Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brick in the Wall

A Wall


Creditably tedious is
one way of
putting it, repeat’d
mephitic ordnance of
a pedant, A
and B and
C. A scalpel-
thin forensic battery
of inconsequentiality with
bravo-Daddy marketing
standing tall behind
it akimbo, its
cheroot-chomping, motor-
mouth’d huckster running
the numericals, anti-
perspirant kaput. A
negligible and puny
puree slather’d out
across a doughy
fundament, any skimpy
impetus narrativo inevitably
rubbed out into
this undifferentiated sauce
through the sieve
of its making.
Will these suffice?
I ask dogs
of my acquaintance,
snorers and voluptuaries
smirking behind tallboys.
Will anything suffice?
Against the necessary
provender, the herring-
knifed sea, woods
tumultuous with furry
Sciuridae, air agitated
by ungainly black
crows, rivers scouring
out the plain
wherewithal to continue
sliding, I think
the answer’s no.

Single-digit temps and blowing. A way to put to rout subjectivity’s excess: the core is cold. I seem to be in a flop of desuetude, undeviating and unnullify’d. An unseemly restlessness that pitches off one book and slams up against another (the library is a mosh pit), careens and ricochets: ferai un vers de dreyt nien, “forge a turn out of straight denial, I am not a dray horse.” The Marjorie Perloff and Craig Dworkin-edited The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound (University of Chicago Press, 2009)—whence the Guillaume de Poitou line (“I make a line about nothing at all”) I cut capers with there in my tizzy—that book looks undeniably “of use,” though I remain skeptical of the way “sound” (not unlike “performance”) tends to its own burgeoning discourse removed, parsed out by the academy. See things like Charles Bernstein’s Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word and Adelaide Morris’s Sound States: Innovative Poetics and Acoustical Technologies. Perloff quotes Roman Jakobson (out of “Linguistics and Poetics”)—“Poetry is not the only area where sound symbolism makes itself felt, but it is a province where the internal nexus between sound and meaning changes from latent into patent and manifests itself most palpably and intensely”—and notes that “however central the sound dimension is to any and all poetry, no other poetic feature is currently as neglected.” (The extent of how perfectly Perloff’s sense of “neglect” perches in the academy is evident in the next sentence: “Indeed, the discourse on poetry today, largely fixated as it is on what a given poem or set of poems ostensibly ‘says,’ regards the sound structure in question—whether the slow and stately terza rima of Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’ or the phonemic / morphemic patterning of monosyllabic words like ‘cat,’ ‘top,’ ‘pit,’ ‘pot,’ and ‘foot’ in the ‘free verse’ of William Carlos Williams’s ‘As the cat . . .’—as little more than a peripheral issue, a kind of sideline.” Academickal chestnut city.) One wonders what odd combo of forces is driving the “spate” of sound studies. Discarding / diminishment of some of the historical sound-drivers in poetry (rhyme the biggest); push of new technologies (the accessibility of sound archives, poetry audio collections, PennSound, &c.)—eventually the “canon” ’ll be largely determined by voice-recordings, not by page-texts; the way the academy—like capital—needs continually to find new disciplines and discourses, markets for the unmarketable. The book itself (the contents) a somewhat predictable bunch of Perloff’s “winners”—Craig Dworkin, Yunte Huang, Nancy Perloff, Steve McCaffery, Christian Bök, Charles Bernstein, Johanna Drucker, Kenneth Goldsmith—intermingling with Susan Stewart, Rosmarie Waldrop, Richard Sieburth, Susan Howe, and Rubén Gallo. Guillaume de Poitou again (out of Rosmarie Waldrop’s essay “Translating the Sound in Poetry: Six Propositions”):
Ferai un vers de dreyt nien
Non er de mi ni d’autre gen,
Non er d’amor ni de joven
Ni de ren au
Qu’en fo trobatz en durmen
Sobre chevau
With the Paul Blackburn translation:
I shall make a vers about
downright nothing, not
about myself or youth or love
or anyone.
I wrote it horseback dead asleep
While riding in the sun.
Forged me some right straight nothings / Not for me, not for Mr. Green Jeans / Not for love, not for the kids / Not for nothing / Made it crowbar-durable / Like a sober horse. Bah.

Paul Blackburn, 1926-1971