Grazia tanto, Ian.
I've been getting the Brit Poets address wrong, but not sufficiently wrong to
find out by getting returned mail. Oh listers, I don't want to hog space, but
mind if I post two misaddressed contribs, one an attempt to show how feeling
enters Prynne's poetry, plus this piece of topicalia?
Calling them home
Lost ones of no shape behind the shudder door
of the side-street music shop displaying
Nouvelles du Cambodge. A winter leaf
enters on the heel, though Paris skies
are summery enough in Chinatown.
"Pol Pot, organiser of genocide, is dead,"
the news-sheet announces. To lose
your family in the wider passing-on
is process of life but not when memory's
vertebrae lie shattered, so the music
store owner sells the paper reluctantly
to a foreigner whose mind is klutzy
with Europe-Asie. No bell tinkles
as the shop door closes but a quick drift
of sparrows across the avenue draws
attention to a coal-tit in the Metro foliage,
its black poll, white nape, and call of if-he.
2. I can get perturbed at discussions of Prynne's work because a) even after
many years I don't often have satisfactory ways of talking about it myself; b)
everyone tries to be so damn smart about it. Further, without losing any of
my admiration for dense verbal experiment, I just happen to be conducting
other kinds of experiment right now (not precluding return to the more densely
linguistic eventually), so it's a question of who will try to chew my head
off. From here in France, the Brits seem to be casting their nets in an over-
tight circle. I could be wrong. For example, I was pleased Drew got such
attention for his essay in Gare du Nord, but, with the honourable example of
Ric Caddel apart, the rest of the issue(s) have been blithely ignored by
bloodhounds whose noses are close to a single scent -- didn't see the highly
aromatic work of Joanne Kyger (greatly underestimated) right alongside. Tks
Ric for publicising issue No. 1.
Anyway, I believe Prynne's work, though conducted with such intensity, flying
briskly though its surfaces, is also completely interested in the deeper
layers of meaning. People have talked about Her Weasels Wild Returning and it
might pay to look closely at a poem I can to some but not complete grips with:
So far the slope drifts in, often it does. Furnishing
a new track or late to consult, all by the way brought
together, a trial to go on.
I've looked at this elsewhere, so forgive self-citation. We might envision an
event (including an act of mind during an event) as fed by content from the
past. Also, I think there is motor cycle race stuff affecting the title
("Well Enough in Her riding After), plus mention of track, drift, foot, gears,
and so on -- not entirely sure, and I lack resources to check up, out here in
Paris. And also the overarching theme of a friendship.
The input to the event is imaged as a sloping, a concentration of detail,
drifting into the very moment of the mind-act. Typically for Prynne, this will
have space-time peculiarities. (This is where his poetry has always been
superior to the most clever linguistic theorists, such as Derrida, who though
attemting to refine Husserl's account of time has not fully taken in quantum
level space-time coordinates that are probably at work in mental activity --
we get an erasure process instead, which isn't even sufficiently
Schroedingerian enough for me.)
Part of this mind process is habitual or frequent ('often it does'); part is
casual, occasional or uncontrolled ('drifts') -- again, the imagery perhaps of
the track. Each time, this content is presented to the mind in a novel form
which is suggestive ('a new track'), but there may be effects from the
inevitable time-drag of thought ('late to consult') -- combining both 'delay'
and 'future retrospection'. Despite these time-delays the act becomes unified
through the actual event ('brought together'); 'by the way' offers puns on
'way' as 'path', as 'casual place of occurrence', as 'manner' and as the
expression 'incidentally.' The tentative, also bold mind-act takes place as a
'trial ' -- at least four meanings there: an essay or attempt, a testing out,
a burden ('It's such a trial!') and a judgment. Perhaps a fifth as motor
cycle trial. And with the element of lapping further down, we might attend to
the moment when one rider passes another and also perhaps to the general
weasely movement of the whole sequence.
But 'trial' also reminds us that the whole sequence seems to be addressed to a
woman who has undergone serious health problems: Fundamentally, I read 'Her
Weasels Wild" as a record of friendship addressed to a troubled friend. The
feeling content emerges strongly from that and from the call to ride the wave
of the moment in its warmth, in its actuality.
Be gentle be just, afoot trim
postal refinements, trim ducting on a wave....
Heart so far
the wrist will melt, of morning light impending: no safe
place or for my head than held, inside the fold the foot
rest in blue. ...
These are pictures of a lucidity inside process held delicate and risky by at
least an equivalent to ethics and in the following moments of the poem
answering the energies of a realtionship (man/woman), keeping it fluid, at the
mysterious point of it, despite the fixities that keep resolving out of fluid
mental process. The poem -- looking back to night/day sequences of Prynne's
earlier work -- calls the relationship back to this inner intensity: 'Go for
tihs slope/you know; is it fluent to a gaze... Dart laps French too' -- I
think that's the motorcycle trial, and it seems to be about a swiftness that
overtakes the fixity of a circle. So there are double plays throughout, across
from mind-act to relationship to, as I think; motor cycle activity, to the
"trial" being undergone by the friend.
The poem ends with asserting the need for the voice (unfashionable word) to
keep, perhaps impossibly, at the exact pitch of the event, the "trial", an
assignment we can't perhaps fill.
For space, I'll leave it there. As with Prynne so often, the allusive nature
of the writing process makes precise signification slippery, and so any
attempt to discern fixities can easily be seen as a betrayal of the poem
itself. This is not to say that we should read as if in a dreamy amaze: nor
is it to say that any temporary interpretation like this could actual destroy
a poem's process. I'm trying to offer clues in the hope that people writing
about Prynne will actually tackle the poetry, showing their gross ignorance,
their over-interpretations, as no doubt I'm doing in these fumblings. Our
ignorance is our most precious feature; let's not worry abou it. After all,
if I'm reading the whole poem wrongly, someone will correct me in due course.