In Review

Prairie Style by C.S. Giscombe. Dalkey Archive Press, 2008.

cover of Prairie Style

Reviewed June 1, 2013 by Robert Archambeau.

Emancipation of the Dissonance: The Poetry of C.S. Giscombe

The title of C.S. Giscombe’s 2008 book of prose poems, Prairie Style, calls to mind the school of architecture that first came to life in the Midwest at the end of the nineteenth century; reached its zenith in Frank Lloyd Wright’s work during the First World War; and passed out of favor after the mid 1920s. But if the title makes us try to draw an analogy between Giscombe’s art and Wright’s, it misleads us. A better analogy comes if we look to what the more advanced musical talents were up to while Wright was drafting blueprints in Oak Park. Consider Arnold Schoenberg’s reflections, from the 1926 essay “Opinion or Insight,” on the direction classical music had taken for composers of his generation. “Until our own time,” wrote Schoenberg, “composers were always extremely cautious about how the succession of harmonies were arranged, at times even carrying things to the point of using only harmonies whose relationship to the tonic and their ‘accessibility’ to it (further underlined by convention) was easy to grasp” (259). Harmonies were always structured in relation to a dominant pitch, and the attentive, or even semi-attentive, listener could hear the coherence of the music. Over time, though, “the proportion of elements pointing to the tonic became ever smaller, as against those pointing away from it,” ultimately leading to what Schoenberg called “the emancipation of the dissonance”—that is, to a kind of composition where dissonance “came to be placed on an equal footing with sounds regarded as consonances” (260-261). Giscombe’s Prairie Style is, in some significant sense, as atonal as the music of Schoenberg: it creates moments of coherence, but also welcomes moments of dissonance, when the expository eloquence of sentences and paragraphs falls apart.

Musical audiences often want to know just why a composer would abandon tonality, and composers have given a number of answers, many having to do with the hatred of cliché and the need to renew conventions. A deeper answer, though, and one more analogous to what I take to be Giscombe’s motives, comes from one of the great experimental composers, Karlheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen said that his refusal to give his compositions clarity, wholeness, and accessible coherence was in essence a reflection of his ethical stance. To take the elements of music and “use them all with equal importance,” rather than subordinating some to others, was nothing less than “a spiritual and democratic attitude toward the world” (101). Stockhausen would no more subordinate musical parts to the whole than he would sacrifice individual lives to an abstract cause, or expropriate one person’s labor for the benefit of another. For Stockhausen, the emancipation of musical dissonance is, at a formal level, a kind of parallel to the emancipation of the oppressed in the world. It doesn’t actually free anyone, of course, but it exemplifies a way of thinking that has larger ethical implications.

Giscombe’s emancipation of narrative dissonance has goals similar to those of Stockhausen, and gains a great deal of weight and significance by addressing questions of race via unconventional means. Indeed, much of Giscombe’s achievement over the course of his career, from At Large in 1989, through Here in 1994 and Giscome Road in 1998, lies in how formal dissonance becomes an instrument for understanding the subtleties and complexities of several kinds of identity—personal, sexual, familial, and racial. By the time he writes Prairie Style, Giscombe has come to see the emancipation of language as a means to reflect on the aftermath of a greater emancipation, the one brought about by Abraham Lincoln. Few poets have found in formal dissonance a means to travel as far, and with such subtlety, into the most profound question of American life.


It didn’t start out this way. In addition to At Large, Here, Giscome Road, and Prairie Style, Giscombe wrote another book of poems, Postcards. Published a dozen years before At Large, it contains close to sixty short, free verse, autobiographical lyrics, written when Giscombe was in his mid-twenties. The scenery is familiar to readers of Giscombe’s other books: we find the campsites, the outskirts of Midwestern towns, the hiking and cycling trails, the trains and train-yards that form the primary settings of all Giscombe’s writings; and we see the dreams and dream-analyses that give Giscombe’s work its surreal cast. We feel, too, the constant pull of Canada, the place that figures for Giscombe as an irresistible magnetic north throughout his entire writing life.

