Monthly Archives: August 2007

Notes on Crown and Ribs: Preface to the Notes

Monday, 6 August, 2007

Star Wars has been a favorite movie of mine since I first saw it as a kid. The opening of the film remains magical for me: the fanfare played during the Twentieth Century Fox logo, the main theme blasting as the title recedes into deep space and then the updated take on the text intros typical of old movie serials. Those few seconds are enough to evoke in me the totality of my enjoyment of the film and its sequels. That the “story so far” text has been so often parodied shows I’m not the only one on whom the opening makes a powerful impact. Even the non-fan recognizes the scrolling words as a Star Wars reference.

Unlike old movie serials, each installment in the Star Wars series does not return us to last week’s cliffhanger. What I referred to above as the “story so far” text gives us the digest version of other adventures the heroes have gone through in our absence in order to arrive at the in media res excitement of the characteristic scene one battles. My father amazed me once by saying the text set him up to be disappointed: “They should make movies about that stuff; it always seems more interesting than what they end up showing.”

I’ve often had the experience at readings of feeling dissatisfied with a poem after the author’s preamble. Assumptions about the proper content of lyric poetry induce writers to leave out the interesting stuff. “A poem should not mean/But be”. Today, MacLeish’s dictum is haunting and also harmful. Onstage patter and notes and epigraphs give us what the poet learned through preparatory research into history or mythology, what literature the poet engages with, what personal circumstances and obsessions led to the poem’s creation. That all this is too often only hinted at in the text itself suggests skittish fear of lapsing into anti-poetic “meaning”.

But a poem can not “be” if it does not carry its context along with it. I worked to make Crown and Ribs exemplify this element of my aesthetic. At the same time, I’m inspired by some poets’ commentaries: Borges’ prefaces, Galassi’s notes on his translations of Montale, Milosz’s prose. This blog is an experiment: I’m interested in going back through the finished book to see what may come of recalling allusions, anecdotes, and deletions outside of the process of writing the poems. I expect the audience will be those who have already encountered Crown and Ribs and have some affection for it.

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