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An interview with Thomas Meyer.

PM: The biographical note at the end of your translation of the daode jing (Flood Editions, 2005) tells us that you have long been dedicated to "two primary issues: the transmission of the 'learning' and the transmission of the 'text. "'Emphasizing "transmission" suggests that poetry is both a vocation and an apprenticeship. What do these words--transmission, learning, text--mean for you? What's the story of your own learning as a poet?

TM: Translation has been probably my most important activity as a poet. It has taught, refreshed, and rescued me. I consider it the primary form of transmission, literally a process of metaphor--the carrying of this from here over to that over there. When you work on something like the "Katha Upanishad" or the I Ching you are well aware of the esoteric nature of the material at hand, and that continually dovetails with the recurring issue of what gets lost. Or left out. Incidentally or deliberately. And early on the glamorous idea of trobar clus [closed, hermetic poetry] and trobar clar [open, easy poetry] enchanted me. The poem that was "closed" had to be picked apart or simply allowed: Keats's Negative Capability. But that technique came from Ezra.

When I happened upon Pound's ABC of Reading I was thirteen or so and assumed that if I did everything it told me to I could be a poet. Or I could write poems. That would be in large part what I mean by "learning," that grand Romantic tradition, Sappho, Dante, etcetera. Though I have to qualify that by extending my description of "learning" eventually to include experience as a form of perception and sensation. A felt thing. Not said, not told, but pressing. Hard to express the initial impulse that kickstarts the poem, usually a phrase. As Duncan has it in "A Poem Beginning with a Line by Pindar." So what I'm suggesting is that the learning (experience or "tradition") fires the need for transmission, which results in text. Both are instances of translation and poem. Perhaps all poetry is merely translation.

Not that I think of myself as forever writing the same poem. Not at all. Being (still) an old fashioned modernist, my aesthetic shies away from repeating. Though there she is on the map of my influences, Gertrude Stein. Four Saints in Three Acts. T. S. Eliot was my first love, Four Quartets. Then came Pound, The Cantos, then Joyce, Finnegans Wake. Understanding was the least of poetry's virtues, in my humble opinion. All trobar clus. Then William Carlos Williams when I was eighteen or so, trobar clar but eventually leading me to Frank O'Hara, who is as "clar" as you can get but also as "clus" as Charles Olson.

Forgive my "fugue state." Where were we?

I wonder if you might say a little more about what it means for you to be "an old-fashioned modernist. " It's a funny phrase, and a suggestive one, especially because the Poundian line you're talking about is so interested in old-fashioned things, committed to "making it new" by drawing deeply on the old. What do you think is old-fashioned about modernism or certain stripes of modernism? Can you identify certain elements of your own writing that you think give you away as an old-fashioned modernist?

Self-consciousness seems perhaps the epitome of modernism, along with the self-referential. In fact, the referential, period. The Cantos intrigued me because of its sources, just the page layout with Chinese ideograms here, a spot of Latin, some Provencal, a glistening four-line imagist nugget. Finnegans Wake, same thing though a bit more of a mash-up. What runs through modernism into and out of me is Romanticism, most often as intermittent lyric. And the post-1913 fragmentation which I came to see not as ruins but as discontinuity. Like channel surfing on the radio, passages becoming audible then fading or being silenced by another wave of speaking. I'd always wanted to write a poem like that and finally did, Coromandel [Skanky Possum, 2003]. It began with a section called "Book II." Is there a "Book I?" Is there a third, fourth, fifth? Akin to John Cage's hearing everything as music. Though I could never be satisfied with the "found poem."

So I'd have to say that Romance makes me an old-fashioned modernist but modernist nonetheless because of discontinuity. Interiority. Don't really know anything about the economics, politics, or even history in Pound, Olson, Williams, or even Eliot. All I ever wanted from poetry was music, the sonorous. Romance as a tradition, bookishness, the past, not as nostalgia (or loss) but artifact (the exotic). And Romance as longing, love in fact. From day one the figure of the Beloved never seems to have left my work.

