in all eventuals / there will be singing

[Ali Graham]

     in all eventuals
there will be singing

a. I find form a challenging aspect of composition. It asks understanding of its mechanisms and contextualisation of how it has previously appeared in others’ work, and fruitful transposition to effectively produce and consolidate meaning.  My form is apprehensive of prescriptiveness. That my form might better understand why it is wary of adherence to forms delineated by others and learn by testing its / my poetics in unfamiliar territory, I decide to write using a predetermined form.

or

b. The indeterminacy always anyway present in living is at the forefront of desire. Not to open the door to bad Naturalisation[1], but I find that the desire to be certain of your position is inseparable from the feeling of desire itself.

i. I eschew punctuation in favour of lacunae to explore determinism. The fixity produced by full stops and commas is expelled; incontingency emerges. Lacunae become sites of possibility. With authorial directing of reading pared away, the reader is placed in more open negotiation with the text.

1) I want to closely align form and ideas; to carry meaning as entirely as possible [turn to 8]. One of these meanings is sexual orientation as spatial – the movement of a subject in the world, the world(s) moving in a subject. I look to Merleau-Ponty’s account of the senses and affective meaning:

“The unity of the object will remain a mystery for as long as we think of its various qualities…as just so many data belonging to the entirely distinct worlds of sight, smell, touch and so on…[M]odern psychology…has observed that…each of these qualities has an affective meaning which establishes a correspondence between it and the qualities associated with the other senses.” [2]

a. It is as much the gather of aspects that constitute an object as the aspects themselves. I consider whether this can provide a model for desire. Desire is not an object but an occurrence between subjects and/or objects. However, many of its qualities are sensory, and often bring their subject to affect

2) What are the implications of desire escaping classification as an object. Merleau-Ponty speculates that a unity is possible for objects provided the encountering agent get its qualities right, but desire eludes this. I decide on tending to the escapings of the sonnets; on incorporating non-sonnets, their right alignment indicating differing point(s) of emergence.

a. I make an always already failed crown [turn to 8b].

3) Jack Halberstam posits that:

“[t]he queer art of failure turns on the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely, and the unremarkable…[i]t quietly loses, and in losing it imagines other goals for life, for love, for art, and for being.”[3] [emphasis mine]

I think failure’s quietness puts it someplace between the line break’s silence and syntax’s utterance [turn to 8b].

a. Poetic difficulty could be thought of as quietness; an auditory rather than visual obfuscation; a veil effecting a hazier, fainter sound of meaning. Both this quietness and obfuscation can be thought of as less discernable, as a poem that is working at a distance from the reader, a simultaneous disclosure and a deliberate lack of access granted.  A turn away from the visual to other ways of knowing is vital when – as April S. Callis discerns – “[i]n a society where monogamous couplings are the norm, bisexuality is hard to see”[4]. I blend visual and auditory shadow in

witness who do I talk the phone bleats foam-
ing sound        still I tilt but spin

I break the line in the midst of “foaming”, fastening obfuscation of sight to interruption of hearing. Between this break of the line, the conspicuous interrupting of speech by absence of speech, and the foam that emerges from the “phone” as an imperfect echo , there is a relation. The line break emerges from the centre of “foaming”; from the centre of foam’s doing. Foam is pertinent here because it can encase and obscure an object but not necessarily permanently, often only temporarily; foam tends to clear and lifts. And a line break is an interruption but not a permanent cease in sound. Foam is a mesh, texturally; openings encased by another substance, both necessary for the foam to be as foam.  

b. In terms of physical chemistry, foam is “a colloidal system (i.e., a dispersion of particles in a continuous medium) in which the particles are gas bubbles and the medium is a liquid”[5]. It is interruptions within a fluid; the segmentation of a liquid. The cluster and scatter of prepositions  Prepositions as bubbling, lusting, excessive, expansive, embroidering and becoming the meaning that ordinarily they would only carry.

c. My use of foam as figure for this troubled causation – this simultaneous determinacy and indeterminacy – derives from one of Federico García Lorca’s Dark Love Sonnets:

Its spotless virtue and soft throat
– a double lily of hot foam – [6]

In this image, foam refers to the configuration of matter that Lorca gives his reader, a mix of air and whatever is forming the foam. For instance seawater and the froth it is sometimes worked into by the currents and tide. Or maybe a blotch of soap on someone’s bare wrist, moments from being vanishing into an eddy of tap water. At once, foam is and foam does [turn to 4c].

d. And what is foam to the language? I do not want to crudely transpose categories of substance outside language to categories of language – at least, not without doing the work of transposition. As Nathan Brown notes,

“It might seem that the distinction of form and content applied to poetry roughly corresponds to the Classical philosophical distinction between form and matter, but this is not the case…the matter of the poem evades the distinction between form and content, falling into neither category.”[7]

Foam foams; it cannot not do what it is and in this the line between being and doing is blurred. It speaks to me of the aliveness of language, against bloodlessness, against poetry that does not yet know or will never concede that its instrument is the body. For these sonnets to be real they ought to ring like the desire that induced them, and that desire is felt in the body, could burst, is an interruption in what otherwise has many directions and movements, and even when its movement is focused, will not be pinned out and scrutinised as if an entomologist’s unfortunate cricket. The language of this mess of this mesh of this foam of this desire is joyous in its relations, whether these are relations at the level of the phrase, within the poem, or between poems. The units between which relation happens are also unfixed.

e. I interweave sound, sight, and feeling in “your grinning is thrillsound”; “bluely fearings”; “one name glancing another”; “I am phoning in silver”. I outline aspects of desire in improbable unifications, without seeking their perfect unification into objects.

f. These sonnets are failed. The volta is not correctly placed or does not arrive. The meter is mostly pentameter but never iambic. I call these “sonnets” because a statement of intent is required to indicate attempt and enable recognition of failure. For an escape to happen, there must be a delineation from which to escape.

4) Will it be useful to think of desire as mesh. Desire and mesh are at once verbs and nouns. A subject might pass through a mesh, and the mesh will direct this passing. Might you be meshed into emergence. This coheres with my conceptualisation of sexual orientation as simultaneously gesture and enclosure.

a. I find precedent for this in Jay Timothy Dolmage’s writing on mētis, an “embodied knowledge…a way to think and also to think about thinking [that] reveals a shadowy tangle of body values, body denials, and body power.”[8] Though Dolmage writes on disability theory, he asserts mētis as “a way for us all to move”[9]. Indeed, it is because of Dolmage’s intersecting of the fields of rhetoric and disability theory that mētis is pertinent to understanding the sonnet which also blends rhetoric with a different aspect, in this case song.

b. Could this be mapped onto the previous –

Values              ––––––––––      the net of desiremesh
Denials            ––––––––––      the openings
Power              ––––––––––      movement(s) through

c. I consider desire as embodied knowledge, a way of knowing synchronised with the moment of doing, as in the agile monosyllabics and internal almost-rhyme, recurring imperfectly, of

…it is in
the moment I do that I know how                               
                                         [turn to 7]

5) How then to make desiremesh into poetic substance. I need a balance between an emergent substance delineated by qualities, and emerging from a combination ofqualities. This calls for a form both unitary and interlocking. The sonnet crown fulfils this; each sonnet self-contained, the fifteen sonnets inflecting one another.

a. I settle on the movement of astronomical bodies as a suitable analogue for the interactions between the sonnets; the motif is an analogue for pulling/repelling motion, alluding to a route that is at once one direction and differing directions. It draws attention to this same motion being already anyway present in the sonnets, in their adherence and resistance to ‘proper’ sonnet form. Orbits are imperfect, formed by a near-inapprehensible chain of random events, and are not irrevocably bound to their paths [return to 2].

b. I bring the motif to prominence by repeatedly situating coinciding images in closing lines, as in:

I do not intend the teeth’s heatdeath –     these
planets circuiting inside out good way round

The planets are screeching, the actual speech of planets conducted in a ruptured, disorderly grammar, and the bad music of the screech accentuates the plural.

c. I bring planetary movements away from musicality and into visuality, as in

this the point of tectonics         that they are
regarded frequent brushstrokes on earth

and into witness without a corresponding sensory faculty:

…and I
have known an equator or three…

6) What kind of desiremesh does the draw to many genders make; what forms the mesh that is affective meaning. Lisa L. Moore details a recurring mechanism in the Naturalisation of the sonnet in English: 

“…all English Renaissance sonnets installed material aspects of language—rhyme and repetition—as nonnarrative, embodied meanings in the form…all retained the form’s definitive feature of a turn that bifurcated the poem into mirroring fractions, even if unequal ones.”[10] Language as demonstrative and performative feels queer [turn to 8c], and an instance of mētis [return to 4a].

a. Nouns indicate what passes through the mesh; verbs describe their acting (or lack thereof). Prepositions and line breaks specify these movements, generating interconnectedness and disconnection in language.

b. Though prepositions and line breaks are both turns, both sites of emergence, prepositions work in utterance and positioning, marking the turn of one word to another with a word line breaks work in silence and space. Prepositions bring the reader to line breaks; one site of emergence facilitating movement to another. 

7) A turned crown – a bifurcated thing. Could it be a queer crown. Certain connotations of the word mesh itself are helpful – said out loud, it is not a beautiful music. Etymologically, it can be traced back to “mezg-”[11], to knit, twist or plait.

a. This brings me to wreaths; the mingling of different substances, free of a demand to subsume them into one another. A gathering, fixed in place, each component perceived differently for what is beside it but maintaining its recognisability [return to 3b].

8) Could it be camp. Certainly a wreath is unnatural, turning vegetation (natural) into decoration (culture)[12].

a. John Emil Vincent notes poetic difficulty is itself a difficult concept. It can be “both a complaint levelled against a poem by a frustrated audience as well as the effect a poem produces based on its traffic in unknown vocabulary, systems of thought, public and private knowledges, themes, and so on.” [13]

b. I find an intricacy in this coinciding of meaning and meaning’s operation. In the wider world, I see an urgency for queerness to (re)turn to itself, to be as much a “politics of provocation, one in which the limits of liberal tolerance [were/are] pushed”[14]. That this will enmesh, complicate, trouble, coincide with understanding of queerness as experience(s) of love and bodies.

c. I believe a thorough queer poetics will perform to frustrate sections of its audience. The reader who will read a queer poets’ work, will read a poem because the poet is, y’know, but will be left wondering afterwards why they have not been allowed complete access, or been instructed or taught, or presented with something pliable (to the point of inertia) that they might activate into the correct meaning. And so rather than seeking to correct this (dis)orientation – this substance where prepositions are no longer merely auxiliary but are brought to meaning in and of themselves, this substance that is of language but is not quite comfortable or proper in the language as we know it now – I treat it as central to producing experiential meaning in these poems. The language of this mess of this mesh of this foam of this desire is not polite or correct [return to 2].


[1] Veronica Forrest-Thomson,ed. Gareth Farmer, Poetic Artifice (Bristol: Shearsman Books, 2016), 39.

[2] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The World of Perception (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 60.  

[3] Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure (Durham, USA: Duke University Press, 2011), 88.

[4] April S. Callis, ‘Playing with Butler and Foucault: Bisexuality and Queer Theory’, in Journal of Bisexuality 9, no. 3-4 (2009): 218.

[5] “Foam,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014, accessed Jun 6, 2020, https://www.britannica.com/science/foam.

[6] Federico García Lorca, “Gongoresque Sonnet in Which the Poet Sends His Love a Dove”

in Poet in Spain, trans. Sarah Arvio (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017), 347, lines 5-8.

[7]  pmilat, “Nathan Brown: Baudelaire’s Shadow,” YouTube Video, 1:06:46, June 19, 2018,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbb22-GKZkc&t=1044s

[8] Jay Timothy Dolmage, “Eating Rhetorical Bodies.” In Disability Rhetoric (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2014), 193-195.

[9] Ibid, 194.

[10] Lisa L. Moore, “A Lesbian History of the Sonnet,” in Critical Inquiry 42, no. 4: 822.

[11] Online Etymology Dictionary, “mesh | Origin and meaning of mesh,” accessed April 20, 2019. https://www.etymonline.com/word/mesh.

[12] Susan Sontag, ‘Notes on Camp’, in Against Interpretation and Other Essays (New York: Picador, 1966), 279. 

[13] John Emil Vincent, Queer Lyric: Difficulty and Closure in American Poetry (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 2.

[14] Steven Epstein, “A Queer Encounter: Sociology and the Study of Sexuality”, Sociological Theory 12, no. 2 (1994): 195.


This is after:

Brolaski, Julian Talamantez. of mongrelitude, Seattle and New York: Wave Books, 2017.

Buck, Claire. H.D. and Freud: Bisexuality and a Feminine Discourse. New York: St Martin’s Press, 1991.

Collecott, Diana. H.D. & Sapphic Modernism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Conversations with Al

Conversations with Al

Conversations with Andrew

Conversations with Lotte

Fritz, Angela DiPace. Thought and Vision: A Critical Reading of H.D.’s Poetry. Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1988.

Gooß, Ulrich. “Concepts of Bisexuality.” Journal of Bisexuality 8, vol. 1-2 (2008): 9-23.

Greenhill, Pauline. “”Fitcher’s [Queer] Bird”: A Fairy-Tale Heroine and Her Avatars.” Marvels & Tales 22, no. 1 (2008): 143-67. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41388863.

H.D., edited by Louis L. Martz. Collected Poems, 1912-1944. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1984.

Hayes, Terrance. American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin. London: Penguin, 2018.

Lorca, Federico García. Poet in Spain. Translated by Sarah Arvio. London: Penguin Random House, 2017.

Mayer, Bernadette. Sonnets. New York City: Tender Buttons Press, 2014.

Müller, Thomas. “Time and Determinism.” Journal of Philosophical Logic 44, no. 6 (2015): 729-40. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43895413.

Ruti, Mari. “Beyond the Antisocial–Social Divide.” In The Ethics of Opting Out: Queer Theory’s Defiant Subjects, 130-68. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/ruti18090.9.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Tendencies. London: Routledge, 1994.

Spahr, Juliana. 2001. “‘Love Scattered, Not Concentrated Love’: Bernadette Mayer’s Sonnets.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 12 (2): 98–120. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2001870740&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Ali Graham is a writer living in Norwich. Ali’s poetry and essays have been published by 3:AM, SPAM Zine, The Tangerine, Seam Editions, and Glasgow Review of Books, among others. Ali can be found on Twitter and on Instagram as aligrhm. Ali likes the films of Maya Derren, the colour grey, and hybrid things.

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