Dis 30, 2014

Notes on Rae Armantrout’s “The Way”

Card in pew pocket
“I am here.”

I made only one statement
because of a bad winter.

Grease is the word; grease
is the way

I am feeling.
Real life emergencies or

flubbing behind the scenes.

As a child,
I was abandoned

in a story
made of trees.

Here’s the small

of this clearing
come “upon” “again”


A— don't think so. fact is, my reading's prospered now that you brought it up

D— I made only one statement / because of a bad winter. I remember a point being made before that this statement might be a financial statement of sorts. Bad winter suggests an extremity. One statement could also be refer back to "I'm here" or to this poem which, although perhaps one statement (The Way), is clearly composed of several utterances, places, periods of time, and frames of reference.

D— A "bank statement," maybe? But maybe the statement here is the aforementioned "I am here." This person has nothing to offer but herself, the winter having perhaps taken everything else away.

D —I like how you phrased this question. Most readings usually automatically assume that a trail of pebbles ought to lead somewhere, that a thread decides the value of a maze. What if there's a trail but no destiny? A possibility, since the trail alluded to is composed of bread crumbs, the way therefore described (and created) by something both impermanent and important.

D— Putting it that way, it seems to me now that the vision of "The Way" parallels Paris Spleen.

D— These notes are precious! Thanks for relaying, sharing. I like your personal touch, your reflection on the process, how even the act of bringing it to us here could be riddled by mis- or missed readings, additions, over-reading. (Considering now if losing the way is, itself, the way.)

A— "gasp" truly

ascending the stories
a tree at a time
clearing the
throat for your gasp

A— happened to me. sounded beautiful and very true to the reader's (and her father's) life, so I said that I want my poem to mean what she meant, and that I'm grateful she had it mean that way

A— take every poet's explanation of her poem as a performance, an annotative performance. give it some privilege, but not sole authority (even other readings by the self-same poet can be seen as another performance, like being in the theater for the same play but on another night). other readers could "perform" it, in fact every reading, even interior, undisclosed readings are already performances of the poem in the mind, an inescapable process of co-creation. like this one in particular's likable because armantrout explains her poem with little apparent restraint, supplying the sources, offering some interpretation, but never closing the circle. not every poet is capable of that. in her discussion of "I am here," it seems to me that she's also a meticulously selective reader of texts around her. wonder if this process somehow contributes to her generosity

D— Life is what happens when you are busy making other fun. Go all out!

or as in Bergv
all, half-Way's
all the Way yo
u'll ever need

D— Reading "VIA" and "The Way" through you as quests of sorts. And that greasy inferno sounds like a wonderfully slippery slope, not sure if Virgil's got enough virtue to drag Dante away from that eternal spectacle.

D— Bergvall made a sort of Limbo with "VIA," keeping Dante from fully entering Inferno (but also from fulfilling his maybe self-ordained destiny) through the loop of (the conceit of?) his own translated words. Burn!

D— Could this also apply to this story made of trees? I hope you see it as a good thing, this openness of the poem.

A— false perhaps in that sense as you described, but also as a trail that disrupts the "flow" of language or reasoning

A— we can only wish. as do the kids. but perhaps there's only (greasy) adolescence

D— That threw me off. How it's framed here, it appears so. Story made of trees, the pulp of trees as paper, or through the hidden word "leaves" or out of identification with Hansel and Gretel. But the aspiration or destination that the story carries (or with which it resonates, that the story also is, how can that be worldly? At most it's (infected with) a hope to be something other than the world. So we go at it again and again, as mantras and chants (maybe Wiccan spells) promise to carry us elsewhere or inward.

D—To end up in a place of worship after expecting a place of candy canes and chocolate sprinkles.

"as soon as" yes
but not one moment before


D— Thanks for this exhilarating view of your involvement. I am (for some reason) picturing you as that guy in the courtroom sketching the scene while the judge and the lawyers close read the evidence for the rest of us. Most interesting presence.