After “Remember What I Came Here to Do to This World Very Little Actually”

Jen Currin

Genie Bottle

Identity          heinous pity                    too clumsily

I keep trying to be honest in this glittering wind

The best poets  who        More real than

At four a book I rip

’84 poisonous

I guiltily inhale

Shaman-body, a soldier I love more than myself

So foolish as to

As to borrow a country’s empty-handed surprise

Did I ever

Did I equal

Women on the way

Authority to recognize           (did I)

Imagination’s vivid graves

Difficult to complete               Poor enough

So foolish          a shape           so human

I find you

A war in dream-form and caress

Presumed generous

A hate sequence of dried reason and influence

What else                    What else

“Remember What I Came Here to Do to This World Very Little Actually” is one of my favorite Alice Notley poems, and when Edmund asked me to participate in this project, I knew right away that this was the poem I wanted to work with. It is deeply moving, and some of its lines (“I was against all war and loved mostly soldiers,” “I keep trying to be honest in this glittering wind”) stay with me as meditations.

I also wanted to work with this poem because its form has also stuck with me, and influenced my writing. One poem I wrote a couple of years ago, not realizing at the time how much I was borrowing from this one, consists of a series of truncated thoughts/sentences that begin with “Because.” I thought of using it for this project, but I wanted to work directly with Notley’s language, to see if I could go deeper into the poem by “translating” it into one of “my own.” I’m intrigued by the cut-off statements in Notley’s poem; what is left unsaid haunts as much as what is said. I tried to capture this in a few of the lines, although I found that my translation became more and more fractured the longer I worked on it. Certain words or combinations of words seemed to want to stand on their own. A hesitant or halting breath emerged in response to Notley’s unfinished statements.

This poem is also a great example of Notley’s radical use of the “I”; she starts every line with it. “Identity” contains “I” and so seemed the perfect “in” when I started working on the poem. How to navigate a truthful, personal place in a world of such dehumanizing corruption and pain? How to stay “honest in this glittering wind”? In homage to Notley, and with gratitude for her important work, I have tried to address (or maybe just re-ask) these questions in my poetic response.

Constellation: Alice Notley
[#] Birkbeck Centre for Poetics
[#] Openned Video Constellation of Readings
[#] Return to “Intercapillary Space” Notley Contents page


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