The animating spirit of Postcards is unlike that of any of Giscombe’s other books. If I had to name that spirit in a single word, I’d say it was anxiety. The book is full of the uncanny and the eerie—dark woods, say, or bodies of the slain found in swamps, or a dinner with “next year’s murderer,” a time-bomb of a teenage boy ostracized by his community, whose worried sister can only keep her face “pointed down at the food she can’t finish: her / brother walks funny / and she knows the other guys laugh.” While the brother’s eventual burst into violence has a powerful sense of inevitability, much of the anxiety in Postcards comes from another, opposite source: uncertainty. Often this takes the form of the speaker’s inability to piece the world together into a coherent narrative. “A Brief Narrative Concerning Wall Hangings,” for example, begins with the question “How could we not have seen it?” (n.p.) The “it” in question is never fully defined, but seems to have been a creature, perhaps an animal, perhaps something stranger, that passed near the speaker and has been glimpsed, but never really seen, by others. The closest thing the speaker has to evidence for the creature’s existence is “the crazy photograph / the paper ran two days back” in which the creature “looked like nothing / so much as a smoking smudge pot.” Haunted by the fear of that which he cannot grasp, the speaker tells us he cut the picture out, and then:

…tacked it over

my bed and at night

when the wind comes in

through the crack

I can hear it

flapping on the wall

live enough

to drown out anything

that might be happening

up there in the woods. (n.p.)

This is a kind of magical thinking, the hanging of a talisman against the unknown. The anxiety comes not from the fear of a particular thing, but from the inability of the mind to form a coherent narrative about the woods and what is happening there. Giscombe is far from being the poet of dissonances and narrative uncertainties, here, and not just because he’s writing in a straightforward anecdotal form. It’s a matter of psychological disposition: he’ll have to let go of a lot of baggage about control, closure, and certitude before he can embrace a poetics of dissonance and uncertainty.

The anxious desire for certainty and closure permeates a surprising number of the poems in Postcards. Even when the subject matter seems benign enough—as in “Three Fishermen Watch a Shape Passing in the River”—fear of the undefined becomes the focus of the poem. Here, a large, unknown shape passes beneath the surface of a river where the men fish, after which they go home,

to sit awake

in their own houses

where they know the doors

and windows

and walls:

and the wall-lamp

turned off, its bulb

no longer hot or glowing

but there,

even in darkness. (n.p.)

Once again, Giscombe needs a talisman of sorts—here, the light-bulb that, even when switched off, holds the promise of illumination and the end of the uncertainties of the dark—to ward off a fear that there are things we will never know, things that we will never bring into consonance with our narratives about how the world works.

Giscombe’s talismans of certainty in Postcards take many forms—at one point he refers, for example, to a gun and its “attendant box of bullets” as a kind of anchor, “the heaviest thing in the room,” while elsewhere he writes of “the reassurance of diagrams” (n.p.) for anxious travelers. But the story is the same throughout the book: the world is uncertain, our mental maps of it frail and prone to failure. We yearn for some kind of whole, total, reassuring knowledge that doesn’t come, and in its place we erect our little shrines where we seek solace in a world of danger and fragmentary knowledge.

What happened? Somehow, between the mid-seventies, when the young Giscombe wrote little closed-narrative poems about the anxieties of uncertainty, and the late eighties, when the formally dissonant At Large appeared, with all of its narrative inconclusiveness, something changed in Giscombe. One is tempted to credit his long correspondence with the Canadian poet George Bowering, which began when Giscombe was editing the journal Epoch as a graduate student at Cornell. Bowering, after all, came from the wing of Canadian poetry most closely associated with Black Mountain poetry, with its emphasis on open form and serial composition. One can see how Black Mountain poetry, especially the geographic writing of Charles Olson, would appeal to a poet like Giscombe, obsessed as he has always been with landscape and travel. But there’s something else we should consider when we seek an explanation for Giscombe’s transformation—something as unlikely as that greatest of Arabic and Persian poetic forms, the ghazal.

The ghazal has been many things to many poets, but the most significant feature of the form, for Giscombe, has clearly been the way it invites dissonance. The traditional ghazal can be a unified poem, but it can also be a collection of disparate pieces, with each couplet or sher working as a separate poem laid down in juxtaposition to the couplets around it. When Giscombe spoke about Agha Shahid Ali’s ghazal anthology Ravishing DisUnities at a 2004 Modern Language Association Panel on “Poetry and the Oblique,” he focused on the dissonant possibilities of the form. “The book’s of interest to me,” said Giscombe, because “linearity is not what’s at stake” and the ghazals “are specifically about disunity, about things not holding together but diverging.” This kind of disunity is “what I saw in ghazals a long time ago,” continues Giscombe, it’s “what attracted me to them: the big consciousness of the disunity of the world, how stuff existed in oblique relation to other stuff.” How long before 2004 was that “long time ago”? One suspects something like thirty years: there is one ghazal in Postcards, written as a disparate collection of sher couplets. We might with some justification think of it as a door for Giscombe to open, one that would take him from the closed house of anxiety to the wider world of open narrative and dissonant composition.

