Syncopations: The Stress of Innovation in Contemporary American Poetry

By Jed Rasula | Go to book overview

2
Seeing Double
The Grapes of Dysraphism

A word is beside itself

A word twists backward
peeling its skin up over its face

A word looks behind itself

Michael Palmer, Sun


GLOSSING POETRY AND PROSE

In 1973 David Antin consented to do a reading of his work at the San Francisco Poetry Center, but was reluctant to be identified as a poet:

i always had mixed feelings about being considered a poet “if
robert lowell is a poet i dont want to be a poet if robert
frost was a poet i dont want to be a poet if socrates was a
poet ill consider it.” (Talking at the Boundaries 1)

The salient fact about the three figures Antin mentions is that Socrates talked, engaging people in dialogue, while Lowell and Frost were masters of “an unnatural language act going into a closet so to speak sitting in a closet in front of a typewriter” (56). As an advocate of direct address, Antin made himself into an occasional poet in the extra-ordinary sense of that term; his poetry (as public record) consists of transcripts of specific occasions. Sitting in a closet with a typewriter, as he tendentiously puts it, ensures that “you dont address anyone what you do

-43-

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