Tom Snarsky

How to Reterritorialize Writing: a Case Study of Ariana Reines’s ‘Open Fifths’ and Kate Kilalea’s ‘Hennecker’s Ditch’*

A bare fifth, open fifth or empty fifth is a chord containing only a perfect fifth with no third. The closing chords of Pérotin’s Viderunt Omnes and Sederunt Principes, Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame, the Kyrie in Mozart’s Requiem, and the first move­ment of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony are all examples of pieces ending on an open fifth. These chords are common in Medieval music, Sacred Harp singing, and throughout rock music.

  • from the Wikipedia page for “Perfect fifth”

All surface water drainage flows captured by the surface water drainage (SWD) networks within the North Olympic Park are disposed to a suitable outfall point either into the Struc­tures, Bridges and Highways (SBH) SWD system, into Hennicker’s [sic] Ditch or Channel­sea Culvert or directly into the River Lea via dedicated outfall structures.

  • Olympic Park Management & Maintenance Plan


*This paper was originally presented at “Second Annual Boston Area Deleuze Reading Group Conference: Deleuze, Guattari, and Territoriality” in September 2018.



In an interview for The Editorial Magazine, Fiona Alison Duncan asks Ariana Reines, “Who is the Young-Girl, really?” This query—in reference to Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, a text Reines translated for Semiotext(e) in 2012—sets up nicely for an answer grounded in the past, in the “canonical,” in the already-written (and, by extension, the already-translated). Reines’s reply, though, takes an altogether different tack:

I think the real answer to that will be found in the writing that women are doing. It’ll be really interesting in ten years, once a really good amount has accumulated, for us to see. It’s the literature that we produce, and the art that we produce, that will really make our souls. That’s the work that we are in the midst of producing, right now.

Two particularly stunning artifacts of this continual “producing” will occupy us in this essay: Reines’s poem “Open Fifths”, first published at New York Tyrant in 2017, and Kate Kilalea’s poem “Hennecker’s Ditch”, first published in the PN Review (Issue 195) in 2010.

Each of these poems is a major aesthetic achievement in its own right, but we are particularly interested in reading them as paradigm cases of an approach to poetic practice that follows in the footsteps of some of the most accomplished women and nonbinary poets and writers of the late 20th/early 21st centuries (e.g. Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, Fanny Howe, Kathy Acker, Eileen Myles, and many more). This approach is characterized by its openness, its asynchro­nicity, and its disjunctivity; it is a poetics, primarily, of listening—of warm, im­manent connection that seeks the liberatory and the artistically fruitful while avoiding (or outright condemning) the totalizing, the domineering, the hierar­chical, and the canonical, with all their historical ties to patriarchy and of speak­ing before one has listened to what is really going on. In short, this poetics aims to reconfigure the territory of writing along a feminist axis by scrambling some of its oft-magnified masculinist and high-Modernist signals, and it accomplishes this goal using any and every literary tool available. This is a lot to claim for only two poems, but we hope to bear witness to some of the contours of this poetics in the analysis that follows.

A small disclaimer before we begin: the sole goal of this essay is to tease out (though surely not to fully understand) some of the ways that Reines and Kilalea are preternaturally successful at exploring these modes of openness in their re­markable work; as Kilalea said to Harriet Moore in an interview for Tender Jour­nal, the desire to share in some of the magic of these poems is “[l]ike the way that when you love someone, the desired response is for them to return your love, not to ‘understand’ it.” Whatever we fail to understand in this essay, may we at least return in love for these two singular, brilliant, and beautiful poems.

Writing as Connection: the Question of a (New) Feminist Poetic Praxis

Eileen Myles’s poem “Writing”, from their 2001 book Skies, begins thusly:

I can

any two


This is as concise a statement of the poetics of connection practiced by Kilalea and Reines as we are likely to find! In fact, these lines of Myles’s are echoed very closely and expanded upon in Reines’s poem, in a stanza crafted with intense care at the line breaks:

It’s true what they say, that meaning can be made from anything. The real
Question might be must it & if so how. It’s true what the Jews say
That the drawing-together of the two most disparate things is the real
Mark of intelligence. It’s true what the Greeks say
That metaphor is transportation.