Talking to oneself is the modality for me. The poem as something overheard. The rhapsodic, one thing leading to another. Parataxis. But of course all that comes to me from Charles Olson via Robert Duncan. Though none of my work has had any intention apart from being a poem. Perhaps that's what's old fashioned about my modernism. Walter Pater was an important voice in my thirties, alongside Proust.

The autobiographical detail left out so far is "the long poem." That is what I wanted to write from the beginning. And did, sort of. When I was nineteen I started something called A Technographic Typology in Progress, heavily influenced by Marshall McLuhan (Understanding Media [1964], and the earlier Gutenberg Galaxy [1962]). Didactic. All about invention, though it began to veer towards popular culture until some two thousand pages and fours years later it stopped.

Poetry was a passion, a commitment. A Work, in the alchemical (Jungian) sense. A devotion. What could be more romantic?

Romance, talking to oneself, parataxis--all of this puts me in mind of your poem "spirit, " in which you write, "The modernist project shies away from finality. ''Like another of my favorite poems of yours, "Tom Writes This for Robert to Read, " "spirit " is rangy and open to what passes through--domestic particulars, plants and weather, memory, dream, quotation, metaphysical wondering, meditations on the act of writing. It's a poem concerned more with beginnings than with finality. Its intermittent prose passages remind me also of your long sequence, "Forestry, or the Exhaustion of Possibility," which reads as a kind of notebook. Could you say a bit about the process of writing these longish poems? (1)

You've characterized these works accurately. "Tom Writes This for Robert to Read" began with a stapled set of pages (can't remember how many) from my accountant. It was a set of tax preparation worksheets, an extra set. So I turned them over and decided I'd write a single poem on the blank pages, and it would end when the pages did.

Then (though why slips my mind) I decided this would be a poem for Robert Kelly. It's now almost fifty years (yikes!) since I first heard Robert read his work. On that occasion "Map of Annandale" completely astounded me. I'd never heard anything like it, not that there was any sophistication or even experience to my sense of what was then called "The New American Poetry." It was a poem of friendship, an "I want to tell you where I live" poem, which began:
    (Sometimes I've had little sense of the matter.
   I'm trying to provide you with a glyph
   to recognize my movements by....) 


As with probably everything I've written, I have a minding or mindset, a sort of blurry feeling that can be "recalled," so that over the course of days or weeks that minding is delicately pushed to the front of my thoughts (usually in the morning but there's no knowing when), and the poem in question continues, sometimes a line, sometimes a page. Not that it's always boldly apparent, but usually the stopping point for that "session" makes itself known. Usually there's little reworking, occasionally some cutting out material in large lumps. Then I put the thing in the drawer and wait. Six months, a year, maybe more.

"Tom Writes This for Robert to Read" ended up in the order (stanza by stanza) it was written. "Forestry, or the Exhaustion of Possibility" came from dream notebooks that were about twenty years old at the time. I sat down and read through scores of them, copying out selections, sometimes maybe only a sentence that appealed to me. Again, light editing. When there were no more notebooks left the process of composition halted. The arrangement of sections mainly involved a sense of proportion (not "content"), a short section should perhaps come after a longer one.

For me writing a poem has over the years become a matter of chunks that eventually get put into a series. But when I was translating the daode jing I was spooked by the burden of famous passages (especially the initial "chapters"). So I set up a database which would allow me to randomly select a passage and translate it. The result was a low level of discontinuity that somehow kept the movement of the texts fresh. Subsequently that's been my mode of operation for my own poems, for example "spirit."

