Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The line break is dead

Or is it? What makes a contemporary poet engage with the line break? In preparing for another stint blogging at Harriet I've been glancing over old posts (Strangely enough I want to redo many of them for I haven't quite said the thing, but never mind...) and I found this conversation with Ken Babstock that I quite forgot I had. It's a bit defensive, not propulsive, which may be a reflection of my style, or his, or the limitations of the interview, I don't know. But as usual, just when I think I have to come to terms with something (line breaks bad, for example) another perspective arrives and the argument falters, as it does when confronted with Babstock's poems. 
...There’s a paradox here, insofar as line break is the one technical aspect of composition that’s always come naturally. Fluidly. It’s certainly related to stresses, to rhythm, but also to image and sense. There’s a reliance on intuition, but I will say I’ve tried to get some of the same charged silence that occurs in the blank space after any successful poem’s conclusion to also appear in lesser sparks out past the line’s end. It’s something like calibrating just how much your line can reasonably bear, and then getting out with some dignity intact. I do want to get out (from inside the line) before the shame arrives, or at least before it accumulates.
The last book, Air Stream, was fine. I wrote about it for the G&M, very positively. I wouldn't have always written about Babstock's poems so positively, or so uniformly positively, but that book, it seems to me, illustrated what is exciting about this work. And in that book the poet goes out on a limb, lets meaning lapse here and there. It was difficult, early on, to separate the poetry from the hype where Babstock is concerned, but he has proven his worth in this book. 

And yes, the typo in the interview! Forever, when blogging, one is up against the problem of proofreading one's own work. Very difficult. If you're perusing Harriet next month and see a typo, do let me know. Contact details are on this blog.

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