I so wish I had been able to attend the Shape Of I Conference that Bhanu has been posting about this week. Not only because I would finally like to have the discussion, and finally meet Bhanu, and because there are few places on earth more interesting to be than next to Vanessa Place while she is thinking. She is of course, an I, but she reports being dead. She is also, apparently, the one who killed poetry. Or one of the ones. She is on her way to killing photography. She is always killing things. She cracks me up.

The other day a poet and I were discussing the quality of work we admired. Thinking came up very quickly. Description. So too the idea of nodes. Or of an "I" that has the quality of moving vertically and horizontally fluidly, rapidly. Architectural. A poetic Zizek.

I was thinking about a Tweet I posted earlier that day. That to write takes many lives. It was said half-heartedly in the context of a male poet saying that there was no great literature today because there are no longer wives in the traditional sense of the word wife.  One writer's projects subsumes many lives. Hence to write well takes many "I"s.

That wasn't what I meant. When I say it takes many lifetimes to write well, I am thinking of the Herman Hesse quote, learn to die before you die. Or, when you think you have mastered something, drop it and start again. Or, kill your writing selves off often, begin anew. Burn. Purge. Push yourself. My writerly motto.

All ways of getting around an I that wants to sink into concrete.

All the ways of trying to disrupt our narratives, which may or may not produce what we see.

Am I my browser? All that I see?

Am I the same daffodil?

Am I the books I have published?

Am I the void out of which the voice has been dragged?

Am I the maker of the verse, or what the verse made?

Am I the writer, or the written.

The poem walked up and smacked her in the face.

Or follow the same path long enough and you will meet you. And I will meet I.

Originally Published: April 20th, 2012

Sina Queyras grew up on the road in western Canada and she has since lived in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, and Calgary where she was Markin Flanagan Writer in Residence. She is the author most recently of the poetry collection MxT (2014) and Unleashed (2010), a selection of posts from...