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Rachel Blau DuPlessis: Draft 89: Interrogation

Why did all this so affect you?
The thirst in every direction.

Where does one go from here?
This was not intended as an impasse.

Are you ready?
Never have been.

Do you claim you are the author of these terms?
No, this was something beyond authorship.

Were you glad to submit?
It became a condition of my employment.

Answering to what, exactly?
Two words, a poem of hers once: “cold ashes.”

When did this happen?
This time long ago, but still this time.

Is this your actual level of despair?
Sometimes, some places. No. Yes.

What kind of confession is this?
I am confessing nothing, just stating some facts.

Don’t be naïve.
I can confess to that.

Where did you hear this?
On the web, in the air, over here, over there.

You seem to listen preternaturally.
When I heard her saying it, it was as if I had said it.

So you have made a true statement?
I don’t know; it’s a statement come from somewhere.

This has too much vagueness: somewhere, sometimes.
I am just answering, you are asking.

Yet this can’t summarize your real opinion.
I don’t want to give up poetry —

And she did not give up writing...
but every day I give up on poetry.

Why do you say this? It seems sentimental.
The adequacy of language produced, and language received.

Is it possible to know what might be found here?
Someone twisted in self-interrogation.

What is the method?
Why here, why this, why now, why me, and what is this?

But you say this isn’t written in your “voice”?
No. It is not, and it is also not not.

So you are lying.
In this case these terms cannot remain absolute.

Don’t you repeatedly invoke the term sincerity?
I have been suffused with something authentic.

But this is not yours.
It is now.

That is a shocking statement.
Though I was not ever like that, the early style.

What do you mean?
I was neither metaphoric, nor fluent, nor rewarded.

Then why make this claim, why use it?
It comes from a place in me that is a place in us.

When you ventriloquize her, doesn’t this raise an ethical question?
Yes, in that the thinking comes from between us, an ethical zone.

Who is us; how can you use this word repeatedly?
You asked the question, that at least was right.

Would she accept this poem, given what you have added?
I offer apologies, respect, intransigence.

Then you are speaking only to the dead.
I am speaking only to or from the Call.

“Death is the mother” of poetry, or “of beauty,”
whichever comes first?

No, everything is the “mother” of poetry (like vinegar?),
the merest flicker to the side is, don’t you see it?

Do you think of yourself as her equal?
I think of myself as your equal.

You are putting yourself on the same plane with her.
This is an accusation? We both lived in the 20th century.

You have appropriated her poem, even abused it.
Between the points that shift

when I listens and you speaks
we both wander a third grammar, a tertium quid.

What did you seek to accomplish by doing this?
To touch the wires between us along microtones of pitch.

What do you mean by “between”?
This is the hardest to explain.

There is a sense beyond empathy
where some pain and rage simply enter you.

Are you saying you don’t feel empathy?
I have empathy. I am talking about a visceral sense

beyond, where the universe and the political facts
and the particulars of shock and numbness cross and meet in you

making an entanglement or a net of entrapment
that the word “between” begins to answer for.

Do you enact this “between” in your actual life as lived?

Only sometimes?
Sometimes only.

Doesn’t this indict your stated goal?
At close range.

Why not draw on other theories of poetry
— pleasure, elegance, wit, affirmation?

Take nothing for granted. We gather up our
nothingness and wait inside the unbearable.

So is this “depression”?
You have learned nothing.

You mean to back away?
No, really to begin.

How can you possibly continue?
We all have unfinished business together.

Doesn’t your cogito depend on the silence of others?
No comment.

What do you suggest?
“The whole/ language to/ unlearn” — have we unlearned it enough?

Are there any auspicious signs?
This work; is it delusional?

You are answering questions with questions.
There’s something wrong with that?

Is this an interim, or is this the real thing?
“I still haven’t been able to figure out what happened here.”

July and October 2007

Notes to Draft 89: Interrogation. This poem was occasioned most directly by the writing of  “Draft 88: X-Posting,” varying a poem by Ingeborg Bachmann. “Death is the mother of beauty,” is from Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning.” There is a citation from Bob Perelman: “The whole/ language to/ unlearn.” IFLIFE, NY: Roof Books, 2006, 25. The final line, “I still haven’t been able to figure out what happened here,” is by Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren [1974]. NY: Vintage Books, 2001, 459. This draft is on the “line of 13.”

You can read a companion piece, ‘Draft 88: X-Posting’, in this issue of Jacket here.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Rachel Blau DuPlessis announces a new Draft, Draft 85: Hard Copy, mapped on "Of Being Numerous," by George Oppen.
and announces her newest book, now available from
Torques: Drafts 58-76. Cambridge, UK: Salt Publishing, 2007. She has new work read on PennSound and both new work and some translations of Drafts into French on Her website is

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