Three things in this excerpt are worth noting: 1) Reines’s allusions strike a care­ful balance between the conversational and the Christological—cf. St. Paul’s Christ collapsing the distinction between Jew and Greek; 2) despite Reines’s speaker’s conversational tone, the ABAB repetition at the line endings operates as a near-Biblical apparatus of lin(k/e)age; 3) the third line taken on its own, truncated by the line break, puts forth a kind of relational ontology as “the real,” tout court. So Reines’s poem follows Myles’s in holding that one of the most important aspects of writing is the possibility it offers for connection—for enact­ing a relation between two disparate moments, images, or ideas, no matter how different a priori their natures might seem to be.

Reines’s poem creates these connections between many different milieux, from the speaker’s particular settings of utterance (e.g. on a train or in the various museums of NYC) to the songs and musical figures that populate the speaker’s referential field (e.g. “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, Dolly Parton, the members of Pussy Riot and of Sonic Youth, the list goes on), and also to the poets and writers that the speaker chooses from her poetic tradition (e.g. Frank O’Hara (treated sympathetically) and Stéphane Mallarmé (treated less sympathetically, as we will see), along with W.H. Auden, Lord Byron, and even Russell Brand). This set of associations—eclectic, but almost always person-sized, and never too obscure—leads to Reines’s speaker acknowledging that “Open Fifths” is “a New [//] York School of Poetry poem”:

                       I haven’t read “The Painter
Of Modern Life” in half an age but I told Sheelagh
I’d translate “Correspondences” for the Symbolism
Show at the Frick1. Good job you have detected this is a New

York School of Poetry poem, for one thing, by the presence
Of the Frick with its Polish Rider so beloved of Frank O’Hara

Reines’s speaker cites O’Hara in a self-aware gesture that makes clear that the speaker sees herself performing all this name-dropping in a way that is totally consistent with the chatty, garrulous style of the New York School poets, who frequently mentioned each other in their work (often on a first-name basis, à la Reines’s “Sheelagh”). This is a canonical truism; Reines’s speaker knows this about the New York School Poets, knows they are “canonical”, and also knows that citation is an ineliminable fact of the poem’s composition that cannot be avoided:

And I’m going to show it to you when you get here
Even though you’ve already seen it but like the song
Says, I’ll Take You There. […]

The archival impulse in dudes makes me impatient
But who, who is clean of it.

Reines’s poem operates at this person-sized level of association for its duration; it constantly creates space for new allusions, whether to song, art, place, his­tory, politics, poetry, or even to other persons not historically represented in the space of the American lyric poem—e.g., “The bent Peruvian man I met two days ago [/] In his new ice cream shop full of toys”. In this sense, Reines’s poem is urbane, social, and warmly knowable; reading it is like walking into a party hosted by a friend of a friend who serves as an amicable Virgil figure, at one’s side throughout the night and willing both to introduce one around and also to contextualize relationships and relevant backstories in real time. Reines’s speak­er makes reading the situation possible from within, even for a reader who may not be familiar with everything the poem makes reference to.

In this way, “Open Fifths” addresses the problem of citationality head-on, in very human terms. It prioritizes the first-person experience of canonicity and allusion in an immanent way that feels more like love than secrecy or obscuran­tism. Jacqueline Risset, as paraphrased here by Richard Sieburth, was writing about Maurice Scève’s famous sixteenth-century cycle of dizains, the Délie, when she wrote that that work “conflates the act of literary citation with the fantasy of erotic fusion, in the process generating a text that is continually open to avail­able tradition, continually in colloquy with what lies beyond its borders”. This description is spot-on perfect for describing what is happening in “Open Fifths”; this is Reines’s uptake of Adrienne Rich’s project to find a “common language” — or, perhaps more accurately, a common method—to make space for poetry to speak back to its own totalizing, male-dominated canon.

