Music or Forgetting

E. Tracy Grinnell

2001 • 69 pp. • $12.00
ISBN: 9781882022427

Purchase from Small Press Distribution

In music or forgetting, E. Tracy Grinnell’s first collection, poems are diachronic cartography. As in the title, a single line may be her memory and conjecture being the same space and time at only ‘the present time of the poem’. Or, her memory and conjecture are the same, cumulatively absorbed, as if there is no speaker or seer in a long quiet present, which becomes its music: “historically/waves are either synchronic,/spatial, or/new presence of body presupposes dialogue”.
—Leslie Scalapino

In E. Tracy Grinnell’s music or forgetting the fragile traces of a life are lifted; a figure emerges as landscape; the body, a heathered slope. A view, a vista is offered, open and solitary, identified not by web works of interiors but by wakefulness. Time is marked by the distance of summers rather than a crush of events. The language intimates aspects of drawing, mobile, etude in which color, space, detail are sparingly applied; absence intensifies presence. The poetry obtains a distillation into human memory.
—C.D. Wright

A word turns up, takes a turn with one phrase and another, a tone, an intonation. Almost-repetition there is no. Sense is tested against sound in turns and torques of grammar-and multiples, fruitful. At every turn. “Not one kind of” music. You won’t forget it.
—Rosmarie Waldrop


E. Tracy Grinnell is the author of Helen: A Fugue (Belladonna Elder Series #1, 2008), Some Clear Souvenir (O Books, 2006), and Music or Forgetting (O Books, 2001), as well as the limited edition chapbooks Mirrorly, A Window (flynpyntar press, 2009), Leukadia (Trafficker Press, 2008), Hell and Lower Evil (Lyre Lyre Pants on Fire, 2008), Humoresque (Blood Pudding/Dusie #3, 2008), Quadriga, a collaboration with Paul Foster Johnson (gong chapbooks, 2006), Of the Frame (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2004), and Harmonics (Melodeon Poetry Systems, 2000). Grinnell’s poetry has been translated into French, Serbian, and Portuguese. She has taught creative writing at Pratt Institute, Brown University, and in the Summer Writing Program at Naropa University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the founding editor and director of Litmus Press.


Still Water, Oklahoma
much later

waves manifest chase,
is running towards

ballast, where
to just reside—

the opposite of waterfall, and
being complicit

waves are either synchronic,
spatial, or

new presence of body presupposes dialogue


thin blue strap

the passive ornate—of temperature—is half-stone—is delta—tone measure—of crystal—ruby lost—a toilet mechanism—sounds like—whistle—or parcheesi

or thirteen versions of—solitaire—a friendly german shepherd—a Lassie dog—a deaf setter—a lap dog—labrador—Hiroshima—a continuous slap—for twenty years—diachronic—episode

the permutation of—elite—a foreshadowing—in a blackwards—reading—a travel game—time device—cryptogram—on up-side down—saving grace—for last

—a crayon—is a goldfish, a pet—a microcosm