Poetry News

Part II: Andrea Rexilius on Laura (Riding) Jackson

By Harriet Staff


As promised last week, Part II of Andrea Rexilius's essay on Laura (Riding) Jackson and the self is here at last, brought to you by Coldfront.

Laura (Riding) Jackson’s most narrative poems, the “poems of mythic occasion” again detail a personal history that transcends any specific self by focusing on human relationships to environmental surroundings and to body. The long poem, “Forgotten Childhood” tells the story of “Lida,” more or less. In the second section of the poem, entitled “Herself,” she writes: “I am hands / And face / And feet / And things inside of me / That I can’t see. // What knows in me? / Is it only something inside / That I can’t see?” (3). Perhaps in these lines we see most explicitly the terms of the creation myth found in “Disclaimer of the Person.” Lida is primarily concerned with what makes her a self. She is a self because she has a body, but that body doesn’t really explain why she is. Lida is also questioning the origins of consciousness or of “what knows in [her].” The paradox of being is that one knows that their own knowing eludes them. The self does not know exactly where or what the self is. Her poetic aim is not to convey or argue but to inquire, and to encounter. The “truth” she is after is not of an individual self (the bordered body), but of Self (the unbordered as poetic body).

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Originally Published: March 11th, 2014