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Twilight of the Mind: Toward a Poetics of Interpellation

Paul Blackburn

revisiting a prior version of this (see GutCult *8)
It isn’t exactly as Spicer said that “most things happen at twilight,” but is where the most productive natal spaces are located. It is here that the most interesting interpellations happen and what I hope poetry can be. I don’t want to be front and center, nor do I want to be obliterated. This space between is not-I, nor Thou, but is the space between. It is here that we re-call and re-cover what was/was not. Yes, there is a time and place for individuation and the abyss of night, but it is in relation to the world, between one and another that remembrance takes place. And when it does and is voiced as a beginning into more than what was there before, then this is where some of the greatest work is done. The neither subject nor object, nor neither attunes the body’s relationship to the world—and in so doing produces new experiences with one part of the body while recording those experiences with another. That chiasmic relationship is fundamentally connected to love for me. A poem can sing and sign, but if there is no love of the world or some world, it’s going to strike me as stale.

I’ve vexed on this subject for more hours, countless cups of coffee, heated complaints to the wall (and I fear, my neighbor by proxy), and two monumental efforts of procrastination. One of them involved trying to listen to all of my music from A – Z while the other was the decision to run my first marathon and actually train for it. As a smoker with 1000+ albums, finishing either task is demanding at best. I would fluster at the thought of saying what I think—and for that matter have never been one to venture to explain what this or that line of my writing “means” to me. I could tell you what I didn’t like, but to let you in on who or what I do like, that is frightening. Why? I may tell if you ask me. Ultimately, a loving relationship to an embodied world that sings and signs is what makes me leap and freak out. My incomplete list is long and comprises a generalist approach to poetics. The move is toward “inclusion” not strategically, but because inclusion opens into space, our wide faces. Some of what I would call poetry of twilight includes everyone mentioned above at some juncture, Elizabeth Treadwell, Johnson, Paul Blackburn, Ponge, Donne, Leslie Scalapino, Rilke, Rosmarie Waldrop, Creeley, Robin Blaser, Whitman, Anna Akhmataova, Forrest Gander, Baraka, Duncan, Mackey, Stein, Larry Eigner, Susan Howe, Sappho, Peter O’Leary, Maya Angelou, John Giorno, Michael Smith, Stein, Cavafy, Mallarme, Hölderlin, Cesaire, Kerouac and Snyder. The thing about poetry for me is that it is plenitude, has so many entry points for revelation that constriction to one school is sad, really. Much of the best verse in the United States isn’t coming from the academy, but from the world of music. Art Lange and Nathaniel Mackey’s anthology, Moment’s Notice: Jazz in Poetry & Prose moves significantly toward this. Still, if it is written (or sung) and laid down into recorded form with instrumentation, perhaps the most vibrant “vernacular” (and not so) verse from hip-hop to ? is often ignored. Grandmaster Flash crafts as much of a time in “The Message” and does so with all the standard markings of “poetry” as Ginsberg did with “Howl.”

What these writers share is a certain adhesion to and in the world/s. As Merleau-Ponty notes, that adhesion comes between or at the joints of self/other/world. This chiasm and a careful attuned attendance to it is a vital space, characterized by humility. If humbled before it, then “it” will get the care that the text and world deserves. Paul Blackburn’s “The Net of Place” embodies everything I hope to accomplish in my work.

I turn back to the Rockies, to the
valley swinging East, Glenwood to Aspen, up
the pass, it is the darkest night the hour before dawn,
Orion, old Hunter, with whom
I may never make peace again, swings
just over the horizon at 5 o’clock
as I walk . The mountains fade into light


It is
An intricate dance
to turn & say goodbye
to the hills we live in the presence of .
When mind dies of its time
It is not the place goes away .

I couldn’t, haven’t, and will never say it better. But, that’s not the point. It’s the charged and natal plenitude of what and who and where “we live in the presence."

Originally Published: April 29th, 2015

The son of an Episcopalian minister, Philip Jenks was born in North Carolina and grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia. He earned a BA from Reed College, an MA in creative writing from Boston University, and a PhD in political science from the University of Kentucky. His books of poetry include On...