Sunday, May 13, 2012

“Clear Mirror Care”: some thoughts on Jared Hayes’ The Dead Love: hands and more hands together

0.1          If CA Conrad’s blurb for Bernadette Mayer’s Studying Hunger Journals learns me, it’s that some here these days are still looking for a ‘poet’s poet’, one who will get them writing. And yes, for Conrad, (for all those in the know), Bernadette is that poet! And, I would add to that, Yes! Jared Hayes is also that poet! The poems of The Dead Love take me here by hands, reading-writing in a single ringing  gesture…

1.1          The Dead Love’s first series "Into the Furrows" is the most challenging one for me; and benefits from multiple readings. Or, multiple voiced readings. “Furrows” works through translated language from two foreign-born, non-English writers. Paul Celan and Helene Cixous make a curious pair; each writer’s work stands as bold example of the psychological effects of the most difficult strands of 20th Century globalization: colonization and ethnic cleansing. For both writers – Cixous of French Jewish descent raised in Algeria, Celan a German-speaking Jewish Romanian whose family was interned and exiled in World War II, eventually landing in Vienna, then Paris – there is an uneasy  sense of belonging, or rather a ‘constitution of exclusion and non-belonging’, in their subjects and language. This exile can ‘trap one in a foreign body/language that does not allow one express themselves’, though both have determined to forge a writing life of bare witness, to communicate despite, and specifically through, this exodus. The corollary effect of their resounding images –  Cixous’ “white ink”, Celan’s “black milk” – shows a dramatic, upsetting disturbance in the dislocation of the natural essence of beings wrought by war, colonization, racism, exile, exodus.
 “Furrows’” dialogic prosody keeps the reader (okay, this reader) poised in the middle space of a conversation of between, of figurative voice-spaces, a bardolike talk state between the living and

deceased. “Furrows’” immemorial abstractions allow for a reader’s elegiac communion with their own departed.
1.2          Channeling H.D. via Duncan, these voice-parts work in tandem, “blunted and rounding in the heat” of their compression, an insistence on the depths of elemental connection between beings, here on Earth, once or now present; or once again in some future. Furrowed, in high definition, here are two writers whose heightened dream-like subterranean language-lives rise to occasion an ethereal poem-state.
In Hayes’ series each line burrows, furthers this shift of attention between two realms. I discover a repetitious variation to inter/action between the parenthetical and non-parenthetical words. Watch how each line shifts in and out of this inner/outer linguistic space between:
(a descending movement) an eye
cut in strips (ascend downward)
you hold fast with your
teeth (descending is deceptive) its
silverglare there (you say i
should go down further still)
next to the hailstones,  in
(what a place!) in the
heartthread, the (plunging into the
earth and going deep into)

Celan’s & Cixous’ vocabulary blend into a cohesive, though necessarily fragmentary sheen. Besides Celan’s Germanic compounded nouns – ‘wordaccretion’, ‘landinwards’, ‘woundmirror’, for example – there is a fluid-edged bending of language into a choral fugue, baring witness to witness.
2.1          Moving on to a friendly haunt... “Act Two of the Gertrude Spicer Story” bears some resemblance to one of its inspirations from which its title is borrowed, PRECINCT KALI & THE GERTRUDE SPICER STORY by poet James Bertolino (Mr. Hayes’ early professor/mentor). Hayes’ “Act Two” stays closer to Stein’s syntactic repetitive playstyle, interlocking her with certain vocabulary of poet Jack Spicer (readers familiar with Spicer will recognize the poet’s familiar radio, the Orpheus/Eurydice via Cocteau mythology, ‘morphemes’). One can sense the dark matter-of-course in the astral-earth connections present in both series. CW Truesdale commented on Bertolino’s book, “There is no do-it-yourself utopianism here, no romantic solutions, no nostalgia or illusions, nothing that looks or smells like the American Dream, and no effort to teach us to be better and more compassionate human beings.” Here is Bertolino’s Gertrude of the Stars”:

She let her hair down
to the immaculate hunger

to its dirty lisp.

My eyes are supernovae and
less gentle than

she said. I'm pretending
a dark astral pussy
and talk funny too. On the edge

of appetite
and more alone

she constructed as two
mouths tunneling
a model of the multiple universe.

There. In the final stanza’s “two/mouths tunneling/ a model of the multiple universe” is where Hayes  vessels  (the whole universe: a pretty big vessel) syncopated gestures in an ever-shifting séance, a self-defined “museum of oulipean chimeras”.  Here’s “A Whole Universe”:
what is the new that makes myself, that makes it this, what is the new that presents a shit poetry and a shit image.
what is the new.
what is the shit, what is ghost.
where is the feasted odyssey, odysseus and a dry fly is not a dry fly, only food an you are new, only a universe and ghosts are important, a moment is back, a moment is starving death. a universe distinguishes ground. a universe just distinguishes ground.