This open world, however arrived at, is clearly the space Giscombe inhabits in At Large, the book that followed Postcards after a dozen years of relative poetic silence. Unlike Postcards, the book is written in the kind of dispersed-across-the-page lineation familiar to readers of Robert Duncan or Charles Olson; and, in the Black Mountain tradition, it treats the book, rather than the single poem, as the unit of composition. It also addresses notions of openness and dissonance at several levels. At, for example, the level of character and incident, At Large leaves behind the world of Postcards, with its seekers after an unattainable control and certainty and their compensatory talismans. Instead, we find characters escaping from control. The book opens with two characters (at least one of whom is African-American) refused service at a yacht club bar. They make their way back up the inlet they traveled, and find another kind of amusement on the tilted deck of a boat tricked out with Christmas lights, evading the policed space of the club for a kind of unpoliced area, beyond the mechanisms of control: exactly the kind of space that was the source of so much anxiety in Postcards.

At the level of metanarrative, At Large offers meditations on how certainty and narrative closure are often the products of our darker impulses. One section of the book, “(1978),” begins with a rehearsal of commonly accepted narratives about gender, and is Giscombe’s first examination of narrative dissonance as a way of understanding gender roles:

 Women say     Men let you down

men say   Women betray you

 so it’s hard to be anything

 but inward


 :angry (in any case) (9)

Here, we see each sex’s story about the other as closed, prefabricated, and ultimately expressing and offering little but hopeless anger and aggrievedness. A little later Giscombe shows himself first caught in, then escaping from, these simple and limiting narratives:

  “Men & women don’t know how to talk

to each other”

  I was saying once

out of nowhere in particular:

  little acts of, for instance, refusal

build up

  into something specific to the curve,

a sweep practically socio


  I walked out of & straight away from that house I saw

in a dream & did not look back (9)

Giscombe finds himself, out of frustration and anger, taking up a standard-issue narrative about how men and women relate. Seeing it, though, for what it is, he walks away from the house of ordinary domestic unhappiness, leaving the old kind of story, with all its unhappy certainties and prescribed roles, behind. It’s not that he has another kind of story to replace the old one: rather, in a gesture like that in the yacht club incident, he refuses the rule-defined place, leaving that closed space for an undefined outside, an existence at large.

At least that’s one way to read the passage. I don’t want to limit the passage to the one meaning, though. To do so would, in fact, be to impose a kind of coherence or consonance on a book that resists being read as a coherent whole. It’s difficult to demonstrate the structure of the book without quoting dozens of passages, so suffice it to say that syntactic openness, combined with the repetition with variations of key phrases and images, allow the reader to find different connections between the various parts of the book, flipping back and forth and marking pages for different kinds of connections, no one set of which seems to be of central importance. The project is defined in the text itself, when Giscombe writes of how he wants to “make the story long / for its own sake” and “redundant, without / apparent point” (10).

There’s an ethics to Giscombe’s narrative madness: telos, the seeking after ends and closure, seems to Giscombe to be an ugly, instrumentalizing way of going about things—and immature, too. Consider the following passage, from a section called “(1981)”:

 At 19 claiming

not having “had” her in particular was the terms

 of death, at least

 its shape

 at 30 that all settings

are exploratory at best (14)

Here, the teenage Giscombe sees the world in terms of telos: the point of a relationship with a woman is sexual possession, a culmination of a strategy of seduction, a using of a person as a means to an end. The story of a man and a woman is a story of pursuit, with a beginning, a middle, and an end in victory or defeat. The more mature Giscombe, though, knows the story of men and women can take many forms, and that there is no single conclusion, no simple criterion for success: everything is exploratory and provisional. The structure of At Large mirrors this mature conception: there is no simple narrative consonance to it, no one path to closure. In its looping narrative turns and loose connections, it remains exploratory. Here we begin to see something like Stockhausen’s desire to find in disunity and dissonance the kind of non-exploitative stance that constitutes “a spiritual and democratic attitude toward the world” (101).


