G.C. Waldrep / YFOTTOG / PW Blog
I'm in PA right now and away from the blog. Meanwhile, G.C. Waldrep and I are blogging together here through Thursday:
Here's our post from yesterday, the new one will go up at 1:00 Eastern:
G.C. Waldrep: For me, the origin of Your Father on the Train of Ghosts was a set of largely inchoate ideas about poetry and community—about art and life. It seemed to me that we were all still mired, largely, in a Romantic conception of the poet as a solitary singer: that poetry, from both a writer’s and a reader’s standpoint, was something isolated and isolating. But this wasn’t how the Dadaists and Surrealists viewed it. As someone who has committed his life to a certain ideal of community outside the classroom and written page, the presumption bothered me. What sort of poetry might arise out of collaboration, that is, artistic community? Out of friendship?
It’s a question I’m still pondering, even after the 16 months of poetic exchanges from which YFOTTOG was sculpted. Can reading and writing be public/ collective/ collaborative acts? Rather than personal/ private/ individual? What sort of literature—what sort of poetry—might result if they were?
John Gallaher: The creation of YFOTTOG was a social act (and it still IS, as we figure out what to do with all the poems that are not in the book). That’s one of the things I really enjoyed about it. We didn’t have a purpose or plan, other than what was in front of us. It’s interesting to hear you mention the “solitary singer” conception. It’s one of the many things I didn’t know about you when we started, but it’s something I’ve also been contending with for a long time. This “solitary singer” is just as fraught (or, as I’ve also heard it termed, “authenticity”) as is “originality.” What I mean is that the notion of this Romantic I with its “authenticity” gets passed around a lot, and I think it’s largely a fantasy. Just as “originality” is largely a fantasy. These are relative terms, not absolutes.
Poems, in reality, come from everywhere the poet can find them: memory, environment, gum wrappers. It’s all reaching out into the context to add something new. The poet just tunes in to whatever works. It’s been my general feeling all my writing life that all writing is collaborative. One collaborates with the world. Working on this book has made it literal. It’s given the world an email address, so to speak.