Drafts Grid and Schemata

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You can return to the Tapa pages from here,
to page 30, here.

See the ‘The Schemata of Drafts: A note from 2005-2006’ below.

1. It

20. Incipit

39. Split

58. In Situ

77. Pitch Content

96. Velocity

2. She


40. One   Lyric

59. Flash Back

78. Buzz Track

97. Rubrics

3. Of

22.Philadelphia Wireman

41. Of This

60. Rebus

79. Mass Observation

98. Canzone

4. In

23. Findings

42. Epistle, Studios

61. Pyx

80. Envoi

99. Intransitive

5. Gap


43. Gap

62. Gap

81. Gap

100. Gap

6. Midrush

25. Segno

44. Stretto

63.Dialogue of Self & Soul

82. Hinge

101. Puppet Opera

7. Me

26. M-m-ry

45. Fire

64. Forward Slash

83. Listings


8. The

27. Athwart

46. Edge

65. That

84. Juncture


9. Page

28. Facing Pages

47. Printed Matter

66. Scroll

85. Hard Copy

104. The Book

X. Letters

29. Intellectual Autobiography

48. Being Astonished

67. Spirit Ditties

86. Scarpbook


11. Schwa

XXX. Fosse

49. Turns,& Turns, an Interpretation

68. Threshold

87. Trace Elements

106. Words

12. Diasporas

31. Serving Writ

L. Scholia & Restlessness

69. Sentences

88. X-Posting

107.Meant to say

13. Haibun

32. Renga

51. Clay Songs

LXX. Lexicon

89. Interro-gation

108. Ballad and Gloss

14. Conjunctions

33. Deixis

52. Midrash

71.Head- lines with Spoils

XC. Excess

109. Wall Newspaper

15. Little

34. Recto

53. Eclogue

72. Nanifesto

91. Proverbs

CX. Primer

16. Title

35. Verso

54. Tilde

73. Vertigo

92. Translocation

111. Arte Povera

17. Unnamed

36. Cento

55. Quiptych

74. Wanderer

93. Romantic Fragment Poem

112. Verge

18. Traduction

37. Praedelle

56. Bildungs-gedicht with Apple

75. Doggerel

94. Mail Art

113. Index

19. Working Conditions

38. Georgics & Shadow

57. Workplace, Nekuia

76. Work Table with Scale Models

95. Erg

114.Exergue and Volta

The Schemata of Drafts: A note from 2005-2006
Rachel Blau DuPlessis

During the writing of Drafts, every once in a while, I wouldcompose a note to myself discussing the poems. This was particularly true when I was making plans for what to write next within a certain time period — such as the summer. This particular example of this kind of writing is notable because it’s relatively long and because it loosely details the ‘schemata of Drafts’ By which I mean a loose characterization of the ‘lines’ — the poems read grouped cross-wise or horizontally. These descriptions were all intended heuristically as a helpful frame and in my view — the view of the maker — never bound the poem down to a program, but rather constituted a matrix of suggestions and a history of the work at the same time. These really were notes to myself, and when they were written had no public face or ambitions. Nothing is cut from what I wrote in 2005, though maybe it should have been. In my talking to myself, later notes added to this writing — as in 2006 — were noted as such when I wrote these.

The narrative background here: I had just flown alone to Milan in May 2005 and was going to our house in Umbria. The airline (whichever one — now not sure) ‘‘lost’ my checked bags, an added complication. Those things usually do turn up, but as everyone knows, it’s horribly annoying. I also tossed my backpack with computer onto the front seat of the car and — sigh — broke the bridge of my glasses (the nose piece), glasses somehow stuck under the computer (double sigh), which could not be repaired, but just held together by tape while I drove south. Of course, they had to be replaced once I was settled. And once I was settled, there were a few problems with computer and email, too. Of course. At that point, I was writing the fourth set of poems, Drafts 58-76. which were published as Torques by Salt Publishing in 2007. When I was writing this ‘schemata,’ then, I had just passed the middle of Drafts, which I had projected at what still seemed impossible, or at least unlikely — 114 poems with that unnumbered one (Précis) marking the exact middle.

