## Tuesday, January 30, 2007

### Juggle

##### A Plug

Judder. “We judder’d long and collapsed.”

Snow havocking the air. Reading late, tiring of William James’s interminable mopery. Turning to Dickinson’s letters for a little spunk. “I regret to inform you that at 3. oclock yesterday, my mind came to a stand, and has since then been stationary.” (New paragraph, impeccable comic pause.) “Ere this intelligence reaches you, I shall probably be a snail.” Enjoy’d, too, editor Thomas H. Johnson’s quoting of James Russell Lowell (in a letter to Charles Eliot Norton): “I hold that a letter which is not mainly about the writer of it lacks the prime flavor. The wine must smack a little of the cask.” (Looking to amass a mighty juddering locomotive of quotables arguing for a return of the bad-ass “self” to American poésie.)

William James’s is the era of neurasthenia or nervous exhaustion, identify’d by some as a peculiarly American disease. Effect of “wasting fevers, exhausting wounds, parturition, protracted confinement, dyspepsia, phthisis, morbus Brightii, and so forth.” Led in turn to “dyspepsia, headaches, paralysis, insomnia, anaesthesia, neuralgia, rheumatic gout, spermatorrhea in the male and menstrual irregularities in the female.” Mistook for “anemia.” Symptoms included “cerebrasthenia [exhaustion of the brain], myelasthenia [exhaustion of the spinal cord], sick headache [migraine], physical hysteria, hay fever, cerebral irritation and morbid fear.” Cure: “regular protract’d juddering.”

At the age of ten Charles Sanders Peirce, philosopher and “founder” of semiotics, wrote a story called “The Library.” It begins: “Charles was one day sitting in his room when suddenly he heard a rustling noise and looking up he saw all the books moving from their places and coming toward him.”

And, puttering around looking for a man by the name of Benjamin Paul Blood, misfit genius of the age, I come up with a document titled “The Poetry of the Alphabet.” Detailing “the forces . . . the letters exert to-day, in English, in our latitude, in our stage of culture, &c., &c.” Blood:
I assert . . . that the sounds represented by the letters of the alphabet have a special aptness in suggesting the qualities opposed to them in the following schedule; and that the poetry, the proverbs, the slang, and the common talk of our people approve this assertion:
ā. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Vastness, space, plane.
ă. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Flatness.
b. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Beating, bearing, bringing.
c. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(Soft) as s; (hard) as k.
d. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(Final) solidity, completeness.
d. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(Initial) violence.
e. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Concentration, convergence.
f, h, t. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Ethereality.
g. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Hardness.
i. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Thinness, slimness, fineness.
k. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Fineness of lights and sounds.
l. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Metallic, chill, polish.
m. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Monotony.
n. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Denial, contempt.
o. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Solemnity, nobility, devotion, volume.
p. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Voluptuousness.
r. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Roughness, vibration.
gr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Grit.
s. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Moisture.
sh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Confusion.
u. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Crudity, absurdity, humor.
v. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Vehemence.
z. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Haze, dreamy confusion.
Alors, judder, according to Blood, exerts a slender, crude-humorous, solid force converging in rough shaking. “Makes sense to me.”

Regarding the assertions, Blood concludes: “That they are trivial it cannot be denied; that they are fanciful is nothing against them. They would go but little way in the construction of a great poem; they indicate but the A B C of poetry, at the best; and the admission of one half of them might cause the whole of their little science to be discarded hereafter; (although rhyming is a much simpler science and lives vigorously though cheaply notwithstanding.)”