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Last night I dreamed of approaching the tower from my recurring dream, of green light and safe space and the illuminated hotel lobby that feels like home—the tower always looks a little different, but it is identifiably the tower. I think here about Bachelard and the tallest point in any house, the well-lit garret. It’s the place of elevated thought, heightened reason, closeness to light, airiness.

In the dream I had to approach the tower by water, a channel that ran through a city, by stepping onto a small raft that would take me there, and I stepped off the dock with my arms full of books and sank into the water instead. The books weighed me down and I considered not letting them go, but I had to in order to get to the surface. It didn’t occur to me until after I woke up that they were already ruined.

The tower appeared in another recent dream, this time a giant buoy at the end of an arduous harbor-side trail. I stepped onto the platform and it rocked back into the water, and I saw that there was no door, and the water washed back and forth over me as I refused to leave.

Years ago, my recurring dreams were of giant, deadly dark waves and sinister bodies of water, and it is disconcerting to see my old, bad recurring dream combined with my new one, the one that is inexplicably happy and safe. The hotel is gone—the tower turns away from me, not a safe place for me but a place safe from me. I think here of Baba Yaga / Baba Yaga’s house, the denial of entrance, my own poetic confusion of occupant and intruder, the woman who is both old and young, good and bad, a helpful obstacle.

I have no background in dream analysis. But writing dreams down feels worthwhile. These days it’s the most reliable of my creative acts, not including the act of dreaming itself.

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This morning I’m rereading Juliana Spahr’s This Connection of Everyone With Lungs, which I grabbed from the free pile in the grad lounge a few days before we left (of course, we were packing up everything we owned and actively trying to get rid of books, but I had to take it). The MFA who owned it previously has written notes in the margins here and there, and now I’m realizing why this bothers me so much. In prose works, little notes have always distracted me, but in poetry they drive me a little batty. The page is important, the shape is important, the balance of text and empty space is important, and so, etc, the little notes are like the bug smears on the windshield of my Penske truck that the inadequate wiper fluid never wiped away.

White space becomes the silent medium that connects and supports the more volatile, vulnerable tissue of language, even as it also becomes the absence within the sign system that connects the work to the reading body, the body that is absent from the abstraction of language, the body that recognizes itself in the skeletal white spaces.

– Cole Swensen

Language would be easier if we could remove the prepositions but then the objects and subjects would be  difficult to discern. Like I said, in my career as a writer—I know it suspect for poets to speak of career—I find myself more attractive as an object. If I am the object then who is the subject? Unnecessary.

– Rachel Levitsky

This passage sounds like it comes from an essay or an interview or some kind of thinkpiece, but it’s in the middle of a poem from Neighbor. This straightforward Rachel Levitsky voice comes in from time to time, addressing the means and motives of the project, how she feels about it, etc. Like a note to herself that she forgot to take out. This book is managing a balance between rawness and purposeful construction that I’m really enjoying—maybe a mimic of the same balance between self and Neighbor/Other, that strange relationship wherein you are formal and polite with someone, yet share some degree of intimacy. I live in a duplex, and sometimes we hear the neighbors’ baby crying, which sounds a lot like our cat crying. I hear them most often when in the bathroom, which is the closest point between our two apartments, the thinnest wall, the most personal space to be in when you hear your neighbors talking. To share a house or a neighborhood is to share some kind of daily experience, putting your body near to another body. Under the circumstances / suburbia / this makes me more interested in parts of my thesis.

I read another book earlier in the day that I was not nearly as excited about. I read it, and it didn’t make me think about anything at all. I guess I thought That was a book but I’m not sure that counts. I’m interested, mostly, in books that enact the ideas they’re writing about.

I, uh, finally finished reading My Life yesterday. That’s embarrassing. I’m a slow reader when it comes to poetry, but I’m usually not that slow. Winter break and driving to Missouri and coming back and my parents and sister visiting sort of slowed it up. I can see why my thesis advisor recommended it—personal, sentence-focused, image-based, anaphoric. My heart loves a book with a good heart beat.

It was hard to digest all at once, though, even considering all the things that got in my way. It’s not that long, page-wise, but very dense. I prefer to read poetry books all in one sitting, much like B likes to listen to whole albums. I’m interested in the whole of the thing. It bothers me when poets talk about reading other poets piecemeal, or out of order. I feel like there’s a certain respect you pay to the writer and the way they used sequencing, at least the very first time you’re reading the work. I’m also really big on following the rules, so.

My Life was like all the materials that make up a building, but not the building itself. Not a building as in a narrative, but as in a shape. I don’t know. I like architecture. I think I like it because it follows the rules of reality, but sometimes you can look at it and wonder how it possibly follows the rules of reality.

 

[groin vaulting at Saint Denis Cathedral]

[groin vaulting at Saint Denis Cathedral]

I woke up this morning to little scrambling noises coming from somewhere in the ceiling vicinity, and now our whole apartment smells like skunk. I’ve been carrying a scented candle with me from room to room.

The statue as an intermediary stage between tree and man. Tree as intermediary between stone
and sun. It was a language, and it spelled a name in space

that erased space.

– Cole Swensen

Ours was one of those books that deeply changed the way I thought about the field of the page in poetry. I thought, You can DO that? You can have this kind of fundamental relationship between the text and the appearance of the text? You can make the page itself a garden? Rereading it years later, the use of space doesn’t feel as radically experimental, but I still love it.

In this brand-new Thesis Mode, I’m trying to read as much as I can toward the questions/forms/ideas my project is thinking about. I mean, the questions/forms/ideas that I’m thinking about. A large amount of this has been rereading, which I’ve really enjoyed. I don’t always give myself the time to go back to old favorites, but I should.