Thursday, April 07, 2016

notes on Lisa Samuels' Tomorrowland - 2

This really is just notes!

I don't know all of Lisa's books well, but Tomorrowland (2009) could be said to have inaugurated a series of longer poems. For a brief period it looked like it. Gender City (2011) shares much of Tomorrowland's conveyed impression of narrative and social themes. (Gendered social space, as covered in the Borden et al work mentioned in Tomorrowland's Further Reading?) Then there was Anti M (2013) and the novel Tender Girl (2015), long works too but major divergences. Meanwhile, Mama Mortality Corridors and Wild Dialectics... each very distinct developments. So that moment of literary-historical simplicity of outline was illusory and brief.

The bio in OOE2 suggests that there might one day be a Tomorrowland film.

Wes Tank on the film:

As you know from my earlier post, my interest in Tomorrowland , a book I'd had on my shelves for ages, was awakened by the rendering on CD.

True, there are things you can't perceive from the CD alone.

One is the predominant alternation between two kinds of verse paragraph.

In the first type, the first letter of each line is capitalized (except when the paragraph is interrupted by uncapitalized passages contained within parentheses, which it often is).

The second type of verse paragraph has no metrical capitalization, just at the start of sentences etc. like in normal prose.

I've still not studied what this distinction might convey. The parentheses often appear to cross the syntactical sense rather than interrupting it.

Anyway, on the CD this all flows together.

The book also has epigraphs and "Further Reading" - e.g. Marco Polo, Robinson Crusoe, Comus, and modern studies of cosmopolitanism and social space. Argentine author Julio Cortazar. Sylvia Ashton-Warner's book about teaching Maori children. NZ author Janet Frame's only poetry book The Pocket Mirror. (LS's emigration from USA to NZ around the time of writing Tomorrowland is a relevant background.) Rev. John Butler's Journals - New Zealand's first clergyman, he arrived there in 1818. Michel de Certeau - tactics (of subjugated individuals) in navigating everyday life. Henri Lefebvre - critique of everyday life , the underdeveloped sector colonized by capitalism. William Henry Hunt (actually Burt) and Philip Grossenheider - US Field Guide to Mammals.


On the other hand the swiftness of the CD shows up far-separated repetitions. "handmade try .... crux" is in the opening section "The argument". "a crux of handmade try" reappears near the end of "It's all good".

Or "Fasti's quotient" (Bulwarks, A little history).

"If it weren't for Shakespeare we'd never have Jane Austen if not" (TI)
"If it weren't for whales we'd never have fishes if" (LG)

There's one extended passage (a dozen lines or so) in TI that's closely shadowed, sometimes word for word, in B. I originally picked it up from "tongue's proleptic fire" echoing "tongue's analectic fire".


This reminds me there are four names in the poem. Not exactly characters though I'll speak of them as such.

The Argument. (TA , one section) Eula.
It's all good. (IAG, 3 sections) Eula x 3.
Treasure Island. (TI, 5 sections)  Manda.
Sirens. (S, 3 sections) Eula. Jack x 3. Eula. Fasti. Eula.
Neptune's open mouth. (NOM, 3 sections) Eula x 5.
Bulwarks. (B, 5 sections) Manda x 2. Eula. Manda x 3. Eula. Fasti x 2. Eula. Manda. Fasti x 4. Eula. Fasti. Eula x 2. Manda. Fasti.
Landed gently. (LG, 3 sections) Eula x 2. Fasti. Jack. Eula.
A little history. (ALH, 3 sections) Eula x 3. Fasti. Jack. Eula. Fasti. Manda.
All the buildings made of voices. (ATBMOV, 4 sections) Eula. Fasti. Eula x 2. Fasti x 2 (an exceptional narrative about him and his mother). Eula. Fasti. Manda. Eula.
The body's charge. (TBC, 5 sections) Manda. Eula x 2. Manda. Jack. Fasti. Manda x 3.
Circumference. (C, 3 sections) (none)

The primary narrative fact, especially in the first half of the book, is arrival. "We land to divination" (TA),
"Well, initial" (IAG),  "The crackling Of fires will announce you found arrival" (TI, p. 28), "Arrival's song" (NOM, p. 38), "It's been a week" (LG).

With arrival comes the mild euphoria of those sensors switching on to a new terrain. "silly with excited premonitions" (IAG, p. 21). And especially in "Treasure Island": "everyone was lovely over there"... "A curious newness in their eyes in love with acquiescent Barriers"... "people are so perfect"... (TI, p.23).

The location(s) are associated with shores. Maybe southern (Crux Australis?) It's multiple, it's also cities. But shores anyway.  I want to emphasize that dragging out these narratives is a misreading, but it gives a structure too.

So what to make of the names?

Eula. The name, in software licensing, can mean End-User License Agreement. Eula tends to suggest to me "where we've come from" - Europe, America. It is also a real name, commonest in Spanish-speaking countries, short for Eulalia - "sweetly spoken" (Greek eu + laleo ). Associated with power and knowledge.

Manda is Croatian/Serbian short for Magdalena, or English short for Amanda. The character is maybe somewhat associated with childlike perception and domestic activity. According to Wes Tank's talk (see above), Manda is the transhistorical female and Fasti is the transhistorical male - he may have understood that from LS but I'm not sure.

Fasti is a real name too, but obscure (old Scandinavian). Perhaps more relevant, chronological lists of official and religious events (Roman, as in Ovid's Fasti). Generally the figure seems to me priestly. He's associated at various points with logs (in the sense of records, I think) and with astronomy. The "founding Fasti" suggests a pioneer patriarch. There's a relatively long quasi-narrative about him and his mother in the middle of ATBMOV.

Jack is associated with death and violence ("escalation's fury Jack" (ALH)). Jack is presumably referred to in "he hanged himself that's what he done" near the end of "The body's charge". The word or idea of hanging, passim,  tends to suggest Jack. Perhaps a jack tar. Or a flag. Origin: the old world: protestant northern mist.

It's important not to limit the narrative to those four names. Tomorrowland is liberally strewn with pronouns (I, we, you, he, she) and these are considerably less random than in some experimental texts. Sometimes these unnamed characters are consistent enough to develop little quasi-narratives about themselves.  For example the "he" of  IAG p. 16, or the "man" of S pp.30-31.


 "Bulwarks". This, the longest section of the book. The passage early on about Manda is fiercely feminist. The last part tells a story about teaching unruly children, colonial in character, and about a somewhat chaotic growth of urbanization. With "Bulwarks" the poem becomes less innocent. A preoccupation with colonialism begins here and continues, with increasing darkness, through LG and ALH.

Francis Towne (final line of "Bulwarks", p. 56): English watercolourist, d. 1816. Long neglected, now admired. Refers back to the educational project of p.55: "books with articles about watercoloring".

"Landed gently". This was the name of a book by Alan Hunter (1957), featuring his character Inspector Gently. He in turn may have intended a pun on "landed gentry". So might this poem ("heir apparent", "inheritance"...) . But colonialism is central. Considerable energy on the theme of civil restitution for colonial wrongs. At one point, four paragraphs begin with the word "Naturally"...

"A little history". The theme of history had been forecast in the previous section. ALH contains a long episode with lots of rhyme. Hokianga (last line):  Hokianga harbour, with giant kauri trees, celebrated as birthplace of the Maori nation, 3hrs drive north of Aukland.


"analectic"- made up of literary selections (analects)
"anamorphic" - having unequal magnifications on two axes.
"proleptic" - treating an expected future state as already present, anticipating the completed result, e.g. While yon slow oxen turn the furrowed plain...
"socius" - colleague - unit in social relationships.



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