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Response & Bio Robert Gibbons

Question #5) In issue #4 Bill Tremblay asks, “How many ways can you praise the sky?” “How many ways can you come up with to know the sky?”

Be aware that everything in our bildopedic culture, in our politics of the encyclopedic, in our telecommunications of all genres, in our telematicometaphysical archives, in our library, for example the Bodleian, everything is constructed on the protocolary charter of an axiom, that could be demonstrated, displayed on a large carte, a postcard of course…

Jacques Derrida

To wake is to want to praise it, along with everything else in between, including perhaps the recent dream urging one on to the place that waits. The sky that awaits the soul, as the earth the body.

Elissa Marder sees the sky as key to the work of the innovator of the prose poem, “One might go so far as to say that the sky – in Baudelaire – is made of language and it is this celestial language that gives time, memory, and perception to man.” Is there greater praise than to attribute language to a thing?

It makes one think of Olson’s admonition in Projective Verse, that were we to listen close enough, we could hear “secrets objects share.”

Sky, grand illusion of wholeness. Mask of chaos. Vast container of fragmentation. Words of praise? When I think of the prose poem, I think of it similarly: the prose poem, which will not be pigeon-holed, nor classified, gentrified, nor genred.

The best aspects of the form include the space it provides for writing the quickest way possible. Olson wanted Rimbaudean velocity across the line, one perception immediately upon another. As if it were collage fragment added in such a way that one grapheme illuminates another, where signifier joins hands with signified under scratch of pen or percussive key.

Refusing the aid of line breaks (or being slowed down by the decision) to contribute to the rhythm of the work, keeping it internal, more closely matching where it stems from, desire, cathexion.

Earlier in the week I dug up a copy of a letter sent to a poet friend in 1991, when I worked at the National Gallery of Art Library in Washington, the first paragraph of which read, “Inner fragmentation, isn’t that what the prose poem must contain by its form? Driven this far away to what? To force within.”

Why am I thinking of the postcard today? The pleasure the postcard brings, gives, sends? Coalescing perceptions at once, in limited, & yet if treated freely, generously, & most creatively, in unlimited space.

At the same time, wanting as much blank space, or as little, to leave or fill with what will strike visually, tactically, haptically, always from that new place, at the heart of the sender. Or, as Barthes reveals in Writing Degree Zero: “So that style is always a secret… its secret is recollection locked within the body of the writer.”

Postcard, prose poem, much in common, including that quality essential to the act of writing: humility. Prose poem, postcard: one side text, other side picture. The assemblage of paragraph at greatest thrust, at lift-off, one of burning fragments that evolve/dissolve into each other for greater clarity: at the point Benjamin would call “Now-Time.”

This epistolary act?

Without designated audience.

The Maximus Poems began as letters. Toward their end Olson can find no greater praise in one case, (listing those he loved), than: “Allen Ginsberg… his unbelievable ability to make a picture postcard alive front & back”.


A review of Robert Gibbons’ first two full-length books of prose poems, Streets for Two Dancers and The Book of Assassinations, (Six Gallery Press), is in Poetic Inhalation. His latest book of prose poems, Body of Time, is reviewed in Evergreen Review. A recent profile appeared in the Portland Phoenix. He has just been named poetry and fiction editor at Janus Head.