A.K. Huseby responds to Annmarie Drury

Annemarie Drury’s question, “What happens to suspension in twentieth-century poetry, and where might we find it among poets today?,” instantly evoked a flood of associations. I love questions that reach for transhistorical thinking! First, I offer Mina Loy’s use of caesuras, ellipses, and underline dashes in The Lost Lunar Baedeker’s “Songs to Joannes.” In Loy’s poetry, such moments of suspension create spaces for transformation, cogitation, and ripening. For instance, when she writes, “Pig Cupid      his rosy snout” (1.3), Eros is transformed from demigod to base animal in the gap of suspension afforded by the line. Or when in Song VII, she describes the urban residue being stuffed into her body like “Exhilarated birds / Prolonging flight into the night / Never reaching _ _ _ _ _ _ _,” the spaces enable and encourage the reader to fill in the blank (perhaps NIRVANA might fit?) at the same time that they suspend the poem’s work in the prolonged flight of the bird metaphor. Loy is but one example of such poetic suspensions in twentieth-century poetry; others might include Ezra Pound’s imagism (more birds suspended on wires beyond his prison bars) or Gertrude Stein’s “realist” perspective or “verbal Cubism” of Tender Buttons, both of which suspend a phenomenological encounter in a moment of time. Indeed, it strikes me as quite common among Modernist poets to work with suspension as one type of experimentation in their poetics and as a method of encouraging each reader to engage with their work on individual terms. Yet, as McCarthy makes clear, they were also reaching back to older forms of suspension while insisting on making things new, much as Pound did with the work of Robert Browning and Virginia Woolf did with Thomas De Quincey. Further, the Woolf connection links up nicely with Drury’s awareness that McCarthy “deftly re-makes ‘suspension’ into a contemporary interpretive tool.” Beyond poetry, such forms of suspension extend to poetics writ large, to acts of making, and so, to the novel. We’ve certainly seen suspension in the macrostructures of both George Eliot’s famous narrative aside in Adam Bede, “In which the story pauses a little,” and Virginia Woolf’s equally intriguing “Time Passes” portion of To the Lighthouse. Reading for suspension as McCarthy suggests encourages us all to mind the gap, as doing so stands to identify a far longer legacy of Romantic suspension for the twentieth-century and our own.

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