Poetry News

At Omniverse: Norma Cole on The Case, Duchamp's Delay, Distraction

By Harriet Staff


The amazing Norma Cole adapted a talk she gave on distraction in March, and they've posted it on Omniverse. She starts by talking about "that wonderful essay by Robert Creeley, 'Was That a Real Poem or Did You Just Make It Up Yourself?'" The piece moves beautifully through Mallarmé, Wittgenstein, Laura Moriarty, Duchamp, and into a self-interview. On Moriarty's The Case (O Books, 1998).

Oh yes, the case means also Marcel Duchamp’s case, his Green Box, the working notes that he collected and published in relation to his most famous picture, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, also called The Large Glass. From Calvin Tompkins’s biography of Duchamp, “He also insisted it was not a picture. In one of the working notes that he collected and published in The Green Box, Duchamp refers to it as a “delay.” Duchamp writes, “Use ‘delay’ instead of picture or painting… It’s merely a way of succeeding in no longer thinking that the thing in question is a picture—to make a delay of it in the most general way possible, not so much in the different meanings in which delay can be taken, but rather in their decisive reunion.” (From The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even, a typographic version by Richard Hamilton of Marcel Duchamp’s notes in The Green Box, translated by George Heard Hamilton.)

See what I mean? It can get really complex and yet… clear as… glass! In fact, “the interpenetrating sort of relationship that we expect of poetic art…”

This phrase is from Robert Greer Cohn, from his book, Mallarmé Igitur (University of California, 1981) which I picked up—it was on my bedside bookstand—idly, trying to think of what I wanted to speak to you about. “Idly” in this case means “deliberately,” not knowing what I’d find, challenging myself to find something that I’d want to think further on. Idleness is the poet’s best friend.

Read all of it, really! At Omniverse.