Mount St. Helens. We are talking about a poem by Eileen Myles called "Mount St. Helens." In it we learn, but we know this by anybody who's very good at Googling or using your favorite search engine, you can find Joel Colton, a poet and also a guy who liked to take pictures, died on the slopes of Mount St. Helens. He seems to have been hit by the lava according to the friend of the speaker, Juliet. He died. Emily, he died right here. Where did he die? He died on Mount St. Helens, but this is ModPo when someone says here in the context of a poem, becomes an ambiguous thing. It could mean Mount St. Helens. It could also mean that he died here in the bottom of this poem. In a poem called "Mount St. Helens." He died on the slope, the slope of this spine poem here. Thus we can stop now because that's what it's about. It's such a ModPo, metapoem. He died right here. It's also possible as interest from Janney. There's a great moment, the whole confusion of maps in the great novel "Tristram Shandy" by Laurence Sterne, where Uncle Toby is showing on the map where he lost his private parts. I may be getting this wrong, but he says to young Tristram, "I lost them here," on a map, not my hand, and Tristram is saying, "You lost them on a map? You lost them on representation?" "No, no, no, no. I lost them here." The poem maps Joel Colton, he was a poet. She says, "I don't think of him." So it's an elegy, Davy, an elegy of sorts. I think it's an elegy for Joel Colton, a poet, but the speaker who is elegizing him doesn't think of him, that's rude. She doesn't think of him, but she's also thinking of him because the poem starts not with his poems where the poem turns, but to him, Joel Colton died right here as there is the relationship between Joel dying and the way his lines are upon [inaudible]. His lines meaning what he writes. Yeah. She says I use his lines all the time. I don't think of him, him being the person. I think of what? His poems. The poems. But she is necessarily thinking of him that it's not possible for her to think that we have all these reminiscences about him, and then we get to his poems, where she says she thinks of his lines as a way of not thinking of him. He or she thinks of him first. What do you make of "I use his lines all the time. I had this poem on my wall for a year?" Now this is a really funny Eileen Myles word because she is very colloquial. She's got to use the master of the colloquial. So she says, "You know I was talking to this guy.? That's thesis is. This poem, I had this poem meaning what? Just some random poem, but still this. It's really funny, definite and indefinite object. Important mark over this. [inaudible] Indefinite. Indefinite article the way that she uses it. Not that this is an article necessarily, but the way that she uses it. Yeah, I was talking to this guy in that way, it means any guy, but also this, a guy. This in any poem. By the way, if Joel Colton writes his poetry the way Eileen Myles reports it, it almost doesn't matter which poem, because how did Joel Colton structure his poems? What do we know from this poem? Well, probably that they look something like, I mean, lots of Eileen's. Something like this. It's a matter of metapoem. Yeah, I mean, lots of Eileen's poems look like this too. She's got short lines. Sometimes longer stanzas, but where she says, "See they get born on the left.". Stop and explain, they get born on the left. The poems are strict left to right oriented. Okay. So we're getting to it very quickly, Emily Harnett. They're born on the left, and how long do they last? Forever. I think Infinite is the word that she uses. In one way, they last infinitely, but on the page, how long do they last? They're born on the left, and how far right do they go? I guess not far because they also die on the right. They die on the right. They get born on the left. Their spine, so they can't go that far. They die every time. Every line is a death. This reminds me of a ModPo poem, the poem featured in ModPo by Bob Perlman, Chronic Meanings. How does that say ModPo quiz? How is this similar to that? If I recall, it's also left justified, but more importantly, I think each line has five words and the fifth word is always cutoff. No more? Yeah. So there's a cutting off and so we say of that poem that it's elegiac because the person it's pre-morning because Lee Hickman had not died yet, he'd gotten a diagnosis of AIDS. This is a pre-elegy, and although every time the line gets cut off, you realize that there is a discontinuity and a disruption in someone's life. So Joel Colton was a young poet who wrote spine like lines, and every line reminds you of death. That every line is short, every life of a line is short. They get born on the left. I tell my class, "It's a spine." I love that line. It's Davy, I tell my class, suddenly, this becomes a pedagogical poem. How so? Because not only are Joel Colton's lines available to Eileen when she's writing, I use his lines all the time and my first thought is that she uses them in poems. She's doing it here. She's pulling them, but she also is using them pedagogically, that she's using the structure of his lines to think about what poetic form is and how it operates. We have to the doubling of that use both as poet in it and as teacher. So Anna, you be Eileen Myles talking to your class. What are you saying they should learn here? What is to be learned from Joel Colton's line? I guess from Joel Colton, you could learn about the economy of language. What you can do, the turns you can make, the associations you can make in just