Albert Pellicer, Selections from THE DOT ON A CAPITAL I
“The fumigation of La Luna on July 17th 2004″
Albert’s work in the anthology hits me with two phrases from the text itself, which seem to get at what the text is doing. It appears to be “interrogating objects” and in doing so highlight a sense of the “axiomatic” relationship we have with language. The application of such an interrogation makes the poem’s content (it certainly uses the language of discussion around the fumigation in 2004), by way of blurred object relations, much more rich than simply being ‘about’ this event.
The opening statements are a good example of this – the word “accountable” rings through the statements and is applied to objects which are victims, and circumstances which might be symptoms or distant possibilities.
I have heard Albert read his work many times. What always seems to take me by surprise is just how much his reading voice, and the language it speaks, commands presence and attention. His words are, quite simply, beautiful to hear and beautiful to read. Especially, for me, at their most visual, clashing moments:
limbs elbow an error
arrows learnt by heart
whose target is to aim
the glitch will meet its ends
the guerillas’s nest muffled
dog barking in the distance
valued chain report
the heart by way of the hands
bride and grooming
Allen Fisher, Proposals 4
Allen Fisher has produced approximately 65,034 chapbooks in his career to date. His work straddles a broad variety of media (including some fascinating microfiche work, which I’d love to see again). This is not irrelevant to Proposals, since it contains both text and paintings, but also textually crosses a kind of cartographical remapping transposed onto language.
A little like Brixton Fractals, Fisher here uses definitive (as in the language of definition) description as a way into the text, which ruptures and deviates, producing a kind of re-scaling of the text as snippets of realtime intrude into an increasingly damaged text. This is the worst description I could have given, and I’m sticking to it, since for me reading Fisher’s work is like walking on a map rather than on the actual road depicted in the map – or perhaps it’s a combination of the two.
Proposals jams together multiples so it can never sit in the same place. It lays down a rhetoric which it steadily pulls apart, allowing for an open-ended language which is always calling back to fact, to which the paintings seem pivotal.
[...] the degree to which polite ethical thought
in societies of the West today rests on
or involves self-
deception or more active deceit
depends on the private pretence,
public affirmation, or purposeful suggestion
of what is for those concerned
the knowably false.
So what come around the corner in a blade suit
whose system is this what trug of discarded
root matter smoulders in a mental debris, [...]
Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, HER BODY: THE CITY
It’s been a while since I read or heard or saw any of Elizabeth-Jane Burnett’s work. It’s probably getting on for 2 years – the e-poetry festival – since I experienced it.
To go off on a tangent for a sec, there was an unfavourable review of my curations at the e-poetry 2005 festival (one out of several gleaming ones, I might add, and one which I’m pretty sure did not reflect the views of the majority) which was not based on the quality of the work, but of the e-nature of the work. To me, this seemed a slightly absurd yardstick of generalisation, to think that only texts bound up in algorithm and code explicitly could be engaged with electronic poetics. It’s true to say that a healthy portion of my choices were cross-media, cross-genre works, MULTI-media.
I mention this because Burnett’s work at the festival had me and many others excited in the fact that it was a text bound up in its media. Site-specific, slideshow, interactive, narrative – the work was a mixture of electronic media and human social interaction in which the two perpetuated each other. e, it certainly was.
And so to HER BODY: THE CITY, which Burnett explained to me is (in the anthology) an earlier version of an evolving work. Not that this in some way implies a lesser quality work, but that it seems to be a text which is in flux, and which invites various performance states in its realisation. Case in point is Burnett’s performance of the piece with Sean Bonney on guitar.
To bring the text into such an overtly performative realm seems quite deliberate, as there is clearly a formal nod to Ginsberg in the poem, though we’re not talking half-baked parody. Indeed, where Ginsberg’s (actually slightly questionable) ’spontaneous’ poem bring real-life acts into immediacy, Burnett’s more fragmented language make settling on one act itself an act to be “disappeared into the surface of writing”
Ironically, this is perhaps so effective for me through the Ginsberg filter from which it turns, presenting a kind of semi-transparent reportage. As Burnett herself seems to imply, these are not just structures but systems, ways of thinking about actions differently, subjectively, “who” suggesting an object-action as in Ginsberg but often actually delivering abstract action and/or displaced object through which to develop a reading strategy:
embedded all night in multiple light
oxfam re-routed and littering through stale beer Mixer
listing to the crack-doom of social lip-box
who unutterable seventy hours park to pod to flower
to Westminster Bridge
lost words of platonic roses
Looking forward to the next incarnation.
Alex presents 3 works in the Anthology, each one pretty short and each one vastly different.
“Oh! For the Glorious Days of Slavery”
As previously discussed, I am all for détourning authoritative documents, or anything with apparent historical, social, formal traditions which themselves imply a promise, either legal, factual or linguistic. Alex here uses a historical map to ‘map’ out his texts, which weave between the ‘factual’ landmarks an undermine the proposed authority of the document. Indeed, one might interpret the title in terms of what is missing from this picture as well as what is contained within it. Historical omissions are what leave behind the stuff of history, and Alex’s weaving language occupies spaces and non-spaces, claiming and undermining their historical worth all in one jellied eel.
“Big Ben” takes a different approach to the role of authoritative statement. A little like Fisher’s text, “Big Ben” produces layers of clarity through which the meaning of educative or narrative statements becomes obscured, and their reliability (and that of the referent) called into question:
No bell moves more than one place in the row at a time, although one pair may change in the same row.
Each sound is a massive point full of weird objects in a strange room of many people,
and each person is a through to some thought.
Which brings us slap bang into “12 Lens”, a(n intentional?) pun (surely) on lens, appropriately implying a skewed, distorted but implicitly true collections of thoughts, speeches, narratives from ‘Len’’s life spanning 60-odd years. I guess what fascinates me beyond the snippets of info we receive are the huge gaps between them, and the highly specific nature of their collation (almost scientifically categorized and labeled) and date of production. Transient snapshots of a man’s life, far too brief to be useful, nonetheless create a 60-year narrative in which we piece in some of the gaps and arguably start to feel we’ve gained a fairly robust (or depressingly satisfactory) overview of a life’s work.
Sorry this post took so long to complete. I’m busy, really. Really. Busy.
I’ll be beginning the next post with Redell Olsen’s piece and moving into Part 4…