Sometimes though, the fit is uncomfortably snug. Though conceptual writing refuses to pander to affect,4 much conceptual writing is neither “depersonalized nor unemotional.” I had a strange experience of this recently when working on a process-based chapbook of poems which generate texts by using all the letters in a pre-existing text. I try to be fairly random in my word-building, but obviously words that I like, as well as words that are on my mind, often end up in the poems. Producing one poem just before a planned trip to Paris, I began constructing various words and phrases in French. One was Gare du Nord, where I was due to meet my partner after a long and somewhat fraught time apart. Earlier I had made the words ‘her’ and ‘at.’ I thought that the line found her at Gare du Nord, would be a pleasing language event for me, so I looked for the letters to make the word ‘found,’ but I didn’t have them. I looked again and realised that I could form the word ‘lost,’ so I made the line, lost her at gare du nord.
Later, after we had broken up, she told me that as soon as she had seen me standing at the end of the platform on Gare du Nord, she knew that it was over.
At the time of writing, the line was intended to represent no reality, to relate only to language itself. Reading over that line later though would flush me with emotion, as if John Edward had just guessed a peculiar trait about my grandmother. Repetition like a psychic rain main. Jenny Janine Jenna Jennifer Jean. Was your father missing a leg?5 This is gonna sound really weird, but, did you lose her at Gare du Nord? Did you walk over a bridge from nowhere to nowhere?