Monday, June 05, 2006

There's a type of poetic gesture I love very much, enough to want to call it a type of gesture, because of the similar, elating effect that disparate examples of it have on me. In fact, it's almost at work in the conceptual movement of that sentence, which loops back in on itself--somewhat. And maybe all the examples here are "somewhats." In any case, I don't know what to call it... "looping back?" "self-rewriting?" Maybe by the end of the post I'll think of something... or you, dear reader, can play the game: NAME THAT GESTURE.


He thrives himself
naked to the sungod, knows
those others in their rubbery ways
mere sunbathers, disintegrate in it--

it's an old truth known here & there he tells,
becoming Lawrence, among

--David Bromige, from Tight Corners and What's Around Them

An odd summer poem. Probably this is about D.H. Lawrence, at least in some sense.

The strongest example of the gesture I'm looking at happens right at the end; "everyone" ("those others") becomes the individual who sets himself apart from the others, always among everyone. The obvious "irritation" is at those mere "sunbathers" (as opposed to sun worshippers like Lawrence), but perhaps the major irritation comes from the dizziness that results when the latter are seen to be (or, rather to "become") the former, that the rugged individual isn't so individual after all. And not so rugged either: if everyone becomes Lawrence, then Lawrence becomes everyone, and disintegrates in "it" (where "it" can now mean "everyone" as well as "the sungod"--this possibility is strengthened by the fact that "disintegrating in the sungod" doesn't make sense in the way that "disintegrating in the sun" would; a similarly off-kilter character is present in the use of "thrives" as an active, transitive verb, emphasizing the distancing of Lawrence from himself--not a negative alienation but that which causes that self to flourish). Lawrence, too, is "rubbery," flexible, stretchable into what he's not. The "it" might ultimately be this whole process of the two poles, a vague and casual generality and an ecstatic individuality, each coming apart, stretching, becoming the other and coming back to itself. (This reminds me of Heidegger's observation that a self is never first an isolated self, but is always primarily a "coming-back-to-itself" from somewhere else). The poem enacts this process of becoming, and becoming of a particular sort: not simply change from one state into the next, but a constant turning of one thing back into itself through the other, and into the other through itself, and the two becoming intermingled in a very odd way. All this is possible due to the retroactive "dizziness" of the poetic construction.

What is of more interest, however, from the point of view of a junkyard
of mangled signs heaped up in silent protest against a century devoted
to the material possession of form, is when a person eludes any simple
formulation relative to that interest.

--Kit Robinson, from "The Person," in Democracy Boulevard

This one makes me really dizzy. The place from which what's going on here is perceived changes at least three or four times. The initial gesture is that of the author making a claim: "What is of more interest, however, from the point of view of trade between host and microsymbionts, is the growing list of nodule-induced plant genes encoding transporters." But that changes quickly in the next few words. And it's a complex change; it's not just the POV of some "mangled signs," but of a junkyard of them. It's specifically that singular noun treated as the totality of its parts that makes this so unstable, with a strangeness we tend to miss when we see sentences like "a nation goes to war" or "a city in crisis." Of course, the other possibility is that the POV is of a person, standing atop this heap, in which case the initial speaker has moved from an omniscient position "outside" the text (on a larger scale than that of its operations) to the realm of what the text is about--or has split into these two. And then the strangest part: the end refers us back to the beginning, but in a way that transcends even the initial "omniscient" scale. This sentence bursts out of itself at all points, enacting exactly what its conclusion describes. The interest, from the junkyard POV (the "interior" scale), is in something that can never happen on the scale of that POV, because it's always ending up on a scale higher than the "exterior, omniscient" scale in which the "interior" is contained.

Further investigations into this will require the author's ability to write sentences that are less convoluted than the ones under examination. This is just meant to scratch a surface, even if the surface turns out to be the very possibility of surface. Pardon me.

If this were a silent movie, the part where I get to make this speech
would be reduced merely to the clothes I happened to be wearing,
the background, the look of the room that I was in,
and how I operated in the frame. Arms engaged, glance connected, face projecting,
the song stops and says, It's not the way
you own your hair, or the car you drive in limbo every day,
but the way you can, not quite leap tall buildings, or convert wide factories
with a single word, not that either, not that easy.

--Bob Perelman, from "Motion," in Face Value



  • At June 12, 2006 at 11:08 PM, Blogger TagSmith said…

    I love elating conceptual loops
    here looping some gesture
    naked rubbery sunbathers
    old everyone corners
    summer about the gesture
    obvious sunbathers
    dizziness isn't so disintegrating
    in the way the sun thrives
    emphasizing rubbery process
    a vague coming apart
    becoming an isolated else
    turning through this dizziness
    from silent person interest
    from dizzy times more
    point of view induced
    junkyard words like
    possibility, in case, and
    such bursts of interest
    from the junkyard
    surface. Pardon me
    movie speech
    reduced background
    I frame stops and drive
    factories with face value eek


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