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GGOB (fast):  Stress Position is an exploded sestina for the body in pain, body parts as endwords flung anywhere, and in that where the body is also any body just as in Hot White Andy anyone can be a Cheng and a Cheng can be anyone. But in Stress Position we also get the serious pun on torture and meter, the disposition of a body or language into emphasis. That pun seems to me antoher example of the Cheng principle, of a kind of disastrous fungibility of persons and things that may exchange its disastrsousness for something slightly else when it becomes poetry, when poetry both is it and figures it. I guess I’m saying that capital’s chain of equivalencies is poetry’s opportunities; they mark the genre’s forml capacity to reflect material conditions, but like an active mirror, Stendhal’s mirror one carries down a road (though he menat the novel by that figure), that chooses and deliberately distorts what it temporarily contains. To recur to an epigraph again, a zone you occupy beautifully and multiplyu in sStrss Position, “Obedience doth not well in parts” and the repurposed Ben Jonson here might mean that formal segmentation, intense arrangmenet, could be something other than perfect obedience (unless it wells in parts). What’s my question again? Oh, to take a particular form of subsitution, the pun, that you;ve used to link empire to poetry, in Stress Position’s title—why do you force meter conceptually near torture here and how is it and other verse form (the 7-line stanza of Stress Position) a dynamic figure for precisely the things it’s upset about in the Irish Masque of teh world?
KS: Before I had a title or even the lineaments of an argument, the only purpose that was explicit to me when I began constructing what would later become the opening stanzas of Stress Position was to sculpt a metrical block whose reiteration as narrative would damagingly proscribe anything I could identify as my own fluency in poetic language. I wanted its origin to be my proscription. More specifically, I wanted the next thing I wrote after Hot White Andy to be cramped into a regime of expression that would make Hot White Andy altogether impossible to reproduce. It was in origin a metrical contrivance designed to prohibit repetition, or rather to prohibit what in the language of political economy Marx would call the reproduction of my own life. It soon emerged that repetition itself must be the device I must use to do that, and that I could do it only by adopting a stanza fashioned to compel and accommodate the form of expressive labour that my poetry had always finally repudiated and expelled: fictional storytelling. Metrical fiction became at once the primary object and the basic endurance test of Stress Position. But for the fiction really to hurt as much as the impossibility of reproducing my own life does, it had to be massive, remote and obscenely intractable. If this is a trustworthy recollection of how I felt when I sat down and started to hammer out the opening stanza, it suggests that the poem was in origin intensely narcissistic: perhaps nothing is so narcissistic as the wish to be original. Metrical fiction was the scene for envious self-annihilation before it was the instrument for a political fantasia, and the diagnostic significance of that specific order of priority for our understanding of capitalist society is I think among the problems that the poem struggles to state and decisively won’t solve. The great majority of the materials of the poem are not personal, but ripped from the recent history of Iraq and from its prehistory in Vietnam. I think (or rather hope) that the appropriation of those histories in the spirit of narcissistic self-blockage I’ve described is disgusting. Simulacra are not disgusting, but the private use of historical catastrophe to prohibit self-reproduction surely is. 
