Sunday, March 21, 2021

immesurable divisions?

Anemone nemorosa. Frome, 19 March 2021.

When we poetry readers move between different poems, there's a kind of leakage across our readings, they're not insulated. I came from thinking about Sir John Davies' 1599 poem Nosce Teipsum, a philosophical account of the soul, and my questions about the distinctness of personal identity seemed to proceed uninterrupted into the dramatically modern turbulence of what I picked up next:  

Place :
                Is a
                    in the means of

                A singlular
               locale [isn't/it?]

                                                    Are numbers of years spent
                                                    to account for :
               [opt out
               or into :]
                                                        divisions ?
That which is rent from one

In this movement

a cultural-linguistic
                                                   name     home
                                                   plane     schlept car
                                                   shipped to walk
                                                                                      --and then
locate the "exile" in "reconciliation"
of frontiers and calculable numbers
of words available in each of her tongues
un-cross-stitched from what one was / is          

the average
               stamp thumped on a block of papers
               declares her                        Hearing
                                                                          is in
                                           a quieter tone:       this
place of all echoes
                                           the palimpsestic

This is the beginning of the first of a group of five poems by Jennifer K. Dick in the anthology women: poetry: migration ed. Jane Joritz-Nakagawa (theenk Books, 2017). My thoughts still ran on Sir John Davies' soul: is it both single and singular, or does it only appear single by being singular ("singlular")? Or single by virtue of appearing to be only in one place; but are places meaningfully distinct from the soul's perspective? 

But tonight I read the poem more as about migration, about humans in different places. (Jennifer K. Dick was born in Iowa and lives in Mulhouse (France).)

But still, there's a questioning of singleness and demarcation that's deeply ingrained in this text. Words aren't just words, they are activated words. They are constantly being marked as quotations, italicized, capitalized, parenthesized, question-marked, energetically spaced across the line, creatively misspelled, multilingual, and conversing with each other by meaning (meant, means), rhyming (meant, spent, rent) or partial repetition (schlept, shipped; exile, reconcile). Stop jogging my elbow while I'm trying to read! That's what I imagine a traditional reader protesting (and I still have that traditional reader buried inside somewhere). This writing interrupts the flow, it asks us how the word reached us, about intention and control. It says that words conceal as well as reveal. That, after all, reality is outside the words, we might need to look past them and not just through them. 

The quotations are from a book by Erín Mouré, so Jennifer's poems are building on a practice that´s already inclined to multivocality and multilingualism. Like when we build two towers of bricks and then try to put one on top of the other. It courts a collapse of what separates one from another or inside from outside. Which is a recurrent image in her poems. As here in the fourth poem,  

the lost, regurgitated sandstorm
grit on windowless windowsill

a poem that considers ruined buildings and Alzheimers and "wherein our particulars vanish..". 


Sure, you left the newspaper articles, fragments of
windows to be replaced, the beige sawdust coating the blackened
broken cement, the shattered café front.

from What holds the body, in a section that considers explosions as well as balancing on a tightrope (Sourced from here: ).

Some say that the first fundamental of primitive life was the cell wall. Only when there's separation can life exist, evolve, create. And that's how most of us think, most of the time. To write a poem you start with a new page or empty screen, you paint on a blank canvas, you make dinner when you've wiped down the sides, you begin to build a home by laying down a clean foundation. This is poetry that wonders what's at stake in these ideas of infection and apartheid, and whether we can think it differently. 

There's a good amount of Jennifer's poetry available online, and a good list on her website. Or rather, two lists:

Poems in French: 


I'm currently reading the long extract from Enclosure here:

I'm not sure if it's part of ENCLOSURES (2007), or part of Lilith: a novel in fragments (2019), or neither. It's grounded on Ovid's Echo and Narcissus: echoes and reflections and eyes. Here are two extracts:

She is within her                       a repetition,                       a mirror, silvered-over

                             surfacing,                       mirage

leaden,                                     lead,                                     to be leading

                                               Some part or point of
voice bleeding                          over,                                     into paper
                             scratches                against,                     she scrapes

This is like a gasp
                             she says
                                                She wants to say
                                                                                            to be saying


A sleight for stored eyes        a staff to unsever her deprived by thankless Athens
In her mind's lyre            in the wind's mire opposed to the twilight of her trial        perceptive
Rail        immediate        redolent        mind her eye or vigilance kept contagion
if this were catching     she should advise he keep a sharp        look heed ahead out the
mischievous signs "o mine tie, thine..." tapered to, knotted        were she but one-sighed or
willowlike a cypress-Cyclops mounting with aramisapians—if time should prove to be
so sure as seeking with half a fly-on-the-wall      peek though the needle      spin
her waifish body suddenly perceived heavily-handed         as a camel's two-thump inability
to pass through eyeing the spire of the storm         screen-hurricane periphery
casting a sheep's, a glad, an open   


aramisapians -- transforming Arimaspians, a legendary one-eyed tribe of northern Scythia. 


