Psychopoetics

 

My work dramatizes the very gender-inflected struggle of claiming a voice. It speaks of that struggle with forked tongue, using irony, punning, allusion, ambiguity, and double entendre as strate-

gems

for opening up treasures in words beyond the manifest meanings that lie on the surface (because they lie on the surface).

I like to lean on the archeology of words, which exposes infraverbal, etymological residues that can be unearthed and put back into use. [Meddle English by Caroline Bergvall uses such verbal archeology.]

In a poetic line, words (like Trojan horses) yield unexpected resonances: what’s concealed in the unconscious of each word whickers to the unconscious of the others. Like the Jungian I am, I enjoy amplifying those sotto voce conversations among words. Sometimes their talk sounds like Babel-babble, but it’s always revealing.

When I use gender as a trope for the struggle between silence and utterance, it isn’t necessarily literal. But I always pose the question: do I have the right to write? And because I pose that question, what I’m also asking is: do I write right?

There! The phrase “right to write” drops something beautiful in my lap, because the issues of voice, permission, and proximity are right there in it. Can I claim my right to work English in a way that pleases me?

My skewed, homophonic version of Matthew 7:7 pleases me, because it both plays with and critiques the source text:

Her Golden Rule

Mask, and ye shall receive.
Sequin, ye shall find;
Knockout, the door will be
Opened into you.

I love rendering [pun intended] the multiplicity of words, in words.

I love exploiting English’s inherent ambiguities and redundancies to celebrate them. Homonyms, puns, double entendres, overdetermined line breaks, and variant spellings build up the musical richness and intellectual complexity I want my poetry to bear and bare.

James Merrill called the Oxford English Dictionary “the unconscious of the language,” so that’s the word-bank I go to, to “make the unconscious conscious.” For writing poetry is (also) work of the psyche. Here’s where my training in psychology and my writing dovetail.

Sometimes I play with language using verbal fission:

Be e    c om e    to    me    no  w;
Be    a ll u red,    yo u
Be au ti  ful    hone y
Ma ch in e    of    be e in g.

(from “Final e”)

And sometimes I use verbal fusion:

We thought our LemonDropMantle
would never dissolve,
but endure—EternalConundrum—

on our tongues, SweetJesus!—
like a BitterSweet pickle,
HereAndHereafter.

(from “LifeLiqueur”)

Sometimes I try to bamboozle syntax by letting trickster words mean everything at once, like waving while drowning (c.f., Stevie Smith). I court ambiguity on purpose, preferring polysemy to simplicity (i.e., the simplistic).

I dislike “accessibility” even more. Porn is accessible.

I like the richness ambiguity affords, even if it can be dis-
orienting:

Abandoned ship, disembark I  you  sovereign
Cargo.  Chaste-ravished  I your utter  Subject.

(from “Holy Child Sonnet”)

I write the poems the way I do in part because, as Linda Kunhardt said recently in Poetry magazine, it entertains me to do so! But it is serious entertainment.

I like giving a poem a textual tic which hawks a thematic shtick. I really like it when I can get a poem to read two (even if conflicting) ways at the same time:

Dear P|earls before s|wine.

(from “Be-hold, Be-head”)

I like that dizzying kind of sense-making because, in truth, aren’t we all polymorphically perverse, hemispherically bilateral multi-taskers? Why pretend, especially in poetry (that “condensery”), that we’re not?

(Excerpted from the One Alternate Workday blog: http://onealternateworkday.blogspot.com/)

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