In Why Poetry Mr. Zapruder argues that by destabilizing language poetry opens up space in the body/mind of the reader that is beyond language. Poetry as a kind of portal into being and/or feeling and/or the ineffable–you see the problem with the ineffable–it’s ineffable. This is a really reductive summary of a book I recommend, because I talked with it…A LOT. The marginalia looks a little insane. The text led me into all sorts of tangential questions and resonances with other texts (Words Fail Me, by V.W. for one Also, into all sorts of associative thinking which, he claims, is central to poetic practice. His argument (argue is a word I want to gently unravel at some point) confirms a kind of experience/philosophy of poetry that I’ve stumbled into through my own, undirected reading. I’m neither an academic nor an established poet. I’m a middle-aged, suburban-housewife and mother, who is curious, reads a lot and writes and writes and writes–mostly things no one will ever read.

One of Zapruder’s suggestions, which I do already for sheer pleasure, is to spend time in etymologies. We think of words as solid, single, things. So, it’s like magic when they appear out of air in 1300 or 1500 or some more nebulous historical period. Watching meaning multiply and shift overtime often dissolves or, at least, opens a window or door in the walls of a word. Consider housewife. I experience this as a constricting, negative, word. It might be fun to push at the edges of its current meaning and associations to see what happens. Of course, words are never really single (V.W. again). They “live in the society” of other words. Housewife associates with–offspring, full, form, hussy, you can even follow wife to bitch! And I have the beginnings of an intriguing, if nascent, poem. Now, I get to use words like thread, feel their textures, play with their shifting shades, and see what surprising new cloth they might weave together.

Take housewife: from huse “house” (see house (n.)) + wif “woman” (see wife (n.)). Originally pronounced “huzzif;” the full written form of it began to be used from c. 1500, representing a pronunciation shift that was made at least in part to distinguish it from its offspring, hussy. (ttps://