	I know what you mean when you say that the metre is forced conceptually into torture. I think the coercion is manifest in a number of ways. The lines very often do not add up to the heptameter they incessantly idealize; they are jarring, stunted, incomplete, and can be disciplined into the rhythmical uniformity that their accumulation instructs you to hear as music only by a willful and too often counterintuitive intromission of stress where it doesn’t belong. It’s a pain getting the thing to scan right. Or you can scan it wrong by making it sound as nearly as possible just like speech, so that the stresses land wherever they would in a conversation you will never have. But you’re right to say that the coercion is conceptual too, not only a matter of implausible scansion and rhythmic pressure irreconcilable with either speech or its own metrical ideal. Derrida was wrong when he said that poems always promise the foundation of a poetics: only a small number of poems can do that. They do it by making a new concept of metricality. Whether or not I managed to pull it off, it was my attempt with Stress Position to make a concept of metre that is painfully irreconcilable with every passage of verse that might claim the concept for its identity: a damagingly unperfectible metre.
	I was deeply engaged by what I felt was a parallel but very different effort in Metropole to make a concept of metre that really could be reconciled with an apparently inhospitable context of expression, a poetry that doesn’t simply shine through the cracks of prose but that thoroughly asserts its solidarity with it. The work of reading Metropole was similar to what I hoped might be elicited by Stress Position inasmuch as it requires a constant negotiation and compromise with speech and syntax to get the music right, so that I had to be careful and learn how not to sabotage or obliviate the metre by slipping into unthinking prosaic habits of scansion; but it was unlike my own (doubtless warped) experience of Stress Position in that I heard in the rhythm of Metropole an optimistic and even tender invitation to get it right, actually to learn to live with this solidarity of the metrical and the prosaic, not to repress my delight in the music of their common identity—even as I also heard resounding in the poem a reassurance that I was allowed to get it wrong and that everyone sometimes must. It seemed in principle a perfectible metre, but not one that demanded that its reader must perfect it in practice; it seemed to find its happiness in the reciprocal fallibility of the reader who can sometimes be permitted to lose her hold on poetry and the author who because he speaks and remembers and goes on describing the world around him can sometimes be permitted to snap at that world in anger and not be expected always to confront it just as the stubborn contradiction it everywhere always is. I wonder if you had in mind a particular concept of metre, or even a social philosophy of the redistribution of emphasis? What thinking carried you from the four beat lines of so many of your poems with line breaks across into the intact prose of Metropole?
GEOFFREY G. O’BRIEN
KESTON SUTHERLAND
1:11 PM
GGOB (fast): IN your 2000 essay in Jacket, “The Trade in Bathos,” you give us a history of that term; well, two concurrent histories: its status as a locus of values or antivalues in poetic thinking and then  that status as index of the finanicialization of everyday life. Bathos stands not as merely the sublime opposite of the sublime, t eh ridiculous, but as trurth’s bottom, an untruth or misapphrehension that language is both unable to avoid and can turn to account, taking its limits as the signs of a bounded intellectual freedom that has sponsored or underwritten many kinds of experimental poetry on both sides of the Atlantic. The word comes up again in your 2007 poem Hot White Andy, where, in a Beckettian (molloy) abyss of pseudosyllogistic prose abt doors and locks and keys and homes and endlessly proliferating Chengs you seem to stop, the writing seems to stop, and allow another kind of situated pronoun a cry: “But is it my life, and is it a homage ot bathos?” My question is then about your questions here: a) has your thinking abt bathos as a poetic value to be resisted or courted, to be helplessly in relation to as we are helplessly in rlation to capital, changed at all since that essay? And b) are those questions really questions for you or the necessary ground of any poetic speech, ayn speech in history? By (b) I mean to say, what is the status of those questions as a speech act within Hot White Andy rather than: what is teh ideational content of those questions?