My husband, Michael Watt, asked me on his birthday to write him a poem that would explain the concept of spirit. It would be the next year's gift to him. So I did. Jotting down what came to mind. Translating some Dante, Mallarme, Valery--Bobby Darin's cover of Charles Trenef's "La Mer" was on my mind. I also threw in a project to write a postcard-sized paragraph (prose) with a metaphysical bent: not that my ability to "think" has any development, but still "thought" fascinates me. As do poets like Robert Kelly who have these stratospheric powers of observation and the ability to assess the physical volume of an idea or argument. Anyway, about a week before his birthday I randomly ordered the discrete parts, and that was the poem.

This sort of personal intimacy seems essential to your work, which is so often situated in domestic spaces, addressed to friends and lovers. You've learned a lot from Pound, but you rarely adopt personce or other impersonal postures; "Tom Writes This" would seem an apt title for so many of your poems. But this tendency toward the intimate seems matched by your interest in poetry's traditional rhetorical resources for public address, to forms such as elegy, epigram, and epithalamium, to name a few. How do you think about the relation of the private or the personal to publication and public address? How do you imagine your audience and your relation to it?

My work is meant to be public however intimate it seems. That's its artifice. I feel an obligation to read in public because the voice, the actual sound of the poet, pertains significantly. Though the idea of performance makes me shy: tipping over the edge from "reading" to "performing" moves the event from presentation to attraction. These are subtle distinctions. Robert Duncan used to warn against seeking applause, against trying to win an audience. And the stuff of my poems isn't anything that can have its volume turned up, usually.

I'm one of those poets who lets go of the poem--maybe "relinquish" is too strong a word, but that's what it feels like. Nor do I have any idea just who might be my readers. To some extent this is a cultivated attitude, but genuine. My life has been an incredibly lucky one, not that anything done by me could be its agency. The great Indian astrologer R. N. Rao pointed this out to me: it's poorva punya, "the windfall of a previous life's good deeds." Perhaps that's what I'm writing, a poetry of happy drift and simple pleasures?

A poetry of happiness and happenstance, as you put it in At Dusk Iridescent, does seem to be what you're writing, even when there is much sadness and loss in the work, as there is in Kintsugi (Flood Editions, 2011), your elegy for Jonathan Williams. Many innovative poets today are interested in political critique, in enacting through "difficult" poems a sort of aesthetic subversion. A poetics of negativity is one way of inheriting modernism, but your way seems different. Could you say more about happiness and happenstance, about the persistence of praise and positivity more generally in your work?

There was a moment in my early forties when it occurred to me, "Now, the time has come, dig down, grapple with Truth! " Not only did nothing happen, but there was nothing there. So I waited. Still nothing. Just before I was about to accept the fact that I was a moral dwarf, it occurred to me that this nothing might be a release, a blessing. Or maybe the wisdom at hand here was to be the poet I was, am? Not the one that was culturally negotiated, or expected. My primary impulse is to bend down and write, to slalom my way through the poem's inspired nodes, and occasionally to go off piste [track]. Not to be concerned about making a point. For someone like myself who loves form, impulse and instinct are paramount. That interplay. But, paramount also was coming to some moment in which I thought, "I don't care." Release from all outside directives, finger-waggings.

Let's return to the topic of translation. Not only have you written book-length versions of the daode jing and Beowulf (Punctum Books, 2012), but many of your shorter poems, like "Rilke," "Sappho," and "George" from At Dusk Iridescent, seem to translate or "trace" earlier poets in some way. You've written and talked about the book-length projects elsewhere. (2) Could you say some more about the process of creating the shorter poems? What relations do they bear to "original" texts by these poets? What's yours and what's theirs?

My caveat is always having translated work that has been previously translated, that mine are not the only anglophone versions available. There's always some of the original text in these "tracings," though not always from the same specific source. The Rilke poem you mentioned sticks together the beginning of one Duino Elegy and the last part of another. Whereas the "Sappho" sequence remains pretty straightforward Sappho. "Neon Ocean" proposes yet again another take. I had a copy of Stefan George's poem translated textbook awful, the sort of thing Pound railed against. My idea was to "render" the terrible stilted English into New American poetry, sort of, almost the way a teacher or mentor might rewrite students' poems to show them how to compress, sharpen, simplify. But also allowing myself to riff a bit since at that point one's right out there in the open.

