Rob McLennan has Susan Tichy up for his 12 or 20 questions blog … she got 19, lucky woman. For one such questions he asks, and she responds:
6 – Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I am interested in collage as a practice that draws its material from the environment, from which its material identity never entirely separates. This alters the claims of imagination away from individual creation toward acts of perception and collection, but not away from the idea of individual experience. Beyond found text, collage composition is a way of thinking, retaining respect for the thingness of things as well as the thingness of words-as-sounds. Abstraction is an essential act of mind, but I want it to take place the same way it takes place in experience—not in the diction of the poem, which remains concrete, but in perception as it crosses the great or small distances between phrases, images, sounds. I link this to Taoist ideas of the ten-thousand-things, whose ever-moving relationships constitute and reveal the essential un-thingness of reality.
Tichy’s recent collection, Gallowglass (the term “gallowglass” is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic gal-óglac, a foreign soldier or mercenary, as she informs us in the book’s notes) is evidence that her understanding of collage is felt so securely that it is justly embodied in the work. I say this in contrast to many poets for whom I feel the thought and theory behind the work is either unhelpful because it is misplaced or skewed in the work itself, or that the thought and theory’s brilliance far exceeds the poems themselves. Tichy’s language combinations are at once lyric and sterile, emotional and instructional. The poems radiate polyphonic language from an undetermined number of sources/voices but the point is not chaos, but necessity. Perception has an origin, but is not singular. The priority we might otherwise place on the individual voice (especially where personal material involved) is insufficient.
The poems radiate the possibility that in the midst of trauma, war, personal suffering, and history an assemblage is the only accurate means of finding understanding. The fact that much of the collection is ordered in ghazals is apt. The couplets are meant to be discrete units, individual worlds that feel whole and complete until you consider them in conjunction with the other world sitting right next to it. These individual worlds feel tense in the way that things without slack are tense — secure but not safe.
In Tichy’s collection, the personal is but one point of access to a complex network of language/thinking. We sense origins so that Tichy’s collage is a form of repeating, a mantra-making, note-taking as a metapoetics of capture, a capture that may, perhaps, always remain tense. As the collection ends, “This is the image of pause / This is the image of step.”