Bio & Response

Robert Urquhart

Robert Urquhart teaches economics in Denver, Colorado. A chapbook of his poems, Commentaries on Aristotle, may, one day, be published by Potes and Poets Press.

Question #4: Susan Maxwell writes, “The poem furrows a way out of the white by running over it, while still white underneath ink.” Brian Kitely composes “postcard stories” that are, quite literally, started on the back of postcards that are then mailed to friends and family, after which the stories are rewritten and revised. And Bin Ramke finds that, “the necessity to make the tiny announcements that are line-ends in ‘standard’ verse becomes sometimes, often, annoying, arbitrary, and ultimately misleading.” Why do you write pp/ffs? How are your stories and poems brought into the world?

Recently, I have been taking a break from the line – not that I have anything against it. One way away from it is to let the words appear anywhere they choose on the page. I found that I could use all the space on the page best (making it simply a field in Olson’s sense) if I turned it on its side, so there is more room from left to right.

A possibility was words one after another all the way across this long side of the page. The words then lose all sense of making up a line. They are just a string of words.

From that I thought that I would string words together with the page right side up, and an arbitrary right hand margin as in prose. I also had in mind the form of René Char’s aphoristic fragments with an indentation for each new section.

Each section, then, has the outward form of a prose paragraph, though without initial capitals or punctuation, so the words are on their own without anything else to hold them together.

I like the invocation of the prose paragraph by something that is not really prose, like the hummingbird moth’s eerie impersonation, or the sound of the carriages of Frankfurt that Heidi mistook for the wind in the pines on her mountain.

The string of words calls in question the relations among them, where the line asserts these. An ideal here is found in Pierre Boulez’s description of the music of Anton Webern: “each phenomenon is considered as at the same time autonomous and interdependent.” But this may be even harder in words than in music.