John Matthias' Trigons- full annotated text.



I'd like to start by thanking John Matthias for his generosity and his thoughtful contribution to this project. It's been an enormous pleasure and honour to work with such a master of his craft.

Looking back, I recall that my initial concerns were that Trigons isn't in John's recent Collected Longer Poems, and that the work contained some urls that no longer 'worked'. One of the advantages of a web version is that links can be maintained and continue to function.

I was reasonably confident in terms of html. and related skills that I could provide what we felt was needed but expressed some concern about knowing what to provide a note for and what to leave alone. Early on, John wrote me as follows:

"Entering into this experiment with you, I go back to David Jones as the master self-annotator, but one who knew that in some ways it was a gesture of defeat. For some reason, I was also glancing at an old William Empson Collected Poems. Although not as comprehensive an annotator as Jones, he went pretty far. He also shared some basic premises with Jones. 'There is no longer a reasonably small field which may be taken as general knowledge. It is impertinent to suggest that the reader ought to possess already any odd bit of information one may have picked up in a field where one is oneself ignorant; such a point may be explained in a note without trouble to anybody; and it does not require much fortitude to endure seeing what you already know in a note.' I think that's a pretty good practical guide. But Empson also says, and it's worth keeping in mind, "Notes are annoying when they are attempts to woo admiration for the poem or the poet, but that I hope I can avoid.' I hope we can as well."

I hope readers will agree that we've more or less remained faithful to this, that we've managed to avoid impertinence but haven't overwhelmed the work either. We developed an editorial consensus early on as to what needed to be said and this meant that we were able to work be means of a kind of shorthand in our correspondence across the Atlantic.

I think I've managed to avoid commentary, although the temptation to point to a particular piece of brilliance has been enormous. The only exception is one note that points out the influence of David Jones on John's work.

Whilst working on this has given me enormous satisfaction, I think there's still room for improvement; to my mind a few of the notes don't provide the right kind of information and there are areas that might benefit from a little more attention. In technical terms, I'm very pleased with the notes that avoid readers having to go to the bottom of the page and then click back- this piece of JavaScript was given to us by Southampton University's Computer Science Dept and we are both very grateful. In terms of site layout, navigation with many pages is always an issue and it's taken me three or four attempts to get this right. I'm now of the view that less is more and that simple devices ('next' and 'back' buttons) are still very effective.

From a purely selfish point of view, I have to report that Arduity's traffic has increased from 4000 to 9000 user sessions per month since the project started and most of this growth is a direct result of the Trigons project.


Given that our project is now complete, I don't think I need to add much to what John Armstrong has written above. I do need to express my great thanks for his indefatigable work on the annotations. Also, though he stresses the collaborative nature of the project, I must insist that all the difficult work has been his. I have only had to answer his questions and watch with pleasure as the annotated version of the book expanded section by section, week by week, month by month over the past year. As one might expect, I have learned a lot of things about my poem that I was only half-conscious of when writing it. (I also wonder if John A. now knows the text even better than John M.) I have always enjoyed thumbing through the printing of the Waste Land manuscript, finding it a kind of hymn to craftsmanship both in the marginal dialogue between Pound and Eliot, and in the annotations and glosses of the editors. I certainly don't want to compare John M. and John A. to Pound and Eliot, but I do want to record that I've had a similar pleasure in our own dialogue and the resulting new version of Trigons. Because it is a new version. "The Poem" is different from "The Poem-With-Notes," as it should be. There are now two texts, two ways of reading the work. I would hope that readers would want to own the printed version of Trigons, available from Shearsman Books, and after that access the annotations available here. I should note that sales of the Shearsman Trigons increased after the annotation project began. This is good news. I think my decision to exclude Trigons from my Collected Longer Poems, although it was originally motivated by a kind of anxiety about the added length in the collected growing to be over 450 pages, was right from several standpoints. Although our project was never especially intended as an academic exercise, the academy, both in the US and the UK, has taken some interest. Trigons, it appears, has in some poetics programs become a useful text to examine, now even more useful, I hope, because of its two distinct versions: "Poem" and "Poem-with-Annotations." I'm very fortunate in having had the attention of such an excellent reader over this last year. Our good exchanges in all of this have also made us good friends.

Next (Trigons Headnote) →.

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