: rosemary stretch : * a dusi/e-chap by Betsy Fagin

Receiving Betsy Fagin's chap, rosemary stretch proved to be a wide-eye opener, for me, in way of DIY chaps. The style is quite simple and seems to imitate the idea behind Japanese book-binding techniques as each page is actually two (though actually 1), as the pages are folded with the outside on the inside of the binding which is side-stapled. Does that make sense? This means that publishing is actually a lot easier than it often is in practice, in way of paginating, wasting reams of paper in desperated pursuit of page order (ahem, others may see what I'm saying when they get my chaps). So, I repeat, first page, fold, on the second side of the fold is the 'second' page. A truly genius idea!

I was also quite amazed at Betsy's ability to whip this book out as it was one of the first I received, oh Betsy, I so covet your nesting and obvious prolific & creative state!

Anyhoo, to the chap and the innards of this lovely,- rosemary stretch - works for me on many levels. As I read it I am tempted to read it twice, and then a third time, along the left column and then the right, as well as in an interpolative sort of fashion, and it works, Oh,- and it works the reader, I like to feel worked a bit as I read and wonder the various possibilities toward textual interpretation, etc. This is also a series, which I think everyone must know by now, my favorite kind of form as it continues and is not at all (thank heavens) poem-a-page weary ---projecting the reader outside of the box or frame..so to speak.

And as for - rosemary stretch - the stretch could be as in time, no? the latin meaning of rosemary being, dew of the sea, and water does seem to highly influence this work:


water jar

all memory carried,
good. praise it.
I thank the drinkable, activated.
your talk. your life.

raining separation
walls, barriers
downbreaking. rivers
become oceans, redistributing.

strengthening people of body
bless this carrying
and blessed, be purified.
water the world:

Nile the Potomac
Jordan the Hudson
Tigris the Isis--

you are my Seine.
embody, begin. downrain
prayers my everywhere, my water,
pray I are all.

day every water for pray.
I faucet your talk. your life.
praise it. thank I drinkable, activated.

. . .

This poem speaks to me on so many various levels, the water imagery, somehow evokes Catholicism, baptism, new life, etc. I am also quite fascintated with the strange yet stimulating negotiation of 'I' /'we' which seems to happen throughout the 'stretch', 'pray I are all.' vs. pray I am all...I is we/thus not so egocentric as 'I' is the voice of an 'us' which completely goes against the grain of the typical voice/speaker. And of course, 'Euphrates, you are my Seine.' echoes this again, Euphrates the river of course, Euphrates 'sweet water'/river of desire and Seine the river also playing on the German Sein / being as well as a seine being a fishing net.... I would like to think that the meaning does in fact encompass all, as it does in the terrific 'I'/'we' of Betsy's poems.

1 comment:

Scott Glassman said...

What I admire most about "rosemary stretch," and there's much to admire in it, is how Betsy works with space, sculpting it with well-thought out precision and using words as anchors and pivots. The poem "stakes is high" is striking in this regard.

Her language becomes mentally synchronized with the physical process of reading it. Single words punctuated with a period on opposite sides of the page correspond with a "leaping" eye movement to get from one to the other. So for example:

sorted. syncopated.


wrapped in colors belted song.

Of course, the space between is more vast that I can reproduce here. I imagine each "pole" as an emotional and connotative anchor point and the distance between them as a dramatized silence like that which occurs poetically between two distinct thoughts, actions, or images.

The poem has a quality of exhaustion to it which matches its chosen form, as form here truly follows content. However, we are launched into a non-ordinary physiological way of reading and entering this exhaustion which is as important in my mind as the content.

I feel a rush to get from one side to the other. For me, there's a tension that comes with floating in limbo in that long interstice, in that state of nothingness and everythingness. I get to the word on the other side and am happy as if I had been rescued from the sea. Betsy I think could be deliberately showing us this "gap" and asking us as participants to experience it and contemplate our reactions to it. The poem is very reader-focused and participant-dependent in that way, which itself creates a beautiful contrast to the intensely personal lyric that hums around its margins. I've no doubt that there is an invisible "I" which is maybe too tired, or over-exerted to appear, or maybe she even purposely restrains it.

I'm glad Susana talked about "Water Jar" because it's another remarkable poem. This stanza is a wonder:

day every faucet for pray.
I faucet your talk. your life
praise it. thank I
drinkable, activated.

It's as if the emotional compression has become so great it has jarred words loose from their normal grammatical positions. I imagine a hundred plastic balls shaken up in a small box. They have nowhere to go but back in on themselves, establishing new positions and roles. "Day" suddenly finds itself as subject instead of object. Faucet is verb now rather than noun. And who doesn't feel violently shaken up like this at some point in their lives? So the method has this terrific phenomenological truth, just like the exhaustion-evoking spatial transpositions of "stakes is high".

Betsy proves here, as others have in this awesome collection of work, that experiment and language-focus not only merges seamlessly with lyrical self, but that focus is integral to helping define the lyrical self, helping it evolve as truthfully as possible in the reader's consciousness. At the same time, it gives us flexibility, creating the potential for us as readers to see how we are reflected in the language and how we absorb it. Rae Armantrout is a poet I can think of off the top of my head who is concerned with finding the lyric in new constellations of linguistic coincidence. Her attempt is sparse, narrow, and minimalistic vs. Betsy's focus on "the space between" (words, stanzas, phrases, etc.) as the principle evocative element.

I look forward to responding to all the books, and I want to thank Susana for doing this project. This is such a warm, ambitious, intelligent, and caring community of poets that I feel honored to be a part of. It certainly has made me look forward to my mail.