Juliana Spahr tells us, with gusto, “poets need to know the names of things.” This comes from a preface to a poem on the isolation of nature poetry and the emergence of ecopoetics in her book well then there now. Juliana’s expectation for micro actions in language to have major consequences challenges what coalesces under the sign of poetry in our times; “it is as the problems of analogy.”
How to push a thought is deeply ingrained in Juliana’s sense of a sentence. A thought is chopped up and cascades in circular ways. The experience of reading Spahr’s prose can be like riding a gentle rollercoaster, or rather, the moment the rollercoaster ends and you return to the original starting point but from the opposite end and it all looks different. Maybe this is the way of relenting as a reader and giving over agency to the poet to name things.
Spahr’s sentence is alluring but it is also a little chiding and tough. It is calm and to the point when it is not a “whirligig.” If the sentence is posed as a connective form, then the questions of togetherness are heightened, if and when we consider how collaborative Spahr’s writing, continually vast editing projects, and free skool organizing have been. So that one poet writing is always thinking of how other poets are writing.
In An Army of Lovers, Spahr’s most recent book co-written with David Buuck, I wanted to find the Spahr sentences and find the Buuck sentences, or who wrote what, which is the opposite of what the togetherness designs. Perhaps this was a sort of guilty pleasure of the reader to test the collaboration’s collaborativeness. Then a closer maybe better reader of the book said to me that it was Spahr writing the poet loosely based on Buuck and Buuck writing the poet loosely based on Spahr.
The awareness of what is a poet’s style and how that is employed even in how they walk down the street and sit on a plot of land and pack their bag with a certain row of pens in case the one pen they need isn’t there or working and the way one sits in their office at work or the office at the doctor because the vulnerability of bodies in this time is as intense as the question of why write poetry? To this end, An Army of Lovers serves as a new model for documenting performance art, relieving the disruptive camera from the scene, relieving the burden of uploading the images and consuming them, and otherwise employing the observation of naming the circulations of thoughts in and outside a poets’ actions as highly accountable movements.