from “Flesh, A Naked Dress”

Oh, don’t worry,
she is a lake
blue and weak and he is

a mountain of heaven. He can take it
as he shelters his eyes with his forearm
to watch her. He is treading, holding
his mirror, her
perfect conduct. And she

makes her tent in the space a lake takes
clouts anchored to something fiery.

A tiger wilts with hunger at the forest threshold.
A stumbly father may soon come over
the delicious embankment.

She can see the tiger.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “from Flesh, A Naked Dress”?

This “poem” is an excerpt of a serial poem, which is seventeen pages long. “Flesh” was the first time I took direction from the The Enneads by Plotinus, innovator of Platonism, who was the last great philosopher of antiquity and who had tremendous influence upon both philosophy and mysticism in the west, with reverberation in the rest of the world. (I have since written a book-length poem that deals in part with Plotinus’s thought.) In “Flesh, A Naked Dress” I was interested in Plotinus’ s idea of the relationship of the Soul (she) to the Good (he) and the ascent of the soul. I could almost see it and that is what the poem is about; a grounding of the idea in fleshy terms. The book Flesh, A Naked Dress published in 2006 by Hagios Press, contains the title poem and five other serial poems.

What poetic techniques did you use in “from Flesh, A Naked Dress”?

The main technique is one of compositional strategy, that of the serial poem. The serial form, as I use it, is scaffolding for poetry, which comes out of a meditative discipline or ‘dictation,’ as both W. B. Yeats and Jack Spicer called it. The poem moves ahead in units that are related, and which are chronological. “Flesh, A Naked Dress” has a scaffolding of Plotinian thought. According to Spicer, the serial poet picks up ethereal, radio-like waves from outside the present time and place and perhaps beyond the poet’s ability to plan but not outside the poet’s ken. To write “Flesh” I read Plotinus as my tuner to the broadband of philosophy and used a meditative method of composition, like Yeats’s and Spicer’s, but also like Susan Howe’s in My Emily Dickinsonand The Birth-Mark, which is that of an outsider to philosophy, a woman poet, a non-philosopher. I was excited when I first encountered the poems and “theories” of Jack Spicer because I loved the expansion and adventure of writing the way he did. I loved that he cared so much for words…..he was a linguist. I keep reading what excites me, the work that gives me energy, makes me laugh, takes my breath away.

This poem “from “Flesh, A Naked Dress”” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 180 (Spring 2004): 30-30.

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