“As: a history, an outline” is a set of poems I’ll share by link here (at the end), composed 45 years ago.
During the summer of my 29th year, I got involved with a largely-disappointing tome of poems, The Young American Poets, a very thick thing which had been published nearly a decade earlier (1968, Paul Carroll, ed.). It had many good lines in its lot of forgettable verse. Nearly each poem had some good lines—“good” there mirroring my preferences. I underlined each.
Next, I copied each preferred line by typewriter (years before consumer “word processing” platforms came along), and cut each line from its page, resulting in many hundreds of short textual noodles. Then, during episodes of entrancement,
I grouped the lines on my floor, first as regions of tens of lines (piles of text noodles) that shared an emergent spirit of sensibility, as if each line had its own integral gravity.
Next, each region was parsed into smaller groups of kindred significance, then
I sequenced the grouped lines into stanzas, as suited my preferences and revised each sequence into altogether a weave of waves through eerie waters for ready sailing out of my youth, a long tongue-in-cheek variation on T. S. Eliot’s epithet that “mature poets steal”—no: The best (to me) of many promising voices were absorbed as clarifying the calling of a muse into some new odyssey, like Eros constellating Psyche.
The result was the voice of a woman who has left a man and an era behind, before he comes back to her transformed too late, as if she hadn’t transformed herself and long ago moved on.
It was 12 poems—which I shared with no one—until the turn of the year, winter 2008. In the meantime, I forgot about it—except one week in spring of 1994 when it gained more context. This turns out to be vital to what Terese received.
When the set was constellated and composed, summer of 1977, each of the twelve lacked a title. They were roman numeraled, I—XII. May of 1994, I wrote and sent a letter to an old friend, Catherine, which I soon placed in an autobio-
graphical story, and used phrases of my letter as section headers in the story, which was done in the wake of the recent (ongoing?) butchery in Rwanda.
One set of phrases from my letter to her was used at headers for the 12 As
poems, which were inserted into the story, giving As a frame that was completely unrelated to the composition of them, but as the set of 12 came back to me
that May, 1994 (I don’t recall why), I read them again in the wake of what was happening in Rwanda.
The autobiographical story was haunted by the butchery, but that was placed
in a context of history and evolution (the overwhelming lack of humanity which echoes tribal animality). The phrases from my letter to Catherine spanned three paragraphs, the end of one, the beginning of a third:
…In a universe of intelligent life that does not bother with our kind: beings of so many channels going nowhere.Fourteen years later (31 years after my constellational composition of As),
“In the beginning, all the world was America,” wrote John Locke, 1690. So too will this be said in 3990, when the difference between natural and self-designed humanity will be lore for children.
In the beginning, intelligence emerged among primates in the mists of Rwanda, and it came to pass that their luny, nomadic children left and learned to change the course of rivers and create Time,…
Terese, 25, unwittingly caused me to think of As again because I was 25 when
the sensibility which emerged as the set of poems seemed to have been born
(four years before that composition), and Terese was clearly to me someone other than she was to herself (inevitably) as—I believed—flowering writer of her own way.
So, I sent As to her during the turn of the year, 2008, but without any explanation other than: Here’s a sample of writing by me. I don’t recall whether she had invited me to send her something, but we were obsessively in email contact with each other (outside of the department office, the origin of our secret friendship), so she eagerly received the set during a Christmas dinner with her parents and siblings, and hid away in the house to read them.
I recalled that eight years later (2016) for the birthday of her first daughter, Ada, four years earlier (2012), which I recounted online briefly, as if As was my literary rattlebox child, though there I referred to Terese as “Ana” because that better suited the reality of writing to a muse.
As far as I know, Terese had (and has) no idea I did that online writing, April 2016. She cut contact with me when she at last legally married her partner of many years, 2010. (I’ve added a link to that 2016 narrative at the bottom of the last page of As, linked below. That very long project, “As Aide of Sophiana,” honors Ada as its last section, which ends by linking to As.)
Anyway, that 1977 experiment in creativity, generativity, appellant semio-magnetism, whatever, was a far call from high literary theory I happily weathered soon after composing As—years of literary-conceptual odyssey, including a very non-“literary” dissertation on Jürgen Habermas, 1979 (which led to voluminous online writing, 1997 onward).
But again, all that is long ago; and everybody’s an allegory of ultimate singularity.
We bring into presence Possibility, as our capability for conceptuality created
the gods, mirroring our imaginability and aspirations.
And it came to pass that the gods transformed themselves into highly discursive formations, aspiring, perhaps, to become wholly scientific arts—or poetical science.
I draw conceptual ecosphericality into wholly enthralled joys, then want to theorize it.
What is this thing: chalice of mind, jug of mental ecology, urn of Sophial love?
philoSophiana: literary philosophy as tropoconceptual prospecting.
Well, “philosophy” is tropal enough, between you and me.
Anyway, Ada, intimacies of inwordness can portend radiant gravities of mind so awing beyond one, it’s like gods channeling and reflecting all potentials of receptive and responsive divining as yours to further genesis, though history is always mere outline to a muse.