Here and Giscome Road make further explorations in the dissonant idiom established in At Large. In both books, Giscombe contrasts two different ways of avoiding coherent narrative. I have no better way of describing these than to call them protosemy and polysemy, the first of which is a neologism for which I someday hope to be forgiven. In contrast to the multiple meanings and narrative possibilities of a polysemous poem, what I’m calling the protosemous poem is one that presents us with an absence of significance. In Here, protosemy is a negative state, a kind of despair, while in Giscome Road it is enticing, a blank slate of possibilities.

Here begins with Giscombe remembering his childhood, when he traveled south from Ohio to Alabama for a family funeral. He stands dejected at after the burial, unable to find meaning in his loss. “I was failing to grasp metaphorical continuity right & left,” he says,

I was in the power of silence at 11

& if, in a story or description, we were “picturesque”

along the station platform we were not a repeating shape, not even

a vector translated into a thing of moment (11)

This is the protosemous moment: no meaning, no story is available to him, no pattern, archetype, or “repeating shape” gives meaning to the experience. His is a dejection without redeeming significance.

What saves Giscombe is, surprisingly, an encounter with one of the most defined and formally coherent of all aesthetic traditions: the pastoral. As the young Giscombe travels through a part of Birmingham where “white folks w/ money still live” he observes their “big houses bespeaking the harmony of all parts” (13). These houses and their grounds, with all their classical decorum, seem to Giscombe to have been the source of his “bad attitude toward the pastoral” (14). As he thinks about the kinds of landscapes he admires, his sense of the richness of narrative possibilities and polysemous meanings returns to him. He contrasts the manicured lawns and manufactured pastoralism of rich, white Birmingham to

the service track that runs

through the fringe—warehouses, distributorships —

through the lowest, most humid elevations, through the dirt

front yards of cluster-houses hemmed by expressways and bypasses (15)

These are places of transit and intersection, not of closure (it is significant that the repeated word here is “through”). And the contemplation of these places revives Giscombe’s imagination, which finally finds the metaphorical significance he could not grasp before. These places become metaphors for the structure of Here itself, all connections between echoing parts, without center or conclusion (an “attitude split / into vectors,” as Giscombe puts it [15]). The book bursts into polysemy.

Giscome Road takes on the matter of Giscombe’s journey to remote parts of British Columbia, questing after an ancestor who had explored the region and given his name to several features in the local geography. Here, protosemy is a matter of the possibilities of the virgin frontier, “something / presignified, uninhabited” (17). Enticing as the idea of the place as a tabula rasa may be, though, it is soon revealed as a fiction. The region is not “presignified” in the sense of existing without yet having significance: it turns out to be “presignified” in the sense of having already been inscribed with meaning. The following passage offers a good sense of the movement from the former to the latter sense of presignification:

Having wanted to drive out to the edge, right out

to the mutest edge out there,

the mutest edge, the emptiest soundstage,

out to the invisibility there, out

to all that “up” there in Canada that took place up there —

Giscome, B.C. all unincorporated now up

on the Upper Fraser Rd off desolate Rte 16 to Alberta,

off the Alberta-bound road the Yellowhead (for Pierre B—, the blonde

 Iroquois who’d arrived

at the mountains there at the Alberta end, the source of the road):


the longest nuance… (21)

The journey to a mute edge turns out to be a journey to a place already named, and bearing the marks of a history of imperial colonization, with a road named for a British explorer and a province named for Prince Albert. The presence of Yellowhead complicates things, though: a mixed-race explorer for whom one of the most important highways in Western Canada is named, he (like Giscombe’s Jamaican explorer ancestor) introduces a bit of dissonance into the simple, traditional narrative of European colonizer and indigenous colonized. Giscombe introduces a similar dissonance at the level of form, collaging together different stories, maps, charts of indigenous people’s belief systems, and tables of their designs and symbols. Through this kind of suggestive but non-coherent composition Giscome Road becomes a field in which to contemplate ancestry, family bonds, empire, exploration, race, and race-mixing.


If Giscombe’s career from Postcards through Giscombe Road can be seen as an emancipation of dissonance after an initial period of anxiety, Prairie Style represents the culmination of that emancipation. It is the book where Giscombe takes dissonance to an extreme as a formal principle, and at the same time it is his furthest-reaching examination of racial identity.