I will also confess that in asking these things i’m moving towards a later question about love, “the superpower to come” ( I don’t have time to check if that’s verbatim bc the book is across the room) and its relation to untruth. Bc love tempts us to posit it as the opposite of bathos; it first occurs in HWA as an epigraph from Marlowe where if it s “deepely grounded, it hardly is dissembled.” So love as the thing abt which it is hard to coomitt dissembling. I register this as a temptatiopn that has been with you for a while (as long as you’ve hadf a  body probably,” bc “The Trade in Bathos” is ultimately also abt “caring for others;’” while within a history of capital’s caring, through us, for noone; so feel “free” to anticipate me abt a love/bathos pairing and its dangers.

6:37 PM

6:15 PM
GGOB: Those two blockings—of the reproduction of a terribly fluent self and of an ideal metrical norm—are therefore also the advent of a blend: metrical fiction, in which a narrativity without distinct narrative situation and a metricality without sufficient template combine to produce multiple imperfectibilities. At that point where the initial blockings blend I think Stress Position finds its closest parallel with my goals in “Metropole.” One of which was not so much the salutary proscriptions you were after, but what I might call “mispermission” or “inadequation,” the inappropriate co-presence of the metrical and the prosaic. This simultaneous occupation of a single and lineless verbal substance by both a meter and prosed sentences was not meant merely to provide the shock of the unexpected, i.e., when an ancient fact of one genre (verse) suffuses the syntax of another (prose)—an unexpectedness which would even survive into the hybrid genre of “prose poetry,” where one would still, adamantly unconsciously, not expect to find meter. The form was meant to suggest that the prose around us that carries “the stubborn contradiction” Keston mentions is also capable of supporting the parodic, a side-song, a para-song running through ruled language, what Jeff might call the “satirical.” Meter is an instance of that, and its near perfection (very few substitutions within the streaming iambism) seemed crucial to its prose context because it would a) produce the emphatic regularity that would allow you to hear it side-sing in the sentences, but b) would become, in and through its regularity, mesmerically backgroundable, forgettable, an invariant hum like that of appliances. (b) is the threat of oblivion that readerly fallibility carries forward through the poem, the iterable threat that one will lose hold of the poetry and only be in the world of prose, which is to me bleak because it doesn’t contain enough of that “potential for happiness,” “our happiness” in writing that you treat in your essay on Wordsworth’s Prelude revisions. There you assert that happiness can’t be present where there isn’t passionate doubt in one’s writing, where it lets anything pass without doubting. I find prose too often insufficiently full of that self-suspecting pursuit—without a formal pattern its risks the certainty of being merely informatic regardless of how much ambiguity it sustains. It is missing parody, in other words, and thus is missing the doubt-rich passage back and forth between sound and sense.

But meter isn’t the only verse feature I attempt to mispermit into the prose of “Metropole,” much as damaged or unachievable heptameter isn’t the only repetitional verse feature you use in Stress Position to Green Zone your storytelling. There you also employ a 7-line stanza with a strictly alternating indentational scheme (tabbed/untabbed/tabbed/untabbed/tabbed/untabbed/tabbed). It seems to me that the ideal and laboriously unrealizable norm of heptameter in Stress Position finds its expression in stanza when denied it in the syllabics, reprising the sevenness of its metrical feet in the stanza’s perfectly iterable line quantity, and finding the strictness of duple alternation its lines will almost never offer in the perfect alternation of its lines’ positions in page-space (tabbed/untabbed). Similarly, in “Metropole,” my refusal of enjambment via my choice of a double-justified prose doesn’t actually banish enjambment so much as decouple it from line. Instead of migrating analogically to stanza structure as your metrical norm does, typical enjambment appears in “Metropole” as the mid-sentence pivot that derails syllogism in many of the poem’s sentences, as in “Get thee HENCE they do” or “you print the BOARDING PASS invades the house” (caps added). This multiplication of the syntax of the sentence replicates the partial syntax that rhythmically determined lines can’t help but support, but its happening in linelessness is crucial because it makes for a different species of doubt. Rather than moving through the noncoincidence of what Agamben would call a semantic series and a sonorous series as one moves through verse lines (this is his definition of enjambment and enjambment is his definition of verse’s difference from prose), one seems to move along in their exact and perpetual coincidence since both are everywhere in the sentences. But this prose pivot does permit one form of noncoincidence to survive into a prose field, in that an intended syllogistic destination of the sentence jumps the tracks at these pivots, reoriented towards the destination of another figure of speech. In the boarding pass example, for instance, civilian air travel morphs into U.S. house-to-house invasion in Iraq, or travel out from one’s home is bent back into unwelcome ingress into one’s home, though the thing invading may be as small as a boarding pass, token of a corporation’s profit (beyond its petro-costs) redescribed as a traveler’s right to board. Those shifts in the sentence’s fate might be my ways of insuring the proscriptions you court in Stress Position. I cannot reproduce even what I set out to, I can’t travel as freely as I’d like. Or, as Jeff puts it, enjambment as the site of an impossible subject—one who means without language (in every sense of without). The pivot is a structure of doubt, of choosing against initial choices without erasing those first decisions—the beginning of the sentence remains but can’t predict its logic of extension or predication. Maybe the horizon point where our parallel methods intersect is in the relation of formal iterability to imperfection. Those forms that reliably produce the impossibility of reproducibility are where we can find our happiness; as you say/cite: “Kein Glück ohne Fetischismus.” 

