Friday, April 16, 2010

Lisa Jarnot, Some Other Kind of Mission (Burning Deck, 1996)

This is an incredibly disorienting book, so different from Jarnot’s later work but definitely containing some of its seeds. I have experienced a long and uncomfortable process of coming to adore her writing (especially the relatively recent Night Scenes), and finding this at the root of it makes me want to reread the rest in its light.

Some Other Kind of Mission has the feel of cutup work, and I suspect that something like that is involved in the generation of its material. Many of its pages are scanned or photocopied images of typed, handwritten, drawn-upon, collaged sheets with most of the words crossed out, and many of the remaining phrases can be found in the conventionally printed text. The book as a whole seems like a travelogue, with the “I” and a few recurring names driving, drinking, sleeping. There are many farm animals, sometimes in trucks (Jarnot’s familiar chickens), sometimes as surreal roadkill (“miles of strips of pig” recurs frequently). There are explosions, which sometimes seem like car bombs, sometimes like war, at least once a gas station exploding. Time seems to pass—they seem to have been on the road a long time—but this is all dim, shadowy, seen through a mesh of irregularly reiterated and varied sentences and fragments whose juxtapositions make up what is more an eerie sense of narrative than a narrative proper.

That’s the main prose text. The title pages usually include a short poem in verse, a bit closer to Jarnot’s later style, but without the dominant tone of playfulness I associate with much of the latter. There’s one very strange reiterative verse section in conventional type (“Emperor Wu”), and there’s a final section of “Marginalia,” with little reiteration of parts, that switches between Paris & Helen / Greek stuff and relatively straightforward, almost diaristic sentences. Here it’s as if the two main underlying strands of the whole work are being separated out and laid bare—the Trojan war and a complicated set of contemporary interpersonal relationships—but I don’t get the sense that this explains what preceded it. Instead it seems like a ground is being established that itself turns out to be ghostly; when there are a few repetitions or Steinian disorientations of language, it feels like a powerful drug coming on—in a minute we’ll be back in that strange variation on the production of reality that this book enacts.

In response, here’s a piece based partly on a travelogue text I’ve been keeping around for thirteen years. I’m glad to finally use it:

we swamp through film floor to return, carpentering even stranger, the mindless degree
in quick little of a low case floor all night into and through history and OK, the obvious intention
just waking observer. derrick in our object the witnessed doesn’t write silk and the match for others
saying setting slowly, scarred forever with mining after selling ourselves with pad ton ends
can ethical ham survival is not nuclear dust vanishing in a snare, then still read and bright fact
the row did the load, the mindless degree armed code enforces: do not flock V.
a loaded shown a red even stronger cause to ice, the cop trained terrain only from tulsa to texas
we felt its wife, the inexplicable violence to reach light, to caucasian well, paying our little whales
no of real, a beautiful dry, work to when allow, consequence of abstract architecture
just as we wear illusory rooms pulled over wants. pay in swine, flukes have no deal/solutions
I need quote to war, hair and satchel, notice of endless horseshit a fellow got to eat in
its six of, then peaches of, or off were off, we felt trained in flickering phosphor dots
and the, thinking the blanket question playing in bracket songs. share our survival
alien energies staffing energy waste if he and die everywhere, share our survival
floor that trailer, we drank it up the mountains, lost the freedom to fail the emotional residue
in the still it was getting liked a liked anger liked the fact all shapes of the stone
usually composed of maps, even stronger illusory rooms trying to sale. the ill county
the lumen still white and frank et al. evolving instantly into meme cancer
black and steam to swallow the silence of the silent, behind us both are presence
the PLO of budget boxes, files of holders slowly co-lessening, what a wonderful contract
watched assignment come up the witnessed to traits trace, then went to an ant
that is a cross of dealers that space must thus get chairs to fail close to note toilet
says they just bill it high down the Willow Santa, then may come out to the traced trace
and build him another wheat shaft, incredible vegetarian fluid bubble like to horror
just like gophers known as deal eagles will claim the paperless traveller
see blanket question. gift of a windblock we spent throughout turkey
traffic was waking up in order to present a robbery in the city needed with beef
but in the period we stared at the blue gibbons, code-enforcers share our survival
some diets garbage comes out like stained glass jewels, two traits to the traced trick scares

this happens despite the clear language
of the Low-Laid-Lawful Let Act of 1913:
“may not be in feared with or deny
the o\o\Open-the-Sewer Act

to cancel
to be gentle
in everything
outside the law
fear put
half both speech
all-out boasts
this should get
into hard
centralized shit
keep steel home
shells crossing saints
passed the largest increase
biggest cross in the
centralized saint
to be gentle
when only eight
a.m. keeps you there
to fail, share
our survival

you don’t have to tell me that
or anything really

allow levine your hard to two cross over the empty space fact everywhere must he must
allow the fine of your heart to cross over the empty space that everywhere must be owners
allow the vying ability or hard to two-cross over the GE space fact everywhere must be over his
all of the vying to your heart to cross over the empty space event everywhere must be dealers
allow the fine above, your heart to cross, over the key space, that everywhere must be awards

fights to read itself in the dust


  • At April 16, 2010 at 10:51 PM, Blogger Ian Keenan said…

    I think 96-99 was the dark ages of my paying attention to new poetry books so this is most appreciated.. other than paying attention to poets I was already into.. missed early Jarnot when it happened and others (early Gary Sullivan, etc). I was hoping to get a free 96 Jarnot poem but yours holds up well and I'll get the book. The second to last stanza works the first time you read it if you were wondering, and the rest doesn't seem that old.

    Lit critics in the sky are squirming ('he's only halfway through the month')

  • At April 18, 2010 at 8:33 AM, Blogger Ian Keenan said…

    btw I'm not buttering you up because K is coming up.. if I was I would have gone negative on Joanne Kyger by now


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