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Simon Perchik

in conversation with David Baratier

 
 

Simon's art is that of the painter on canvas, and the surrealist mode, at that, when he is most extreme in his style. To understand him, literally to be able to read him clearly as we read the work of most of his contemporaries, we cannot depend upon the order of his words, nor on his syntax, nor on the idiom - on none of the details that go to form the modern American style.

- David Ignatow

You can read eight poems by Simon Perchik
in this issue of Jacket magazine

 
 


David Baratier: So how did you first find out about Elizabeth Press?

Simon Perchik: I had the Dustbooks directory, and I go in alphabetical order. I don't know who half of these magazines are. I know half of them are out of business by the time I send the envelopes out, but I waste the stamps and send from A to Z, and when I got to E - it was called Elizabeth. The editor, Jim Weil, took a couple and said he liked them, took a couple more and then asked if I would like a book published. Elizabeth Press did six books in total. (Incidentally, for those readers who are interested in this very influential magazine, the complete set can be found in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection of Yale University.)

 
 

Perchik, Jim Weil, Gloria Weil
 
Perchik (left)
with Jim and Gloria Weil
 
Photo copyright © Evelyn Perchik 1999.
 

 
 


      My contact with John Pierce at Dusty Dog (see note 1) was the same way - through his magazine. St. Andrews Press also. The best entree always was through a magazine. The only book not connected to a magazine was the Grolier Press Who Can Touch These Knots (2) and that was because Robert Peters was running the Poet 's Now series and my name came up through Edward Butscher, who recommended me to Peters. Peters is a very good poet incidentally, I remember him back in the 50's.

 
 

 
Note 1. Redeeming the Wings, Dusty Dog Chapbook Series, 1991.
Note 2. Who Can Touch These Knots, New and Selected Poems, The Scarecrow Press, 1985.

 
 

 
David Baratier: How many Poet's Now books did Grolier put out?
 
Simon Perchik: Twelve. Grolier has the benefit of running Scholastic Magazine. They are in with the academic world. It would benefit their press to turn out these poetry books, but they stopped that series. As I was saying the magazines are my entree into getting a book publication. I have to tell you though, David, I don't know if the books really do anything for anybody. The real game in town, the ONLY game in town is the magazines. You get more readership, excellent distribution. If you can forego the vanity of having a book out and are only interested in somebody seeing the poem, your best shot is in a magazine. Even if the magazine folds on the first issue.
 
David Baratier: So you started out in the mid-1950's?

 
 

Perchik family photograph

Perchik family and friends, early 1960s: left to right:
 
Dean Perchik (Si's son), Evelyn Perchik (Si's wife), Sara Blackburn (wife at this time), Rossetti Perchik (Si's other son on steps) Paul Blackburn, and Dorian Perchik (Si's daughter) playing with Peppy the dog(in hat). Photo copyright Simon Perchik © 1999.
 

 
 

Simon Perchik: Well, what happened was I started writing in high school, like everybody does. And then after the army, and I got into NYU under the GI bill, and I wasn't interested in writing but I seemed to hang out with the folks who were. Alfred Chester, Paul Blackburn, and I became close friends, so I started writing again to keep up with those guys. When I finished law school, straight from a BA into law school, I didn't write for about ten years. Then the law practice started to repeat itself, and I always had the summers off so I started writing during the summer, one or two poems. After about fifteen years out of law school my summers were filled with writing. This was because I couldn't mix writing with the law; some people can but I couldn't. But then when I retired in 1980, I started writing seven days a week. I just exploded. I'm still exploding.
 
David Baratier: The Snowcat Poems (see note 3) are part of that period right after retirement?

 

 

 
Note 3. The Snowcat Poems, Linwood Publishers, 1984.

