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Transom:
The poems “Box 1” and “Box 2” remind us of Cornell boxes in that they’re meticulously crafted enclosures of language, but the language itself feels chipped from something larger. By what principles did you organize the contents of each box? In other words, what is the “thus” in the “dust thus organized?”

Rickel:
I write out of notebooks where I collect fragments of thought, words and phrases from my reading, images from dreams, etc. I begin most poems by arranging notebook material according to rhythm and sound, following associations, manipulating syntax as my sense of music and meaning develops. What is not said between the passages of what is said matters a great deal: that gap or space where the reader does the good work, through imagination, of making the poem. In the box poems I wanted actual physical space, something I’ve rarely employed, other than traditional line and stanza breaks, between utterances, as well as a rich musical surface. I also felt the need of a container, a limit or set of limits (the box in five double-spaced lines). Driven as I am during composition by sound and rhythm (including here the rhythm of various spacings), my sense of the poem’s actual meaning is felt, intuitive, developing over time. I trust the music to lead. As for “Box 2,” Mary Shelly said she hoped humans were “more than dust organized.” I suppose it’s accurate to say I was led by poem’s end to reflect on that hope.

Transom:
The poem “Metaleptic” is a complete sonnet—right down to the iambic pentameter. Yet its title directs the reader outward, into the world of “invisible sources.” If metalepsis is a linguistic bridge that connects the listener to familiar figures of speech, then what is on the other side of your sonnet?

Rickel:
Let me circle around my relation to the term metalepsis and see where we end up. I came to it first in Rasula’s The American Poetry Wax Museum: “the attribution of a present affect to a remote cause.” An online search led to Quintillian: “For the nature of metalepsis is that it is an intermediate step ... to that which is metaphorically expressed, signifying nothing in itself, but affording passage to something.” I confess I find every definition of it somewhat illusive, the term tantalizingly difficult to hold onto, irresistibly capacious, describing an effect, in the adjective form, akin to what I aim for in my work: an intermediary (invisible forces) affording a passage to something not directly represented. Central to my recent writing has been the sonnet by Herbert which opens, “Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,/ Gods breath in man returning to his birth, /The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage.” I’ve lived with this poem for over thirty-five years, and still the resonances hover and shift. Paratactic, yet exquisitely organized into coherent stanzas, obviously the lines and the discrete syntactic parts signify plenty. Each is a package of enormous import. Yet what they invoke collectively, what they point to beyond what is uttered, I find as large, unnamable and mysterious as the emotion that has overwhelmed me, a nonbeliever, when I’ve stood among Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel. I wrote a sonnet sequence, ten in all, in an attempt to approach that form of mystery (and have titled a new manuscript Metaleptic).

Transom:
The abundance of sonic play throughout the sonnets “Aphasic” and “Metaleptic” has the strange effect of muting the end-rhymes that we expect from the form. It’s a bit like putting a mute in a trumpet, but in your case the mute is made of other music.  In this poem, what is the signal and what’s the interference?

Rickel:
My ear has always led me to abundant rhyme, alliteration, various forms of echo, a musical density an early teacher urged me to moderate. Perhaps he was right, given the more “spoken,” narrative poems I was writing at the time. Compression in both sound and thought were among my motivating forces when composing the sonnet sequence. Line endings are always points of emphasis; the more complete the stop syntactically and, in rhymed poems, the more exact the rhyme, the greater the emphasis. Like sounds inside lines may well modify the effect of the end-line rhymes, which are now less unique, in effect less distant. Rather than think in terms of interference and signal, though, when reading poems freighted with such density (as in Hopkins or Crane), I tend to experience the musical texture of the poem more holistically, alert to, taking pleasure in, the sonic arrivals at lines’ ends, but hearing them as integral to the poem’s overall melody.