thoughts on form

I never thought I’d say this, but: I have too many books. So today at work I got boxes (tip for moving: B&N gets tons of boxes every day and they’re, gasp, sized for books!) and I’ve been packing away the less necessary things, mostly magazines, old sketchbooks, daybooks and diaries, childrens’ books that aren’t of immediate artistic value. Duplicates are going in the used-bookstore-credit pile; most of my pop CDs are going to the CD store; a whole ton of junk is going to the SPCA Rummage Store. Ideally I’d like to pack my books in some sort of closed-stacks system so that I could access them without having to move them, dust them, and continually find more bookshelves for them.

(Here’s where you say: “a closed-stack system of books you don’t have to care for personally is called a library. Try going to one.” But I say, “I need my books. I just don’t need all of them around all the time.” After all, the books that I’ve read are written all over, and the rare books are in good condition and are special to me. I have to keep them all.)

So, flipping back through my sketchbooks along with last night’s activity, which was rereading my diary from this time in 2002, something has begun to gel. Maybe the reason I haven’t written, can’t write, poetry, but still produce a lot of writing (the blog, my private journal, my bird life-list, my mnemotablet, my sketchbooks), and the reason I am so fascinated by things like Stephen Crane’s notebook, Woolf’s and Kafka’s diaries, and Eva Hesse’s daybooks, is that I am not really a poet per se. Maybe I am a diarist. Even the poems I do write often resemble little diary entries– dates, memories, moments-of-being. (Lorraine? The mnemonic system I was describing…)

Not that the diary form isn’t poetic. It is. And in the same way that my visual poetry grows out of Language poets like Susan Howe and Steve McCaffery, draft-diaristic writings could be traced in a line (going very far back, especially for “women’s writing”) including poets like Hejinian and Du Plessis. (I like to figure out the politics of the heritage I’m taking up before putting my writing into new categories… but I hope a recategorization might free me up creatively.)


About Jessica Smith
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2 Responses to thoughts on form

  1. K. Lorraine Graham says:

    I was having thoughts about this yesterday, enough thoughts that they deserve an email. But I was thinking about your relationship to both lyric and memoir, and how I think both forms are so important to your work

  2. K. Lorraine Graham says:

    And also, maybe you’ll work with a variety of different forms over the course of your life as a person, writer, woman…memories are complicated (I don’t have to tell you that : )

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