Essentially, translation, "tracing," improvisations, or whatever we call it, is a way to be released from the flow of content. Or to dial into the poem word-by-word without that hesitation of wondering where it's heading. My version of "Projective Verse," as it were. Duncan's "After Reading H.D.'s Hermetic Definitions" was the epitome of how I thought a poem goes. Along with Kelly's aforementioned "Map of Annandale." Let the act of writing take the lead. But I'm not so sure that's quite what happens. Or perhaps the close concentration, word by word, phrase by phrase, translating or associating, quells the itch to "mean," or "show off." There's always the risk of trying for the "tour de force," but that's always present which is why early on I tried for the "feminine," stopping the poem on the upbeat, or suspending it midair.

As it happens, then, some of my poems have a lot of Thomas Meyer content, some less, but they've all been written down by me. A sliding scale. Or slippery slope? The justification rests upon "learning" again: there's a conversation going on between myself and the original, a desire to be a part of a shared world, a time that includes the simultaneous, me and Homer, me and Mallarme, me and Rilke.

You have described yourself in the past as the "amanuensis " to the Jargon Society and to Jonathan Williams. How did you find yourself with that job, and what were its responsibilities?

An amanuensis is one who produces a fair copy, or takes dictation. It can possibly be stretched to include an assistant or secretary. Originally it referred to a slave who was always to hand, a trusted intimate.

When Jonathan Williams and I met in 1968, he was looking for a partner, both romantic and practical. I think he somehow got the idea of an amanuensis from the relationship between Frederick Delius, the English composer, and his younger colleague Eric Fenby. Delius was blind, and Fenby wrote down the notes as Delius dictated them. Jonathan also thrilled at the homoerotic idea of "a male secretary," and the term "amanuensis" was exotic and oblique enough to both contain and conceal that frisson. Although playful and slightly arch, it suited me. When asked what I did I said, "I'm Jargon's amanuensis."

From the beginning, Jargon for me was Jonathan Williams. It plotted an arc of his influences, mentors and teachers, peers and passions. My job, I decided, was to support that even though it really wasn't for me what it was for him either emotionally or aesthetically. At least not by the time we met.

When he died it became apparent to me that I'd been Jargon s steward, not its custodian. Not that there's a firm lexical distinction between the two: the nuance seemed to be one of taking care of an enterprise but not being obliged to maintain it.

Jonathans life and contacts, interests and affinities were various and far-flung, but could you say a little more to characterize his guiding sensibility, or the "arc" that Jargon plotted? Looking back at it, can you see especially salient or essential plot points?

Up until his teens Jonathan saw himself as a painter. A precocious talent for drawing, then later a lush palette for landscape, describe a portfolio that survives him. Tolkien, H. P. Lovecraft, Henry Miller, Kenneth Patchen were what he was reading at the same time. So it's not surprising that finding William Blake via Patchen provided him with what would become his lifelong enthusiasm for the book as image and text intertwined. He went to St. Albans (Washington, D.C.) and was fast-tracked for Princeton, by which time he was being groomed as a curator slash art historian of the Byzantine period. But the ambience didn't suit him after a year or so. He dropped out to pursue painting at Stanley William Hayter's Atelier 17 in New York, where his pre-impressionist love of landscape was flattened and geometrically abstracted along cubist angles. Discouraged now as an artist, he became interested in graphic design, winding up at the Art Institute of Chicago. There he discovered photography in the person of Harry Callahan, who encouraged him to attend the summer session at Black Mountain College.

And there he was: Charles Olson!

Olson was a profound catalytic force in Jonathan's life, encouraging him to become a publisher, giving him a mission, as well as giving him direction as a poet. Jonathan had an uncanny knack (or Blakean penchant) for opposing (like oil and water) his last mentor with the next. Patchen precedes Olson, neither of whom regards the other as a healthy influence, although they were never abandoned by the young JW.

