Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 59.4 (Jennifer Moxley)

The Middle Room by Michael_Kelleher
The Middle Room, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Moxley, Jennifer
The Middle Room


Purchased online.

As I mentioned yesterday, I had the idea a couple of years back to work more explicitly autobiographical information into my work, so I started looking for books by contemporary avant-garde poets who did just that. I wasn't interested in learning to write confessional verse, mind you, just looking for ideas about how I might make use of personal information in my poetry. I read Juliana Spahr's amazing The Transformation and also Eleni Sikelianos' The Book of Jon.

The third book I read, at least partly, was The Middle Room. This book differs from those two in that it is actually an autobiography -- a highly artificial, elaborately constructed, autobiography, but an autobiography nonetheless. According to my bookmark, which is a folded photograph of Canadian poets Kemeny Babineau, Rob Read and John Barlow, I got as far as page 118 (out of 633).

In the photo the three poets stand in a field at the edge of a forest. Rob is in the foreground looking directly into the lens, a slightly perplexed look on his face. John stands behind and slightly to the left of him, in profile, staring off into the distance with a big smile on his face. He is wearing a red t-shirt. Kemeny, bearded and smiling, his one visible arm akimbo, stands behind John looking towards the camera. Someone has photoshopped the initials of each poet somewhere on their person: Rob on the collar of his t-shirt, John on his left elbow, like a tattoo. Kemeny on the front of his white t-shirt. On the back of the photo, in black and white sans serif font, it says: First The Photo, Then The Band.

Anyhow, I did start working more autobiographical details into my poems that year, but I think the real result of all this interest in autobiography became this blog, which I started the following winter. The two have worked together in interesting ways, as my poems have grown longer, more autobiographical, more narratively driven.

from The Middle Room (Page 118)

Though I was not fully conscious of it at the time, the literary group of Chuck, Helena, and myself, with the now most propitious addition of Steve, had already drawn peripheral notice from several English PhD students, all of whom were secretly poets. Although my stepfather Clyde, who had earned his degree on the GI bill, had affrighted my brothers with ghastly dissertation tales--having to retype five hundred pages when it was discovered his margins were off by a quarter of an inch!-- to me the culture of graduate school was still very foreign.

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