Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Huuklye 'n Cinquor: L7th Heaven: Circling the Square, or, A Self-Referential Reading of "Self-Reference"


.
File:105mm tank gun Rifling.jpg

L7 105 mm tank gun, cut model. On display at the Deutsches Panzermuseum, Munster: photo by baku13, 7 August 2005

 

To start with, to defend this
poem from its own attack, in my shot in
the departmental photo gallery I guess I’ll just
look off to one side, with a mopey expression
as if to say I couldn't care less
about being a professor, I'll wear
my San Francisco sweatshirt to proclaim
I was there then, but in a non-persona
kind of way that convinces me
I can write something certain other
members of the herd at the trough
will have no trouble recognizing as the self-referential
circling of the square that announces
immediate ascension into L7th Heaven
never forgetting that both the flush left
and irregular right margins constantly loom
as significant events, often interrupting what
I thought I was about to
write and making me write something
so unbelievably boring even the champion
bores of the marginal subset of boring poetry
since they identify themselves as poets
through style and publication context
will wish they could call their own
in a quite literal sense
and I could go on, but oh -- prose poems
are another matter, so,
in other words, doubly marginal,
thus heroic, making the birth of post-
industrial code-splicing from a shoal of
territorial barks appear minuscule
in comparison -- but not to put a fine point on it
so much as to put on display the poet
as engaged, oppositional intellectual going
back and rewriting, but discovering
the problem still infuriatingly
or maybe, who knows, conveniently 
reappearing anyway even after the pieces
dislodged from the hidden pockets
of the "relaxed" conferencing outfit have fallen
by the wayside, into the margins
of this page, as it were, where any passing graduate
student on the way to a meeting
could easily find them, pick them up,
piece them together and experience
that unique Eureka! sensation which comes
with the knowledge the bounty reaped
for such a remarkable self-referential
performance, stacked up, assessed, and then again broken
down into pieces, will still add up to something
greater than the sum of its parts --
all the king's horses are fuming impatiently
down the corridor now, though, so
I'd better get my casual throw-away
brilliance hat on, and put all this into
that row of small portable hermetically-sealed
boxes, which are already somewhat crowded
as they contain gnomic and often completely
undecipherable sentences handwritten
on separate slips of paper, grafitti-like scrawls
that dramatize in a particularly problematic
fashion the tautological narrative
by which the "living hand" of the contingent
author (yours truly!) becomes imbued, after
the fact, with eternal potency; and once
having said this, I am overcome as always
by the need to say a bit more
on the subject of the considerable history
of my deployment of antiabsorptive
techniques (nontransparent or
nonnaturalizing elements) (artifice) 
for absorptive ends... In my poems, as
everyone who is reading these words knows, I
bury certain hidden opaque and
nonabsorbable elements, digressions, 
interruptions, non sequiturs, and the like,
potentially explosive elements
somewhat like WMDs
stashed in unexpected places, like
at the site of the traditional caesura, or in
the candy bowl on the desk in my office,
as part of a technological arsenal
to create a more powerful (“souped-up”)
absorption than possible with traditional,
blander, two-ply absorptive techniques
such as pretending to have feelings,
or a soul, for example, though let's not
go there before the afterparty
blows up, or comes crashing down
in such a way as to problematize
if not also foreground, the scale and complexity
of what I am trying to bring down
simply because I don't have the power
to shut up, or to crap on a fig-wort
without the necessary supply of text
to clean up after, or at least clarify
a conundrum whose social geometry
is similar to the physical geometry
that ultimately contains a bomb blast:
whatever I destroy tends to shield
contiguous and remote areas
so I really don't have to feel too bad
about once again airing out
the now fabled battlecry -- “absorption!”
at one level, viewed from an oblique angle,
becomes “anti-absorption!” at another
and vice-versa, all the livelong,
textually liberated, totally engagé L7 day
on which I grant myself as usual any liberties
and/or privileges that may obtain
for an academic industrialist of my standing
or bending over, as the case may be -- I accept
full political agency for my anti-response
as a political tool, paratactically
intact, and not forgetting
the subsidiary aim of radically
reconfiguring the pre-existent categories
of literary status, naturally -- though "nature"
will necessarily have to remain
another category entirely, for now,
even though I’m once again going
back and rewriting (look at me, mom!), the problem
still maddeningly
reappears every six words or so -- so this,
and every poem like it, if I may say so, is a marginal
work in a world entirely without margins
but with direct deposit to be counted upon
at the beginning of every month, as
a result of which I feel empowered, so that
I am going to make an argument, that
there is such a thing as a sentence, and that it occurs
more or less exclusively wherever 
I and/or my fellow ambitious hirelings happen to be
on any given beautiful L7 day, within a given
narrative frame, or else thrown together at random
but not really, say at an MLA convention
where parataxis is elevated to the level
of shop talk, in the meet 'n greet
booths, where, to express our difference,
we wear our nametags in a rakish 
sort of way, either with the label facing
inward, or, in an ultimate gesture in the direction
of tangential relevance, with one of those corny
I-heart thingies prominent, as in
heraldry, on a coat of arms, just so
you know I identify with ordinary
people in this new, autonomous, conditional
sort of way, so that the meaning of a sentence when I use it
is heightened, dissipated, weakened,
broken down, disintegrated, reintegrated,
shored up, torn down, reordered into units
small enough to fit into the tiniest
broom closet in the doll-house, or else
strengthened, questioned, or changed
by the degree of separation or connection
that the reader perceives with regard
to the surrounding sentences, so that s/he may feel free
to linguistically innovate
in master-texts like this one
created by the disruption of lexical tactics
imposed upon us by traditions
like the anachronistic desire to communicate
across the broadening gulf
between islands whose populations
retain no knowledge or awareness
that a world exists outside
their strictly defined geographical boundaries
and now I wish we had more time to spend together
but they're locking up, so let's grab
a couple pops, after office hours, let down our hair,
if we still have any, and try
"making sense" in that ordinary oldfashioned way
until the firing squad shows up
just so long as no one's taping all this
and if they're not, in other words, why not?




