Poetry News

Beth Bachmann Discusses CEASE at The Rumpus

By Harriet Staff

Beth Bachmann is jointly interviewed by Blas Falconer and Helena Mesa for The Rumpus. Bachmann reflects on the architecture of her third book, CEASE (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018):

Bachmann: Robert Duncan is a huge guiding light behind the collection. For two years (or more) I read only (and all) Duncan in the two volume collected. It must’ve begun with my falling in love with, as many do, “Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow.” Oh how I love this poem, but I’ll quote only the end:

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

As for the walls and the flaws in them, the walls are variously made of water, oil, stone, skin, and their accompanying breaks. Sometimes we build a wall against darkness or an indulgence or a behavior, the point where we swear that’s it; I’m done; never again and yet, we find ourselves there again flesh-to-flesh and have to build again. Here are a couple of lines from the second wall:

beyond the wall a series of walls if we could not see

or hear each other we could touch the ideal form of the cage

So, yeah, the walls are attempting to “hold against chaos” and the space between is that beautiful meadow, that lush but temporary space that can be returned to, but not held in stasis.

I’m with Duncan in his introduction to Bending the Bow, where he talks about the poem as event: “In the room we, aware or unaware, are the event of ourselves in it.” Elsewhere in the same essay, he describes the poem as “a field of ratios in which events appear in language.” You can see this happening in the unpunctuated “rooms” that make up the majority of CEASE. Look at that last couplet in the Duncan above: it moves from past (first permission) to future (omen) to present (what is); my hope is that my “rooms” will have a similar effect of folding and unfolding, closing and opening as you read them...

 Find the full interview at The Rumpus.

Originally Published: October 11th, 2018