Saturday, May 12, 2007

my favorite stanza (so far) from Clayton Eshleman's Reciprocal Distillations, Hot Whiskey Press 2007.

From Joan Mitchell's Spinnerets:

You leave before you arrive, you arrive
without having come. But is this not the spring of
self-invention? Of moving out an all,
unconfined by figure or representation, a presence
sea-urchin erect with menstruation, drunkenness,
fucking, friendship! All of which are sensed and hived below
our meeting ground, internal aviation,
our dog fight in the clouds! zooming under you,
then you pepper me from behind, in flames I go down
through a blob of vermillion and a swath of no,
entangled in the ur-done, the undone, the never to be
is pulling something from me,
a memory is tugged out of its carapace.


I had written a paragraph trying to unpack this stanza in my own art historical analysis. Instead all I can think of is how this stanza says so much about a poetics of relations. In my own misreading, I see a manifesto for a pre-conceptual poetry. How a pre-conceptual poetry, a poetry that does without a subject before a subject is manifested or a poetry that manifests its own subject, might be important in creating this poetics of relations.

While I know I'm muddling this up a bit, one only has to read the stanza to get an understanding of how knowledge is found in the relationships between reader, author, and image, and that the image is also a dialectical relationship between, author, painter, and reader. Knowledge is constructed through the architecture of these relations. Quite the Stanza!

Now, whether or not I have been clear, I must add that while I think that these relationships always exist in this way, (knowledge existing in relationships) it is the act of poetry which can evoke this kind of thinking (after all, who said, poetry is that which calls attention to itself, Preziosi, was he quoting someone else?). And so, in my misreading, this Eshleman stanza is the manifesto for How to Evoke Relational Dialectics in Poetry. But it is not necessarily overtly a pre-conceptual poem of dialectical relations, rather a call for them.

What I am saying here, I guess, is that Eshleman's relational dialectics, and my reading of Tejada's understanding of them are still confined to subject positions and not necessarily what Eshleman seems to have this stanza calling for. So while Eshleman is creating a kind of poetics of relation he isn't necessarily taking his own advice, "you leave before you arrive, you arrive/ without having come..." So while Eshleman is calling for a reader to complete the loop connecting knowledge between poet, painter and subjective world he is doing so in a fixed relation, this loop is a closed one.

No less important is the open loop of a decentered authorship, a text which forces or encourages a reader to form the subject and/or author in relation to the text and themselves (again, i must say i believe this to always be the case, yet it is not often evoked purposefully by the poetry itself). Which is why I read this as a manifesto. It is declaring something rather than enacting it. (Someone please help me here?!) I mean he is saying to me, a poetics of relations should remove subjective authorship at the outset or the subject should arrive of its own accord. Is this an echo of Spicer's practice of outside, a praising of conceptual poetics that question authorship? Whatever it is, this poem is getting to me right after the Araki Yasusada, Johnson experience and a rethinking of Bhanu Kapil's Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, and so is really hitting on something for me.

In short, this book has me excited about rereading it.

I must add a short note: This book is really a gem. It is one of the nicest new single volume poetry books i've seen. We need more small press books like this! The all around quality of poetry, and bookdesign is really amazing, and this is Hot Whiskey's first full-volume. I must say it follows that a press that puts so much work into their chaps would have the same amount of care put into their larger books. Anyone interested in art historical perspectives in poetry should really buy this book, but not just them, cause this book is a great one, from one of our finest living American poets. Buy it!


1 comment:

The Bob said...

What??? The stanza is clearly a melancholy evocation of the apotheosis of the ur-walrus.