Titles & First Lines
by Michael Ruby

Cover of Mudlark No. 65 (2018)

Page from late 2008 in the original notebooks for Titles & First Lines

Author’s Note: “Titles & First Lines” is a long poem based on a succession of notebooks that have sat open on the right side of my desk at home since 1999. Whenever a title or first line crosses my mind, I write it in the notebook. In the poem, the titles and first lines are joined by three columns of words in the background, which emerged during two decades of automatic writing.
     “Titles & First Lines” accumulated slowly over time. It moves through time. Through wars and elections, through realizations and losses. It is a poetic diary. It is the poems I never wrote. It hasn’t ended.
      The opening pages were first published in Mudlark in 2007 and in my book Compulsive Words (BlazeVOX, 2010). They covered the period from 1999 to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and ended with the title “The Last Refuge of Scoundrels,” Samuel Johnson’s definition of patriotism.

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Michael Ruby is a poet and journalist who lives in Brooklyn. He is the author of seven full-length poetry books, including Compulsive Words (BlazeVOX, 2010), American Songbook (Ugly Duckling, 2013), ebook Close Your Eyes (Argotist Online, 2018) and The Mouth of the Bay (BlazeVOX, 2019). His trilogy in prose and poetry, Memories, Dreams and Inner Voices (Station Hill, 2012), includes ebooks Fleeting Memories (UDP, 2008) and Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep (Argotist, 2011). He is also the author of the echapbook First Names (Mudlark, 2004) and four Dusie Kollektiv chapbooks, including The Star-Spangled Banner (2011) and Foghorns (2014). He co-edited Bernadette Mayer’s collected early books, Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words (Station Hill, 2015). Recordings of three of his books, two performances and an hour-plus 2004 interview are available at PennSound. Recordings of three other books are archived at WFMU. Recent interviews can be found in Rob McLennan’s Blog, Brooklyn Poets and on WGXC. A graduate of Harvard College and Brown University’s writing program, he works as an editor of U.S. news and political articles at The Wall Street Journal.

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