 
 

 
Simon Perchik: Yes, The Snowcat Poems started when I retired, written in 1980-81. I use photographs as a catalyst to work against an idea. Snowcat was written to the photographs of Robert Frank. I've always worked with photographs as a start. Before Snowcat I worked with a book of photos from the Museum of Modern Art called The Camera 's Eye. I finished it in 1980. The last photograph in that collection took a long time to finish, maybe because it was the last one. So I took a break for a couple of months. The next project was about fifty photographs by Robert Frank. I started it because on the cover of that book there was the same photograph as the last photograph in The Camera's Eye. So I figured "here's where I left off" and I bought the Frank book. To start again. And I had the same problem, for a second time I couldn't write to that photograph. It must be a fantastic photo! It's a picture of a flag going across a tenement house and there's a woman holding and peeking out from under it. There's something in that photograph, it's weird.
      I had a very hard time with Robert Frank. He's very morose. Even though I use the photograph for my own purposes, just as a catalyst to write, he was difficult. I use photos as a starting point and see where I go from there. Robert Frank's photographs are so morose that towards the end I thought I was going under. I was so glad when it was over.
      The Family of Man was the next photography book I used. I got about halfway through when I realized: Hey, I might actually make it through. I wrote a poem per photo and the project went to photograph 482. In 1990 when finished that project, I took a little break and began using a book from Edward Weston which has about fifty photos. There is a documentary put out by Time/Life which I'm now using. Man took almost ten years, I remember finishing it. I walked from East Hampton to Bridge Hampton. While walking I felt so alive from it being over.
      But nothing was as grueling as writing to Robert Frank. He was something, unbelievable. Even though I don't appropriate the photograph, I just pick what I can get from it, Frank's photos have an overwhelming, eerie quality. I'd hate to meet him. I never met him and I don't want to.
 
David Baratier: In your transcription from the photograph to the page, what sections do you pick up, what do you believe you are trying to get out of the original that comes across in the poem?
 
Simon Perchik: I use the photograph as a starting point, just enough so I have the manual movement of moving my hand with a pen across the page. It's like priming a pump, you need some water in there to get it going. I just need something to start. This is a picture of a horse, this is a picture of a kid who is - and I keep describing the picture - doing nothing else - nothing is in my mind, just describing the picture.
 
David Baratier: You would write that out in longhand prose for a couple of pages?
 
Simon Perchik: Six or seven pages of this is this, this is this. Then I'll see two things in front of me and I'Il write "What does so and so have to do with so and so, like what does a horse have to with a charm?" I write whatever is in that photo so that something comes out of that pen. It's like a pump, once it starts going, the system working, I will confront it with a contradictory idea because I always feel that if you confront something you will arrive somewhere else; that if you have A and B confronted by C you will get D. I attack what looks to be similar or dissimilar just to stir up the idea and out of that process something from left field will crop up. Like I'm now writing a poem about a photo of a kid on a bicycle selling newspapers and all of a sudden I'm painting a wall. Now how the hell did I get from a kid selling newspapers under his arm, to painting a wall then onto a roller piano?
 
David Baratier: Quite often what you are using the photos for is a methodology to access the poems, you take a look at the nouns or the major configurations of words that seem important in the prose and see how your mind interprets them?

 
 

 
Simon Perchik: Correct! The photo is important only in that it makes me move forward. Not that the photo will ever be in the poem. 99.9 per cent of what is in that photograph never appears. So when people say, "You're writing a poem to a photograph, let me see the photograph" I say, "Listen, they have nothing to do with one another." Very often, there is a need to write. Just as there's a need to talk, and if you feel like writing but you don't know what to write - this is as good a method as any. It works for me. Sometimes these photos are tough to work with. When I get an idea that wasn't there before, like I get out of all of them, an idea of a roller piano with people sitting around it, then its a narrative which most people would say is not yet poetry. So I abstract it, which makes the process even tougher now because the job is not even half done, because the idea alone is peanuts: it means nothing. Then I sit down and make those words do the job of moving; I begin to abstract. I have a bit of distance so craft can come into play. I have to work as agonizingly as I do - at least until the point where I have something to abstract from. Abstracting the idea is emotionally less demanding than creating the idea or scene to abstract from. I've always felt that poetry, to have real power, does not depend upon insight: that's a nice insight, so what - but rather moving the reader in a way where they are unable to say why they are moved; like music. It's not easy, but that is what I try for. When a person finishes reading, they should say "I don't know what the hell that was all about, but I do know something is there." Like Mahler's songs, you don't know what is there but it runs right through you, tears you apart.
 
David Baratier: So a photograph is used to construct a narrative, and then the narrative is abstracted, broken down through the word choice, so that there is a residue of activity left over from the original scene - now twice removed by the time it reaches the poem?
 
Simon Perchik: Yes. In the poem that I'm writing now, the word "piano" will be absent, there will be a roller from the painter and there will be the word "music" - but there will be no word "piano" in the poem. I will leave it to the reader - because the reader has to bring something to the page too. They're not born in a vacuum; they should know that if there is "music," and they see the word "roller" in the poem, then the image or idea of a roller piano should surface. Of course, a lot of the meaning will be lost, thrown away, but if it is caught it will be more powerful. The reader will think they themselves came up with this idea, and that the writer never thought of it, that's the trick. Make the poem so they think they came up with the idea. For example, if you want persuade someone to do something, if you present it in a certain way they will come up to and ask "what if I do this for you?" and you can say: "that's a good idea." You wanted them to say that, so you lead them on to where they grasp it themselves.
      So to revisit the poem, if I do this right, the poem I'm writing now will not have the word "piano," or "player piano," and my hopes are that the reader will grasp the meaning - there is a lot of risk involved - but even if they don't grasp it, nothing is lost, the piece will still hold together.
 
David Baratier: That's interesting. It seems in such opposition to what you said earlier, that poetry was a form of exorcism for yourself, and usually when I think of exorcism, the term "confessionalism" comes to mind, not a poetry such as yours where the reader and the piece supply ideas in tandem.
 
Simon Perchik: See, that's all part of the poem. Once the narrative is out you have exorcised everything you wanted to say. Then craft comes in to make the piece enticing. Then you abstract. The abstracting doesn't do anything for you. The benefit the writer gets out of the process is in the first part, when you get the release. Writing a poem is a form of release - from God knows what - if you knew what you were being released from you wouldn't have to write the poem. And, if you do it right, you can release the reader. If the reader says, "I don't know what happened but I feel different" there is some feeling they have been moved toward. They get the release too. They will say to themselves "why do I feel this way after the poem?" and start to question the whole process. Abstraction exorcises the reader; narrative exorcises the poet.
 
David Baratier: That reminds me a lot of Mallarmé - "what ever is to remain sacred must be shrouded in mystery" - that the field of the page and the words will give you the underlying idea. I was wondering about your influences, if there was a particular person who you studied or studied with early on?
 
Simon Perchik: I'll tell you who was and is a very big influence. I steal shamelessly from musicians. If you read all my poems you'll notice that the opening line has been stolen lock, stock and barrel, from Beethoven. They are all Beethoven chords, every one, bar-rump-pa-pa-rump-pump . I like to think that if you'd like to reach the marrow, you have to break a few bones, and Beethoven is good for that. And if you want to work the marrow you have to use Mahler. The power that Beethoven has combined with the ability of Mahler to go through you. Those are the big influences. Now the writers who are influences, well early on, Paul Blackburn, because when I started writing it was all rhyming shit, and Paul says "Well, you know you don't have to rhyme it." And I'm thinking, "What's this, something new?" (both laughter). So the early poems were rhymes - all iambic pentameter, nothing conversational so Paul says: "write like you talk, be in a vernacular, don't use words that nobody uses." So I started following him and it gave me a little freedom. Another guy who opened me up tremendously was Vincente Aleixandre, even more than Neruda and Neruda was a big influence, but Aleixandre had a way of - well, I'm trying to copy Aleixandre. He is not abstract, but close enough to it. I would like to go a little bit beyond him, but I'd be happy if I could just reach him. And of course, the power that Baudelaire has.

