otherwise

forays

Thursday, April 15, 2010

p. inman, at. least. (Krupskaya, 1999)

This is an absolutely gorgeous book. It’s composed of seven pieces, and in five of them each word is followed by a period and a space. Capital letters only occur at the beginning of proper names. In combination with varying line and stanza length and differing degrees of sentence-like behavior, inman’s form produces a breathtaking range of ways to structure sense. Here are some bits of a few exemplary sections from the longest work, “n.b.:”

[…]
only. of. action. is. state. power.

empiricism. by. all. the. typewriter.
hobbles. (less. of. contentment.

property. relations. in. talk.



oin. wr.
write. pr.

ones. in.
terms. of.

statist.
outsides.

could. fl.
attenings.
extric. ls.
grievances.

prone.
bug. bites.
sterno.
coastal.
length.

[…]

how.much.eyesight.was.there.in.that.the.longer.she.spoke.


__________________________________________________________



prisonyard.
to. snowed.
film. clip.



skin. color.
as. minutes.

laced.
from.
mice.



say. the. sparing. of. a. theoretical.
moment. the. far. egg. of. another. market.
slump. placed. beside. a. book. whitecap.
[…]


--and this, from ten pages earlier:


looked. after.
a. lysine. of.
such. ink. crook.
only. the. farther.
he. moves. into.
him. striped. sweat.
[…]


Separation by periods gets amplified or softened by line length. Shorter lines tend to emphasize the independence of each word, so that even when conventional syntax is potentially present my tendency is to read for sonic qualities—whereas I look for sentences in the longer lines. In one-word lines there’s a finality to each word, whereas, over the course of extended reading, the emphatic pauses in longer lines form a stammering rhythm. It’s like physical gesture broken into its component micro-gestures, small muscular adjustments and shifts in balance—or like seeing a film frame by frame—except that the stops affect the individual moments (for instance, the intonation curves I hear in my head are very different from those I’d hear in a normal version of the sentence, and pronunciation is affected as well; I always hear “the” with a long “e” and “a” as “ay,” rather than “ah” or “uh”).

All this has its effects on content as well (often the content deals with the history and theory of communism, and sometimes with the work of other writers). A sentence fragment like “the. principal. objective. of. action.” seems less suspended or floating than it would without the periods, whose regularity of visual and sonic intonation weaves everything into a shared fabric made up of universal separation. If this is parataxis (it is driving me wild), it’s an unusual variety in which the distance between juxtaposed parts is doubled—one kind of distance varies with the degree and kind of content, while another is relentlessly regular.

“milton. babbitt. (50. words. each.),” in tribute to the great serialist composer, works through five permutations of ways of structuring its number (ten five-word lines, two columns of 25 single-word lines each, etc.). “Mel;nick’s” adds an extra space after each period in a series of four-line stanzas drawing from (I believe) David Melnick’s book pcoet. In “i.e.” (late in the book), commas replace the periods, and its alarming how much of a difference this makes. Perhaps the most gorgeous piece in the book is the three-page “lieu/instead,” written in two columns with highly variable margins, without regular punctuation. Every small cluster of words here is incredibly charged—it’s something like Robert Grenier at his best extended through Larry Eigner channeling Clark Coolidge, plus elegy.

I’ve always been a bit of a punctuation fetishist, constantly replacing colons with dashes, adding and removing commas, and so on, finding the ways these marks structure meaning. inman gets an amazing amount out of just a couple of punctuation devices here, but though the sense is one of exhaustiveness I finished the book with a wonderful sense of opened possibility. It doesn’t hurt that the writing itself is so graceful, so tuned to minute particulars, to music and to ethics at the same time.

What follows is a mere warmup, playing around in response. Another project to explore less imitatively and with greater seriousness.

*

dots. connect?
stars. lead.
(led.) LED. can’t.
dispense?

consequence. co.
-incidence. the. bus. went.
too. fast. for. soldiers.
fired. from. the. check.
point. eight. civilians.
period.

antleroid.
suspended.
redwing.
blckbrdsonfg. stoned. instantaneous.
late. making. time. marking.
intent. most.
beautiful. spot. that. “always.
already.” smells. like. sewage.
tie. as. floating. bug. frog.
-song. consequents. two.
herons. winches. margin. dent.
mind. as. as.

as. ass.

find. things.

oiled. tark. ob.
viousness. e. volved.
—to—await—new—problem—
carpentering? even? stranger?
illusory? rooms? rods? and?
slabs? memory? turns? to?
rust? nuclear? dust? vanishing?
in? snap? of? snare?

consequence?

constellation.

prosopopoeia. I?
am. a?
blueprint. for? adeptation. chair?

depth. was? a. victim. of. its?
distaste. for? chance? its. source?

every. inch.
becomes.
wilt?

stars, words,
constellation, scarred,
for, ever, by, mining,
equipment, itself, covered, in,
symbols, seeing, a, description
as, if we, wandered in, a.
prairie. until. dark.

when, stars.
come, out.

body. compass. gone.

hay.

wire.

2 Comments:

  • At April 16, 2010 at 10:56 PM, Blogger Ian Keenan said…

    I missed this but I read his last chap and his early stuff. The first time I spoke to him was when I tried to get the last water out of a glass pitcher and the ice fell on the table.

     
  • At April 18, 2010 at 11:16 AM, Blogger Steven Fama said…

    I like your idea of the periods giving the words a film frame-by-frame setting. Thanks for this.

     

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