“Our American culture has no poetry written into its origin. We inherited our poetry—mostly hymns and heroic couplets—from England, and we’ve tended, since the onset of the Industrial Age, to regard the medium itself as superfluous or frivolous, if not dangerous. Whitman clearly perceived that our myth, our great national myth, has to do with power, success, money; and he attempted to supersede it with a myth of Democracy and of himself as Democratic Man. And the truth is that he died unhappy, believing that he had failed, that his country had rejected him. We still need to understand that a nation that alienates itself from the creative imagination has already begun to wither.”
A few years ago, a woman in Spain attempted to restore a nineteenth-century church fresco, but in doing so ruined it completely. The result is less Savior than surreal simian, the delicate portrait painted over with a crude, monstrous “face.” Since the election it has been hard to shake the feeling that reality has been made worse, unrecognizable, in precisely this way.
“I’m not sure that Burn Lyrics is, strictly speaking, ‘in conversation with’ either Carson or Sappho. The model I have in mind is more like concomitant dimensions. I hope that a reader might experience a frisson of recognition, an emotional yet perhaps unplaceable feeling, when those dimensions overlap or communicate with one another.”