Kate Kilalea’s poem operates in quite a different register than Reines’s; the per­son-sized touchstones in “Hennecker’s Ditch” are much more oblique in the text of the poem itself, and the divers sorts of moments and particulars that Kilalea ties together in her poem feel much more obscure at first blush than those in Reines’s poem (read: they are less easily Googleable). In contrast to the Reines bits quoted above, with their dizzying density of proper nouns, here is a repre­sentative excerpt from “Hennecker’s Ditch”:

We pushed a chest of drawers against the door.
It’s nice now that the corridor’s empty.
A necklace. Vacant. Light wrecked the road.

Dear Circus,
We took off our clothes
and did cocaine for three weeks.

The washing machine shook so badly
that a man asleep four floors down reached out
               to hold it:
Shut that dirty little mouth of yours…

The only proper noun in this excerpt, “Circus”, is a chorus-esque figure who only appears in the poem periodically as a kind of epistolary addressee (“Dear Cir­cus…”). (In fact, “Dear Circus” was a provisional title for the poem that Kilalea used for at least one public reading.) The rest of the moments depicted in the excerpt are riddled with opacities: who comprises the rest of the “We” pushing drawers against doors and doing cocaine? What exactly are the mechanics of the sleeping man “four floors down” holding the washing machine? Whence and wherefore the corridor, the necklace, the road?

Introducing “Hennecker’s Ditch” at readings, Kilalea is quite direct in saying that the poem does little to tie together the very disconnected images and moments that feature in it. As Don Share paraphrases,

On YouTube, you can see Kate Kilalea reading ‘Hennecker’s Ditch’—it’s called ‘Dear Circus’ in the video—which she introduces by saying that ‘there’s no work to be done’ by her audience; she adds that one will find in the poem a ‘series of characters and observations without any kind of authorial interpretation, so I’m in the same position as you, and there’s no work to be done, really, but to listen.’ And indeed, the only other explanation of any kind she gives is that ‘it’s worth knowing that the character Henry is a dog.’

The rest of Share’s essay is an immanent reading-through of the poem, which he begins by attempting to marshal certain canonical “touchstones” to bolster his reading (e.g. T.S. Eliot who wrote many cryptic longish poems, Marianne Moore whose first book was titled Observations, John Berryman whose Dream Songs had a Henry as their principal character, and several others). Eventually, though, he has to abandon this approach in favor of a more immanent one:

I push forward, try to let puzzling things pass, but it’s hard to do. ‘Ickira trecketre stedenthal’, for instance, says the train at her station. How on earth can I resist looking this up? But when I Google the phrase, all I get is… a link to the poem itself, as published in PN Review. I’m now quite distant from my Eliotic and Berryman­esque touchstones; I’m in, let’s say, a postmodern place, yet I feel fine. I’m practical­ly in another country, and I like it.

Suddenly Share’s subject position as a reader has changed: rather than working as an (Audenesque) metaphysical detective, teasing out allusions and looking for canonical clues, he is reading as a desiring-subject whose ear (in reading) is becoming attuned (however gradually) to the music of the poem. He is now following Kilalea’s introductory advice that “there’s no work to be done, really, but to listen.”

This subject position on the part the reader turns out to be quite close to Kilalea’s own subject position, at least vis-à-vis her account of the composition of the poem: “I found myself writing down certain phrases I came across—street signs, snatches of other people’s conversation, my own strange inner conversations—in my notebook. There was nothing significant about them but at the time I found them appealing—like an atmosphere my ear had developed a taste for.” Kilalea here de-emphasizes the role of the poet as artificer and recasts the poet as a conduit or receiver of the world’s complex semiotics, both externally (things and sounds from outside the poet’s body) and internally (things and sounds from inside the poet’s head). Suddenly the poet is in almost the same position as the reader, where “there’s no work to be done, really, but to listen.” The distinction between the poet as craftsperson and the reader as detective begins to collapse; now both poet and reader are sensemakers above all else, faced with what Wil­liam James called the “blooming, buzzing confusion” of experience, listening for something they do not fully understand but that they know intuitively that they find appealing within the space of the poem (whether they’re the one putting it there or the one finding it there).

