site map
Response & Bio Elizabeth Robinson

Question # 4) Lynn Kilpatrick writes: “poetry and narrative are not opposed and that all writing is narrative in the sense that once I put two words next to each other a relationship begins to rise up between them.” Do you agree? That is, to what extent do you think all writing is always already narrative? In a somewhat similar impulse, Stephen Ratcliffe suggests the following in relation to Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals: “(it is) writing that transcribes actual things/actions/events in the world as they were, or seemed to be in that present moment of seeing/noting them. The writing in REAL tries to do something of this 'translation' of world into words.” To what extent is writing a narrative of the ‘real’? That is, how are poetry and prose narratives translations of the world? And, is Kilpatrick right in suggesting that poetry and narrative are not as dialectical as some writers seem to suggest?

At the airport, I see a wheelchair trundling quickly along, propelled by its tall occupant. But as it passes, directly, my focus alters. The tall man is, rather, standing, pushing the wheelchair as he walks. The wheelchair has been collapsed and looks strangely flat, one dimensional.

I am interested in poetry-be it prose or lyric- because of the way it engages with processes of patterning. As patterning is also constitutive of narrative, poems, like narrative, are always playing at reality-making and history-making. But they do this in a canny and provisional way. What one sees at a half-glance-a tall man rolling forward in a wheelchair-yields the unlikely reality of a chair silhouette that seems to float beside a fast-moving walker. Writing the event is then a matter of residing in a willful crux. What moment is less relative within a given history? Which passage is most direct? Here is the vehicle for one who cannot walk. See how it represents movement. See how it holds no body.


Elizabeth Robinson is the author, most recently, of Pure Descent (a
National Poetry Series winner) and Apprehend (winner of the 2002 Fence Modern Poets Series.) She is moving to Boulder to teach at the University of Colorado, but will continue editing, with her friends and partners, EtherDome Press, Instance Press, and 26 Magazine.