Vicious Only When Necessary
The Badger poems were never intended to be a sequence, which is to say I never meant to write more than one of them; or later, no more than twenty–two; or then, sixty–seven of them. In fact, despite the storied tradition of verse sequence, I’m deeply suspicious of it and its contemporary popularity. I suspect sequences are often a kind of crutch or other utility for generating writing, a kind of hodgepodge of imposed unity hobbled out before the audience to speak a ready–made soliloquy.
Too often the sequence, because of an order superimposed on it by the author, indebts itself too greatly to expectations created by the form or the sequence’s content, that is to say, to a kind of imitation, and not enough to anticipation of what the literary artwork might be or promise. And yet, some of the verse works that I most value are sequences.
The Badger sequence was born of a kind of compulsion: I sat down and those poems are what came out. In saying so, I don’t mean to invoke “the muse” (which I suspect doesn’t exist), nor duende, nor romantic “inspiration.” To imply otherwise would be like intimating that I ate breakfast this morning because gawd or revelation moved me to compose a chorizo and manchego omelet. Rather, I could only ever hope, to paraphrase Adorno, to disappear in the artwork.
Only now that I can look back, I think the preconscious foundation for the Badger poems, in general, was some hybrid condensation from reading writers like Jelinek, Rabelais, Lear, Beckett, Genet, and the like. The seed for the character of the Badger—a character who is and is not an actual badger depending on the given context—was first planted in background reading done for an actual sequence I was working on, a long fractured historical narrative, a poem which included a scene of Queen Anne entertained at Hockley Hole, London, by a baiting (in that case, a bullbaiting). The Badger of the poems, like any baited badger, is a skeptic in dialogue with hope—and thus “proper fucked.”
Here is an animal vicious only when necessary, and yet exceedingly feared by humans, asked by those same humans to perform savagery, outside of its natural context, amidst intense vulnerability. If the character and poems of Badger have complexity and depth it is because of this antinomy: the interplay of necessity and expectation carried into the sett, the family, the field, the workplace, the minefield of sexuality and sexual preference, and into a given social, political or historical moment. Indeed, Badger bears human representation, bears out the social–historical at the level of the personal while, I hope, reflecting back a picture uncomfortably familiar, and yet foreign, precisely because in this Badger we might see ourselves finally as we are.