In an interview, Kilalea attributed this shift (which the interviewer likened to being ‘set free’) to her beginning psychoanalysis and needing a new epistemic baseline, away from the “knowing tone” of the poems in her first book:

KATE: It’s funny that you talk about being ‘set free’ because that’s what it felt like to write it. I remember, after my first collection came out, suddenly looking at the poems I’d written and hating the kind of wise or knowing tone they seemed to have. The idea that I had any­thing to say about anything seemed totally false, which has something to do with my having started psychoanalysis around that time. The process so drastically undercut the way I’d seen things that not only did I not know anything anymore, I also felt totally incapable of thinking or saying anything that made sense.

Because of all this, Kilalea’s poetics of desire is not driven by the same eroti­cized citationality as Reines’s is. Or, at the very least, that citationality works in a different register for Kilalea than it does for Reines. For example, where Rein­es might be inclined to mention a song or musician by name or via quotation of lyrics (e.g. “Tex Ritter’s singing RIDE RIDE RIDE”), Kilalea is much more likely to let language’s own musicality stand in for itself: i.e., “Ickira trecketre stendenthal, said the train”, “Tick-a-tick-ooh, tick-a-tick-ah”, “A red jersey. Bot bot bot. [/] Sevéral breezes.” Prima facie, this feels like it could be a significant difference that might be able to tell us something about the different approaches Reines and Kilalea take to the musicality of poetry; this distinction, though, as with any one might attempt to apply hard and fast to these chimerical poems, eventually breaks down, as when Reines lets us in on her choice of form with the very musical lines, “There are five lines a stanza in here open staves of slave [/] Wheat waving in oppressive Ancient Egypt”, or when Kilalea includes a rare proper noun in the lines, “She lay her head against the window and sang a song by Silvio Rodriguéz [sic] [/] wearing ten gold balls on a chain around her neck.” The common denominator for both poets is an irreducible emphasis on sound and listening, a connection we will explore further in the next section.

Although they operate and read in tremendously different ways, we have seen that Reines’s and Kilalea’s poems establish myriad connections both within the space of the poems themselves and between the poem and a preëxisting liter­ary tradition. Both poems tie together a rich array of experiences, characters, sounds and feelings by way of a semi-deflated poetic subject, who serves less as a supreme artisan/Creator and more as the point of conjuncture of the many diffuse experiences related to the reader in the poem. In the words of Charles Whalley, “the opening lines [of “Hennecker’s Ditch”] suggest a heightened expo­sure to experience, as if the speaker’s accustomed perception has been stripped away, leaving them amazed by the rain and the rose beetles, the border around a subjectivity broken and the world rushing in.”

In their openness to the world in all its radical particularity, Reines and Kilalea in their poems manage both to enact and to coordinate what Deleuze and Guat­tari term haecceities, as exposited thusly in A Thousand Plateaus:

There is a mode of individuation very different from that of a person, subject, thing, or substance. We reserve the name haecceity for it. A season, a winter, a summer, an hour, a date have a perfect individuality lacking nothing, even though this individuality is different from that of a thing or a subject. They are haecceities in the sense that they consist entirely of relations of movement and rest between molecules or particles, capacities to affect and be affected.

As poems, “Open Fifths” and “Hennecker’s Ditch” seem especially to cater to this notion of haecceity. There is extraordinary scope to both poems’ inclusion of disjoint people, places, things, feelings, sounds, and ideas, tied together only by the perfunctory presence of a poetic “I”; this “I” is not so much a subject as an anaphoric utterance which could eventually develop into a conventional lyr­ic subject, but doesn’t, as is sometimes the case in post-L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry. Crucially, the relations (temporal, incidental, disjunctive, and very much real) into which all these things and pre-subjectivities enter in the space of the poems are what constitute the haecceities at work therein; as Deleuze and Guat­tari write, they “consist entirely of relations”.

