21ST CENTURY AUTOBIOGRAPHY (A SYLLABUS)
I'm blessed by (no other word but "blessed" came to mind at) Nicholas Manning's review of THE LIGHT SANG AS IT LEFT YOUR EYES in the new issue of CORDITE. I can tell he spent much time and attention on my book, in part for this excerpt:
One must note, however, the risk of failure implied by such a project. This risk is, specifically, the production of a work of such overwhelming eclecticism that it turns abundance into aesthetic bedlam, largesse into graphomania. If Tabios’ vital work avoids this pitfall – though often barely, and with displays of fantastical acrobatics – it does so, in this critic’s mind, thanks largely to....
And, yes, I'm being mischievous by cutting off the excerpt there -- if you want to know why Nicholas didn't think I failed, click on the excerpt to read the entire review. But the above nonetheless goes to my secret fear (well, it had been a secret): that in pushing the arc of the collection, I'd push it too far and fall off the cliff....rather than winging it to soar into penetrating the sun (so to speak).
I used to work at forming a poetry collection by trying to make sure it's perfect (however I defined it at the time). But in a certain relaxation that comes with age (or just exhaustion), I've been less focused in recent books on perfecting that arc-as-pitch and more interested in pushing the arc's edge...including being willing to disclose the rawness of the sore singing throat if need be. So that I'd rather incorporate the occasional off-note to ultimately achieve a more layered book ... what's perfection anyway? The wabi sabi artists or Native American weavers, among others, realized long ago that deliberately incorporating the flaw or the break may not be perfect but nonetheless is more perfectly human/humane...
Anyway, I'm impressed that Nicholas caught on to this layer of The Light....and grateful for all of his words (thank you Nicholas!). In this case, he's an example of the dream-reader I/we long for...
And Nicholas also begins his review with this
In this new century, the writing and rewritings of the poetic self seem to be at the crux of a burgeoning genre; a genre in which the self is less a “basis” for certain convictions about “what poetry is” than an opening: an aperture or aporia to diverse inventions, collaborations, languages, traditions, and histories.
which lead me to note something I'd been tinkering about mentally for a couple of months now. I think it'd be interesting to create a SYLLABUS OF 21ST CENTURY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FORMS where people write autobiography in fresh ways. I hope THE LIGHT... -- as well as SILENCES: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LOSS -- would be part of such a syllabus, but also (from my own readings) books like
THE TRANSFORMATION by Juliana Spahr
THE GRAND PIANO, by a collective of authors
[one love affair]* by Jenny Boully (actually, it seems as if all her books could fit based on their book descriptions, and I'm certainly looking forward to reading her THE BODY: AN ESSAY and THE BOOK OF BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS)
UNDER ALBANY by Ron Silliman
THE MIDDLE ROOM by Jennifer Moxley
I know there are others -- these are just the books of the top of my head (a tired head, as I write this). Is any teacher out there already doing such a class? I think the ways poets subvert, if you will, the form of autobiography is a logical extension of the larger poetry project, particularly given the latter 20th century attention to the "I" or its (so-called) alternatives. Please email Moi at GalateaTen@aol.com if you know of any books that could belong to this grouping.
UPDATE: Peeps suggest the following titles also may be relevant (though some may be 20th century):
Lyn Hejinian * My Life
Chris Kraus * I Love Dick
Cecilia Vicuna * quipoem
Stephen Ratcliffe * Portraits & Repetitions, * Real
Alan Bramhall * Days Poem [I'm embarassed I moiself didn't bring that up, but I was really tired when I originally wrote this post]
Geraldine Kim * Povel
Kenneth Goldsmith * Soliloquy, * Fidget
Everything by Hannah Weiner
Everything since * Little Houses by Alice Notley