Speaking of citation, one of my favorite lines from Stress Position is:

	La guerre a donc perdu son charme, comme son utilité

It’s a perfect iambic heptameter but it also cannot be for several reasons; it is in French, and it is French prose from the 1816 novel Adolphe by Benjamin Constant. It is a French sentence not an English line. Your realizing your poem’s metrical ideal in a prose citation from a foreign tongue stands as a passionate doubting of the poem’s own machinery for keeping that ideal at bay; instead of making it everywhere hard and distant it makes metrical perfection for a second both easy and inaccessibly near. I wonder whether you can speak to similar technologies of fallibility in the poem that preceded Stress Position, Hot White Andy. What in the past of your writing or in the mutual past of the archive did it need to proscribe and how did it attempt to accomplish that?

1:46 PM
KS: The decoupling of enjambment from the verse line in ‘Metropole’ makes for a special indeterminacy, as I experience it. I must decide where the break should fall—a test of pleasure and scruple—so that enjambment can be preserved, but also to keep audible the unique forms of terminal stress that are only ever heard in the first and last words in a verse line. How do I make sound the precarious and suspenseful emphasis specific to the word hung at the far edge of verse, or fixed at the near start, when the graphic edges of the versus are dissolved? What new possibility of distance or measurement from a beginning to a limit emerges with the proscription of the verse ending opening onto a white blank, and how is it unexpected? What new intimacy are first and last words bound in, once the break at the suppressed end is speculative or I hallucinate it? Once I’ve learned how to keep up with the streaming iambism, a metrical collaboration impossible on autopilot, I’m always looking for the moment of the split: I stay expectant by staying vigilant. If I want music more pulsing and lovely than prose I need to identify the terminations, the first and last words of the implicit verse line, and infix a break; the prosody becomes increasingly both entreaty and requisition: each at once is the condition of the other’s generosity. So in reading the central block (at first sight undeniably a prose block, but not merely, or even, what it undeniably is, or is at first sight: I “hear potentials of a rhythm I insist can be revisited a second time”) on p.83—revisiting it again and again, to shape it into civic utterance outside my first reaction—I settle on the word “suffice” as a last word terminating an implicit verse line, to get what comes after it into a perfect iambic pentameter: “till office tensions magically resolve.” This feels like a deliberate act of promotion, the elevation of the last five words of the sentence into a separate identity. It seems a kind of ontological promotion, to borrow a phrase used otherwise by Bourdieu: an upward pressure from metrical deliberation into language whose expository aspect is perhaps relegated in consequence as / its music is fixed in to be pronounced. I promote the language into the identity of poetic music as I read it—but only ever as I reread it: / the cost of melody is discipline. On the previous page in the top block I make “if she stays” a line-ending collocation, both to let “otherwise” ring with the emphasis of an ambivalent first word, a word after a break, and to make “if she stays” voice a wish whose conditional grammar is taxed by a flicker of anxiety.  
	This adds up over long stretches of rereading—which ‘Metropole’ demands and assists with its wrap-over of syntax from each suspended paragraph into the next—to an intensive auditory trial of conviction. I have to believe in the sound that I make, I have to live with the words I decide are beginnings and later are ends. Part of the serious irony of the poem for me is that I can live with the music and the terminal words and the impressed breaks I do hear and do accept only by also living with all the rest, the music I rejected as inaudible and all the words I edged out into unobtrusive middles of the lines. “[A] touch in passing would suffice”, imperatively iambic, is never not also “a touch in passing would suffice till…”, just prose just running on. The question is not only, Can I live with this? It is also, How long can I (if not: do I?)? I think of some lines from your poem ‘The Bulletin of Lyon’, unstopped by the missing question mark they ambiguously omit in favour of a dash that resembles a strikethrough bisecting no object: “How long to sit and how long to be faithful / to the shapes taken by the future, live / in the renewable source of that certainty—”