In the case of Kilalea’s work especially, the pre-subjective “I” is set up quite explicitly to be interrogated, taken down a peg from the crowned position of subjecthood. As Charles Whalley writes, “Voices and characters come and go, change and blur, as the ‘I’ of the first line becomes ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘we’.” The reader is prepared for these metamorphoses by the opening of Kilalea’s poem, which announces the dissolution of the “I” in no uncertain terms: “I stood at the sta­tion [/] like the pages of a book [/] whose words suddenly start to swim.” If we read the “I” here as being mentioned in addition to being used, we can feel the traditional subject position of lyric poetry slipping away. Here, not only does Kilalea place the “I” in the liminal/functional space of the “station”, but also that “I” gets transposed into a textual register (twice!) and concomitantly destabi­lized (while, in the same breath, its stability is replaced with the sounds of conso­nance): “suddenly start to swim”. Like Share’s reading, the poem therefore needs to abandon its conventional lyric “I” in favor of something else—something less fraught, less metaphysically overdetermined, and certainly less mired in the vi­olence of patriarchal history.

New Temporalities: Futurity, Sound, and an Immanent “Faith”

In an article about Denise Riley’s poem “A Part Song”—another beautiful long poem too singularly magnificent to go into here—the poet and critic Ange Mlinko writes that “[a] poet’s medium is time as much as it is language.” For Mlinko, the poet’s art is in creating a kind of duration during which the reader’s sense of time chimes in some fundamental way with the poem’s, interrupting the reader’s standard temporal flow by injecting a new, aestheticized kind of experience by way of the contents (aural, imagistic, and otherwise) of the poem.

How does a poet create this sense of temporality from the deflated subject posi­tion Reines and Kilalea have carved out for their speakers? One way is by coordi­nating singularities and refrains in the poem. Kilalea’s poem uses several devices to establish a rhythm, but none more so than raw anaphora: she repeats the figures of the stoep, the sea, and the moon; she repeatedly addresses the myste­rious Dear Circus; and she frequently makes use of what Charles Whalley calls the “false start”, a pattern of repetition that builds tiny micro-structures before moving on—e.g.,

Thirty-one back gardens.
Thirty-one back gardens overlooking
               the backs
of thirty-one houses.
Thirty-one houses looking out over the sea.
And the sea—of course it was—was marbled
and contorting.

In Reines’s poem the singularities are often people-as-relations; e.g. not Frank O’Hara as some transcendental soul, some metaphysically overdetermined member of the Great Dead Poets Club, but rather Frank O’Hara as depicted naked by Larry Rivers on the cover of one copy of his Selected Poems, reduced to a “Long-lost dick” in Reines’s lines. (Of course there are exceptions to prove this rule: Reines has plenty of objects that anaphorically create a sense of continuity throughout the poem, from the train cars her speaker inhabits to the peanut butter her speaker eats in the very first stanza, but the mention of Tony Robbins in the opening line of the poem is just one reason to see the personae in Reines’s lines as the primary material.)

One way Reines is able to perform this flattening, both of her speaker’s subject position and of her vast assortment of references, is the “open fifths” structure of the poem itself. Reines uses number (specifically, the repeated use of the five-line stanza) to ground her speaker’s experience and create a level field of com­position for the poem. By way of contrast, we can consider Stéphane Mallarmé’s use of number, since he is a poet of the masculinist Modern against whom Rein­es directly polemicizes in the poem (“he writes I swear to God [/] Badly on purpose”) and of whom Quentin Meillassoux has recently offered a well-known reading in The Number and the Siren. For Meillassoux’s Mallarmé, number is not just a mark of structuration or an organizing principle for the poem: it is the site of the poem’s great jumping-over into ontology, into transcendence. It is the way for the poet to both describe and enact in the same breath; for Meillassoux, Mal­larmé performs a tremendous poetic feat in describing the coup de dés as unre­solved and permanently indeterminate, while also determining a Number in the very act of the poem’s articulation, since the poem itself consists of precisely 777 words (by Meillassoux’s count). This use of number creates a trajectory or telos for the poem that implicitly involves a discontentment with immanence; rather than being-in or being-present, Mallarmé’s speaker must always be beyond in order for the poem to properly transcend its conditions of utterance.

For Reines number functions quite differently, and in a much more immanent manner. The “open fifths” allow the speaker to dip into the poem at presumably different moments of subjective time, connecting separate instants via a com­mon structure without thereby attempting to leap out of lived experience into any abstract transcendence:

[…] I’m standing
Up on a crowded train I don’t know that I’ll be able to finish what I’m saying

Yes I will a man has just offered up his seat.


