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An Inquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful Mind of Lucy Ives

By Harriet Staff

Oh, to have a glimpse of the mind of Triple Canopy editor and poet Lucy Ives…ah wait, here she is, having been interviewed at midnight for Take Down the Clouds. An excerpt:

2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?

Up until a few minutes ago I was working on a special issue of Triple Canopy called Corrected_Slogans. It includes work by Caroline Bergvall, Renee Gladman, Ariana Reines, and many others. In a certain way it’s a concise history of Triple Canopy + poetry.

This spring a small press will release a short novel I wrote. In fall, I have a book of poems coming out.

3. Where do you write?

I’m often taking notes on something or other. I suppose I am a poet, or it makes sense for me to identify as a poet in some way, but lately I can’t seem to stop being interested in sentences—in the periodic variation of prose. I’m, unfortunately perhaps, far less interested in the larger structures we think of prose as destined for. I do love the word “novel”; I love it that someone who is a scholar of the novel might be interested in something called “novelty.”

The other day I was driving back from New Jersey with someone I had just met, and as we were going through Staten Island we started talking about Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, a book that this other person, a new acquaintance, whom I’ll call B., had recently finished but which I’d only just begun. We were talking about what people should do with books, for example: after they’ve read them. B. was saying that after he finished The Magic Mountain he wanted to hear a lecture on it. I was busy exulting over one description—of a character with translucent skin and a dark beard. B. was unimpressed. B. noted that if I were to begin talking about The Magic Mountain in terms of what are, to my own taste, a series of sensual illustrations of people’s faces and gestures, I would probably never be able to account for the novel as a whole or any of its actual meaning. B. may be correct on these points, but all the same I don’t know if I can change my habits.

4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?

Maybe it’s not a particularly good book, but Edmund Burke’s Inquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful is short and shows you one person trying to pose big questions in a gentle manner. It also contains mysterious sentences like, “The second passion belonging to society is imitation, or, if you will, a desire of imitating, and consequently a pleasure in it.”

Something I’ve been trying to work out lately is an idea about reading itself. Over the summer I did a sort of writing exercise with three other people: during the course of four months we each drafted a brief essay and then shared it with the other three for commentary and editing. There weren’t any rules, except that you couldn’t write anything more than 2000 words long and you couldn’t write anything that was recognizably of a familiar genre, say fiction, or a critical essay, or poetry. We didn’t say a lot about this at the outset, but the effects of this rule turned out to be pretty weird. At one point I sent around an email saying:

The way that the text could contain or point out a phenomenology of reading is of particular interest to me: that this might also be part of an idea about a kind of textual realism; that the text could, on the one hand, “counterfeit” an x (be a work of representation), and, on the other hand, recognize the kind or time of reading that it generates or entails. Such an engagement runs, as I see it, parallel to certain ideas about the “materiality” of language and/or cliché we might also be engaging here.

I decided to check, and yes, there is a whole strain of criticism that goes in for “phenomenology of reading,” though what they mean by it is different, inevitably, from what I was trying to describe (i.e., the four of us trying to be self-conscious in an attractive way, though perhaps I should only speak for myself!) I’ve been slowly making my way through a strange book by Roman Ingarden called The Literary Work of Art. It’s a little over-the-top but I enjoy Ingarden’s idea of a literary “event”—it’s simultaneously very escapist and yet bound up in matters of physicality and immediacy, in a moment-to-moment analysis of what occurs to a reader, and this is a nice paradox. Again, this probably isn’t a great book, but at the very least it’s an interesting artifact.

5. What journals, poets, presses have you discovered lately?

A little while ago I was staying at a stranger’s house, sharing a room with someone I know only a little, and at one point I noticed that the person I was sharing the room with had a book in her bag called Speedboat, by Renata Adler. It turns out it’s a pretty good book. It isn’t poetry, though.

We’ll forgive you. Read it all here.

Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.