[Wgcp-whc] Minutes--M Palmer session 1

richard.deming at yale.edu richard.deming at yale.edu
Sat Oct 11 21:02:33 EDT 2008

Dear All--

in lieu of actual set of minutes on our most recent session of the WG/CP I will
paste below a series of questions that were drawn from the course of our two
hour discussion of Palmer's work.  What was particularly engaging, though it
doesn't quite come across as fully in these questions, was just how much our
conversation engaged the issue of the political in poetry. Is Palmer's oblique
means of addressing political realities insufficiently political--or is it
rather the way of marking the interpenetration of politics, ethics, and
aesthetics--that all aesthetic choices engage the political either by
continuing or countering accepted and received notions of meaning and

I would like to insert a footnote that our discussion parallels in remarkable
ways the disagreement/argument between Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov about
the way poetry needed to address the Viet Nam war--the aesthetic versus the
direct response--poetry as activism-- with Duncan favoring the former.  This
argument is played out in their letters and anyone who looks the letters over
will note how they are similar to various strands of the discussion on Friday.
A brief article on this subject is here:

and another is here:

Given the importance of Duncan and his work to Palmer, these are worth looking

We will meet on this Friday the 17th from 3-5 in Rm 116 of the WHC.  Palmer will
be joining us and the questions below will serve as a general structure for our
thinking.  These are sent to Palmer in advance and so these will be hovering as
we discuss his work with him.

Palmer will be reading in nearby Middletown, CT at Wesleyan University on this
Weds at 7.30.

Also, one other reminder of a reading of interest this week--and the below that
I'll paste the questions.

Richard Deming


Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries
Digital Literature Reading
Tuesday, October 14 @ 7:00 pm
Linsly-Chittenden Hall, Room 101

Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries are the Seoul-based creators of some of the
most innovative and acclaimed works of online digital literature. Their
Flash-based animations of narrative text have been exhibited in museums
worldwide, including the Whitney (NYC), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,
the Getty (LA), doART (Beijing), the Centre Pompidou (Paris), the Tate (London),
and the Venice and São Paulo Biennials.  Their work can be viewed at

This event is hosted by the Yale English Department and is free and open to the

For information, contact  Jessica Pressman (Assistant Professor of English) at
Jessica.pressman at yale.edu


Questions  (the "you" refers to Palmer, obviously):

Throughout your body of work, one notices the interplay of prepositions?this
is especially true in Company of Moths.  Do you have, for lack of another way
of putting this, a ?theory of prepositions.?  This might be a way of
speaking tio how you might describe relationality occurring in and as poetry,
an idea you gesture toward throughout Active Boundaries.

 What is your understanding of abstraction in poetry?  What are its tensions
with a more figural or representation mode?

 How would you describe the evolution of your poetics over time?not only from
the earliest work, but from the mid-80s to now?  Are there differences in kind
or intensity?  Are there things/aspects/issues that are less important to you
now, then before.  Are those differences because of changing aesthetic
attitudes in general or are there differences that come now being someone who
has made a life in poetry since the 1960s and 70s?

What characterizes the difference in your work over time?  For instance, to
offer a specific aspect, some members of the group have noted a changing
presence of the visuality in your poems.  Is this somehow a change that?s
been conscious or at least one you?ve noticed yourself?

You?ve written a great deal about lyric?and what that means in terms of
interiority/exteriority, voice/discourse.  What, role however, does the image
play in your thinking about lyric?

Has the current war impacted in new ways your understanding of poetry?s role
in public discourse (or political discourse in poetry)?  What are then the
ethics of representation in light of how the lyric can or cannot address the
war.  This might also speak to your understanding of the famous disagreement
between Duncan and Levertov.

Could you say something about your feelings on the possibilities and
problematics of the term ?avant garde??  What is still a viable conception
of ?avant garde??  What elements seem to you exhausted or co-opted or

In Active Boundaries you both cite and develop some critiques of modernism and
romanticism.  How is your work engaging in a discussion with and argument with
these modes.  Some might say that your responses to these would also shed light
on your thinking about two poets who were seminal to your thinking: Robert
Duncan and Louis Zukofsky.

You?ve consistently defended the lyric as mode, though you?ve maintained the
lyric as still being a condition for questions in general as well for skepticism
toward traditions of the lyric.  Some of that has been a way of

Given your friendship with many novelists, might you say something about your
feelings about possibilities and limitations of narrative.  Especially sine
you?ve written about the political implications of the lyric, what are the
implications of writing a novel? Or one might ask (with the spirit of O?Hara
in mind) why are you a poet and not a novelist?
Extending that, given your collaborations with painters, photographers, and
choreographers, what does poetry offer to these arts?and vice versa?

In writing a collection, do the poems come more or less discretely or do you
have a sense of forming seriality?  If the latter when do you have a sense of
the shape (and thus the sorts of poems you would need to write to continue
shaping that work)?  Could you describe the composition of Company of Moths in
light of this?

A recurring trope in Company of Moths is the moth. Why moths?  Could you give a
sense of how you see that image./word changing over the course of the book?

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