 
 

Perchik (left) with Edward Butscher
 
Perchik (left)
playing chess
with Edward Butscher
 
Photo courtesy The Star newspaper
(Staten Island)
 

 
 


The people who kept me going you could count on one hand. Jim Weil, who published the first six books, Edward Butscher who is probably the guy who today keeps me going, also Anselm Parlatore. Another guy who ran a magazine called Golden Goose, Fredrick Eckman, with another named Emerson who I heard later committed suicide. Eckman and Blackburn meant a lot to me at the beginning. Butscher sees things in my work that I don't see, and I'm not sure that I agree with him but he says that all the poems are written to a sister. That's what he feels, and who am I, I'm the last to know. It's hard to disagree with someone who says anything because if they get "you must hate your mother" from the poem, I'd say "what do you mean I hate my mother, I just sent her flowers." (both laughing) But [Butscher] says a twin sister enters the poem and that the word "hand" was predominant in earlier books. So I depend on these guys to keep me on track. Unfortunately I only have two or three, not a coterie. I'm amazed that I'm so involved with writing now, yet I haven't developed more connections and friends in the field.
 
David Baratier: Do you think a portion of that might lie with your tendency not to do interviews and readings? (see note 4)

 

 

 
Note 4: This is only the second interview Simon has allowed.

 
 

 
Simon Perchik: Perhaps. I like the idea of reading so that I get a free vacation but I dread getting on a stage. Is it really worth it? Maybe I'm better off paying for my own vacation. I don't like to read because I know the audience is not going to get a thing out of it, they're all squirming.
 
David Baratier: Even if they have read the poems before?
 
Simon Perchik: Never. (both laughter) Even if they have read the poem before there will be trouble. Some poets are of the oral tradition, they recite a poem, the audience gets it, and everyone is happy. I'm not in that tradition. I write a poem to be read, not to be heard. And I like to think there are a lot of facets going on, that's why they're not even titled, because I don't want to lock in the reader to a certain direction or meaning. The reader can decide which facet they want to take during each reading. Without a title the poem is left open for the reader to go whichever way they want.
 
David Baratier: Why the asterisk (*) as a poem title, out of any symbol available?
 
Simon Perchik: It could have been anything. Actually, I saw the asterisk in an anthology of Italian poetry and this guy had an asterisk as a title and I said, "Hey, that's nice." So I stole it (both laughter). I was going to use numbers; well, I use them now for bookkeeping because I'm writing so much now I can't keep track of it, and whenever I get an acceptance I ask the editors to change the number to an asterisk. The editors are just as happy because they are bewildered by numbers anyway. To them and to me an asterisk is better than a number. The title has always been a sore spot, even the first chapbook used all asterisks, even in those days I never titled a poem.
 
Perchik in cave



Photo of Simon Perchik (late 1980s) copyright © Evelyn Perchik, 1999.


 
 

 
David Baratier: Your first pieces started coming out in magazines in the early 60's?
 
Simon Perchik: No, it might go back to the fifties, to poems I wrote in school, not much though, maybe a few in Golden Goose. And then nothing until the 60's.
 
David Baratier: So that ten year gap in your writing was from . . . ?
 
Simon Perchik: 1950 to 1960 something like that. Of course the poems published in the fifties were written in say 1945. Now I've got a good story for you. When I started writing again, I didn't know where to send, I didn't even know if Dustbooks was around. And I had a copy of Black Mountain Review. I don't even know where I got it, I guess Paul [Blackburn] gave me it because he was in it or something. So I send poems to them after my ten year absence, and I get back a letter:

 
 

 
Dear Si,
      The magazine folded five years ago. And they gave me your submission to answer you. Sorry we can't publish these, but, by the way, would you get in touch with Cid Corman. It's good to hear from you.

Charles Olson
 

 
 

And I'm thinking "WOW, what a welcome back, I didn't know anyone knew me from ten years ago." Charles Olson apparently, somehow, knew my work and referred me to Cid Corman. So then I figured I better get an updated directory before I send things out. I realized that you can't just send to magazines that are laying around. Charles Olson was very nice, he gave me a blurb for the first book.
 
David Baratier: Did you have a number of correspondences?
 
Simon Perchik: No, just that letter and the one asking him for a blurb (both laughter). That's another thing. I never developed that art. It was funny, he wrote the blurb up and Jim Weil and I couldn't figure out what it said, so we figured "he wouldn't say anything bad" and printed the whole letter on the back of the book.
 
