At least two things preoccupy this collection and one of them is doubleness.
This is the eighth collection of poetry I’ve written. As in the present volume, most of these have just consisted of whatever publishable work I wrote at random within a given period of time (The two exceptions being Full Circle, a series of largely chronological haiku organized around the four seasons, and Dead Time, what was mostly a collection of documentary prison poems which all implausibly disappeared from my personal effects during a prison transfer) So the obvious danger here is that I might begin to repeat myself and, like many artists before (And after) me, become a mechanical facsimile of the creative writer I previously was.
Conscious of this though, and still stimulated by the creative possibilities of poetry, I’ve continued to strive for originality while experimenting with unused themes and techniques. For example, although I’ve written a few poems about the world of painting in the past (To the Young Tahitian Woman, Dali Says Fuck You, etc) the reader can observe for themselves that fine art is a subject matter of particular interest throughout this collection. The reason for this, the seed in fact, was a poem I wrote in my last collection (1985 and Other Poems) titled “Civic Anti-Poetry” whose opening stanza envisioned its generic city through a cubist lens. This then got me thinking about the application of cubist principles to written art forms, specifically the approaches of early analytical and synthetic cubism, and the result of those deliberations ended up being the poem “Incidents Involving Commercial Aircraft.” One of my better ones I think.
But while I was pleased with the outcome here, I remained uncharacteristically preoccupied with the idea of cubism. During the writing of IIAC, I’d extrapolated a certain set of guidelines which I relied on to give general shape to the work: these being the cubist focus on intersecting perspectives, where the object is presented from multiple angles simultaneously, the promotion of incongruity to emphasize the dynamic reality of the object, and the reduction of form to its essentials so that the soul of the object is uncluttered by extraneous details. With IIAC, the first of these were used to create temporal simultaneity as well as spatial simultaneity, something that wasn’t prominent in the visual works of the cubists I was familiar with and something I thought was better depicted through literary means anyways. But after the poem was finished, I felt I was still far from having exhausted the ore of literary possibilities here. As such, I returned to it during the writing of this collection and produced one paradigmatically cubist poem, both in terms of theme and technique (This was “Re: Braque”) as well as a few other poems that attempted to achieve the same kind of poetic translation for other contemporaneous visual art movements. Clearly this kind of fascination could be indulged endlessly, the varieties of art are without limit, but for now I think I’m content here.
As a personal aside, I should add that I wasn’t familiar with the history of cubist literature when all this started. If pressed, I’d have replied that cubist literature must have been produced during its original historical period, and after, but I wasn’t aware of any significant works in this respect. Since then, after the writing of “Re: Braque” but before completing “First Word” I did have a chance to read some interesting poetry from that era but, of these, only Gertrude Stein’s “Identity a Poem” was of notable worth – while also appearing to have a significant cubist influence (And it’s probably the first Stein poem I’ve truly enjoyed)
Another motif that occurs throughout this collection revolves around the concepts of duality, twinness, contradiction, inversion, and symmetry. As such, many of the poems are paired; some more obviously than others. While I’m not a proponent of dualism by any means, it should be acknowledged that duality circumscribes the existential foundations of every form of being (Things exist or they don’t) and so duality is rightly understood as the primary phase of any creative process. The origination of something is always an act of division and the creation story of Genesis supports that much. Of course, poetry and literature are lower orders of creation, depending more on pre-existing material, but they too participate in the basic ontological parameters of reality and so a writer will remain crippled in their abilities as long as they fail to properly appreciate this.
Further confirmation then that self-reflection is important. And I’m not just saying this for effect here. I often reread my own work to better understand it, scrutinizing something different on each perusal, while also contemplating the same questions that initially animated me during the writing process. Because I don’t often get feedback on my writing, I don’t really know whether the full range of thought I’m putting in to it is having any impact on those who read it; but it’s there. I’m firmly of the opinion, and perhaps this is the minority view, that the value of art is largely objective and that the merits of any artistic work are verifiable by the appropriate means of analysis. Of course that claim itself demands justification but, consistent with this, I think its own justification can be easily provided in a perfectly forthright manner. To that end, I will try something else here for the first time.
At the conclusion of the poem sequence in this book, commentary on the sixteen poems I consider my best will be added. In truth, “First Word” would probably benefit the most from explication due to its numerous puns and allusions but, while I think it’s an accomplished Dadaist poem (Or pseudo-Dadaist poem really because it erects a Dadaist façade over a rational framework) the Dadaist aesthetic grates against my own personal preferences and as such it’s not one of my favorite pieces of writing. On the contrary, it was more an exercise in proving to myself that I could meet the challenge here. Again, I still have a desire to improve my own artistic powers, so I frequently write things that don’t gratify my immediate cravings but serve the more fundamental gratification of greater creative development. In short, I try to overcome my personal limits to fulfill my potential. And that brings me now to the subject of the individual’s own prejudices.The title of this collection comes from a prevailing interest in bias. Every manner of choice is colored to some degree with bias and that makes the phenomenon of bias something of fundamental importance. But an investigation into bias receives no special protection from the effects of bias on account of this; bias still has to be conscientiously rooted out wherever selection takes place. Bias is everywhere. Even in the introductions to poetry collections
This illuminated face
Mirrored in clouds of dust,
The toxic exhale of a slain millennium
A wail of molten metal
Trickling down the broken carcasses
Of felled concrete, giants
Pulverized to unrecognizable ruin
And the bewildered
Wandering in fearful silence
Twins also –
alf before, half after