Excerpts from James Belflower’s poetry manuscript, Doyen, a finalist for the 2015 TS Book Prize.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I am a poet, critic, and performer who lives in Albany, NY with my wife, Jessica and our dachshund, Jake. I am pursuing a PhD in Contemporary Poetics at Suny Albany, researching post 1945 American poetry, film, and architecture that reinvests contemporary aesthetic forms with vital material, forms in which materiality actively participates in our interactions with it in substantive, intimate, and affective ways. My books include The Posture of Contour: A Public Primer (Spring Gun Press 2013), Commuter (Instance Press 2009), and Bird Leaves the Cornice, winner of the 2011 Spring Gun Press Chapbook Prize. More poems, essays, and reviews appear, or are forthcoming in: Aufgabe, Fence, New American Writing, 1913, and Drunken Boat, among others. With Matthew Klane, I co-curate the Yes! Poetry and Performance Series whose mission is to bring writing into conversation with other art forms.
In Doyen I expand architecture into an analogy for a vital material literature that includes the audience in its design. 1949 saw the architect Philip Johnson finish his Glass House, a translucent rectangle built solely of eighteen foot high glass walls on a promontory in the flourishing Shangri-La of Modernist architecture, New Canaan Connecticut. In an article from a 1950 Architectural Digest, Johnson daringly annotates his design influences in the style of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, and describes the house as “an organization of procession.” Procession for Johnson was the lived experience of the house and defined his notion of historicity. It combined the reflection and modulation of light and vision across the glass walls, along with the collage of historical styles throughout the house. Characteristics of procession also show how material and immaterial structures are modulated through light’s “reflection and play” across the glass walls. Because of its collaged design, anti-functional form, and “frankly derivative” use of historical styles, Johnson’s glass walls materialize the way in which the high informational capacity of affect deeply inflects the historical and spatial shifts occurring in the conjunction of early postmodern architecture, the self, and literature.