David Baratier: Cid Corman ran Origin at that time?
 
Simon Perchik: Yes, Corman never took a thing of mine for it. I would get back these long letters but he never took a poem. He would write a five page single-spaced typed letter (wow, pause) just to tell me what was wrong with the poem (both laughter). I said, "it' s good I'm not the only crazy guy in world." Imagine bothering to do that.
 
David Baratier: What a big difference between that and trying to publish now, I mean sending out now, if I get a paragraph from a place, that's a lot.
 
Simon Perchik: Well, there aren't too many Cid Cormans around. Cid Corman would probably still write that letter today, he loves to write, except his poems are so small, two words maybe. I kept that letter because I couldn't believe that anyone would do that. Origin was a very influential magazine and so was Black Mountain Review. Another magazine that was influential at that time that I never got in was [Robert] Bly's magazine, the 50's, the 60's. After sending for awhile, finally Bly writes me back "We don't publish the kind of poetry you write." I should have kept that letter. The good part is that today, as opposed to [the way things were in] the 1950's and 1960's, there are a zillion magazines out there, compared to a handful back then.
 
David Baratier: Because of the creation of xeroxing and desktop publishing - our journal [Pavement Saw] has been able to exist because of those two things and the little magazines keep getting bigger and bigger. What do you think of the recent publishing situation?
 
Simon Perchik: I like the magazines that survive, especially the ones that take my work, but the fatality rate is so high that when they take a poem I think "Oh, God, I hope they will be around long enough for the magazine to come out." It reminds me, I once went out to visit Eckman, I think it was in Ohio, and he had a library from when he ran the magazine Golden Goose. He would trade other journals for his own, and he converted his living room into a library with shelving down the middle of the room, three stacks with nothing else. What a goldmine, from a collector' s point of view, of what once existed, what a source -
 
David Baratier: While you have mentioned the magazines you haven't appeared in, what magazines were you published in fairly early on?
 
Simon Perchik: The magazines I appeared in, I appeared in cold, like the Partisan Review. I never got a letter saying "nice work let's see more." Printed rejection slip, printed rejection slip, then all of a sudden a letter "thank you, we're printing it in the next one." Same with the New Yorker, printed rejection, printed rejection, next thing I know I get a phone call of acceptance. And that's classy, calling you and telling, you they are accepting a poem. They had a problem with the title too, with the asterisk or the number. So Alice Quinn says, "You have to have a title. We'll use the first line, ok?"
 
David Baratier: How long ago was that?
 
Simon Perchik: About a year or so ago. (Ed. note, 1994)
 
David Baratier: How many poems do you keep in the mail these days?
 
Simon Perchik: Quite a few. It's called carpet bombing. Three times a year, I used to do it four times a year, I write out all the envelopes from The International Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses so there's no emotional involvement, I've got everything written out and all the return envelopes . . . 
 
David Baratier: Every single listing in the directory? (see note 5)

 
 

 
Note 5. The current directory has well over 6,000 entries.

 
 

 
Simon Perchik: Yes, but just those that publish poetry. Well, half of them are already out of business. I then go to my spring binder that has all the poems that have not been accepted and make photocopies to fill as many envelopes as I can. When they come back all I do is the mechanical act of taking the submission from the rejected envelope into a new one with a stamp and out it goes. No emotion involvement. I just feel it's coming back and out it goes again.
 
David Baratier: We're talking about hundreds of poems here.
 
Simon Perchik: Hundreds of poems all in the air like a juggler. But don't forget, I'm writing at an intense pace. I don't know anybody who is writing as much as I write. Most people have to earn a living and fortunately I do not. I don't have a job, and I'm a little compulsive, so I write. That way they don't call you a bum, if they see you some place doing something they say "oh, he's a writer, no need to throw stones at him" (both laughter).
 
David Baratier: What advice would you offer regarding responses from editors of magazines?
 
Simon Perchik: You are going to get into a bind if you listen to those people. You are not going to write any different than what you are already writing. I think it is a mistake for writers to even encourage asking an editor what they think. The only way to survive in the business of sending poems is to do it objectively, not get involved. A lot of times I would get a letter and I wouldn't even answer the letter, just send another batch of poems. I don't want to get involved in this, either they like the poem or they don't, what difference does it make - all this bullshit back and forth with the letter. I wouldn't get involved with their opinion, wouldn't want it, wouldn't listen to it, because if you try too hard on the business end then it will ultimately take away energy from turning out the work itself. I think you have to separate the two, just treat sending out as cold and calculated. Sooner or later something will happen.

 
 

Perchik and family
Perchik and family and friends, circa 1960. Rose Ignatow, Evelyn Perchik (Si's wife), Rosetti Perchik (son), Yaedi Ignatow (Dave & Rose's daughter), Dorian Perchik (daughter), Si (with Dorian's arm around his neck), Dave Ignatow (at the very end), Photo copyright © Dean Perchik 1999.
 

 
 

David Baratier: What are your thoughts on the duration for return of submissions?
 
Simon Perchik: Two months is nothing to hold a submission. That is another thing that bothers me. These magazines will hold work for a year, a year. They think you will live forever. The best thing a writer can do, while everyone wants the encouragement of an editor saying, "I think what you are doing is worthwhile," is to acknowledge that the process is not solely about recognition. The writer gets something out of writing the poem and if a poem is published that is a plus. The trick is not to get discouraged, because the person who is rejecting it may or may not know what they are doing. It's not like you run a race, there's ten guys in a race and there is a string and the first guy who crosses the string wins. That has a degree of certitude to it. With poetry, the editors are interested in a certain type and perhaps you are not that type. You send the same poem to another magazine and you're in. If you don't recognize that fact, you'll get into trouble and think the piece is no good.
 
David Baratier: I wanted to ask about your original use of jarring punctuation and syntax, of course you have probably been hearing that for years.
 
Simon Perchik: Yes. It's the punctuation that people have the problem with, that odd displacement of the colon. It could be any symbol. The use of the colon is a symbol, oddly displaced as to alert the reader that a metaphor is taking place - without the prose statement of "this is like this."
 
David Baratier: Do you find punctuation to be a more appropriate vehicle for metaphor?
 
Simon Perchik: Yes. It's a poetic expression of a metaphor, rather than a prose expression. A metaphor, by definition is prose. Whereas, if you place the two nouns together separated by an odd displacement of a colon, it tells the reader, "Hey, just stop a minute, compare." Just like placing a period at the end of the sentence means to take a breath. Since a sentence begins with capitalization, the reader notices you are going to begin or end a sentence. Similarly, when another punctuation occurs within a sentence, the reader will notice. When the punctuation separates two comparative nouns, without the prose statement that these are similar, or dissimilar, it allows the reader to compare and to establish the relationship. Sometimes the relationship is a bit far fetched but if you were to write it out in prose, all the tension would be lost. The reader would be stopped dead with explanation. Whereas if they got the metaphorical relationship, it is understood in an instant and if they didn't get it, so they didn't get it. Maybe the next time they read it . . .
 
David Baratier: And that's where the risk steps in, when the reader doesn't understand one of the metaphorical relationships, or a number of them. How do you yourself judge your own piece and say "this one works, this one fails?"
 
Simon Perchik: I can't. Some work, some don't. That's the risk you have to take. Something I learned from Aleixandre was that you could start with a thought that makes no sense. For example, "a book opens the way a tree turns green." That you can go 90 miles an hour in four words, cover a lot of area through the technique of twisting your images very quickly. He does that without punctuation, with just the words, but then that's risk expressing the idea in poetic terms. It's a tough business (laughter). Sometimes I spend two weeks on a poem, some times a week - never less than that. And this is full time, from 9 or 10 o'clock until 4 o'clock. Every day for at least a week, sometimes two.
 
David Baratier: So you go through the process in an intense space, it's not like you are writing a poem, forget about it, then go back to it leisurely?
 
