034.1: Andrew Allport:: A Bed above the Abyss: Amnesiac Notebook & Statement of Aesthetics 034

From the diary writing process of “Awake” to the Borgesian universe in “Statement of Aesthetics,” Andrew Allport’s poetry displays a significant range united by an obsession with lexicon: Allport’s speakers explore, upturn, and expand on words that carry unique psychological resonances. In “Passport,” a first kiss grows large enough that it can be boarded “each night,” an image simultaneously evoking romantic beginnings and coping mechanisms for a somatically troubled speaker. Literary engagement occurs because of “some upheaval in circumstance.” Poetry becomes therapy.

The resolution to these struggles remains poetic rather than psychological. Readers are privy to a moment of expansive vision at the end of both poems, but neither of these moments represents the concluding station in a character’s arc. We are left to contemplate the treatment methods rather than assess their success. Each poem reworks its surface, producing an artifact representing process rather than resolution. Elaborate metaphors become one of Allport’s favorite methods for investigating this process: like conceits in the best of John Donne’s poetry, Allport’s elaborate metaphors create a sudden universe designed to parallel the fraught, complicated situations of his speakers. Ryan Winet

A Bed above the Abyss: Amnesiac Notebook


i. Awake

Each entry consisting of the statements
I am awake or I am conscious
entered every few minutes:

2:10 P.M.: this time properly awake
2:14 P.M.: this time finally awake
2:35 P.M.: this time completely awake

At 9:40 P.M. I awoke for the first time, despite my previous claims.


This in turn was crossed out, followed by:

I was fully conscious at 10:35 P.M., and awake for the first time in many, many weeks.


This in turn was cancelled out by the next entry.

ii. Passport

How large it grew, that first kiss, until I could board it each night,
a raft drifting out into the quiet lake. After twenty years
the great amnesiac HM never recognized
his doctor, and after lunch
gladly ate another: Time for lunch, they would tell him again.
You must be starving.

God, I am starving.
Without a body, collection cannot precede
recollection: recollect a tongue, that skilled swirl
of its quick tip, a mouthfull of familiars: smoke,
strawberry candy. Memory in the web
between dumbstruck and dura: dump and dune,
duplicates. What kind of game is this?

I’m no longer a boy,
HM would say to his reflection, the surprise on his face
genuine. What kind of game is this?
The mirror a passport like any other, its picture
out of time, a foreign shock of untamed hair
even the photographer declared beautiful then.

Then: the word smiles
like a stranger on your first day at school,
sitting on stone steps, worn with use.

iii. Taxonomy

Red but not bird comes to mind.”
           Only the kingdom of living names

was missing there—bank, flagstone, sofa
           remained, but not the blur at the feeder,

the undersea creature on the card—
           it’s a danger, a killer swimmer,

they coaxed him—it’s called a
           (waiting for the word to stir from its depth;

how could he forget the ones who dressed,
           fed, taught him word by word

the order of the world? What noise does
           that loss make?) (They looked suspiciously

like his parents, he thought: strangers posing
           unanswerable questions)—

“It has no name, it has no need.”


Statement of Aesthetics


As a young student, I spent a long time reading the collected works of poet X.

I started with the poetry, of course. And the variorum versions of the long poems, and the failed and abandoned ones. That took a year, at least.

Then the plays—mostly unfinished. I finished them the next year—2001, I think.

Then the notebooks and journals, the odd midden heap of thoughts where an occasional glint of some shining phrase made me pause, copy it down for future use.

Then it must have been the letters, though I may have snuck in his collected dinner conversation as a palate cleanser of sorts. I was going through some rough times, some upheavals in circumstance. When I moved, the collected works took up most of the car.

At some point, I must have finished the journalistic pieces, since I’ve written a number of essays on them. I assume I tackled them chronologically, from the early radicalism of the underground pamphlets to the conservative editorials in state-sponsored newspapers.

As when a compulsive traveler wanders into the outer reaches of a foreign country in a state of continual bemusement, seized with the urge to leave as soon as the customs and sights become legible: X’s juvenilia, marginalia, epigrams, anagrams, epitaphs, imitations, plagiarisms, inventories of household, legal pleadings, complete lists and cocktail recipes; each with moments of indescribable brilliance and large swathes of incomprehensibility: a volume of words salvaged from the ashes of the manuscripts he tried to destroy, visible only by ultraviolet light.

Next, I plan to begin reading what was never written: an epic poem on the Fall of Jerusalem, the Magnum Opus of philosophical materialism, a translation of Faust, a spiritual autobiography, letters to S–.