My pen she glide so smoothly I can’t

Actually I could stop and did but now I’m back again

This dipping into and out of the poem across time serves two related purposes. First, it manages again to locate Reines within the New York School poetic tra­dition: John Ashbery, probably the most esteemed and well-known New York School poet, once described his own poetry as a sort of “underground stream” into which he dipped a bucket in order to bring up a poem, an image he borrowed from an old Austrian novel. Furthermore, the casual temporality throughout Reines’s poem also allows her speaker to deflate her references to Mallarmé; he is mentioned by name at both the beginning and the end, but he’s not given an extended treatment nor is he taken seriously as an interlocutor—that would de­feat the whole purpose of Reines’s escape from patriarchal poetic discourse! So Reines’s speaker gets to choose her canon: here, the funny and friendly Ashbery over the (for Reines) over-serious and self-important Mallarmé.

Kilalea uses number in a much more stochastic way than Reines does, and this is connected to the different way music works in Kilalea’s writing. “Hennecker’s Ditch” exhibits minimal numerical regularity: the stanzas are mostly of different lengths (though there are a fair number of tercets), and the numbers mentioned in the poem (“Thirty-one back gardens”, “four floors down”, “three times” or “three weeks”, “ten gold balls”, “A hundred years”) have a similar effect to the numbers placed prominently in shots from David Lynch’s recent work: they em­anate a specificity that is mysterious in its clarity and boldness; they create an op­portunity for the reader to make sense of them in real time, rather than pointing to some ancient or metaphysically-wrought capital-N Number that transcends them all. In fact, Kilalea has written a novel, called OK, Mr. Field, in which she describes (in the context of the title character listening to his environment—first to the unpredictable noises of a construction site, then to the sounds of the leaks in his house dripping into metal pots) what it is like to come face-to-face with this seeming randomness in the hopes that it will lead somewhere, that it can be built into something:

My ears, unable to switch off this hope for the resolution the site seemed to be crying out for, were constantly alert for any regularity, believing always that a hammer striking (one, two, three—pause—one, two, three) might be counting the rest of the instruments into rhythm, or that some sonic coincidence, like the scrape of a spade running for a few seconds in parallel to the grating of a drill, signified something more. […] Where the noises from outside were so irregular that I was constantly being alerted to their presence, the water falling into the pots, tempered as it was by the many layers of roofing and ceiling materials, was so evenly distributed that it had a reliable beat and my mind soon grew accustomed to its presence. The enduringly uniform tempo of the rain dripping into the house provided me with a sense of security. Hearing it, like a baby soothed by a ticking clock, I felt reassured, both of the rhythm’s own consistency and of the house’s ability to protect me.

This passage returns us to “Hennecker’s Ditch” and its compelling image of the “rickety house” (“Dear Circus, [/] When you found me [/] I was a rickety house”), which here is transfigured into the grand mediator between the subject (the “I” of the passage, Mr. Field) and the outside world; to use Charles Whalley’s for­mulation again, we see how the world is always “rushing in” and the subject (deflated or otherwise) is never cleanly separated from the Outside; rather, it is the mediation of the inside/outside relation—in other words, sense itself—that provides the “I” with structure and comfort in the face of a random and ter­rifying Outside, or what Deleuze has called the pure exterior. This makes the listening-to that Mr. Field is doing in the passage—which is also, quite clearly, a listening-for—into an act of immanent faith in sense, constitutive not only of the reader’s experience (Mr. Field is surely “reading” his surroundings), but also of the poet’s (e.g. Kilalea’s, as she builds the “rickety house” of “Hennecker’s Ditch”—even the titular place of the poem is an outfall point to catch surface water, just like the metal pots in the passage).

It is worth noting that both Reines and Kilalea have branched out into other media to explore the problematics of making sense in the contemporary mo­ment: Kilalea is a poet and novelist trained in architecture, and Reines is a poet, playwright, and performance artist trained in astrology. In What Is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari write: “out of a chaos of unrelated particulars, paths are selected” (emphasis in original). The background of each poet informs the path that each traverses in their work: Reines’s path in “Open Fifths” is a sort of dérive but in very first-person terms, through a city populated by real people; this being very much in line with Dante and the Orphic tradition, her (admittedly Franco­philic) influences bring to mind Cocteau. Kilalea’s is a somewhat freer sensory dérive through language and sound itself, playing more like a Brakhage film or a walk through the rooms of a house than anything with definite narrative weight; this helps to explain both the seriality and the relative brevity of “Hennecker’s Ditch”.

