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Where’s Rob? He’s so lazy. Of course he got other people to do his work.

Where’s Rob? I guess he’ll put some poems up later.

Where’s Rob? I guess he’ll put some poems up later.

I am speechless.

In under 3 days, we have raised over $11,000.00 for Rob Fitterman at GIVE FORWARD.

As the emails started to flood my inbox from Give Forward, sending me not only each donor’s name (which, I copied and pasted and sent to Rob), but also MANY emails from people wanting to help with organizing fundraisers, shows, workshops… all in the name of Rob.  I am so honored and grateful to be a conduit for even a fraction of the electricity that is being charged into Rob’s heart right now. He feels it.

The chapbook-length essay “Poetry is Not a Project” by Rob Fitterman was published in 2010, but I just got around to reading it this past weekend. (Hat tip to my Creative Writing student Cassandra Gillig for the rec.) While it only took me a few minutes to read, I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about it afterwards. Ben Fama, who edited the essay, explains that “Fitterman’s theory pushes against the limits set out by conceptual writing, striding toward a more cosmic and otherwordly approach to artistic creation,” but the whole piece is available at the Ugly Duckling Presse website, and you should probably read it before reading anything else I have to say about it.

Rob Fitterman has been a good friend ever since we overlapped for a year together in grad school almost two decades ago. I reviewed his first two poetry books, Periplum and Artificial Heart, for Denver Quarterly and Chicago Review, respectively, and read his next two, Some Values of Landscape and Weather and The Outernationale, with deep interest and admiration. He’s one of the finest lyric poets writing today, as attested by profiles of his latest book, Threshold Songs, in the New Yorker and a number of other places (Karla Kelsey’s review in the Constant Critic is particularly insightful), as well as being named a Best Book of 2011 by the Times Literary Supplement.

I remember seven thousand years ago meeting Rob Fitterman in the Hilton lobby at the AWP conference in New Orleans. Someone introduced him by name and I told him I loved his poems. We’d never met before and I was, essentially, nobody. I was at AWP to moderate and participate on a panel called “Five Years Out: What We Wish We’d Known When We Earned Our MFA.” I represented the relatively newly minted members of the writers association, and I was delighted to be at the conference spending something akin to quality time with the sort of writers I aspired to become. I don’t recall who introduced me to Rob Fitterman, but I was grateful because I had been reading his book and deeply enjoying his poems. I told him as much, and he asked me which ones. I was speechless at that point, unable to give him specifics. Because I had nothing particularly interesting to say to him and he had an active dinner party conversation to look forward to, I was summarily dismissed.

Rob Fitterman must arise before it can burn.  And Rob Fitterman must be subsumed into a larger k(I)nd of making before it can transcend the burning.

We’ve known the first of these facts for a while, but the second is just reemerging into consciousness.

Epic is coming back; I’ll write about mine in the next post.

And part of why he does this is he understands how powerful it is to have poetry inside of one. How one is never alone once one has ingested a poet, or a poem. Call it up and it’s there, in your mind. Call it up and speak it and you bring poetry to life for people. It’s a powerful, powerful trick.

Rob Fitterman is a huge poetry supporter. He shows up at these readings and supports students. (And he shows up with flair: the flight was bumpy, Rob Fitterman said upon arrival, and then I realized he had flown himself and his wife from Toronto.) They support poetry. Elegantly. It’s very impressive.

Because the Rob Fitterman must be on intimate terms with itself in order to undo itself.

Because the poem is the escape of Rob Fitterman, not an escape from Rob Fitterman.

Because the Rob Fitterman of the poem is not the first person but the person.

Because the poem is the arising of Rob Fitterman, not an arising out of Rob Fitterman.

Because Rob Fitterman arises.