	One of the most complex tests of metrical discipline for me—the one that most often forces enjambment into sentences, promoting them from metrical units in prose into verses—is the occurrence of syllables that I would naturally stress if I were speaking, but that the streaming iambism dictates must not be stressed. In the jargon of prosody these are “stressed off-beats” that ‘Metropole’ asks me to hear as unstressed off-beats. For example, on p.64: “The index crashed between the pillars of the week.” If I insist on the strictest streaming iambism, flowing without let or break, then the second “the” must be an unstressed off-beat; but I would naturally speak it with a stress, or at least half a stress. Here is a test of desire: what do I want to hear? What is the right object? What the introjection of enjambment does for me here is solve a dilemma: I split the sentence into two trimeters and the iambs jump into certain focus and explicit identity. I think that has to be in some measure an arbitrary introjection and metrical settlement, however forcefully or instructively the language already sings its own distribution of emphasis, because the poem will not shed the prose it also streams as, but asks at every moment that I count the cost of both. 
	I think that in my own work the realization of the metrical ideal tends to occur—or is staged—or is real and staged at once—at moments of insufferable radical irony. I think the quotation from Constant is metrically just as you make it out (I am grateful to you for hearing it!—metre is a streaming community). The metre of that line is complicated by the specific historical moment Constant was writing in, and the policy he was writing about. In its redaction into the greater redaction of Stress Position, its metrical ideality bosses and supervenes over the irony of its historical repetition. The transvesticism of the line—French prose in English metre—is compulsory against a background of autoregenerative prison masquerade. I mean that it cannot just be the line it now is, it is a root out of place. But also, as you say: easy and accessibly near. I suppose the single line in Hot White Andy that to my mind stands out for its defiant, insufferable ideality is “The superpower to come is love itself.”  
	Hot White Andy was an eruption. I am reluctant to describe it, perhaps for something like the same reason I wanted to proscribe it by telling the story of my own sexual origin in Stress Position (a labour and fantasia that has been massively multiplied and made much more explicit in the cycle of poems I am working on right now, The Odes to TL61P, in which I give the proper names of every person I had sex with as a child and describe all the sex in explicit, simple detail). Before it was anything else, Hot White Andy was heartbreak. Memory dismantles the thing and reassembles it with the joints shuffled. I don’t think it was a specific proscription in the sense that I described earlier; in fact it felt more like a frantic last ditch intensification of thinking and listening and desiring already begun in Neocosis. I suspect it may be crucial to my own possibility of living with the poem that I believe it is unrepeatable, so that the work of proscription begun in Stress Position was not strictly its own commission but was—in the first breath and uncertainty, at least, as I sat down and began it—assigned to it by a poem it could never repeat or be. The difficult thing then is to learn what comes next, after the poem that isn’t what it can’t be; it is a dead end that risks becoming infested with inexterminable pejorative life.   
	Your “intended syllogistic destination of the sentence [that] jumps the tracks” and is “reoriented towards the destination of another figure of speech” may be a solution to that kind of living dead end, on a modest scale that one sentence might comprehend and warrant. Or it might light a way out by its example. My own experience of that specific order of track-jumping in my own writing has been that the second track is invariably uglier than the first, almost as if anything but destiny is derailment (which is not convenient when you are in a period of your life that is not destiny). On the few occasions when I have landed on a better second track, it has stunned me: I am hurt to be delighted as if out of nowhere I am static and sprint the length of an exquisite sheer drop. 
	If I can stick with ‘Metropole’, I want to ask what you think is the typical appearance of strangers in the poem, or rather, do you think they make a typical appearance? Are passersby always in some measure irreducibly neglectful, not only looking and going elsewhere without speaking? Is there a reflex social pathology in the iambism, a daily division from anonymous others that urges on the rhythm as a sort of presence to yourself, almost a private worksong? I wonder too whether the appearance of anonymous others in the poem is closely related to its numerous descriptions of waking up, sojourning at the edge of dream, trying to keep the last word of a not yet descrambled intelligence from evaporating, by fixing it instantly into the ongoing stream? Did you start thinking in iambs the moment you woke up? Is the daily return from sleep (a parenthesis in which nothing can be properly anonymous) into the world of real anonymous others—perhaps pathologically anonymous, anonymous because they are damaged, their friendship asleep—also the immediate return to waking metrical discipline with its last words and first words (does sleep have neither?)?

