It’s possible that my biggest act of disobedience has consistently, since I was an adolescent, been against the idea that all truth comes from books, really other people’s books. I hate the fact that whatever I say or write, someone reading or listening will try to find something out of their reading I “sound like.” ‘You sound just like…,’ ‘you remind me of…,’ ‘have you read…?’ I read all the time and I often believe what I read while I’m reading it, especially if it’s some trashy story; intense involvement in theories as well as stories seems difficult without temporary belief, but then it burns out. I’ve been trying to train myself for thirty or forty years not to believe anything anyone tells me. Not believing, then, became the crux of Disobedience, which is my most recent completed book. Not believing and telling the truth as it comes up. One of the main elements in the poem is an ongoing fantasy in which the I, who is pretty much I, keeps company and converses with a man very much like the actor Robert Mitchum and that of course is not strictly believable. On the other hand it’s fun, and it stands for something a sort of truth, about how we do have stories going on in our consciousness and unconsciousness all the time and about how we’re always talking to some “you” mentally. I wouldn’t expect you to take this book as the truth, I would expect you to go with it, given that you like to read. I find the act of reading puzzling at the moment, since in a book I’ve been working on since Disobedience I ask the reader to read despite the fact that I’m not really entertaining the reader or being clear in any of the traditional ways I can think of. I think books may imply a readership that simply likes to read, which may sound obvious but it’s something I myself have only just thought of. But back to Disobedience. It asks the reader to read a lot of pages, about 230 A 4 pages in verse, but it’s fairly easy to read and it makes a lot of jokes. It’s very feminist but men seem to enjoy it a lot, it possibly contains a rather virile approach to things riding roughshod and shooting at every little duck that seems to pop up. As I implied earlier, Disobediencedidn’t exactly set out to be disobedient; it set out actually to try to do the kinds of things I’d previously done in different poems all in the same poem, that is tell a story, interact with the so-called visible or phenomenal the despised daily, and explore the unconscious. But it got more and more pissed off as it confronted the political from an international vantage, dealt with being a woman in France, with turning fifty and being a poet and thus seemingly despised or at least ignored. The title popped up in a dream I had towards the end of writing the work, in connection with a comic poet I know: it was the title of his book in the dream and I realized later that there was probably nothing more disobedient than being a comic poet, since no one’s ever sure if that’s good enough, particularly the academy unless you’ve been dead since the 14th century or unless you’ve also written a lot of tragedies. I myself wouldn’t want the limitation of being only one kind of poet, but I realize this comic business is something to think about. But more and more as I wrote Disobedience I discovered I couldn’t go along, with the government or governments, with radicals and certainly not with conservatives or centrists, with radical poetics and certainly not with other poetics, with other women’s feminisms, with any fucking thing at all; belonging to any of it was not only an infringement on my liberty but a veil over clear thinking.
It’s necessary to maintain a state of disobedience against…everything. One must remain somehow, though how, open to any subject or form in principle, open to the possibility of liking, open to the possibility of using. I try to maintain no continuous restrictions in my poetics except with regard to particular works, since writing at all means making some sort of choices. But NO DOCTRINES. Rather I tend to maintain a sense that a particular form or set of rules at a certain point might serve me for a while. Like many writers I feel ambivalent about words, I know they don’t work, I know they aren’t it. I don’t in the least feel that everything is language. I have a sense that there has been language from the beginning, that it isn’t fundamentally an invention. These are contradictory positions but positions are just words. I don’t believe that the best poems are just words, I think they’re the same as reality; I tend to think reality is poetry, and that it isn’t words. But words are one way to get at reality/poetry, what we’re in all the time. I think words are among us and everywhere else, mingling, fusing with, backing off from us and everything else.
Since Disobedience, I’ve been working on this other thing which isn’t as friendly as Dis is, though it isn’t meant to be unfriendly. It’s just hard to read, in that you have to decide to sit down and read it word by word giving each word the rhythm and weight it requires. That sounds like poetry but this one tends to be in long blowy sentences all down the page. I am going at several ideas at once: one is that the world is intensely telepathic, infused with the past and continual thought of all the living and all the dead. I started out with that idea and with the idea of a Byzantine church as a sort of head, mine, full of icons and mosaics on ever expanding and shifting walls. But the church or head got bigger and bigger and more and more full of images and words until it expanded into a city. So at the moment, on page one hundred and something, I’m dealing with the idea that there are two cities or worlds at the same time, an ideal crystalline one and the supposedly real one. Generally I’m neither all the way in one nor the other, though sometimes it seems as if I’m nowhere near the crystal one and its reasonable opulence so I start beating hard at all the doors I can find in my mind. Then sometimes it seems as if the supposedly real world just isn’t there or here at all though I know if I stop typing and go outside it will get me. This work is also very disobedient, in a way it picks up where Disobedience left off; but it doesn’t lecture as much or shake its fist so, is less interested in the so-called real than in denying its existence in favor of the real real. You can’t fly unless you’re not on the ground and this one really flies sometimes.
I think I conceive of myself as disobeying my readership a lot. I began the new work in fact denying their existence; it seemed to me I needed most at this point to work on my own existence so I couldn’t afford to cater to them if they got in the way of my finding out things. But this is a work of mine, it should be published sometime. I’m now in a predicament I can’t get out of, a form I can’t manage for the reader, which just keeps leading me on and leading me on. It’s predicated on leaving in as much mind fuzz as possible, that is being open to all that is out there in all telepathy–not a very organizable entity, the entity. Too wordy too long; and I’ve allowed in a lot of notions from my dreams again, have allowed odd images to take on the weight of truth; and I’m stubbornly involved again in what you might call mystical conceptions, but aren’t those a nono? except in icky New Age territory, yuck. The reader likes you to tell her/him what she/he already knows in a familiar form whether in mainstreamese or avant-gardese, but then there is the individual reader who is often not like that at all, who prefers poems to talking about them and has strange individual experiences with them. That’s a very scary idea. It’s possible that the reader, or maybe the ideal reader, is a very disobedient person a head/church/city entity her/himself full of soaring icons and the words of all the living and all the dead, who sees and listens to it all and never lets on that there’s all this beautiful almost undifferentiation inside, everything equal and almost undemarcated in the light of fundamental justice. And poker-faced puts up with the outer forms. As I do a lot of the time but not so much when I’m writing.