These two poems successfully build their unique temporalities on the back end of what Deleuze and Guattari call the labor of the refrain. In A Thousand Pla­teaus, Deleuze and Guattari ask quite explicitly whether or not the refrain is “necessarily territorial”, or if it can instead be “used for very subtle deterritorial­izations, for selective lines of flight”. How better could we describe the liberatory structure of Reines’s “Open Fifths”, or the radical openness to new experience exhibited in Kilalea’s “Hennecker’s Ditch”, than as “the adventure of the refrain: the way music…takes it down a creative line…no origin or end of which is in sight” (ibid.)?


In her film Morvern Callar, Lynne Ramsay’s mise-en-scène follows the title char­acter after she wakes up next to her boyfriend who has died by suicide. He leaves her a copy of the finished manuscript for his novel, along with a suggested pub­lisher to send it to. Morvern, in an act not far from Deleuzian “buggery,” puts her own name on the manuscript, sells the novel, and spends the rest of the film continuing to live her life without guilt or shame.

What we get to witness in these two poems by Reines and Kilalea are two poets at the height of their powers deftly navigating the Eliotic Waste Land of a dead canon, in all its Mallarméan sunkenness. Kilalea constructs a “rickety house” out of the sounds and rhythms immanent to the language of the moment of compo­sition, never impinging on them with a superimposed, totalizing architecture; Reines ventriloquizes the dead poets she mentions without ever replicating the patriarchal logic of their Shakespearean quest for a triumphalist, Ozymandian immortality. What Reines and Kilalea achieve instead is what John Ernest called “a life of response, of reception—and the particularity of reception is what the poems reveal, moments of near contact, of instrumentality”. These are poems of what François Laruelle has called the “immanent future”, the fundamental unit of which is lived experience varnished with the attentiveness of the poet, the arch-maker of sense. When we look to the future of poetic practice, we can put ourselves in the position of the beetles that appear in an almost-miraculous con­currence in the second stanzas of both poems, representing both the wonder­ment of immanence and the possibility for it to be so much more than the sum of its parts through the powerful emanations that comprise the act of creation:

Whorling hurricanes out from the backs of beetles [AR, “OF”]

Wow. The rain. Rose beetles. [KK, “HD”]

At the time of writing, both of these poems are free to read on the internet; I im­plore you to spend time with these remarkable pieces of work and forge the new connections they possibilize, with a special view toward your own particular cir­cumstances. The promise of a poetics of immanent connection is that we all are potential practitioners, all nodes in the web of a poem without pretense that any of us could dip into at any time, for any reason—or, better: for no reason at all.


Event recap: Occult Poetics — a reading with Ariana Reines, CA Conrad, and Jessica Bebenek”. LIBRAIRIE DRAWN AND QUARTERLY. (Feb. 2017:­ics-reading-with.html)

Duncan, Fiona Alison and Reines, Ariana. “A Conversation with Ariana Reines” The Editorial Magazine. (Issue 17,

Kilalea, Kate and Moore, Harriet. “Different buildings – An Interview”. Tender. (Issue 6, April 2015:

Mack, Rob. “On Katharine Kilalea’s ‘Hennecker’s Ditch’” Surroundings. (Sept. 2011:­ers-ditch.html)

Mlinko, Ange. “A Part of Denise Riley’s Song”. The Nation. (Sept. 2016:

Reines, Ariania. “Open Fifths”. New York Tyrant. (April 2017:

Share, Don. “Don Share on Kate Kilalea’s ‘Hennecker’s Ditch’”. New Poetries Blog. (Sept 2011:

Whalley, Charles. I Was A Rickety House: A Commentary on ‘Hennecker’s Ditch’ (March 2017:


Tom Snarsky teaches mathematics at Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts.