I need to talk about words, the ruse of them, the huff and whiff, the bracket.
How words use me as they resist being used, as they scale a wall and seep beneath a window to ruin a room, to sketch fangs on the whispers encircling a bed.
The fear of words,
And how they hurt us. How a connotation can inflame a room, claim ownership of a womb. The difference between a baby and a fetus is how we feel when it’s said. How we choose the word to use based on what we want from it.
The wrong word.
“A word is chosen and put into position, for particular effect. It is tantamount to hauling a big rock, carrying it a great distance, and setting it down, only to realize it should not be occupying that spot in this circumstance. It is dead on arrival although you barely have the reserves to move it again. But if not moved, and best before darkness spreads, it will create a hole commensurate with its heft, and it will encroach on the tender shoots of words nearby.”
Words that enact rejection
May begin with a tendril of resentment coiled inside a color. Glacial. The way some words carry the weight of what we fear saying. Distant. Detached. The way a word that gets overburdened becomes an object, a bough. An objectification. A false innocence that depends on diminishment of something external. She’s a bitch is the hoarseness voice of not saying I’m hurt. Refusing to own the emotion.
The confusion of first-generation immigrants as a descriptive tag that denotes both non-naturalized citizens, refugees, and those born to immigrant parents in the US. The melting pot of identity hunger.
The most powerful ideologies are the invisible ones. The shirts we wear to breakfast.
C. D. Wright: “I love the particular lexicons of particular occupations. The substrate of those activities. The nomenclatures within nomenclatures. I am of the unaccredited school that believes animals did not exist until Adam assigned them names. My relationship to the word is anything but scientific, it is a matter of faith on my part, that the word endows material substance, by setting the thing named apart from all else. Horse, then, unhorses what is not horse.”
Sailing words. Firefighter lingo. Administrative technology. Nonprofit development reports.
I think of Heather McHugh’s poem, “Hackers Can Sidejack Cookies”
What C. D. Wright calls the words some poets inhabit so completely that one rarely reads them without feeling those words near. She says W.S. Merwin uses rain. Cole Swenson uses hand. Robert Creeley uses here.
The way we wear a word into a poem as an introduction, a handshake that establishes how what we make of space in a room.
My signature words feel cheap, overly abstract. Maybe longing,
Words that assume gestures.
Imagine Salome. Who would be nothing if not for the willingness to fan desire’s flame. Whose name comes from peace. Whose use of the body is both plot and characterization. Her words are simply the motion of seduction, the quick slip of a hip when it owns the horizon, the pitch of lust when it narrows the gaze.
Dance for me.
Rae Armantrout: "a silence that was a gesture". That must be a gesture in a world lacking natural silence. The estrangement of silence and our relation to it in consumer culture enfused with "ghostly messages from television, radio, billboards, etc..... a noise which requires no response so it may be received subliminally."
Rae thinks the impulse to respond remains.
"Words no longer come from silence, but directly from other words" in an ongoing dialogue with commercial culture and the terms set by connotation. Silence may "mark the legitimate bounds of certainty."
Single syllable words
“I like that a lone syllable names a necessary thing: bridge, house, door, food, bed. And the ones that sustain us: dirt, milk, and so on. What a thing, that a syllable—birth, time, space, death—points to the major mysteries with such simplicity, as with a silent finger.” (C. D. Wright)
“The difficulty is what happens in that instant between the moment before you even begin and the moment once you’ve begun, into which is inserted every vague notion you may have about what writing is, how it is done, who does it, and every conceivable fantasy you might harbor about being a poet or a novelist. Before you begin, the blank page or screen is in front of you, absolutely free of any irrevocable marks, literally virgin territory. Once you begin, however, you instantaneously discover yourself burdened with thousands of ghosts and beliefs about what writing is. It’s like trying to swim with a team of elephants on your back. The opportunities for drowning are immense.” (Ron Silliman)
C. D. Wright, “In a Word, A World,” Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics, Issue 1, January 11.
Danielle Vogel, "Letters for Renee Gladman’s The Ravickians: an ekphrastic companion", Evening Will Come, Issue 23, November 2012
Ron Silliman, “Unlearning to Write”, Poetry, 15 April 2014.