The third and last major figure to be added to this uneasy council is Edward Dahlberg. Dahlberg relentlessly held Jonathan's feet to the fire of his cranky, self-invented, charismatic, Old Testament personal aesthetic.

As you can see here, this someone in question had really lit out for the territories. The agenda was "outsider," "marginal," eventually "overlooked."

Neither Patchen nor Olson took Jonathan as seriously as a poet as he would've liked. Dahlberg, though tough on him to the point of meanness, admired Jonathan's prose. He wasn't anyone Jonathan would've accepted as a critic of his poetry.

Two other important influences (or confluences), milder and more supportive, were Kenneth Rexroth and Robert Duncan. Zukofsky figures in here as well, importantly offering the "spare" as poetic possibility.

This arc also traces Jargon's. The names mentioned just above were also being published by Jonathan throughout the 1950s, and they in turn were recommending various others (Robert Creeley, Mina Loy, Lorine Niedecker, Denise Levertov, to name a few). (3)

The next stand-out figure was really a peer, fan Hamilton Finlay. The mid-1960s. Concrete poetry not so much as a publishing activity, rather as a poetics.

Can you say more about Finlay and the importance of concrete poetics for Jargon, Jonathan, and you? Is concrete poetry tied to a particular place (northern England) and time (the 60s) in your mind?

Concrete poetry never made much of an impression on me, apart from my being interested in it because it had been a vital concern of Jonathan's. But by the time we met he was on the verge of becoming much more absorbed in the "excavation" of texts: Tom Phillips's A Humument [1970] and Ronald Johnson's Radi os [1977] were ready to happen, and the work of Thomas A. Clark--Jargon was just about to publish him by the early and mid 70s. So this is associated for me with England and the 70s, whereas concrete poetry per se thrived more on the Continent and in the Americas, having a post-Surreal pedigree situated on the fringes of Fluxus, happenings, etcetera. Not surprising, its simple source being musique concrete.

It's true I was fascinated by page layout, the page as a unit, line, line break, stanza, stanza length, essentially the drifting right hand margin, along with the recto/verso juxtaposition. Hence my translation of Beowulf, and Staves Calends Legends [Jargon Society, 1979],

Finlay's later work as it moves completely away from syntax to emblem "troubles my sleep" (as Pound said of Whitman) but nonetheless fascinates. The military stuff makes me uncomfortable, the French Revolution less so. Yet all of it seems so bloodthirsty, reeking of "doing the Lord's work."

Jargon has always seemed to be sort of a transatlantic society, one office in the Appalachians, the other in the Yorkshire Dales. How did you and Jonathan come to spend so much time in England? You seem to have found fellow travelers there in people like Finlay, Clark, Simon Cutts, and Stuart Mills. And their excellent small presses: Wild Hawthorne, Moschatel, Tarasque, Coracle. And Basil Bunting? And Morden Tower? I'm sure there were and are many other friends, too. It seems like a remarkable period, a crossing of English and American poetries. What have those encounters meant for you?

Jonathan came to England in the early 60s with Ronald Johnson primarily to walk in the Lake District, after which they decamped eventually to London where they became part of the Swinging Sixties emerging poetry scene for a year or so. They returned a couple years later when the American presence in the arts was at its height, and spent a year or so. By the time Jonathan and I went to the UK, he'd turned his back on the urban and the US, wanted some kind of pastoral retreat. At a personal level this was the breakdown of his relationship with Ronald Johnson. After a decade of ups and downs Ronald left in 1968. Jonathan felt it was really the end. They'd had periods of separation, squabbles. Some years later Ronald did tell me he'd fully expected that that rift between himself and Jonathan would heal itself and they'd get back together again.