a tiny, tiny space. That a line doesn't need to continue and continue. You don't need to have these perfect stanzas to say something. Every line can die, you don't have to. Continuity does not necessarily derive from an enjambment of lines, every death. You also actually go to reproduction of the death. Joel Colton's a snap of his nerves. This is a spine, so it's a pun on spine. He's imagining that his spine gets severed or something in the mountain accident. A snap of his nerves, heading right. There's the right from left. Yeah. The infinity of his line, "Born die every time." That's what writing is, right? Every time the gesture is complete, Joel Colton, he died here. He died here every time. Every line, he dies here. So metapoetry isn't just a concept, it drives the lines. I don't know. It could be jets or something. I'm trying to read the word, a smoky criss-cross in the sky. So jet comes in, but of course, you're thinking about Mount St. Helens. Paths intersect occasionally. "We were a miracle once, I'll try." That's a lovely ending. What do we do with that, Emily? "We were a miracle once, I try." When I think of a miracle, I think of pregnancy, I think of being born. Yeah. I'll try. If every poem is born and dies, ff it ends, in some sense, death has some connotation of failure, at least something eternally repeating. I'll try again, and I'll try again. You nailed it. Every line is a trying again. Every line is a birth. So the resurrection, we don't have to finish at the end of the line, that the life ends fast, but every new line is a birth. We were a miracle once, but now every time a line gets written, I'll try, Davy, I'll try. That's beautiful. What do you do with that? It necessarily stopped because there's the sense that there are poems that are lines that will come after it, that it's a death that's not finite in the way that Joel Colton's isn't because he's still being born and dying. He dies twice in this poem. Joel Colton died right here at the beginning of the poem. Right here. Then he dies here at the end of the second page. Whereas his lines get to die at the end of each line, he also gets to die over and over and over again because his work gets reborn in Eileen's work and in her teaching, so therefore in other people's work. It seems fitting that the poem ends with no finality, ends expecting another line as the line composed after it is the beginning of another poem. That's fantastic. Or the beginning of this poem again. Yes. Instead of final words, we're going to go around and we're going to say what we think Eileen students, what are the lessons learned about this? The first one's going to be hard. I'll call on Emily. What are the lessons learned? What are some of the lessons in this teaching? I imagine it's heavy to be a student and learn that poetry is a endlessly repeated death. But it also amounts to like a pretty novel and innovative pedagogy. If you think at what pedagogy does, is teach you how to succeed. For Eileen to be sitting there and say, no, every line you write is going to be a little death, a little failure but you have to keep trying, is a pretty strange and wonderful pedagogy. Great. Davy, a lesson learned? Fearlessness that composing two words that die and are over as soon as they've been composed, isn't scary that writing is both not terrifying because you're able to rebirth it in every line, in that because it could be conceived obviously is not scary. The only way to deal with it is to be fearless about it. The opposite of fearless is spineless. Implicitly she's saying, a poem that doesn't have a spine that goes on and on from left to right as if it could live forever is false and fearful. But the guy broke his spine but we have the poems are our spine. So that is like a certain stand up, he's a stand-up guy, she's a stand-up guy too. Anna, another lesson learned? I think just what I take from this is just the openness and the possibilities of trying. I think we think of elegies as a form of poetry that needs something so serious and waiting, there's this pressure to get it right. If you're trying to do honor to somebody or write a poem about someone who's really important to you or whether personally or just like as a poet. There's something so beautiful about just ending with, I'll try, that takes all the air out of this weighty thing and to end there and also to just keep reinforcing the sense that Joel does get to live on in all of these different ways, live on in the poem, live on in the teaching, live on in her using his lines over and over again. To me, it works better as an elegy than anything that's closed or finite. Excellent. I have a simple lesson and it's been said already but maybe worth repeating. Death is the mother of beauty. To die is to live. This is a classic like go back to John Donne on this one. To die is to live, to get born on the left, is to die on the right every time but then to start again. This is a simple but really powerful repetition of the old power of the elegy is to allow Joel Colton to live forever in each trying. You have a copy of the book that we're working from. Anna, will you show us the book that's the front of it, it's called, I Must Be Living Twice. It's new and selected poems, Eileen Myles. Unless it's too personal, what did she inscribe that for you? What did she say? She said, "Anna, warmly here in Philly," and she crossed out her name and wrote her. That's Pac-Man signature. That's a Pac-Man signature with the x. That's the signature. Very nice. Well, thank you all for spending a little time with Eileen Myles.