Two poems by Jennifer K. Dick on Jerome Rothenberg's Poems and Poetics blog. "Boundary" and "Timber Hitch" are from an in-progress project called Shelf Break that uses a lot of nautical terms. (Somewhat ironically for an Iowan, as she notes.)

Here's section 2 of "Timber Hitch": 

median of misconceptions
mesopelagic tropical
amoebic dysentery
diatribe or troubled
spindly motors,
mortar, cracks,
fissures, figments
glint atop the gangway
gate or plate
schlepped up on
deck the
chained the
hauled the
cratered cargo
ruinporn ornamentation
a lapsus
“next to baroque mermaids”                                DA, 58

["DA, 58" references a quote from a translation of Demosthenes Agrafiotis.]


But now those mermaids and the troubled Mmms of that opening are drifting this post and me off to another kind of mermaid, another melting of separation, the half-shark half-human Girl of Lisa Samuels' Tender Girl (Dusie, 2015). This current debate about definition and singleness has many aspects and many contributors.  

In the following extract Girl has found some books/barques.

Having decided, Girl moved there. She was clawed in time with barque masks. She collects herself for a while, herself several damp examples leaning on the pulpit by the end of the rented hall, and she would give them up next time she felt herself leaving town. But the hall was comforting, it was renewable and unlikely, her slapping feet from one end to the next. 

The hot wine drunk down her throat. To be alone and yet populated with exemplars was an aim she was learning to adopt alongside books with lists of names, one anchored to the next and the next, one heaving according to time, another according to license or locale, another simple alphabetic comforting. She had these by her strange eating, piece by piece, piled thin. The sniffing of the skins of the books taught her how to think and speak here. 

(Tender Girl, p. 46)

Anemone nemorosa. Frome, 19 March 2021.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa, Sw: Vitsippa). Throughout most of the British Isles (our only native Anemone). Throughout southern half of Sweden and more sporadically up to Jämtland. It also grows a long way up the Norwegian coast, about as far as Bodø. Anemone = windflower. Nemorosa = of the woods, shady places. 

The Swedish name Vitsippa means White Sippa. "Sippa" is a Swedish flower-name given to various attractive Anemone/Hepatica/Pulsatilla species in the Ranunculaceae, and also to the unrelated Dryas octopetala ("Fjällsippa") in the Rosaceae. The others are: 

Blåsippa (Blue Sippa): Hepatica or Liverleaf, Hepatica nobilis. Beloved early spring flower in most of Sweden. Not in British Isles except as garden escape. 
Gulsippa (Yellow Sippa): Yellow Anemone, Anemone ranunculoides. Uncommon from Skåne to Jämtland. Not in British Isles except as rare garden escape.
Tovsippa: (Tuft Sippa) Anemone sylvestris. Big white flowers, rare on Gotland and Öland. Not in British Isles.
Nipsippa: (River-erosion-sandbank Sippa) Pulsatilla patens. Rare in Gotland and Ångermanland. Not in British Isles. It occurs across Russia to Kamschatka and also in NW America (ssp. multifida).
Mosippa (Sand-heath Sippa): Pale Pasqueflower, Pulsatilla vernalis. Uncommon from Skåne to Jämtland. Not in British Isles.
Fältsippa (Field Sippa): Pulsatilla pratensis. Rare in S. and E. Sweden to Uppland. Not in British Isles.
Backsippa (Hill Sippa): Pasqueflower, Pulsatilla vulgaris. Uncommon from Skåne to Uppland, formerly more common. Uncommon in S. England, mostly Cotswolds/Chilterns.
Fjällsippa (Mountain Sippa): Mountain Avens, Dryas octopetala. Local in the fells, Jämtland and north. Very local in northern British Isles (e.g. the Burren, N. Wales, Scotland). 

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