On a public level, Jonathan felt like running away from the political turmoil of the Vietnam era. The Nixon administration was becoming more and more intolerable, the protest movement increasingly violent and unfocused. We were both ready for new lives. The Yorkshire Dales promised repose and a tranquility to be reflected upon. We made a home there; it suited us.

For thirty years we spent half of each year in England. My first, say, ten of those years were formative and decisive for me. The place itself, the landscape. And Bunting was a huge presence and influence, but a reluctant one. I found this out much to my dismay some years later when it became clear to me that he didn't think I had much talent. "Tom's poems just don't get off the ground," he said one night at dinner to the company assembled. An incredible wound, the "heroic blow," or that was the only way I could deal with it. Admittedly Bunting was in his cups, but it occurred to me suddenly that his judgment was not sound, or he'd misjudged me. And whatever I'd learned from him didn't need to be jettisoned. He didn't know what he was talking about. Or whom. Again, that was the only way I could deal with it.

To separate oneself from a mentor or influence, to sort out the useful lessons from misjudgments and prejudices, finally to convert a very personal relationship into something more impersonal--maybe these tasks are necessary steps, ways one comes into one's own. After all this time, what of Bunting's has remained valuable to you? Which lessons have lasted?

Exactly my reflection after that last answer. That complex separation from "influence" and "authority" that results in suddenly being on one's own is startling: the "anxiety of influence." Though its root remains really a desperate need for approval from the mentoring source. Quite naturally, I felt Bunting withheld that from me, even though I was aware that he didn't really think anyone other than Tom Pickard was capable of writing a real poem. He had a thing about "authenticity" which I took to mean avoid pretension, be simple. Nonetheless, if "authenticity" is the standard, it'd be quite easy to see him, especially in the staginess of his readings, as the height of affectation.

I spent hours talking with Bunting about "the long poem" and the possibility of an "epic diction." He felt Dante's Commedia wasn't possible in this day and age since speed of change in the modern era destabilized the Zeitgeist to such an extent that by the time the poem was done no one would remember what was being talked about. What was possible, was something like Zukofsky's "A" (and for that matter Briggflatts), i.e., the autobiographical. A process rather than a design.

The model, he felt, for an "epic diction" for translating, say, Beowulf, would be the King James Bible, or better yet, Myles Coverdale's translation.

Both of those ideas stuck with me, but I'm not sure how operative they are today, apart from getting me to where I am. The other big area of influence was nature, plant life and lore, the landscape as poetic content. Bunting pointed me to Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, with its lively eye for animals and growing things creating a kind of border interlacing the poems. Again, that's an assimilated influence, not one I'm conscious of now.

What struck me most about Bunting's work after he died was his studied way of not repeating himself. "Make it new!" A tenet of modernism, just so. This is something he himself remarked upon as a sort of game plan.

"The landscape as poetic content" is a constant presence in your work, from the English countryside in Staves Calends Legends to the terrains animated by fable and dream in your most recent book, Essay Stanzas (The Song Cave, 2014). Could you say more about your approach(es) to landscape? Do you spend a lot of time roving outdoors? Are there poets other than Bunting whom you've found to offer useful field guides?

I've lived in the countryside since I was eighteen years old, much to my surprise as the fullness of time unfolds. My penchant for "landscape" came as a complete surprise, too. I first noticed it when I took a drawing class at Bard. Apparently one of the beginning drawing assignments is to draw a tree. Presto! My drawing was remarkable; the instructor, James Sullivan, was well impressed, not so much with me, or my talent, but with the drawing itself. Kind of a Jungian freakish tear in consciousness.

Then when I graduated I began in England a translation of an Anglo-Saxon herbarium. It was full of green matters, plant lore, terrain. And the landscape itself in the Yorkshire Dales impressed me with how close foreground and background were, how clear at times and flattened out the vistas could be. Then too I was also involved with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood--the painters, that is--and the stained glass windows, wallpapers, and fabrics of Morris & Co., Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and Morris himself.

