Diane Di Prima’s R.D.’s H.D. is part of the Lost & Found series. This lecture / chapbook series is delightful—and by delightful I mean my inner poetry-pirate is dancing gleefully over word-treasures retrieved from the depths of an archival ocean.
According to the project write-up:
Lost & Found: the CUNY Poetics Document Initiative emerges from archival work and contemporary textual scholarship being done by students in the English Program at theGraduateCenter of the City University of New York…
By looking in particular at extra-poetic work by writers who have come to characterized or fall under the rubric of the New American Poetry, the Initiative can illuminate still largely unexplored terrain of this essential field of 20th-century American literary history and culture…
The key is for these texts not to be chosen as historical curiosities but for their ability to intervene and intersect with conditions and interpretations of the present.
What I found in Diane Di Prima’s 16 page lecture is a map—yes, a treasure map! The compressed nature of her lecture gives significant keys to learning many new layers to poetry. It will take me 16 years to walk the pathways Di Prima offers in R.D’s H.D., but for now I have her insights on “The Poetics of Influence.”
Di Prima explains:
In proposing a series called “The Poetics of Influence” Aaron Shurin opened for me the issue of the actual creativity or poesis involved. Poesis of Influence. Simply, that the one influenced cast a selective light on the influencer. Creates or re-creates the Daemon or Genius or Star under which s/he is working by seeing and highlighting those aspects under which speak to her/him.
no two poets have ever been “influenced” by the same Dante, or the same Shakespeare. Keats’ Shakespeare and Yeats’ Shakespeare walk (stride) in different universes. One could say that in the world of the imagination the Influencer, if s/he is touched with Genius, becomes infinite, one infinity of many out of which the Influenced is free to choose the set or series which suits his/her purpose. One imagines the Great Dead who sat for Blake sitting also for Picasso or Goya. Those differences.
Imagining “those differences” is enthralling (but it is terrifying). “Those differences” echo the complications of Derrida’s Differance (the mark of the future and the past in a present moment which is neither).
She explains the relationship between Robert Duncan and H.D. as:
In one sense the H.D. Book is a book of lineage, a tracing of continuation of traditions in Robert Duncan’s life, in H.D.’s life. The ways they [influencer and influenced] run parallel, the places where they touch or diverge. As the prose itself touches, gathers itself into a node or nexus of correspondence or spins off in a thousand directions, breaks and regathers.
Yes. Yes. Yes. This is it isn’t it? “The” reason for writing—at least my reason for writing. It is family. It is always family—or to stretch the word family to the familiar—writing is an effort to maintain contact with what/who is loved—regardless of time, space, or disturbance. With writing what/who is loved can always be reached—even if such ties require complete reinventions of the self.
Writing then can be seen as a devoted practice of “loving” and “letting go.” (I’m still working on the “letting go; I’m rather a failure at that part of the process.)
If poetry is in the heights and depths—lineage is the map to reaching heights and depths. Di Prima explains,
Lineage works on us through two perpendicular planes or fields which converge in the poet. there is the influence, the Ear-Whispered Transmission through time…And there is also mouth-to-earness of our own era, what touches our living ear (flesh) through the moving air.
There will always be greater heights and deeper depths with love (and poetry). They are with “your blood and your stars.” I’m beginning to realize that when I say “I wish I could write better” I really mean “I wish I could love better.”
This Easter, I gave eggs filled with Di Prima’s words to Vegas Pirates and California Dinosaurs. (Time is collapsing with every treasure found–and with every scattered circumstance, time is the treasure found.)
Spring Blessing to All.