Friday, 14 April 2017

from Hinge Picture By Susan Howe

“Crawl in,” said the witch, “and see if it’s hot enough to put the bread in.”
—Hansel and Gretel

All roads lead to rooms.
—Irish Proverb
a stark

               a numb


               clutching my Crumbl
               Tombs and
               in Caves

William James says that in times of trauma and crisis a door is opened to a place where facts and apparitions mix.

When I was a visiting poet at Temple, I encountered two huge volumes called Melville’s Marginalia. Its editor, Wilson Walker Cowen, had collected and printed all the passages Melville had marked in his personal library. At first glance, this alphabetically arranged collection of quotations from numerous authors resembled a giant Charles Olson poem. The preface said Cowen died young. All this immense labor had been for his graduate- student degree. I thought of the pale usher and the sub-sub-librarian in Moby-Dick. Then, as I was going over the material, I came upon Melville’s notes in his copy of the Irish poet James Clarence Mangan’s collected works. I remembered singing Mangan’s “Róisín Dubh” with the Reddins. I looked into Mangan’s life and work, and by following Mangan—God! I couldn’t believe it—I found that he may have been a source for the character of Bartleby.
Earlier, when I was writing the poems that would become Frame Structures, I stumbled on Longfellow’s wife Frances Appleton, who died by fire in their home library. She was trying to paste locks of her children’s hair into an album, using a candle to melt the wax, when a spark fell on her dress. His beard you see in the famous photograph was grown to cover the scars on his face, which was badly burned when he tried to save her. The Longfellow House is now a National Historic Site, and when I took the tour I asked the guide which was the room she burned in. He brushed the question aside as if such a thing had never happened. It doesn’t fit the sunny portrait of the author they are hired to exhibit.
In the same way, I came upon Jonathan Edwards’s sister Hannah by chance when I slipped her “private writings” out of a folder in the Beinecke Reading Room at Yale.
I don’t want to be so arrogant as to say these are recoveries. Maybe certain people find me.

 from My Emily Dickinson

When I love a thing I want it and I try to get it. Abstraction of the particular from
the universal is the entrance into evil. Love, a binding force, is both envy and
emulation. HE (the Puritan God) is a realm of mystery and will always remain
unknowable, authoritarian, unpredictable. Between revealed will and secret will
Love has been torn in two.

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