One of the more accessible examples of the emancipation of narrative dissonance in Prairie Style comes in a prose poem called “Two Directions.” Here, Giscombe begins with a gesture as old as poetry itself: he offers a metaphor for love:

To me love’s an animal, not the feeling of watching one but the animal itself—blunt, active, equipped. The long body and, almost independent of that, the mobile head, the range of its movement, the obvious ambivalence. A horse in the river. (15)

So far, so good, thinks the reader uncomfortable with dissonance: love is a horse in the river. It is a kind of being-amid-things, a condition one could push forward or allow to turn back. But rather than develop or elaborate this interesting-enough metaphor for love (as a traditional composer would develop or elaborate a theme) Giscombe follows the opening metaphor with what seems to be a non sequitur, a dissonance or breach of the rules of narrative development:

I was a sad boy in a dream on his bicycle in the marshes. Always the first question is Where? Jamaica probably along the black river itself where the boat takes one to see the crocodiles and then there’s a place to eat at the end of the tour where the tour boat turns around at a low bridge. A dream of what? (16)

Of what, indeed? Certainly not love. Nor does it seem to be about being-amid-things. In fact, as we learn elsewhere, Jamaica’s Black River is the place from which all of the African-American Giscombes came. It isn’t a point in the midst of a journey, it’s a point of origin. The prose poem continues:

Love’s an animal to me, not working one or the expectation of one’s arrival, not “love’s animal.” Love’s full of uncorrected error, the fact of it being unseen or seen and stared at, speechless beneath a bridge, eating with its mouth instead, a croc or any animal. (16)

If we’re looking for consonance, we can find a little: the idea of love seems, now, to be linked to the scene of the Black River in Jamaica. But nothing like a coherent statement emerges. If we’re hoping for such a coherence in the remainder of the prose poem, we’re going to be disappointed, though. Here’s how it ends:

An island, a river, a bridge. Marshes in the dream, though bird-less; and a swaying wooden bridge, and the image of a missile having gone up or come up—from where?—through it: I offered it to the boy bicycling as a kind of humorless solace for the situation, an aimless if tangential exaggeration.

(But at the end was a small train station—an archetype—, just out of town, out of the marsh, and going there I got, in the dream, to long strands of passenger cars stretching out in two directions, platforms alongside. (16)

It’s tempting to read the puncturing of the bridge by the missile as an image for the puncturing of narrative coherence, though there’s little in the context to elevate such an interpretation above others. And it’s even more tempting to read the final image of the train station as a metaphor for the kind of journey Giscombe’s been taking us on. The station, after all, isn’t a final destination, any more than the poem’s conclusion is a wrapping-up of all the disparate images and narrative elements Giscombe has introduced into the poem. Rather, the station is a place from which to begin journeys, which could go in either direction the track leads. When we arrive at the station, it should be clear to us that Giscombe is inviting us to begin journeys in any of the directions the lines of the prose poem leads us: into meditations on love, on origins, or on narrative disruption. Like Stockhausen, Giscombe wants to use all elements of his composition as if they were of equal importance, rather than subordinating them to a dominant principle of coherence (the love theme, say). The title of Giscombe’s travel memoir, Into and Out of Dislocation, offers a pretty good description of what it feels like to read this kind of dissonant narrative: just as we glimpse the arrival of coherence and consonance, it slips away and something else rises into view.

How, one might wonder, could a technique of narrative dissonance like this be used to explore issues of race? After all, the most common means of addressing the painful heritage of racial identity in African-American literature hasn’t been to liberate dissonance in narrative—it has been to propose a counter-narrative to the old narratives that have denigrated or marginalized African-Americans.

Back when postcolonialism and multiculturalism were first percolating through academe, the creation of counter-narratives that challenged the dominant (and often racist) narratives was called “writing back.” Giscombe offers us an example of this kind of writing back in Prairie Style when, in the introduction to a series of prose poems called “Indianapolis, Indiana,” he quotes from Hugo Prosper Leaming’s idiosyncratic historical essay “The Ben Ishmael Tribe: Fugitive Nation of the Old Northwest.” The Ben Ishmael Tribe was a strange, poorly documented group of renegades—poor whites, blacks, and Native Americans living together in Kentucky and Indiana in the late nineteenth century. The only contemporaneous record of the tribe is an account by one J. Frank Wright, who maintained that the tribe was “a mongrel hoard” that was “like the Indian in their habits of life,” being “so lazy, so filthy, so primitive in their habits” (48). Hugo Prosper Leaming writes back against this characterization of a rare nineteenth century multiracial group, saying they were a tightly knit community of pioneers, some 10,000 strong, from whom the African-American communities of much of the Midwest sprung. They were also, in Leaming’s estimate, the progenitors of Black Nationalism and the inspiration for the Black Muslim movement. After examining both Wright’s and Leaming’s version of the Tribe of Ishmael, Giscombe can only conclude by quoting with the archivist Robert Horton, who claimed that there was little that could be trusted in either version. Old racist narratives, and the deliberate writing-back against those narratives both seem suspect to Giscombe. The way to address a world whose narratives denigrate one’s people, then, is not to fight myth with counter-myth, narrative with counter-narrative. It is to escape narrative’s claims of truth and coherence altogether, to emancipate the dissonance within language.

