About this Mont Blanc.

In July 1816, Shelley got his first glimpse of Mont Blanc from a bridge in the valley of the Arve, near Chamounix. His poem, evidently begun almost at once, is terse and complex, full of profound cosmography and subtle psychology. While I had glimpsed Europe's highest mountain from the air once or twice, my first sight of it from the ground was in the summer of 1992, from midway up the valley of the Dranse -- one of the three streams in the Chablais that bear that ancient name, specifically the Dranse de Morzine, the one that flows into Lake Geneva at Thonon. My wife Charlotte and I spent that summer in the Savoy, the latest part of France to join the Republic, a land steeply climbing up from the shores of Lake Geneva into the high Alps, a land of ravines and valleys, each with its own dialect.

Throughout the year that followed our summer in the Haute Savoie, I had an odd, quiet feeling from time to time that I had to "do something" about Shelley. Little by little, that something came to connect with his poem "Mont Blanc," which was at the time very dimly recollected. Finally, a year later, flying from one place to another that had nothing to do with Shelley, it suddenly became clear that I had to write into his poem.

The result is a poem of mine that happens to preserve intact, in one form or another, all the words of Shelley's poem, in their original order, but with intrusions and incursions and extrusions of my own. The poem swells from six pages to forty. The subjects change, the persons vary, the concerns develop in their own way, and a different stream flows--north where his flowed west--down to the same sea.

Any decent poem has room in it for us all. The process of "writing into" someone else's poem is an act of reading, of listening, talking. Though formally it is a transgression, and may strike the reader as an arrogance, or an irrelevance to the sweet original design, in fact this writing-into turns the act of reading into an act of conversation.

So Shelley's poem is the landscape through which I could move, and meet France again, and the Alps, and the summer and the quick downrush of those streams. The poem I have written in his spaces pleases me, and seems to be a poem that speaks my mind more clearly than the fortunes of language usually allow. In the text itself, I have not especially foregrounded the strategy or methods of in-reading; it is simply there, letting me go on. The printed book does not explain what the poem is, other than to say that the poem is inscribed inside Shelley's.

Enough said.

R.K.