I am publishing this as part of a dossier on my work. I might add a few comments now, eleven years later, and if I do, they will be in italics and maybe in square brackets in what follows. RBD

The schemata of Drafts.
A note to myself while waiting for my bagali in the hotel, 9:20 AM outside of Milan on Saturday, 21 May 05 and pretty miserable. Also the bridge of my glasses snapped. The hotel is lovely, people infinitely nice, a bit noisy last night in the little town, I am filled with emptiness. (Except for leg cramps.) Wondering why things are not working for the poem Draft 68: Threshold. So I thought I would run thru the ‘lines’ of the whole poem, naming, as best I can, naming what they involve. This note has probably been long overdue. I am doing it altogether from memory; I am not looking at the poems at all, to begin with.

Later — it is the next day (Sunday, 22 May clearly in the Umbria house) and several phone calls later. Email is difficult, not yet set up, but the valises seem to be in Rome going to Umbertide via courier. We will see. When the verb shifted from arriveremmo to in arrivando I became relieved. [That is, from ‘they will arrive’ to ‘arriving.’] (And on Sunday night at 19:41, I had my bags. Nothing was missing — except a book by Rodrigo Toscano? maybe I did not pack that one? I hadn’t.) I did actually look at a few poems when I continued this. It has been a very useful exercise. Although not everything can be put into words.

On 25 May, I had a special ‘operation’ [on my computer] and the email seemed to start, but computer overheated, and now it appears I can have either the computer or the email.All this fuss was temporary

Line of 1. It, Incipit, Split, In Situ.
This ‘line of one’ with its base in the encoding of ‘it’ in all the titles (a detail that will continue) is basically a beginning again and again. Sometimes the beginning is very down — having to begin again and again from nothingness, from grief, with the question can anything hold. The work In Situ, for instance, discusses the suicide of a student at Temple who jumped from the ninth floor of Anderson (my building, my floor). The designation of it-ness as one of the work’s central motifs happens here. That is the vastness of ‘it’ — the whole universe that overwhelms with its plethora.

Line of 2. She, Cardinals, One Lyric, Flash Back.
These poems on the line of 2 are really about ‘she’ rather than ‘it.’ ‘There’s a lot of it out there and she will have to deal with it.’ This sentence was a motif of realization when I began these poems in 1986 or when I first wrote about them. The thing that joins these works is very odd and simple — it is the streak of red, the color red. The first three are filled with sensuality and nature (flowers, birds, sexuality, motherhood). Flash Back is a little different, being a response to the use (appropriation?) by Brian Kim Stefans of my work to make another art work, a web-work like a film where words appear and mutate. I was ambivalent but fascinated by his alphabetizing my words and making a piece for computer or an artwork using a ‘flash’ program. Not the least of this was a) the fact that alphabetizing mooted my own artwork — a statement and its homophonic translation. And b) I don’t know how to do a computer-based artwork, a web-work, and so have been iced out of my own words. Sort of trumped. Mooted and trumped are neither comfortable positions. However, c) appropriation is the name of the game in art — so snuff it up and deal, as the kids say. However, in response to all this, ‘She’ wants to make some claims back about why ‘She’ makes art. Which is precisely to say something (how retro! ha ha) that can be recognized. This is a politics of meaning. Line of 2 in July 2006 is really birdy, but it continues the interest in pronouns in a new way, a departure with the very firm argument that we need new pronouns to express the mergings, connections, linkages between ourselves and between us and nature (which is here, birds).

Line of 3. Of, Philadelphia Wireman, Of This and Rebus
are very clear to me and have always been. They talk of ‘of -ness’ — what we are ‘of,’ community, connectedness (and its failures and losses), the world of things and the unevenness of distribution, political-economic failures and hopes. That’s why it was particularly appropriate to use Rilke’s Duino Elegies as the basis for Rebus. (The ‘of-ness’ of the famous list of nouns — what we tell the angels) Line of 3 in July 2006 is ‘Mass Observation’ (returning to that popular front motif, as in Conjunctions [Draft 14], as in the evocation of Aaron Siskind, as in ‘social surrealism’ and other allusions throughout).

