Search This Blog

Friday, February 22, 2013

Moxley's Moxie

The first time I read Jennifer Moxley's "Fragments of a Broken Poetics" was when it was published on the Poetry Daily website, under their prose feature which reprints pieces from other journals, in this case from Chicago Review, Spring 2010.

Yesterday I was reminded of the piece when listening to a lecture that Moxley gave at the University of Chicago in which she read the "Fragments" in its entirety (now that's a funny sentence!). (This lecture can also be downloaded on iTunes U under the University of Chicago's Poem Present Reading and Lecture Series.)

Moxley extensive musings about poetry and poetics have evolved into 50 fragments that brush against topics such as audience, semantics, imagination, authenticity, and others. Some fragments seem to contradict others. And the ones that stood out to me this time (pasted below) are undoubtedly not the ones that impressed me the most the last time I read this piece, inexhaustibility of the piece under repetition being a sign of good thinking and often also of good writing.

 from Fragments of a Broken Poetics

A poet only needs one poem, a poem only one reader. Moving from singular to shared in this instance is a rudimentary economy. It is less affecting than a mortal kiss, more than a passing conversation. The poem will always provoke an acute desire to know its creator, "acute" because hopeless.


The poet who foregrounds the surface qualities of the word—sound, texture, look—must be especially scrupulous when building the poem's semantic foundation. Effects should enhance complexity, not replace it, otherwise they risk giving complexity, which already struggles to justify itself, a very bad name.

Sleep, to whom Keats partly owes his "worthy rhymes," has long been kin to poetry. Saint-Pol Roux affixing a sign that reads "poet at work" to his bedchamber is the most playful example of this alliance. Both sleep and poetry open a passage to the unconscious, one by nature, the other by artifice. Both create memories of astonishing wakefulness, one through dream, the other through imagination. It is almost impossible to reproduce or transmit such experiences by other means.


Poems demand a concentrated lingering to which we are unaccustomed. This is why they cause discomfort. When we stand still in one place, attempting to document and respect the details, we feel as vulnerable as a small creature in an open field beneath avian predators. Rapid and sequential page turning gives us a sense of progress and accomplishment, relieving us from the double threat of frustration and impatience.
After a point, even the poem can grow bored with its own devices.

No comments: