                    You. Dissolved for a second
                                    in the blind spot from the sun.

                                    But Calling. You were always calling.

—Rachel Blau DuPlessis

*These nine separate poem-works are from my fifty-five poem manuscript Eurydics. Based loosely on Sonnets to Orpheus, these began as somewhat unstable sonnets (with Rilke on my mind). Many works include further commentary often in prose, and citations of lines and bits collaged from the historically existing female-gendered poets now present in the Norton Anthology, as part of that chunk o’canon. The book’s premise is, we have a cultural sense of what “orphic” is, but do we have a clue what “eurydic” could possibly be? The book Eurydics was written between 2013 and 2017 as part of a set of books that I called “interstitial” or in-between. In fact, this book might even be called perverse: Persona poems? mythic allusions? sonnets?