“After I’d finished Sleep,” MM tells us (see Manjushree S. Kumar’s interview in MM: The Sentence Commuted ), “I cast about for an entirely different way of writing.” Whereas the first book collected independent poems, the second designed a deliberate sequence. “I began to imitate the photograph,” he adds. From the nighttime places of Sleep MM moves to the gemlike daytime scenes of O, from a book of 52 pages (cp. the number of weeks in a year), one which contain seventeen poems, to a work of 60 poems in 60 pages (cp. our duodecimal 60 minutes to the hour). Composition will be continuous in Light, as in most later work. The characteristic form, then, of a Morrisonian book begins to emerge. As the Sentence progresses its logic becomes more apparent. The “O” of SOL, says MM, is the Helios within Apollo, or the sun itself. For me O represents an “opening out” to the real world. Whereas Sleep had situated us in relation to various traditions, O chooses among them to build a more explicit relation to time and place: Chicago, Boston and New York seen as photographic moments or poetic postcards. O’s fragments coalesce into a narrative. We note the brevity of its lines, reminiscent in their prosody of William Carlos Williams, the playfulness of its language, but also MM’s “poise” here (as James Merrill remarked). Time has become implicit in the Sentence.
The full text of O
Sections 24-43 and 50-55 in Chinese
Rational Melodies IX, minimalist music by Tom Johnson,
a Yale classmate of MM's