Preface to The Book of the Dead Man
Live as if you were already dead
- Before the Dead Man, minus-1 was still an imaginary number.
- The Dead Man will have nothing more to do with the conventional Ars Poetica, that blind manifesto allegiant to the past. Let the disenchanted loyalist reconsider the process. Among motives, occasions, codes, needs and knuckle-head accidents, the Dead Man accepts all and everything. He knows in his bones that writing is metabolic.
- What are we to make of the Dead Man's reference to Keats? That poetry should come, as Keats wrote, "as naturally as the Leaves to a tree"? To this the Dead Man has added the dimension of the minus. He understands that fallibility and ignorance are the true stores, the bottomless reservoirs of creation. He is the fount for that spillover. As for the tedium of objects distorted from their long imprisonment in books, the Dead Man has learned that to be satiated is not to be satisfied.
- So he furthers the love affair between the sentence and the line. Whereas formerly the line took a missionary position, under the rule of the Dead Man the sentence once more invigorates the line. The ongoing attempt by dictionary makers to define "poetry," as it has been called, is an object of derision to the Dead Man. The Dead Man knows that every technique is passi except when reencountered at its birth. The Dead Man moves as comfortably among nightingales as among house wrens.
- "Perfected fallibility": that's the key, the solace, the right number (one of one, two of two, three of three, etc.). Hence, the fragment is more than the whole. The Dead Man is a material mystic. His hourglass is bottomless. No. 27 ("About the Dead Man and The Book of the Dead Man") reminds us that the Dead Man is "a postscript to closure," and "the resident tautologist in an oval universe that is robin's-egg-blue to future generations."
- Has it not already been stated of the Dead Man in the poem "About the Dead Man and His Poetry" that he is the tautologist, the postscript, perfected fallibility, etc.? Yes. The Dead Man tells the truth the first time. The Dead Man, too, writes as he has to--with a watch cap and a sweat shirt, with a leaking skull and dilapidated lungs, at an hour beyond clocks. He lives on hunger. He eats his words.
- Before the birth of the Dead Man, it was not possible to return. It was not possible, it was pre-conceptual, it was discretionary to the point of chaos and accident to return, since of course there was nowhere yet to return to. Since the birth of the Dead Man, however, it is possible, even likely, that one may return. From the future, one walks ever more slowly into the past.
- All this the Dead Man knows. As for me, I know nothing. But do not think one can know nothing so easily. It has taken me many years.
- M. B.
Copyright © 1996 Electronic Poetry Review