Line of 4. In, Findings, Epistle, Studio and Pyx.
All these use ‘in’ forthrightly as central. ‘In-ness’ as a position, inside the day (in Findings), inside the studio and in languages (in Epistle, Studio). Therefore the question what did Pound get ‘into’ with his politics, especially the continuation of his fascism, post-Pisa, and really post-war (not to speak of before, too). Later-July 2006. It’s as if Of and In are merging.

Line of 5, Gap, gap, gap, gap.
Well, is this self-explanatory? Or not. The motif is Something missing. Death sometimes constructs the missing; ‘shadows of the lost’ is a phrase in Draft 24. It, the notion of gap, happened early with an unfinished, or un-doable poem in this position. I skipped over it, and therefore ‘gap’ was first literal. When I returned to fill the gap, it rapidly became a figure, figurative for issues in the poem.

Line of 6. Midrush, Segno, Stretto, Dialogue of Self and Soul.
Doubleness. 2 columns, split columns, split subjects, Segno because of my alternative self — the one caught in the Holocaust. [That is, it is impossible not to imagine what would have become of ‘me,’ had I been born in Hungary or Poland, from where some of my grandparents came.] Stretto more ‘up’ involving the living and the dead (Etruscan tombs), and the 2 women, Kathleen [Fraser] and myself. Dialogue of Self and Soul — that’s clear, although the 2 figures seem to fuse somewhat. One remains more skeptical, and one more earnest, however.

Line of 7. Me, M-m-ry, Fire, Forward Slash
is pretty clearly ‘me’ or ‘I’ but generally as a dissolving substance not an assertive or affirmative one. Or rather the affirmation is in the dissolution and the process of dissolving and standing forth again and again.

Line of 8. The, Athwart, Edge, That.
These are all a complex pointing to particular vital spots. There is a deictic quality to these works — the the in Wallace Stevens’ words. A cast into particulars of importance, as is clear from the fact that Edge is dedicated to [the memory of] George [Oppen].

Line of 9. Page, Facing Pages, Printed Matter, Scroll
all are about the site of writing, the ‘platform’ for writing. No, not ‘about’ in that sense, but alluding to and playing with. Thus Scroll is also double columned and Facing Pages puns on the tactic in translation and the theme of facing the vocation of writing. (Thus this thematic material links to the line of 16.)

Line of 10. Letters, Intellectual Autobiography, Being Astonished and Spirit Ditties
all are serial poems with all the vectors and brightness possible in that mode (illuminating many things on many facets). The poems also treat my own autobiography somewhat. (Letters also links to the other alphabet poems in Drafts, like Lexicon and like the use of part of the alphabet in ‘Traduction.’). Now that I have caught ahead of myself [this is probably now a 2006 addition] — it appears that I will use this line of 10 at Bellagio for my ‘Mail Art’ piece. [I had a fellowship at Bellagio in February 2007 and did work on Mail Art then, but it did not end up on the line of 10.]

Line of 11. Schwa, Fosse, Turns and Turns, an Interpretation, Threshold.
The latter being the current sore spot. Because it is unfinished, and has been worked on since last summer (2004). And I cannot say how many times I thought it was done (done with). Now it is this summer (2005), and the little bugger is still not done. Something wrong with it. Who knows what. Well, in this line there is a lot of emptiness. (see above emotional note) The empty sound of schwa, the burial ditch of Fosse, the ‘filling’ with the complex politics of feminism [in Turns and Turns, an Interpretation] PLUS the inability fully to account for its impact and richness and to tell what it was that happened, and then this ambiguous Threshold where — what — you can’t tell if it is empty or full? there is political emptiness and rage? One wants to be filled, but is being filled with all the wrong things? The poem is drawing on a particular title and a particular dream of muddy immersion, but sometimes it feels as if the wrong poem is being written in this place. I am putting a gloss on it like ‘Ancient Mariner’ and so far that is moderately helping. (By the end of the summer, I had cut out with black lines most of the words of the poem — this page space statement IS now the poem; literalizing ‘a lot of emptiness’) Much later July 2006: Turns etc is obviously Full, not empty, but the emptiness is in not ever being able to say how this political moment of feminism congealed and came into force (and thus not being able to do it again that easily).

Line of 12. Diasporas, Serving Writ, Scholia & Restlessness, Sentences —
this line seems to alternate between a scattering and an attempt to record something in writing. There are some of the ‘lines’ in which the poems respond to each other horizontally; this seems to be one such and the line of 16 is another. Mainly in these poems there is enormous political sadness (the exception is Serving Writ). Scholia & Restlessness was the first poem I finished after Sept 11th, 2001.

Line of 13. This line (Haibun, Renga, Clay Songs, Lexicon)
is another very bright one (mainly). [Later exception: Interrogation, from 2008; an odd genre but certainly not bright.] One thing that joins them is an odd genre. At first, they were going to be only foreign genres, but that did not work out as an idea. The exception to the ‘brightness’ is Clay Songs — again the sense of political entrapment and struggle is central to that, as well as the biographical question of being the old woman. But in the other three there is a strong sense of the Thisness and the Thatness of the world — just the little ways it all articulates and shines. This makes those poems link to something like my plan for the (as yet) unwritten Nanifesto. These poems also relate to the line of 2, the elemental richness and brightness of things. Later — July 2006 — I am on the alert for a new and interesting genre name. Utanikki is too close to haibun, [also] bpNichol used it, and I don’t think that’s fair to take it. But that’s the approximate thing I mean.

Line of 14. Conjunctions, Deixis, Midrash, Headlines with Spoils.
All but the last are Big poems — essays in verse, philosophical, ethical, speculative statements. (Not certain that Conjunctions fully fits under that generalization, but it does to some degree.) With Conjunctions there is a sense of what joins things, literally and figuratively; with Deixis a sense of the pointing into what IS. Again it and is are motivic.

Line of 15. Little, Recto, Eclogue, Nanifesto.
Nanifesto is not yet written, with its pun on manifesto. It’s on the agenda for the summer. I’ve just put Mozart on the CD (now a casa) and white tree fluff is flying everywhere. It’s basically about smallness, tenderness, the tiny things that matter, the small detail. Actually, now I am able to look at the poems, and just did look at Recto. The dot. The importance of the dot, the point as pinhole, the small child. Of course Eclogue is to Koré [our daughter].

Line of 16. Title, Verso, Tilde, Vertigo.
This set has a nice pattern of T and V in the titles (which perhaps should be continued in the last two of this line). Reminding me of the ‘t/w’ of poetry (tweet, or poieitwy in a certain pronunciation) in that other poem. But seriously, this set seems to concern the title to the poem. In Anne Ferry’s sense — that one makes the claim of vocation, and it is a difficult claim, real, intense, struggled for, dizzying (as Vertigo). The ‘filling and emptying’ at the end of Verso links with quite a number of other works here.

Line of 17. This is an odd group — Unnamed, Cento, Quiptych, Doggerel (but see below, where a different decision is made as I write this note to myself).
This line is both very serious and very funny/witty, artful. In some senses it did not settle til Cento, because Unnamed is very serious, citing, as it does, the story from that newspaper article of the Jews who were shot. It’s basically the strange tragic ‘life’ including war and its impossible discussion in language that animates this set. (i.e. — what language does one write when about to be shot? what message from the cusp of the void?) This observation makes me wonder whether I should not RE-shift Doggerel and Wanderer. Both are unwritten. I originally had Wanderer here (line of 17) and Doggerel as line of 18. I then considered that Wanderer would draw on Old English, and thus would ‘go’ with the line of 18 which is often ‘about’ languages. Plus I thought that Doggerel was ‘too funny’ to be in the penultimate position in this group of 19. But in fact two things are true. I am not sure I can handle both Wordsworth and Old English (the poem Wanderer, of course), and think Wordsworth will be central. Then, and yet, the line of 18 is funnier, genuinely filled with sprezzatura, which is much more linked to my concept of the unwritten Doggerel (or partly written; I have sketched parts of it for years). I see that I had not reckoned with the cumulative power of the line of 17 when I re-assigned these two titles. Quiptych, of course, is witty, but its undertone is tragic, or patient reconciliation to the facts that one does not always get what one wants, but must deal anyway. It concerns randomness, anguish as our language, the dictionary and the country — as two forces facing each other, mourning, and reconciliation of sorts via art — here the making of paper, and the making of a quiptych (whatever that is! a folded over 4-paneled ‘altar’). So I see that the decision is made. So what should Wanderer concern? the nomad. the stranger. And so now the line of 17 consists of Unnamed, Cento, Quiptych and Wanderer.

Line of 18. Traduction, Praedelle, Bildungsgedicht with Apple, and (NOW) Doggerel.
The line of 18, as I said, concerns languages. And Doggerel is an undervalued mode of language, not of course a national language, but a kind of poetry that is laughed at. It goes with the genre allusions of this line, insofar as a translation is a genre (sort of), a pradella certainly is, and so is a Bildungsgedicht. As for real languages–French in Traduction, a mix of English-English (not American-English) and Italian (with Spanish, even) in Praedelle, Bildungsgedicht with Apple of course has its title in German and the climax alludes to multi-lingual strategies. The funny thing is — when I arrived at this house (Italy), I found bozze that Marina [Camboni] had sent for me to correct of the article I wrote for her last summer about the multi-lingual strategies [in my poetry]. So I can say critically what all this is about. a). resisting the socio-cultural hegemony of English (although I benefit from it) b). Using real languages to ‘fox’ the one language I have (with all the meanings of fox) c).resisting any authority claim and the claims of one cultural wholeness (i.e. my uses [of the multi-lingual] differ from T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound’s). Then d). opening the poignant door of another language to disperse my subjectivity e). Plus ‘in single language, the poem/ could not be complete’ especially in its ecstasy. f). The poly-lingual insists on ‘the remainder’ — things in a poem that cannot be tracked to single pinned down meaning. g). Citation and translation are central topoi in Drafts. Because of the mystery of making meaning at all. ‘The poem’s impact is of shiftings between languages.’ (This is a citation from the essay.) ‘Language(s) are the ‘hero’ here, not ‘I.’’ I see that insofar as Doggerel will return to the line of 18, I do have to treat a little John Skelton. Probably I should break into Skeltonics somewhere inside the poem. (It was to end up more Hudibrastics… this said after it was written)

19. The line of work. Working Conditions, Georgics and Shadow, Workplace, Nekuia and Not
sure of the title for 76. Possibly Screen Works, possibly Workbook. It occurred to me that I could play with emptiness and absence in workbook formulations that are like learning a language (fill in the spaces). Thus more of the filling/emptying motif. This would have to be pretty convincing so as not to be a totally juvenile gesture. But we will see. [end of summer 2005: I think the poem is Work Table with (or ‘and’?) Scale Models]

The question of an extra poem. I got excited about another unnumbered poem. But then my excitement diminished. Now I don’t know where I stand. It would be appropriate to do one at the end (after 114), but that would make a total of 116. The point is having even and odd numbers, not an even number. So it might be possible to write a fragment, a half poem, something that breaks off everywhere. This is an incredibly interesting idea, and of course I am immediately interested in it. Especially because I am far away from the moment of writing it! So — hello, time to go to what is on the agenda now. Threshold. Or Nanifesto.

later 5 Sept 05 — pretty much decided to have Work Table be a poem of 19 sections, and guess what, each sort of corresponds to the motives of the 19 poems, but they are failed models or scale models. [Those of course are different ideas — as the work stands now, the sections are scale models.]


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