Something has happened.

On pg. 90 of Jena Osman’s The Character (Beacon Press, 1998) on the first page of the poem “Dialogue on the Locative Case” Osman writes

the young I bewildered
the arm

I first read Osman in 2013, her book The Network (Fence Books, 2010). Sometime in 2010, I wrote a poem called “The Arm”

Terror resulted from the relationship between couch
and arm and pulling. Not pulling the couch’s arm, but
it hibernating as a shy sock or spleen and only now
popping up and leaving me looking at something
dissimilar from the expected mole and finding my mallet
made of paper not the laurel tree. That was the arm.

The young I bewildered/the arm is found in this stanza

knee hand hat was my physioghomy with the soldier on
drink like kite under such wine. the young I bewildered
the arm bit and in place of this museum woe or off-
whites. and on January year this sign of danger such
notch of sale the evil vortex sign gives it study heart or
personal kite reaction of geiger why all this pulse?1

I a young I bewildered by an arm.

The fragment can be read two or more ways, as

the young I bewildered [pause]
the arm bit and in place of this museum woe or off-

The sentence contains a bewildered I and a fun, anthropomorphized image of a biting arm, an arm possibly biting a museum, so maybe a giant arm, until it is no longer a museum as such but woe or off-whites.

Or, as

the young I bewildered
the arm [pause] bit and in place of this museum woe or off-

In this reading, the young I bewilders the arm and bites it and then bites woe or off-whites instead of some museum.

Slippery readings, slippery logic.

At one time, I was bewildered by an arm. The arm?


In Sorting Facts; or, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker (New Directions, 2013) Susan Howe writes

It’s almost next October. In Connecticut we call warm
days in October Indian summer. In an interview with
Phillipe Sollers, Jean-Luc Godard, referring to Hail Mary,
cited a passage from Antonin Artaud: “I want soul to be
body, so they won’t be able to say that the body is soul,
because it will be the soul which is body.” Godard said
this helped him to explain things to his film technicians.
      Surely nonfiction filmmakers sometimes work intuitively
by factual telepathy. I call poetry factual telepathy.2

Factual telepathy has been understood as something quotable, as a Howesque motif, and as a potential point of inquiry.

Ok, but what else is in there?

A little later in the book, Howe writes “I work in the poetic documentary form.” Factual relates to documentary in the sense that they are both demonstrated facts, and in the sense that Howe’s work is already closely linked to docupoetry, of which Osman is a studious pupil.3

Docupoetry makes visible the grey area between p(r)o(duc)e(r)t and p(r)o(duct)em, the actual work of the thing. Docupoetry uses research as its primary mode, reading through libraries, archives, papers, websites, ephemera and whatever else, in a word or three information information information. The grey area is the information that the poet plumbs and dissects, writes from and through, scans, collages, cuts up, fragments, weeds out, recuperates, reinfuses, questions, complicates and occasionaly disproves, as in Osman’s most recent book Public Figures (Wesleyan University Press, 2012) when she discovers that the Smithsonian Inventory database incorrectly lists a statue in Philadelphia as the popular “Spirit of the American Doughboy” when it is actually a statue called “Over the Top.” The poets’ research leads them on trails and into dead ends that spur other trails and inquiries that manifest into books that seem to be wander-writing-hyper-linking themselves as they go.

Poetry could coincide with telepathy if we consider poetry to be something that involves a certain process and/or something that can’t quite be explained. Telepathy is that wandering, inquisitive research, the way that one moves through someplace, a library or website, lost and alone, and sees something suddenly and stops and reads it and looks around to make sure they really are alone. Or, it could refer to another, greyer area, the one between the (re)documentarian and the medium, be it camera or language or whatever else, that exists between the human and the world (to-be-)made fact. It could be that shot that a critic will write about for the way that it mirrors another shot in another movie that the director surely must have seen. Or a camera movement analyzed in much the same way. Or never analyzed. Unintentional. Certain rhythms to language. Those things that we read or see or experience that cling like a sticky leech. Filtering filtering. Or the communication between the cameraperson and the camera or the writer and language or the what and the what. It is all the stuff that surrounds the facts and the act of recording them.

Or the slippages of all of that. Like me writing a poem that I once thought (would I have made this connection now?) coincided with a line written in someone else’s book that was published in the same year that I wrote my poem but that I did not read until three years later.

And the fact that I did read it.

And the slippery boundaries between documentary first and poetry second or fact first and telepathy second. For in my case, the telepathy existed before the fact of my reading the book. If I had read the book I would be able to say that the fragment was incorporated into my subconscious and triggered at some later date and riffed on, which did happen, just not in that way.

Two poems before “Dialogue on the Locative Case” in her poem “Nineteen-Thirties” Osman writes

The first part
implied in an idea of future ends4

So it could be.



1 Osman, Jena. The Character. Boston: Beacon Press, 1999. 90.

2 Howe, Susan. Sorting Facts; or, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker. New York: New Directions, 2013. 7.

3 See an updated list here.

4 Osman, Jena. The Character. Boston: Beacon Press, 1999. 83.

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