Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Early Faunal Stage


Williams (“The Wind Increases”) calling a poet “a man / whose words will / bite / their way / home—being actual / having the form / of motion . . .” A horse biting itself is likely suffering a form of stereotypy (“a repeat’d and perseverant act by an animal, serving no obvious purpose”) call’d “flank-biting.” So poets go. So the fog cloaks the sopping earth, so the deep carboniferous beds release a cloacal fish scent, out-sourcing. One plows through the puddles, spokes a-hum, repeating the “faunal stages” of the early Pennsylvanian period: Kinderscoutian, Marsdenian, Yeadonian, Cheremshanskian, Langsettian, Melekesskian, Duckmantian . . . Half-rabid flank-biting behavior. Butting at what lists. Ben Jonson (quoting Plutarch’s De Garrulitate) says that to guard against a “licentious and wandering” tongue, “a wall, or parapet of teeth” is “set in our mouth to restrain the petulancy of our words.” And Williams: “We batter at our / unsatisfactory / brilliance— // There is no end / to desire—” Reading through, of late, Pound’s Literary Essays, I am struck by Pound’s repeat’d call for “efficiency”—a Taylorist for the high moderns. In “How to Read” (1928) saying how it’s “as important for the purpose of thought to keep language efficient as it is in surgery to keep tetanus bacilli out of one’s bandage.” Worrying in “The Serious Artist” (1913) how “desire often overshoots the power of efficient presentation” and calling for “something like ‘maximum efficiency of expression.’” In “Date Line” (1934) calling language the “most efficient registering material” for “knowledge of the human consciousness.” The repeat’d insistence that such-and-such “saved me a great deal of time.” Pound: “Language is not a mere cabinet curio or museum exhibit.” Though, reading Lissa Wolsak’s terrific Squeezed Light: Collected Poems 1994-2005 (Station Hill, 2010) some months back, I did begin to think just that, with its array’d vocables, goodly odd-stuffs to peer at:
and after,

istle, finnochio, ixia

“rich in apples”

they,   for   emissive

lips   cooled forth

chilled persimmon sheathes,

disinterest in the speech of

ill-lit,     rigor-like

ink   flows on top of   milk

untroubled and smiling an

Engai   cuts the tail

from a living lion

humectant       dusk

orchid-orange   wasp       swimmy...

gate and pear

by trading subtly

mores for mores

a mound-owner

stoops to dig a root

halve for me

the wind-beads

halve for me

my space-grasp
That out of Wolsak’s “Pen Chants, or nth or 12 Spirit-like Impermanences.” So that, encumber’d by the syntactical tightness of my own lines, a moment for the rehearsals of sprawl and flocculence did arrive. I intend’d a piece call’d “The Ten Thousand Things”—leaning up against Thomas Sprat’s reverie of a perfectly efficient lingual Arcadia: “a constant Resolution to reject all Amplifications, Digressions, and Swellings of Style; to return back to the primitive Purity and Shortness, when Men deliver’d so many Things, almost in an equal Number of Words.” That, and Cecil—not Frederick—Taylor’s audaciously seeing in “each note . . . a continent, a world in itself.” Abandon’d after roughly twelve hundred or so words / things. Here’s two:

            a fork’d succulent                     progg’d by the cesspool

      Crane’s pie pantry         primitivist’s eye             at widdershins

    wrench’d out of obligado           scop             a refuge, a confinement

  inventory of the portable self             each containment’s hundred

savage candor           “peeled bits of straw”           glean’d the beyond

circumflect’d sun gone watery               Leslie’s road grisaille walk’d

the humdrum                     John Clare                     “the cowslip pips”

getting out to pee     Volvo in the turnabout         the Epping grimoire

  wobbles                                               /                                             warbles

          sable lettering brush             extrapictorial naming refus’d

            “serv’d no prenticeship”             the fens               canny spells

              dip of the goldfinch     the Chinese call’d it “ink play”

                    A bowing           of / to           the horizontal

          milk’d reveries of         a Camberwell youth

                  “big as the bowels of Vesuvius”

      Campo Santo             “signifies and is”

  scoria array’d                 dud     beetles in the weeds

      beyond scurrility           prayer busts         septic & flush’d

wan sober meat of hickory           art-dub           hello, actually

      pokeweed in the reticent field of     mole-color’d gauze

            a fit exegesis / digesteth yron                   uncanny / tyranny

                    up out of the diurnal fever like an asterisk

        August / angst                 some brackish tannin’d spillway

la Saltpêtrière     black jelly adherent             glib

      seethe of meniscus                 gulp of dying

      “their dusky backs upheav’d”        boon to descant

  dumb hour         hard quotidian snip         a throw-

                      down song

Lissa Wolsak