Simon Perchik: No. I work continuously until I'm sick of the poem. Then it's finished. But, I will not leave a poem alone until I think it's finished because I'd go crazy if I kept coming back. Maybe that's not the way to do it, but it's the way I do it. Everything can be improved, whether it's economical to spend all that time improving it, whether it will improve that much, that is the question. I know there are a lot of people who will write just the idea, leave it alone, then go onto something else. Not me. My concentration is intense, I am entirely focused on one poem, and I can't fill my head with anything but that one particular poem at that particular time. When it's done, instantly I forget it and move onto something: else. Never go back.
 
David Baratier: When you mentioned dropping the poem after a certain period, I was reminded of something Jack Spicer said "everything occurs in series" and that when the series is over you just stop, no finale. Your titles lend the poems towards being interpreted as a series, especially in books such as The Gandolf Poems (see note 6) or The Snowcat Poems, where there seems to be an unwritten epicenter to the work . . . Are they a series?

 
 
 
Note 6. The Gandolf Poems, White Pine Press, 1988.

 
 

 
Simon Perchik: No. You could take any poem from any of the books and put it in any of the other books. One poem has nothing to do with the next. Perhaps there is a lag of certain images, like a paint poem where paint comes up in the next poem, an image lag from one poem to another which then disappears. Certainly it is not meant to be a series.
 
David Baratier: That was what I wanted to mention next, the numbering or asterisk has a tendency to give the editor or reader the idea of an ongoing narrative, an editor might assume there is a narrative running between your submissions.

Simon Perchik

Simon Perchik: Yes, they ask "Where's the rest of the poems in this series?" The last thing in my mind is connecting one to another. Sometimes the thought may be strong enough to carry through into the next poem but that's not intended, it just happens. They are all independent, Like all the ones written from the Family of Man, they are not in series. Though each photograph might be connected slightly to the next. There is not an intended continuity. Except, maybe there is this one theme - death running through all of the work, like Butscher seems to think there is a lot of mourning involved. And if that is a continuity, a theme, then maybe that is in most of my poems everywhere.
 
David Baratier: Well, the hand theme has gradually disappeared, lightened up in usage from the beginning to where it is now. Perhaps it's because it has been brought to your attention?
 
Simon Perchik: Good observation! But I still use the word stone a lot, and it's been brought to my attention, but I still use it because I just love it, I'm comfortable with the word. I use stone in so many poems that people may think there is a continuity between poems with the word stone, if there is, it's unintentional. That's for sure.

You can read three poems by Simon Perchik
in this issue of Jacket magazine

 
 

Simon Perchik: Select Bibliography
 
¶ I Counted Only April (1964) Wrappers. The Elizabeth Press
¶ Twenty Years of Hands (1966) Boards. The Elizabeth Press
¶ Which Hand Holds The Brother (1969) Boards. The Elizabeth Press
¶ Hands You Are Secretly Wearing (1972) Boards, Wrappers. The Elizabeth Press
¶ Both Hands Screaming (1975) 70pp. Boards, Wrappers. The Elizabeth Press
¶ The Club Fits Either Hand (1979) Boards, Wrappers. The Elizabeth Press
¶ Mr Lucky (1984) Shearsman books
¶ The Snowcat Poems 1980-81, To the Photographs of Robert Frank (1984) Boards, Trade Paperback. Linwood Publishers
¶ Who Can Touch These Knots: New and Selected Poems (1985) Boards. Poets Now 9. The Scarecrow Press
¶ The Gandolf Poems (1988) Trade Paperback. White Pine Press
¶ Redeeming The Wings (1991) Wrappers. Dusty Dog Press
¶ The Emptiness Between My Hands (1993) Wrappers. Dusty Dog Press
¶ Letters to the Dead (1993) Trade Paperback. St. Andrews College Press
¶ * (1994) Wrappers. Shearsman #19 (new series). Shearsman Books
¶ These Hands Filled With Numbness (1996) Wrappers. Dusty Dog Press
¶ Hands Collected 1949-1999 (2000) Trade Paperback. Limited Edition Hard cover. Pavement Saw Press  


I want to thank Dorian Bergen, Simon's daughter, who kindly let me conduct the interview at her apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan.     [D.B.]
 

You can read four poems by David Baratier
in Jacket # 7.

 

J A C K E T  # 8  Contents page 
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