To Hear, To Hold

Why should I further examine and pass judgment upon Images? Let men know what is divine, let them know: that is all. If a Greek is stirred to the remembrance of God by the art of Phidias, an Egyptian by paying worship to animals, another man by a river, another by fire—I have no anger for their divergences; only let them know, let them love, let them recall.
— Maximus of Tyre (fl. second century A.D.)

These letters are usually riddled with inquiries; I take great solace in the act of questioning, and especially in sharing questions with a community of people who I know to be attentive and devoted to language, who persevere in loving how people think, speak, and act. But I understand—to a certain extent—that the questions can mark a refusal to sit still in the uncertainty they represent; that when anything becomes incessant, it risks confusing itself for that which is limitless, for whatever it is (or is not) that gives rise and shape to time and space. Or maybe I have a convoluted idea of stillness...

The word "let," per Maximus of Tyre at the outset of this note, reminds of the bond between speaking and listening. (Here is an audio recitation of Gertrude Stein's "Portraits and Repetition"; do any of you know if there is a record of Stein herself reading it, or where I can find one?) There is "let" in the sense of "let go," and there is "let" in the sense of "let loose." On one hand, "let them know" can be a call to action; on the other, a renunciation of action. I think it must mean both, and I think this frustrates religion, which treats reverence as an obligation, a vow. (In contrast, Anne Waldman's "Vow to Poetry"—as document and as prayer—liberates the reverence by sourcing the call in making, re: Stein, "by written I mean made, by made I mean felt," and "In making... I naturally made a continuous present an including everything and a beginning again and again within a very small thing.")

In any case, the above hints at why it has taken me more months than usual to muster a new letter on The Lune's behalf. Dissolution is a daily and relentlessly personal spectacle; and "it is difficult to speak of the night." (Jack Gilbert) Would that these words honor your embodied concerns and instincts in the world, where poetry—confusion, by music of speech, of all things and none—comes from: where you are, not where anyone else wants you to be. Even the seemingly innocuous wish for you to be happy can distract from more important work: the work you are doing now, and now, and now. Perhaps this newsletter is an excuse for me to say—to recall by insistence—that we share in all that we do.

I have sent further reflections (conundrums, convictions) to the postscript of this letter. Here, in proper conclusion, are nine things I am delighted to report:

1) Dust & Light — Is my first fully-formed book, "a fifty-two part prayer" from The Little Door Press, with an afterword by David Mutschlecner. I would be so grateful to hear your thoughts on this slight but time-worn endeavor. All purchases support The Little Door's open-minded, open-hearted work.

2) "Hallbjorn's Dream" — We recently shared this prose-vision from Joanna Ruocco's The Boghole & the Beldame online; photography editor Ace Gallagher has artfully paired an original image (top of page) with Ruocco's tale. Please enjoy.

3) Cigar City Poetry Journal — Outstanding new space for poetry of the Americas, founded by Jonathan Simkins, whose chapbook, This Is The Crucible, was published by The Lune in 2017. We are excited to publish Simkins and Kimrey Anna Batts' new translations of Chilean legend Vicente Huidobro in 2019.

4) Icon — "Here, in fact, an icon is being written, and the poem becomes an act of thanksgiving. [David] Mutschlecner upholds his devotion to the trinity of poets always close at hand in his poems: Dickinson, Dante, and Duncan. One finds the grace of bewilderment at the heart of this work." (Ahsahta Press)

5) Fisher — "Tender, elegiac, searing—Maureen Seaton’s new collection is all of these and more... she casts line after quicksilver line to create a moving, prismatic portrait of a suicide... dazzling meditations on rivers, fly fishing, wilderness, sex, violence, and death... a book 'whose pages are aflame with life.'" (Black Lawrence Press)

6) Addled Smoke Material — "A month before Jack Collom died in the summer of 2017, he and Reed Bye read through the poems they'd written together across more than forty years and made a selection they felt represented the best of their work together. Addled Smoke Material is an exquisite and rollicking inspiration, celebrating a long friendship and serving as a shining example of Collom's creative spirit of play and collaboration." (Baksun Books)

7) We, The Monstrous — "Part absurdist theater, part classical tragedy, part satiric farce, part call to resistance, all poem, Mark DuCharme’s text complicates genre and formal distinctions even as it resists easy answers to modern problems with deep historical roots. This is poet’s theater for the age of discord." (The Operating System)

8) Forthcoming 2018 — Triune fulcrum of experimental interfaith poetics. Excited to release three new titles later this year by poets Nina Pick, David Mutschlecner, and Reed Bye.

9) Submissions — Thank you to all who sent us work to consider during our receiving period earlier this year. It has taken us a little longer to respond than we anticipated, but we will get back to you soon.

Yours in the tekhne that is togetherness, social and solo esse,

Joseph Braun

Postscript: Questioning the placement of poetry in prevailing conditions, wondering at the difference between the world and oneself. How effective are these tools, these words, this technology? (from Greek tekhne "art, skill, craft in work; method, system, an art, a system or method of making or doing" + -logy "a speaking, discourse, treatise, doctrine, theory, science," from Greek -logia, root of legein "to speak")

It is increasingly difficult to distinguish between our tools and our bodies, yet increasingly easy to separate our bodies from our environment(s). We cling to our names, yet we lose our identities. We are all "on" the internet but in many ways the internet doesn't exist. What is the role of anonymity in shaping modern, global communities? When is a created thing separate from its source? When do we decide to separate things? How much of a poem is conscious, and why, and what are the cultural implications? Is the word real when it comes out of my mouth, or before? Perhaps if I was a parent I would have a better handle on these concerns, or at least a very direct physiological (and basically supernatural) experience of them.

The word "both" as a verb. Human being as human bothing. To hear and to hold. Poetry as fundamentally conjunctive—“involving the combination or co-occurrence of two or more conditions or properties”—or, apophatically speaking, as not existing without another practice or discipline; cataphatically speaking, as existing within any given philosophical or practical enclosure. Poetry as intercession of the practical and the mythical. Poetry as amazement, intelligent stupidity. Poetry as forgiving the great mistake of life.