You may think I'm worrying -- will I run out of ideas
before I've filled these 256 pages? (You, of course, can see
I've filled them.) No, I worry I'll have too many,
fill the last page, then think of another blank page poem,
then another...what to do? Fill another book?
Cut it off -- no more blank page poems? (If I typecast myself
as amiable Tristram Shandy, they'll never let me play stern Hamlet!)
Turn editor -- or barbarous barber, select, cut-cut-cut?
(Scissors cuts paper.) (Dangerous, for when I edit,
I'm more likely to add vines to my columns, finer fluting,
Amaranthus leaves to the vines, additional scrolling,
like one droodling on a pad while listening to
a telephone that won't let him go. I'll see
see new connections, pursue them, sprout new limbs,
new foliage. I'm no gardener. I'm crab grass!)
Not worry, no, I just keep on keeping on, and
when I get there, I'll decide to know a little more
of what now I can leave unknown without coloring
my not knowing with the jittery tints of worry.
I call this form "a book of filled blank pages."
Any form exists to provoke a delayed knowing.
How will it come out, who done it and why,
what happens to Jessica, how can the writer top this,
what is Jeremy's secret, what could possibly
rhyme with silver? If Bobby gets killed, I don't
want to know, so I'm skipping to the last chapter
to see if he gets killed because if he does, I won't
read anymore because I don't want to find out about it.
In art, we suppress our knowing intentionally,
thus taking control of the game-run-amok that got us stuck
in solidity, the game of not knowing who and what we are.
One mates an unlimited creativity that can make, of nothing,
anything (infinite potential, nothing known) with a certainty
(the form of a sonnet, a villanelle, a confessional poem, an epic),
and produces...What? It has its father's mystery (just look
at those eyes!), It's mother's definitude (see the sharp, fine lineation
of that jaw). The form enables us to surprise ourselves.
You get to the end and are sternly stopped (a barrier).
Or left hanging over a void, free to fly.
Or have both new freedoms and new barriers, knowing more.
Limiterature or flitterature? Ligaturiture or Lighterature?
Pinioned by opinions or lofted on pinions?
Pinion -- a feather, the source, also, of pen, which is also
a place of confinement (as birds, deprived of feathers
to keep them from flying, are said to be pinioned).
The pen, the sty, that is the man.
Unpen us, O pen! Open us, O pen! Ripen us! (Prepare us for RIP?)
Notes: Stanza 1: The line about typecasting myself as Tristram
Shandy and never being allowed to play Hamlet refers to the fact
that if I keep being the self-indulgent punster, I won't be taken
seriously when I want to be. (So perhaps I should be stern about
foregoing any temptation to add more poems on this theme after #256.)
Fortunately, I don't much care. The me that would be taken seriously
wouldn't be me anyway.
Stanza 2: At the end we are "sternly stopped"
an allusion to death, and particularly "The Death of John Whiteside's
Daughter", by John Crowe Ransom, who says of those who visit
to see the girl's body laid out, that "we are sternly stopped"
to see "...her brown study there." I don't know what the
girl's death has to do with getting to the end of my book, except
that the girl liked to chase the goose, and I'm getting to flight
and feathers in this poem (see last stanza). And also the book (as
you may already suspect) will not end with a bang, but with a conversational
question, in hopes that the conversation will continue beyond the
book. So this book is STERNEly stopped (Lawrence Sterne, author
of Tristram Shandy, a work that rattles on and hasn't stopped
yet), but owes little to Thomas Sterne Eliot, I hope. (Actually,
I don't want to emulate Tristram in all ways. It cloys at times.
I hope I don't. But it's mostly fun.)
Stanza 5: "The sty, that is the man." What the French
critic (19th Century Sainte-Beuve, I think) said is "The
style, that is the man." (But he said it in French, for some
reason. I guess that, too, was the man he was. Since the French
love to drop final letters of words, "sty" seems appropriate
for "style".) Since I write with a pen (which is both
a feather and a place of confinement or sty), I, becoming this voice,
in various ways become what confines me. Goes back to the inseparability
of freedom from barriers in any game. In another poem, referring
to style and sty, I pray, "Oink Oink O ink!"