“Draft CX: Primer” from The Collage Poems of Drafts by Rachel Blau DuPlessis (2011)
The first book of poetry by Rachel Blau DuPlessis that I owned was Tabula Rosa (Potes and Poets Press, 1987). I had just entered the MA Program at Temple University, where she would become my workshop mentor and, eventually, dissertation advisor. The book features the first two of what became a decades-long project in serial poetry, Drafts (1987-2013). An excerpt from “Draft #1: It” exemplifies the language that drew me in then — and more than 30 years later it still comes as a jolt:
No “books” no ministers no tow art
“no sandpoems” built of it, not on it
it is sacred what you can do with it
the general aura of quest just as a baseline.
Since that time, DuPlessis has written many books of poetry and criticism. Ethics are central to her craft as she has confronted such issues as the marginalization and oppression of people based on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation; the diminishment of what the philosopher Hannah Arendt once referred to as the “world held in common;” and the erosion of trust in the arts as a viable instrument of social change.