Giscombe drives home the political nature of his disruption of narrative in “Lazy Man’s Load” (a prose poem whose title brings to mind that great, self-pitying poem-manifesto of Kipling’s, “The White Man’s Burden”). Here, in the midst of almost but not-quite cohering meditations on landscape, race, pleasure, Indianapolis, and Leaming’s Tribe of Ishmael, Giscombe pauses to tell us “I like coherence well enough but am by nature more articulate than dependable” (51). The language is here is particularly loaded, in that it conjures up two stories America tells about black people, one condescending (that it is so rare that it is worth remarking upon when an African-American is articulate) and the other overtly racist (that African-Americans are by nature undependable). Given this Hobson’s choice of narratives about his racial identity, is it any wonder that Giscombe decides to eschew narrative and, as he puts it, allow “juxtaposition to do its job” of creating narrative dissonances?

Near the end of Prairie Style, in “A Cornet at Night,” Giscombe returns to the baleful articulate/undependable dichotomy:

Say I’m a fact of nature, a habit of life, the broad ripple. Say I’m a Usonian. Say I’m from out past the turnaround but have come in like a pack of dogs to reveal eros to you, to converse with you about the repeating shape. Say I’m teeth and crows. Say I’m voodoo-dick. Say I cleave to you or say I’m a vacant seat pulling away from the curb. Say I’m incomplete without you, sugar. Say I’m late but say how I’ll come sooner or later. Say I’m doubtless. Say I’m lazy but articulate. (63)

The repetition of “say,” here, is important, and not just for providing via anaphora a coherence at the level of sound that is deliberately lacking at the level of sense. “Say,” in this context, can mean one of two things: it can be a statement of how the individual statements are provisional—“say” as “let’s suppose.” Read this way, the passage is a collection of statements about Giscombe’s many potential identities (including his identity in racist discourse as “lazy but articulate”). But “say” can also be an imperative, a command to us to say various things. Read this way, we find ourselves making declarations about ourselves. The results of this way of reading the passage can be quite clever. We find ourselves declaring that we are Usonian, for example. Since “Usonian” was Frank Lloyd Wright’s term for his theory of American architecture (U.S.-onian), we find ourselves declaring, near the end of Prairie Style, that we are fans of the prairie style. We also find ourselves declaring to Giscombe that we are incomplete without him, and calling him “sugar.” But the results can be sobering, too, as when we find ourselves declaring that we are “lazy but articulate”—here, Giscombe makes us define ourselves in terms of America’s racist way of seeing blackness: an act that will make us more critical than ever of America’s narratives about race.

In Giscombe’s hands, the emancipation of narrative dissonance becomes a means of emancipating himself—and, if we are attentive, us—from the kinds of narratives about race that perpetuate old inequities. And in using dissonance as a means of addressing race, he’s bringing to his poetry an attitude long-established in African-American music: As Duke Ellington once told a journalist for whom he played some of his recordings, “That’s the Negro’s life... Hear that chord! Dissonance is our way of life in America” (153).

Works Cited

Ellington, Duke. The Duke Ellington Reader, ed. Mark Tucker. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Giscombe, C.S. At Large. Rhinebeck, NY: St. Lazaire, 1989.

---. Giscome Road. Chicago: Dalkey Archive, 1998.

---. Here. Chicago: Dalkey Archive, 1994.

---. Postcards: Poems. Ithaca: Ithaca House, 1975.

---. Prairie Style. Urbana: Dalkey Archive, 2008.

---. “Ravishing DisUnities.” Modern Language Association Conference, December 2004.

Schoenberg, Arnold. “Opinion or Insight?” In Style and Idea: Selected Writings of Arnold Schoenberg, ed. Leonard Stein, trans. Leo Black. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984: 258-263.

Stockhausen, Karlheinz and Jonathan Cott. Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971.

This essay first appeared in Cincinnati Review, Vol. 7 no. 2, Winter 2011.

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Robert Archambeau's books include Home and Variations, Laureates and Heretics, and The Poet Resigns: Poetry in a Difficult Time. He blogs at