2003-2013: Ten years of nostalgia

Organic Furniture Cellar

I’m in Boston for AWP– I’m moderating a panel tomorrow at 1:30 on Poetry and Librarianship. In the Spring of 2003, another early March if I remember correctly, I was in Cambridge for the NEMLA conference, giving a paper on plastic poetry. The paper was to become the preface of Organic Furniture Cellar, an essay in Swedish in OEI, a chapbook from No Press, and, edited for scholarly consumption, an academic paper. But at the time, it was a set of loose ideas about the poetry of Susan Howe, Steve McCaffery, and other Language/visual poets.

It was bitterly cold in Boston. The Charles, about which I was to write a poem for OFC, was frozen solid, and the wind blew off of it. I was improperly dressed for the weather. I’d driven the 13 hours from Buffalo expecting it to be warmer– who wouldn’t expect Boston to be warmer than Buffalo? But the wind was impossible. I walked around Cambridge, exploring, eyes squinted in the wind but inner eyes open, explorative.

I came upon the Organic Furniture Cellar on Pearl Street with its vivid mural. They were closed, so I couldn’t go in, and I didn’t know what “organic furniture” was. The three words together, the open O and rusty Rs, the meter, the way the meaning shifted in and out of focus (what is an organic furniture cellar?) echoed my concerns in the poems I was working on. I wanted the reader to warily enter meaning, to come upon it as a new reader comes to sound out the meaning of a word, to be surprised, to detach again from the meaning. To be alienated and to rejoice in the pleasure of understanding what she reads, again and again, oscillating between opacity and transparency, finding pleasure in the textures of the sounds and patterns of words on the page. Thus I named my first book.

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