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.


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.


Raúl Zurita: ‘I am that which my poetry dictates I am’

Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, speaking with Forrest Gander:

05.12.2007 Entrevista al Escritor nacional Raul Zurita.  Foto: Patricio Fuentes


“I don’t feel like I have an ethical duty. I think that if you have a poem or a work of art and you give it a duty to be something, you impose something upon it. And I think that is the beginning of all fascisms: that poetry should be this or that poetry should be that. I think that the poem itself grounds its own ethical commitment, not the person who writes that poem.”

“Since Homer, poetry has consisted in placing oneself in the place of another. If that supplanting does not exist—in other words, to say, ‘I was there’—there’s no language. There’s not poetry, there’s not civilization, there’s nothing. To use language is to put oneself in the place of another.”

“The problem isn’t to say that literature is a product of capitalism. And, of course, a book doesn’t change history, at least not in that immediate moment. Poetry doesn’t have any power. However, if all those who do write poetry were to stop writing poetry, humanity would disappear in the following five seconds. Because that would mean that all of the possibility, all of the dream of the possibility of change, were over. And no one survives five minutes without that.”

“The poet goes with his dead poems, carrying them to the sea, and waits to see if the tide rises to take those works to another shore, in hopes that another poet will take those works for that poetry to be reborn. It is the situation of today’s poetry that great poems continue to be written, but its sphere of influence, its limit, is two thousand copies. It’s incomparable with an effort of Nike. And nonetheless, in those poems all of the keys are contained of the possibilities of a different world.”

Ellipses are omitted in the above quotations. Listen to the whole conversation here, including the ridiculously lovely voices of Zurita, Gander, and translator Anna Deeny.