Rachel DuPlessis has a new book of ‘Drafts’ out – her open-ended series of separate yet inter-connected poems. This book Pitch: Drafts 77-95 goes until Draft 95. I wonder if she will go past the number of 114 that she semi-randomly set for herself as a final Draft. Here is the account of how that happened:
Bob Perelman asked me, not quite casually, ‘how many of them there would be.’ I hadn’t considered the question consciously, but unconsciously I was ready. So I answered, ‘100, llike Pound’s Cantos.’ … [which] means many things, but one thing is immediately clear – the number is wrong; I was fusing Pound and Dante, something Pound always encouraged in comments about his project. The Cantos actually go along an infinite line of numbers, for Pound’s last title numbers were CXVII et seq. suggesting unmistakably that even more Catnos would emerge. So the number 114 offers a total approximately parallel to the Cantos but also just a usefully large number…’
I’ve always found this a sort of weirdly casual way of making a fundamental decision about such a long poem. It both sort of annoys and intrigues me. Also find it puzzling that DuPlessis (who wrote her Doctorate about sexism in long modernist poems) sets herself so obviously and explicitly up against Pound, as if she if inviting a specific anxiety of influence, inviting him to be a father figure who she needs to deal with. Why? I just don’t get it, it tastes strange.
In any case, Ron Silliman once wrote somewhere on his blog that he has urged her not to stop there. I can imagine that she indeed might just go on until the bitter end. I mean it would be strange to first spend more than 25 years writing over one hundred Drafts and then start what? Writing short poems again? I’m thinking of Proust and Olson who just kept working (on the same project) until they stopped ticking.