Went to hear my friend Hui Hui read at the Ear Inn Saturday afternoon. Hui Hui (Tung-Hui Hu) has two books out, now: Mine just out from Ausable Press; andThe Book of Motion which won the Eisner Prize and was published by The University of Georgia Press in 2003. Please buy them. It was a small but fun crowd in the back of the ba–ran into some former University of Michigan MFAs from class years before mine (Kirk Davis and Jennifer Kietzman) and we ended up spending the rest of the day together (yay for red velvet cupcakes!) We also met some new friends of Hui Hui’s he made at the MacDowell Colony earlier this year.
The Ear Inn feels like a bar from another century with its old wood beams and ship pictures. I heard my friend Michael Tyrell read there last summer during the World Cup and let’s just say there was less competition for the poets to be heard this time around. The other poet who read, Emily Moore, had some lovely sapphic love poems. And Hui Hui’s new poems, primarily palinodes, were inspiring.
Palinodes are poems of retraction, the most famous of which was written by the Greek poet Stesichorus who was supposedly struck blind after writing a lyric that accused Helen of being the cause of the Trojan War. Upon recanting in his palinode, the veil of blindness was lifted.
The form is traditionally marked by a strophe and antistrophe, a call and response with an AB ode followed by the A’B’ palinode. The A and A’ (and B and B’) form the strophe and antistrophe. But any poem of retraction can be called a palinode these days without following this form. I often find the best poets are those who contradict themselves, but the palinode exercise opens some additional doors in a poet’s body of work, to reference back to former poems, ways and images in which ideas were once posited, and revise or negate them. It fits well with the poetics of negation I seem to be interested in of late.
A photo of Hui Hui, and one of me, Jen and Kirk: