From Poetry Magazine

Archive Fever: A Playlist for the November 2017 Issue

Roy G. Guzman

For our November 2017 playlist, we asked contributor Roy G. Guzmán to curate a selection of music for us. You can read about his approach to creating the playlist below. Click here to open the playlist in your Spotify app.

In Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, Jacques Derrida emphasizes, “There is no archive without a place of consignation, without a technique of repetition, and without a certain exteriority. No archive without outside.” He clarifies:

By consignation, we do not only mean, in the ordinary sense of the word, the act of assigning residence or of entrusting so as to put into reserve (to consign, to deposit), in a place and on a substrate, but here the act of consigning through gathering together signs.… Consignation aims to coordinate a single corpus, in a system or a synchrony in which all the elements articulate the unity of an ideal configuration.

In attempting to put together a musical archive that converses with another archive (the November 2017 issue of Poetry), I am (un)aware of the archive found in each poem, in the umbrella of Elaine Equi’s “peripheral visions,” and in Matthew Bevis’s commentary on distraction and John Ashbery.

At first, I was tempted to place this issue within the parameters of what I find myself listening to these days: disco music. The only child of a woman born in the early sixties, I grew up listening to disco. I have remained a disciple of Donna Summer, the Bee Gees (even before they made their crossover to the genre), Chic, and the genre-pulverizer Earth, Wind & Fire. I entered the November 2017 issue of Poetry with the belief that my current genre fascination could function as a one-size-fits-all, an archive capable of welcoming anything I put in it. Maybe, I thought, I could make the Trammps’ “Disco Inferno” speak to Natalie Shapero’s “Sunshower.” One piece down, thirty-one to go. That noble archival impulse quickly proved unsustainable with Franny Choi’s “Perihelion: A History of Touch.” How could my disco archive sustain Choi’s multidimensional moon? I thought. When Derrida speaks of our compulsion to wrangle things into an archive, he is warning us of the violence involved in what we include and leave out. I can say my language is informed by my struggling ancestors, for instance, but I’d be hypocritical if I said my archive isn’t also informed by indexes I later found questionable. To avoid projecting the fullness of my archive onto the entries in the November issue, I had to listen more to what each piece is saying and what it’s also attempting to say. I also had to do my fair share of research to investigate what might be contained in these writers’ archives.

In this playlist, therefore, you will hear songs that sometimes parallel the content and, possibly, the form of each poem, image, or prose section. The genres range from alternative and classical music, to jazz and pop, to rock and R&B, to electronic and experimental, to hip hop and, of course, disco. I was surprised, for instance, by what I heard when I paired “Nothing Compares 2 U” with Rumi’s “Where did the handsome beloved go?” just as much as when I paired Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés’s rendition of “La Bella Cubana” with Sumita Chakraborty’s “Windows.” At one point, I tried to pair R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” with Emily Jungmin Yoon’s “Say Grace,” but I didn’t like what this pairing suddenly implied, opting for Patti Smith’s “Gloria” instead (R.E.M., as you can see, appears instead for Equi’s work). I’m excited by the tension that occurs when you read Anne Waldman’s “Balm & Lamentation,” where I’ve paired Grimes’s “laughing and not being normal” with Brian Eno’s “The Plateaux Of Mirror.” One thing to note is that in this playlist each poem gets an average of one to three songs, depending on the poem’s length.

If this musical archive is meant to convey anything I hope it’s the ferocity of each entry in this issue. I hope each song accompanies you as you read each poem. I hope the fever you get from the archive moves you to create, yes, mixtapes to the things that challenge and embrace you.

Originally Published: November 10th, 2017

Roy G. Guzmán was born in Honduras and raised in Miami. His work has been featured in Kenyon Review, Verse of April, and The Best American Poetry blog. Guzmán has earned degrees from Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago, and the Honors College at Miami Dade College. He is the...