Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999
Subject: Jacket #8 / Perchik-Baratier interview : ~reply

Ekphrasis. Yes, an ekphrasis.

I had wanted to mention the Jacket / Perchik-Baratier interview back
when the list was discussing that topic "What should a standard cover
letter include?" and all our resident editors were contributing how
submitters should subscribe and scrutinize literary magazines and flatter
the editors in the first paragraph. Perchik, some say the most widely
published of all contemporary poets, says this on his strategy for

"It's called carpet bombing. Three times a year, I used to do it four times a
year, I write out all the envelopes from The International Directory of Little
Magazines and Small Presses
so there's no emotional involvement, I've
got everything written out and all the return envelopes . . . When they
come back all I do is the mechanical act of taking the submission from the
rejected envelope into a new one with a stamp and out it goes. No
emotion involvement. I just feel it's coming back and out it goes again."

Wouldn't it be interesting to know what other tactics our more widely
published poets use. Are we to imagine that all these other writers put in
the hours necessary to thoroughly familiarize oneself with the literary
journal horizon?

Perchik comes across as a highly plain-spoken man,--- but I thought his
"revelation" about using photography books as the basis for all his poetry
had tempting theoretical implications. After all, the opacity of his elliptical
poems reads as constructivist, doesn't it? One tries --- I try --- to read
him, like anyone's poem, by interrelating the material I'm presented with,
and seeing what congruences can be drawn. But, from what Perchik
tells us, we now see that any attempts at interpretation we've made had
been calculated on the basis of what economics calls "incomplete
." His entire output is an ekphrasis, and if we were to see
those source pictures side-by-side with their respective poems, many
things that previously had appeared non sequitur, unexplained, or
gratuitous would now jump out of the picture's frame as justified, even
mandatory. It turns the sacred cow of referentiality/non-referentiality
around on its horns. --- With other similar poetry, this pitfall of "incomplete
information" usually turns up in the form of unstated autobiographical
associations. Perhaps naively, for example to name only one, I was
surprised to hear Ann Lauterbach's spoken introductions to her poems at
poetry readings, where "fragments," as she calls her new style, that
were hitherto inaccessible to me and read as autonomous inventions, in
fact related back on an almost point-by-point basis to personal
experiences she could identify, such as a trip around the coastline of
Greece with--- John Hollander! To name two, there's an interview on the
Net that I've lost track of, with John Ashbery, where Ashbery is asked to
comment specifically on that poem of his that starts with the place-name
"Nagoya", mention of "boy scouts", etc.; and he delineates that one
obscurity about architecture goes back to his being stranded in the
walled city of Chester, and that another came from him literally being at
the Empire State Building (can you believe this?) and seeing a pack of
boy scouts get off an elevator all with "Nagoya" on their baseball caps,
and so on. (Cretan fallacy?) It's phenomenological, guys, but I can't help
but think these distinctions do matter. (Personally, I have an aversion
to a poetic principle that can be re-codified back into personal
information.) Perchik's method just makes the role of concealed,
supplementary information explicit--- hey! as though all these
unannotated associations could be consumed back into one great
Family of Man Wittgensteinian picture theory book!

Perchik also defies poet interview expectations by, aside from casual
mentions of Corman, Olson, or Blackburn in a different context, having
virtually nothing to say, being asked nothing, about literary influences,
canon, or contemporaries.