McDermott, Christopher Jon
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The prologue describes two kinds of myopia in relation to poetry: a myopia of being, characterized by habit, distraction, and numbness, and a myopia of perception governing poetry s hermeneutical range. Drawing on Blanchot, Agamben, Kandinsky and Lefebvre, the prologue advocates a conscious relation to death as well as potential being, and argues that such a stance characterizes the poet who must write, in contrast to the recreational poet. All poets are dually myopic, however, since just as one can never fully understand mortality, one can never see with perfect clarity. American poets such as Emerson, Stevens, Oppen, Palmer, Wright, and Hejinian have confronted this struggle, described in ethical and spiritual terms by Levinas and William James. Poetry faces the question, Is it possible to perceive an Other without appropriation? yet repeatedly manifests the poet s particular take. To escape the limitations of the self, Jack Spicer sought a poetry of dictation. Artists such as John Cage, Jackson Mac Low, and Marcel Duchamp used methods of generating randomness to lessen the influence of the ego upon their work while acknowledging authorship. The poems in This Myopia generally avoid the strict procedures of Oulipo yet employ a variety of methods, including one generating words from strings of the numbers comprising pi. This links thematically to the poems, many of which concern circularity, the desire to expand one s range, and the impossibility of measurement. One form takes the end part of a chromosome, called a telomere, as a rough model for composing a poem. Another, the use of the line as fractal geometry, derives from chaos theory s consideration of self-similarity across scales of measurement. While often ending in lines suggesting closure, the poems suggest that a provisional sense of closure furthers more exploration, whereas open-endedness can fail to acknowledge the vigorous act of trying to understand while knowing one s perceptions are tenuous.