This week I went to the Beinecke library at Yale to read from the Susan Howe archive. It was the last day of winter. I ordered 4 boxes – notebooks mostly and drafts. To see a mind at work. To read her musings and worries and plannings. How this fits with what I’m doing. I will never have an archive. From the Greek arkheia for public records. I went with an idea for a book about the brain and its family and how the brain hurts and worries and sees and doesn't see and repeats and patterns and frays. I read 13 small notebooks. I took notes and some photos of individual pages. Her handwriting is small. She filled the books with quotations and lovely small drafts of poems -- at least I think they are drafts. "The deep truth is imageless," -- a quote from Shelley contained in the first notebook.
I worked at a library table in the reading room. I could hear her voice as I read and turned the small pages, even though I've only heard her speak on a recording. But there's something about handwriting that's akin to sound. Perhaps the physicality of the pencil marks on the page. She used pencil and pen. Along with quotations, the books included what I came to think of as her "container" poems -- because they're small and intense and hold much energy. And then some personal entries about the usual -- work, health, money, family. The room was quiet except for the clicking of keyboards. Later I thought of when a blog friend Rebecca Loudon visited the home of outsider artist Henry Darger in Chicago and how she sensed his presence/ghost. Susan Howe is still alive. And more so as I read and took notes and thought. I'll go back next week. What am I looking for? A mentor. A process. Words.