Backtracking, the landscape in Middle English poetry made a much larger impression than I realized at the time. The Pearl Poet and William Langland especially. Even further into a seeded past, Theodore Roethke's greenhouse poems impressed me particularly in high school, and I wrote a paper on him during my first Field Period at Bard. Eliot's Four Quartets was a big influence during my teens; again there's a lot of landscape going on there, even though at the time my focus was on the "transcendent experience," the shimmering moment: "Quick now, here, now, always-- / A condition of complete simplicity / (Costing not less than everything)."

And what about your "other" landscape, Scaly Mountain, the southern Appalachians? What has that environment meant to you over the years? Do you think its terrain and its cultural life have impressed themselves upon your work or sensibility?

The landscape connections for Scaly (and North Carolina in general) were less specific. "The Venetian Epigrams," "Sonnets for Sandra," "Tom Writes This for Robert to Read." Those all arise from what seemed local to me in the Nantahala section of southern Appalachia. Interestingly, the landscape in those works lacks the kind of specificity England provoked.

Jonathan and I shut down the house in the Dales in 1998 and came back to the States, assuming our routine (however modified) would persist. But it didn't. Jonathan never went back. I did, in 2009. It's almost as though England provided me with an outlook, and North Carolina an interiority. At the time, it didn't seem like I missed the Dales during that eleven-year hiatus. Don't think I did. When I went back after Jonathan died, it felt all over, done and dusted. Nothing made me want to resume a life there. Glad to visit, though.

The Dales were a place we inhabited together domestically, whereas the North Carolina landscape somehow belonged to Jonathan. Nothing about the culture, folklore, or history of Western North Carolina pushed any of my poetry buttons. It never occurred to me I'd wind up living in the South, but then it never occurred to me I'd ever live in Northern England.

A final question: what's next? Do you, like Bunting, feel compelled not to repeat yourself to "Make it new!" again and again? What are you working on now? What else do you want to try?

For me it's not so much a matter of not repeating myself but, like Orpheus, having from somewhere on high the injunction not to look back. What does interest me about Bunting is the small, almost delicate output, a result no doubt of his prohibition on redundancy. Also the pause in his work: he stops writing poems in the 50s and then takes it back up in the 60s with Briggflatts. I think that's right. Certainly Laura Riding is a classic example of such a halt--rather, in her case, a complete end. George Oppen is another, but he does resume.

Actually I've just finished a poem called "matter." It's an "Accompaniment" for my husband Michael, for his birthday. Each year he asks for a poem on a "theme." Last year it was "matter," the year before "spirit," and this year "words." My sights are now setting. And what has also come to hand in the form of a gift from friends, is Gertrude Stein. Specifically her libretto for Virgil Thomson's opera, The Mother of Us All. Periodically she looms up for me, in me like some giant yet to be encompassed by the culture, if not myself.

Thomson paraphrases a remark of hers, saying that she tried to "tell what happened without telling stories."

This interview was conducted over email from January 27 to February 22,2015. In the spring of that year, Meyer worked on the final text with Morrissey and Andrew Peart.

(1.) "Tom Writes This for Robert to Read" was first published as a chapbook (Rhinebeck, NY: St. Lazaire Press, 1991) and was later collected in At Dusk Iridescent: A Gathering of Poems 1972-1997 (Winston-Salem, NC: Jargon Society, 1999), which also contained the first appearance of "Forestry, or the Exhaustion of Possibility" in its complete form.

(2.) See Meyer's afterword to daode jing and his interview with David Hadbawnik in Beowulf.

(3.) For a comprehensive roster and detailed timeline of the Jargon Society's publications, readers are referred to the bibliography compiled by Richard Owens for the Jonathan Williams feature in Jacket 38 (Late 2009): http://jacketmagazine.com/38/jw-jargon-soccheck.shtml.
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Author:Morrissey, Patrick
Publication:Chicago Review
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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