Noah Eli Gordon with H.L. Hix

Noah Eli Gordon

This interview by H.L. Hix is one of a series, many of which will be collected in Alter Nation: America in Recent Poetry, Recent Poetry in America, from Ugly Duckling Presse (fall 2012). Hix loves the interview form as a way of thinking together (itself a condition of democracy, justice, philosophy, and other ideals and practices he values), and as one element in a community poetics. The subject of this interview is Noah Eli Gordon’s A Fiddle Pulled from the Throat of a Sparrow (New Issues, 2007).

H. L. Hix: The explicit subject of “An exact comprehension of the composer’s intent” (12) is music, of course, but I am inclined also to take “not by voice / but what precedes it” as one formulation of an aesthetic ideal that the poems in your book pursue. Is that too great a liberty to take with the poem?

Noah Eli Gordon: Explicit subject: music; implicit subject: poetry. I like that you say “one formulation” rather than the formulation, as I believe in the total liberation of the poem as well as the poem of total liberation, but not in the liberty of the poet’s relationship to the poem. Poems govern poets through control and restriction; even the poem trumpeting radical liberation is restrictively fascist. It might love you, its reader, but it doesn’t believe in any god other than itself. It doesn’t understand that there is such a thing as the poet, which means, effectively, there isn’t. I don’t really believe this, yet I’m irrelevant: the poem thinks authorial intention is a nonsense phrase. If I weren’t already completely disenfranchised here, I’d nod my head in disagreement. This is all another way of saying: take whatever liberties you like with the poem; it certainly wouldn’t grant me any.

That said, this ideal might be the question: does thinking occur before one is able to find the language with which one might house it? And if so, is this language then continually playing catch-up and merely a poor substitute or false approximation of thought? And is the poem what arises from the lag time between thought and its articulation? Or is the poem a constructivist attempt to simulate this space? These questions seem to hover over this particular book for me, which I think of as an homage not to the instrument or the amplifier but to the cord connecting the two.