Permitting shame, error and guilt…


Brian Blanchfield, 43, was born in Winston-Salem, NC and now resides in Tucson, AZ where he teaches at the University of Arizona. He is an award winning poet and recently published his second book of essays.  The essays from his new book “Proxies: Essays Near Knowing were written from memory, no referring to the internet or other “authoritative” sources. To give you a taste of his talent and his authenticity, here’s an excerpt from his opening “Note”. I shake my head in awe…

At the end of this book there is a rolling endnote called “Correction.” It sets right much— almost certainly not all— of what between here and there I get wrong. It runs to twenty-one pages. It may still be running. Susceptibility to error is a hazard inherent to Proxies. From the beginning…I decided on a total suppression of recourse to other authoritative sources. I wrote these essays with the internet off. I determined not to review again the books and other works I consulted in memory, and I did not stop thinking through the subject at hand to verify assertions or ground speculation or firm up approximations. Que sais-je?, Montaigne asked his library shelves one day late in the sixteenth century, and increasingly that seems a good start. Having determined that this would be unresearched essaying, analytic but nonacademic, I was almost immediately drawn to a second constraint— or, better, invitation: to stay with the subject until it gives onto an area of personal uneasiness, a site of vulnerability, and keep unpacking from there. The formula I found for titling the individual essays was generated very early on, to operate this request of self. Clumsy as it may be, I claim as part of a personal sortilege a devotion to the words I had bannered across the top of each new developing piece, an invocation of sorts, a ritual.

Permitting shame, error and guilt…

~ Brian Blanchfield, excerpt from his opening “Note” from Proxies, Essays Near Knowing (June, 2016)

Note: Find “Proxies” Book Reviews here – Goodreads.  Portrait from Poetry Foundation.


  1. Brilliant…scary brilliant-I need to queue this up, if I can work up the nerve. He’s a little intimidating!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. WMS. Fascinating construct, but damned intimidating. Would love to sit down and share a glass of wine or cup of coffee with this fellow…bet it would be a wild ride….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. open, honest, from the heart – rare.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. not to put myself in the same league–but sometimes as a reporter I get tired of the facts and researching and taking notes and resort to my memory alone–but only in my columns–never in my news articles–it is very freeing…..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Writing from deep in the gut. It always works. The facts can come later.

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  6. Wow. Consulting books and other works can also lead to the manuscript remaining a manuscript…I know.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love this! Not many people can do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank your for introducing me to Brain Blanchfield…I googled him and read this interview with him: /// Intriguing photo, a man of deep soul, and perhaps a longing….his mind, perennial… reading his narrative work might be like intercepting a transcript of a wire tap of his thoughts, a voyeurism of, his intimate voice… perhaps he shows his inner independent spirit of himself…his curiosity, his ability to examine and glean from his keen observations of his experiences…perhaps he writes with such an unfiltered honesty, that he gifts his reader with a point of view so reflective that one must linger in his words…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing the link Christie. Intriguing is a terrific description. And yes, his unfiltered introspections make you turn the pages. Here’s another passage:

      My failure continually to complete anything is not, as logic may indicate, a fear of death, but – to the contrary – a fear of life. When I back away from a poem I back away at that exceptional moment it begins to come together under my attentions and other slants of propitious light.

      ~ Brian Blanchfield, from “On Completism” in Proxies, Essays Near Knowing (Nightboat, June 22, 2016)


  9. Hmm…”fear of life” other great writers have said the same thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post. Those few words from Montaigne: Que sais-je ? It is still Que sais-je ? I think my answer is: very little.

    Liked by 1 person

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