LITERATURE— ROBERT GRE­NIER and PAUL STEPHENS

BOMB Magazine - - CONTENTS -

CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS, orig­i­nally pub­lished by Lyn He­jinian’s Tu­umba Press in 1979, marked Robert Gre­nier’s shift to vis­ual po­etry. Cel­e­brat­ing its re­cent re­print, Paul Stephens talks with him about the over­size poster-poem, where po­etry is both map and maze.

Dear Mónica-

I was de­lighted to hear, from Paul, that you will be able to pub­lish our con­ver­sa­tion about CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS in its orig­i­nal/ac­tual form ! I was sad to think that the com­plete piece might well not be able to be in­cluded in BOMB be­cause I like it very much/’put my heart into it’, as they say, and think that it ought to be of con­sid­er­able in­ter­est to your read­ers . . . be fun to read, & be in­for­ma­tive to those who know some­thing of my work & want to learn more about it.

This con­ver­sa­tion is part of an on­go­ing form of ‘literary crit­i­cism’ I learned from Robert Cree­ley, ini­tially (from two col­lec­tions of his in­ter­views-- Con­texts of Po­etry was one)--Cree­ley’s demon­stra­tion that one didn’t have to think in iso­la­tion/spell it all out in es­say form (like T.S. Eliot, etc.), but could ac­com­plish very much the same thing with the help of/in the pres­ence of another per­son in con­ver­sa­tion, in the ‘real time’ of a truly so­cial oc­ca­sion . . . if one had one’s wits about one, and had trained one­self to ‘op­er­ate’ un­der the con­straints of said oc­ca­sion.

In other words, do­ing a num­ber of these con­ver­sa­tions, I’ve learned to ‘tune my­self’ to be ready to speak & think aloud . . . when the pos­si­bil­ity of say­ing some­thing in such oc­ca­sion presents it­self . . . This is what (I think) Paul & I man­aged to ac­com­plish, look­ing at CAM­BRIDGE M’ASS here in our house in Cabot that day.

It’s all ‘about’ the rhythm of the oc­ca­sion, the pace (& sounded pat­tern) of what gets said, dur­ing the ac­tual/’real time’ course of the ex­change--that’s why I felt it was nec­es­sary to pre­serve the tran­scrip­tion of what was said (nearly) ver­ba­tim, as such. (It’s ab­so­lutely not about ‘gems’--what­ever might be sup­posed by any­body (& this will vary) to be the ‘best parts’--’pro­fun­di­ties’, etc.). It’s a kind of ‘mu­si­cal score’ (you’ll re­mem­ber the idea in WCW/Ol­son/Cree­ley that the writ­ten poem is a score for voice/later voic­ings) . . . a ‘score for think­ing’ ?

But I don’t have to ‘ex­tol the virtues’ of this form to you, who edit a mag­a­zine com­mit­ted to ex­actly this kind of con­ver­sa­tion !

Any­way (I’ve done my very best to make the piece truly ‘let­ter-per­fect’), given this com­mit­ment I have to the form, please don’t try to edit the thing (to re­move “re­dun­dan­cies”, etc.--there aren’t any re­dun­dan­cies (!)), at all--there’s no need, in this in­stance (& in fact to set about to ‘fix it’ is to be­tray the in­tent of the oc­ca­sion, as I know & un­der­stand it).

Ev­ery­thing in the tran­script (e.g., the Bri­tish us­age re punc­tu­a­tion of ques­tion marks, sin­gle & dou­ble, po­si­tion of ques­tion marks in re­la­tion to com­mas) has been care­fully set forth as is--it’s as ‘in­ten­tional’ as any­thing in any poem of mine, and I would ask you to re­spect the fact of the form it is/it’s in.

Thank you, very much (!), for de­ter­min­ing to pub­lish the piece--I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to hear­ing what any­body may have to say back to us, about it !

Cheers ! Bob Gre­nier

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