2.2          We land on ground, here, though, as in. We do. And so, what, is it a hard-earned ground to land on?  As if to go through the shit to get the moment back? Well, while I brought Truesdale’s words here, for a sense of that, in Bertolino, and to a degree, also in Hayes’ sequence. But even with “no romantic solutions, without nostalgia”, there are these tired beasts and they are digging, digging towards something. In the next poem in the sequence, “A Wolf Ground”, you get the sense that this effort must be noble, under-towards an evolutionary (sacred?) trance-sense:
                a fixed thought, a very dark god, a quite dark thought. is that not a totem for any use of it and even so is there any animal that is better, is there any animal that has so much tired wisdom.  
Do I feel that beast’s breath on the back-neck of the bottom totem?
3.1          I have a fond preference for Hayes’ Dusie chapbook version of “RecollecTed”, with its pre-cut lines and elegantly minimal hand-sewn Japanese binding. Still, it is joy to find the series reprinted in Dead Love. The middle of each line contains a letter from the name “Ted Berrigan” with lines selected from the poet’s Collected Poems, using chance methods. There’s a formal nod to Mac Low’s mesostic and Queneau’s self-multiplying infinite. Each page has dotted lines and scissor icons, suggesting a reader’s potential action/mutual creation of the poem through cut-up. The scissor icon suggests a child’s activity book, and one may just as easily take the symbol as metaphor as actual suggestion (the back of the pages are blank, as if in invitation to cut. While I may take the invitation to steal/create ((see below)), I wouldn’t dare deface such a lovely book as this. (Not with all these ghosts about…)
3.2          Ted Berrigan is an important lineage holder for Mr. Hayes’ attentive excavations. Like Ted, Mr. Hayes’ social energies and gregarious personality brings his poetic attentions outward in an expanding network of personal writing relationships and collaborations. I believe, for Mr. Hayes, writing is a social practice of collaboration and ethical appropriation. I say this as one who has his own words reflected back by Jared’s peaceful eye, in a sense of solidarity with such a vision. I care to offer my short poem which is embedded somewhere in The Dead Love, because I feel it appropriate to the subjects ‘at hand’: “People: look wonderful together.”
3.3          As a doubled reflection, I created/curated the following from “RecollecTed” lines, for an ongoing collaboration with Elizabeth Guthrie, “Notes Toward a Practice Journal”:
“Boy do I burn
a lot & that’s about All
I do.” –Joanne Kyger

We saw that beautiful creature
& you can’t handle yourself, love, feeling (that front door
And everything is clear from here at the center
In the garden of my memory
Old prophets help me to believe
We must not be afraid
We are each free to shed big crystal tears on
Planes & on trains
Upon these under lands or,

Taking chances
Fifteen hundred miles away or,

Sitting in perfect attention with perfect self-awareness
Standing pat in the breathless blue air or,

Made of neon
Not even here
With its selective, multiple or-endings I offer this as a lesson from my close friendship and inter/action with Mr. Hayes’ poetry and mind. Where reading The Dead Love inspires practice and project of another sort, and then, somehow, re-turns, reconfiguring ‘here’. These interpretive and interlocking gestures of reading, writing, and artistic/collective collaboration are, I believe, at the root of Jared’s practice (one only need turn to the curator’s biography to get a sense of his poethics: “he believes collectivity and community are important and so…” one finds his membership in various gatherings where this (re)collectivity reverberates, like “the mirror in the mirror”, onward, out-word.
4.1          On a visit to Boston, Mr. Hayes allowed us a glimpse of his always cagy progress-in-process. He presented a hand-bound chapbook, called Diary: How to improve the world (you will only make matters worse) 2009 i.m. John Cage. A 20-page quotation of collage: poetry, philosophy, psychology and international news headlines. Mr. Hayes may have used this as a source text for this book’s eponymous series that, I believe, the most finely integrated, trans/formative movement in The Dead Love.
Diary and Dead Love acknowledge a company of 20th Century continental philosophers – Agamben, Benjamin, Butler, Derrida, Haraway – and postmodern experimental writers – Blaser, Howe, Kapil,  Notley, et al. Many writers’ concepts inform these poems’ words (words, who owns them?), nameless identities froth around the edges of these feats of erased, delimiting ‘I’s:
clear mirror care 

world behind
leaves of spring
you are dead
without boundaries 

lines of fragilization
of the individual
what matters who’s speaking
“i” is nothing
what we come to know

as i sd to my friend
there is no ethics without
the darkness

how the world is
around us
limitless field

Pick up strands of dialogic, communal echo in lines by Louis Zukofsky (“clear mirror care”) and Robert Creeley (“as i sd to my friend”) – poets of previous generation overlap, one seeking out the other in a gesture of comradeship. I’m reminded of the story, Creeley showing up on the Zukofskys’ door in a rainstorm, and welcomed in, “brought home to a reader, then I was given hot coffee.”  So, be sure, there is elegy and loss in this great Dead Love, but there is warmth in its willing acceptance, a talking ear: “prayer to dialogue / along the shockwave / tell me what you know.”
4.2          And, through. Through to this bottomless, ‘breached darkness’ (reversed), this ‘living shadow/limitless field’ Psychology of ‘us’: assemblies of shared breath, in this de-centered multitudinous no-self. An anonymous method points in all directions towards all centers, in an image Norma Cole recalls in her blurb, from “the dazzling wake”. “Wake”, a Celanesque polysemy refracts: the course of something proceeded; to keep watch or vigil over the dead; to become cognizant, aware.
To (re-)turn to a personal inscription, from Mr. Berrigan, via Mr. Hayes: “Breathing / and everything is clear from here at the center / like an ordinary man / in red weather.”

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