Line of Inquiry
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Line of Inquiry H. L. Hix It’s amusing to add “in bed” to the end of one’s fortune-cookie fortune because changing the referent of a revelation makes it a different revelation. I wonder if something analogous happens when one takes colloquial and technical uses of “line” as if they referred to the poetic line. Do they tell us anything about the (poetic) line we didn’t know already? Do they raise questions we hadn’t thought to ask? Does their juxtaposition prompt associations and ideas we might not otherwise find? For example, I feel provoked lately by matters of orthodoxy/heterodoxy, conformity/dissent, obedience/disobedience, and so on. Such a range of concerns laid over my practice of poetry leads to questions such as these: Is poetry (can poetry be) a uniquely effective tool for recusancy and other modes of civil nonconformity? Does poetry (or can poetry) offer refuge for the scapegoat, the exile, the dissident, the refusnik? A complex of questions related to those seems to me to be suggested by reading—as referring to poetry—such locutions as “stay in line” and “you’re outta line.” The questions might be reformulated to follow the suggestive locutions. Is it possible through lineation to step out of line? According to what order of things is this poem in line? According to what order of things is it out of line? And so on. I take it, then, as an ongoing obligation of a poet to interrogate—if we have a tragic or martial sensibility—or play with—if we prefer the comic and ludic— (mis)uses of “line.” Line up. Line out. Give him some line. Outline. Straight line. Broken line. Line drive. I walk the line. Draw a line. Draw the line. Toe the line. Underline. Borderline. One toke over the line. Fine line. Line of work. Line of fire. Drop me a line. Sign on the dotted line. Line of least resistance. Line of questioning . She kept me on the line. I know my lines. A line in the sand. He fed me a line. Line your pockets. Down the line. Up the line. Enemy lines. Hold the line. You understand my line of thought. ...