5:24 PM
GGOB: If Hot White Andy was an eruption, “Metropole” was a waking dream. The bulk of it was written in 14 days, working about 10-16 hours a day with almost no sense of time passing. That would certainly count as a privileged instance of the division of labor, in which the other kinds are, along with time, forgotten because otherwise and elsewhere assigned (and it was winter break and so even my own straightforwardly institutional work was suspended). If waking up is the moment when you reacquire the knowledge that almost the entire world is immiserated strangers, poetry is a technology by which you can dream of talking to them without reproducing yourself, to an “us” (like your dedication has it), even as you false-serenely depart from their conditions (the suffering are for Adorno the ones with a right to lyric voicing precisely because they are denied the surplus time and energy to attempt it). So yes, meter in “Metropole” is the hum of that technology, a private worksong deliberately overheard. As such it’s both social pathology and threnody for the present, but it’s also the sound of a damaged optimism, one without a particular object. I don’t offer a concrete proposal concerning the just organization of persons that would make us loving comrades rather than Crusoes, but there is a smashable edge of something else: a sonic dream of unalienated speech where labor, the labor of making metrical determinations or tracking changes in sentence-destiny, the “trial of conviction” you mention, would be the sign of contact with others rather than a serial experience of anonymizing division. I’d like to think that any moment of actively discerning a prosodical limit, splitting a sentence into trimeters and so on, has a nonpathological social function too—it’s the moment of acquaintance when anonymous iambs become metrical friends, the apparition of these lines in a crowd of syllables. 

I therefore do think strangers make a typical appearance in the poem, but they always wear two anonymous faces: without question they are the neglecting and neglectable crowd, wreathing through each other and urban space while possessed by passionately trivial purpose, and metonymizing each other down to a set of arms and legs and bags and bikes and cars that count only as obstacle course and logic problem. In that guise they’re a parody of community: “And almost like they walked together, how the midtown shoppers went about their business.” I don’t think we’re that much past Benjamin’s Baudelaire in that regard, or the disarticulated arms and ragged claws of Prufrock’s anxious vision. At the same time, in the same fluxing versifiable prose of “Metropole” I think strangers appear as the only thing to hope for, on, towards, pick your prepositional vector for dreaming a commons worth waking up into: “I haven’t learned the unmet form the most important group, still time to do so.” The poem is littered with pedestrians, passersby, strangers but insists on their unmetness, on their potential transformation into the subjects of a mutual regard. Even in my version of Pound’s underworld of transport: 

Temporary darkness: where travelers feel young in touching strangers unpredictably. A swinging motion justifies brief introductions, speech unshared. 

The possible demotion of “brief” to a very awkward off-beat is, I hope, telling, I don’t want it to be brief but that’s all it can, at best, be, as well as silent. Actually meeting these fellow travelers would be the end of that potential, that good darkness, so unmetness is a fantasy in which meeting could be fended off till rendezvous would be different. Back to meter as a muttering from within division, a song of waiting interposed between its first maker and any of its readers willing to take on a metrical discipline, who are at best befriended by being left alone on the other side of the form, with work to do. I’d link the first and bad anonymity of urban crowds to your Akinsola Akinfemiwa or Andrew Cheng, an arbitrary (Googled) proper name that stands as the anyone of everyone. My second anonymity, unmetness, might find its analog in the insufferable ideality of your “The superpower to come is love itself” or in your relation to the reproducibility of your own life: Keston Sutherland. Striking through the present, parodizing it as song, and keeping love globally exilic: three means of offering a poetry, as you request at the end of  “The Trade in Bathos,” “as impossible as reality.”

3:57 PM
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