Venice Banner
: doodle by Tom Raworth, n.d.

 

from Breakfast Comix 16: Tom Raworth, n.d.
 


from Breakfast Comix 16: Tom Raworth, n.d.
 

 
from Breakfast Comix 1: Tom Raworth, n.d.
 


from Breakfast Comix 1: Tom Raworth, n.d.
 


from Breakfast Comix 1: Tom Raworth, n.d.

 


from Breakfast Comix 1: Tom Raworth, n.d.

 


from Breakfast Comix 1: Tom Raworth, n.d.

 


from Breakfast Comix 2: Tom Raworth, n.d.
 

Cocteau and Eliot
: doodle by Tom Raworth, n.d.

 


from Breakfast Comix 12: Tom Raworth, n.d.

 


from Breakfast Comix 12: Tom Raworth, n.d.




from Breakfast Comix 12: Tom Raworth, n.d.




from Breakfast Comix 12: Tom Raworth, n.d.
 
 

from Breakfast Comix 18: Tom Raworth, n.d.
 

 
from Breakfast Comix 18: Tom Raworth, n.d.
 


Painter Paul Nash Pauses: doodle by Tom Raworth,  n.d.






7 comments:

Barry Taylor said...

'so this,
and every poem like it, if I may say so, is a marginal
work in a world entirely without margins'

Tom -

Amazing how oppressed a tenured professor subverting syntax (still, after all these weary years) can feel. That wilful, passive-aggressive assumption of marginal status (Where are the Awards? Where are the TV specials?) by the last comfy residents of the corporate-funded and -licensed academic playpen. Self-referential, self-confirming, self-incriminating. I've spent 25 years sitting in the canteen with these guys, so I'm rather enjoying this poem.

TC said...

Barry,

Many thanks. The harrowing tale of a survivor. You've witnessed the spectacle.

"All those drear years of industrious, selfconscious timid subversion -- where is the gratitude? --'hollow triumph'!? they're saying, the wretches... and suddenly the laurels begin to smell of... what is it? mould growth?"

(Coincidentally, I've lately been re-reading A Tale of a Tub. Cracking good stuff, one cannot but admit.)

Wooden Boy said...

I took time away from drafting my paper Steve "Stone-Cold" Austin: the "In-Show" as Empty Set and become so engrossed my sake dropped to room temperature.

It's a matter of Cinquor swim and I for one am happy to surf the hyperreal in the company of Huuklye.

TC said...

Duncan,

The ice cube in limbo probably felt much the same way, willing to melt but...

No spoilers here, but somewhere at the end of this line lies the biggest catch of them all.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

What a tour de force! If he knew about this post, I bet old Huuk would feel pretty smugly good about himself, seeing how well he comes across in it. I'll be sure to give him the message if and when he comes out of the outhouse, which could be at any moment. Hold on--I think I smell him coming!

http://vazambam.blogspot.gr/2014/05/huuklyeand-cinquor-on-confrontational.html

TC said...

Vassilis,

Looks like his people will have to be doing a meet with your people. But you know what they say, Every man has his number. I believe they're now also saying this about every woman, too, by the way. In any case, make sure you are paid in full, and you will soon be swordfishing in style somewhere -- if not with the swordfishes themselves!

TC said...

It ought to be remembered that serious and intense academic industry has gone into developing the anti-absorptionist rhetorical strategies that must be seen as the forlorn hope of pseudo-avant-gardes in the face of overwhelming assaults from the pressures of committee.

But there's no giving up the battle. We're still working every minute to sabotage the dominance of language by the mainstream.

The fact that it now looks just like us doesn't make our work any easier... or does it?