A few thoughts on “Hop, Skip, Jump”

The Town Crier (the blog for The Puritan) has posted a few thoughts on “Hop, Skip, Jump.” What I failed to mention to them is my devastating inability to perform the triple jump, known in the seedy track-and-field world as the hop, skip, jump.

(Edit: after the migration of The Town Crier to its new website, I thought I’d fight the chaos of the internet by also posting those thoughts below.)

“Hop, Skip, Jump” neither attempts formal experimentation nor chances on it. The two of us are less interested in language than in image and story. More exceptional poetry, that written as a grammatically disrupted visual field, for instance, actively disinterests me. The words scattered across the page are at once too inert and too grandiose—stripped of syntactic musculature, tossed down like bones, begging for interpolation, as if a reader’s pleasure were in deciphering some internal divinity. There’s an encounter with the self that confirms the self. It’s not even mad libs.

But if imagistic or narrative densities are achieved, if they are set into collusion and conflict across the page, that page becomes more of a spatial field. The reader, secondary, encounters an independent organism or enters a system already in motion. “Hop, Skip, Jump” is foremost a set of synchronic stories. Its quadrants can be read as integrally or permeably as you like—as split-screens, counter-testimonies, seasons of insufficiency, you name it—but their friction aims to unsettle, to dissatisfy, to leave a bad taste, to leave you out.

Only on rare occasions do I not eat food that I’ve dropped on the floor. I once dropped a piece of peppercorn steak, picked a hair off it, ate it, then picked up a peppercorn and popped that into my mouth. When I start to bite down, it doesn’t feel quite firm enough, so I spit it into my hand and watch with growing disgust and abjection as the peppercorn starts shivering, wobbling, splitting open, waving a dozen little hairs from inside it. I never forget the feeling of that pill bug unrolling like a sleeping bag in my hand. This stamping of the reader is exactly what a poem should do.

pill_bug

Or the form of “Hop, Skip, Jump” is mainly a result of its mode of production: I type on A4 paper, and I like my poems to fit on one page.

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