Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I think the process is pretty damn important. anyone can find a poem, or a picture, I mean make a good one. it is, indeed, a notable aspect of art that there are some who bend their lives towards finding these treasures.
--Allen Bramhall

My post about COLLECTED (and thick SELECTED) poems has generated some interesting responses here and here as well as backchannel with other peeps. It is an interesting topic, ain't it.

One Peep did wonders for Moi's ego by asking whether I'd ever do such a COLLECTED and/or SELECTED POEMS. I've actually been asked for a SELECTED in the past. Such a SELECTED would make sense, theoretically, for someone like me whose early books are not widely available. But notwithstanding Moi's elephantine ego, I was reluctant to do a SELECTED because I couldn't see the aesthetic challenge in such a project. And so what if some of my early poems have gone out of print -- maybe that's all for the better as I don't feel I really hit my stride until the Reproductions book (which is still available). Plus, I always thought a SELECTED, too, could be something a live poet does when s/he has run out of steam (hee).

I'm more open now to a SELECTED since I came up with the idea to approach it as a 2-part book. The first part would be the usual "Selected" poems. Then the second part would be me rewriting -- or translating -- the selected poems into new versions. I could always toss in a Part 3 in there of other people's translations of my work. But it's the second part that interests me in doing a SELECTED since there'd be an aesthetic rationale for the project. (This is not to say I'm proceeding forward with a SELECTED; it also depends on whether its idea is more interesting/challenging for me than other new-poem projects.)

Not to say that I don't think it can be interesting to see a poet's selection of which of his/her/hir works that poet would choose for a SELECTED. But it's been boring for me to read various dialogues over a poet bemoaning another poet's SELECTED for not including a particular poem(s). Said dialogue can get interesting if it goes into poets discussing individual poems...but it usually touches on the readers' own subjectivities, which gets back to why I'm not that interested in doing a SELECTED because it's appropriate that any one's -- including the author's -- own opinion of what's best (what should be "selected") will fluctuate.

As a brief aside, have you noticed how some poets create a book they identify as a SELECTED in a grab for some canonical perch? I mean, there can be good cases for a SELECTED (e.g. Tom Beckett's Unprotected Texts , or the book I edited on Jose Garcia Villa when his literary estate would only allow me to publish a selection). But in some cases, I read a SELECTED and feel like the project was put together out of grabbing the cultural capital to having a SELECTED out there. Surely there's a better way to contextualize a poem than through a poet's anxiety over fame? (But the question mark is real; I'm open to the possibility that the context might work...because Poetry can be that open.)

COLLECTEDs, however, are another story. I could see my work being presented as a COLLECTED, in part due to the reason I cited in my prior post, specifically how that COLLECTED would actually give a more accurate (I feel) representation of one's work and, yep, one's self (the latter unavoidable because, as Allen says, "process is damn important"). But I'd like to think that impetus would come from someone or somewhere else than myself. If no one but Moi is interested in a COLLECTED of my poems, then there's no reason to do one, in my opinion. This reminds me of how I've occasionally stumbled across chaps of poems by relatively unknown poets but calling themselves COLLECTED. Yeah: saddle-stapled COLLECTEDs. I'm all for self-publishing in poetry, but there just seems something so ... sad about this grabbing.

That a reader would care about the thin (hence the chap structure) COLLECTED output of a stranger. Is it a coincidence that of the examples I've seen, the poems presented were not that compelling? That the slim output did not yet bespeak a prolonged commitment to poetry? Perhaps the aesthetic rationale of a COLLECTED is process, which inherently means a prolonged dedication...?

In Poetry, why do we grab? In Poetry, what is there that can be grabbed?

Then there's the other element that Guillermo Parra (in a backchannel) cites: COLLECTED WORKS, that is, not just poems but other writings by the poet. That would include blog posts, even. Believe it or not, except for use in particular projects, I don't copy my blog posts. So if Blogger or something else online ever goes awry, most of my blog posts will disappear. I'm fine with that -- you students wanting to write on me could always copy and save my blog Archives if you wish as I have no interest in doing so. When I make it big (wink), you might have the only copy of the total blog posts and sell Ebay copies for Two Cents Each. Yeah! Two Cents for Moi's Two Cents!

Okay, wisecracking aside, in case you're wondering why this topic is reverberating with Moi, I suspect that it has to do with my recent ruminations over ceasing to publish new poetry books after 2007. Because I want to do something else with poetry. Something extremely more focused, but that's not just writing Poetry. Ruminating over such, I've been mentally looking back over what I would have released in print in these past dozen years as a poet (hence the initial impetus to consider others' COLLECTEDs). And I'm wondering whether what I've put out there suffices for being a poet.

Actually, I suspect the answer is -- what I've done to date as a poet is but mere preparation for the point of my being one. But that -- oh, that! -- is a story for another day.