The Chronogram Poets: Anna Moschovakis

(“These wise poems are warm, often funny, linguistically lively, and beautiful,” writes Lee Gould of Anna Moschovakis’ new book, You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake, in the November Chronogram poetry roundup. On Sunday, November 27th Moschovakis will read with other poets at the Kleinert/James Art Center in Woodstock at 4 pm. Here’s the first poem from the book along with her thoughts about writing long poems.)


The problem is I don’t care whether I convince you or not
In a perfect world I would be able to convince you of this

Everybody should always have a position on everything
We take our positions with us, like folding stools to the beach
The stools, when we abandon them, fade to the same color

And I will go with you to the end of this argument
As I have gone with you to the beach
And the man with the cooler will walk by selling streets
And we will pick a street to carry us home

We’ll pick the one with the best-loved name
A flower or a state or October the 12th
Because each date must be celebrated somewhere in this world
Each moment of courage or loss or revolution
When something pushed something and something fell down

The bulk of my book “You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake” is taken up by four long poems—they could almost be called poem-essays—that employ diverse tactics including traditional (as well as intentionally flawed) rhetoric, chance operations, internet searches, and aleatory whim to address topics too big for their britches: human violence; erotic and intellectual desire; societal waste; the failures of capitalism. Maybe this short “prologue” foreshadows some of the problematics explored in the book: the initial certainty that then quickly gets complicated; the distractions of the particular from the universal; the stumbling, fumbling way that can sometimes lead to an idea, and the precarious ground of thinking itself. The long poems each “argue” with a particular book written in the 20th century, each of them by a man, and each fueled by a confidently held theory that the poem wrecks with its own multi-functional approach toward the source text (appropriating, misinterpreting, taking as gospel, etc). I think the way the stanzas in “[prologue]” keep getting longer and less focused—letting in more and more of the view—is mimicked by the longer poems, which really let themselves roam wherever they want to go, from the certainty of the reading that triggered them to an increasingly questioning stance, where something is being said but its meaning has been destabilized by all that has preceded it (which isn’t the same thing as saying that it doesn’t mean anything). I have no idea if this makes any sense at all, but these are my thoughts as I revisit this little opening poem.

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