Saturday, November 5, 2011

More to Say McSweeney

I suppose engagement with the necropastoral is something chronic: like hours of playing Snood the connections, implausible, become sustained even when you close your eyes.

Link to Joyelle McSweeney's latest, wonderful, post on bug-life and the poet. What I got most out of this was that our poetry is like the generations of bugs: die 150 plus times a year. Echos of Hugo: "we build our prison and earn parole each poem." In a hyperextended world (link : everything) our corpses may be everywhere, and with each new reading we are in a way animated only to die again. Who are you who got to this question mark -- ?

So why not write everywhere. Walls are for graffiti, threads can be tied onto thread. What it is is zombie-ness, but I think there's more optimism than just that. Not the world as dead and rotting (it is) but the world in language dead and reborn (it is).

Put economically, language of communication -- dead already. Language simply to communicate dies at the moment it communicates: self-destructing messages Chief Quimby can never get out of his coat in time. This kind of language eventually burns. Cynics say the new-speak begins and language rots. The poet plants eggs on the rot and is reborn a thousand times. The poet says new-speak and thinks up twenty nouns that are now verbs. (I'm roading it, I tonicked by gin, I Ricola'd my throat.)


"I reject the so-called economy of corporate time, capitalist time, so called ‘linear’ time, triumphalist time, which is a golden lie anyway, and instead I recognize this tide of shit and waste, I recognize that that is where I live, if I live, on bug time, on bug time; in Indiana, in the necropastoral; I have no interest in myths of posterity, in a secured future, in the supposed future of literature or humans or anything else; the way I’m writing now is disposable; in disposible media and unsturdy genres; but it’s the most important thing in my milisecond life; that’s why I want to be wear my grave clothes now, ceremental, distressed, and yes, bug-eaten, moths in my hair, Miss Death-in-life, like PJ Harvey in her Mercury clothes, mercury poisoned, one part Miss Havisham, one part Gregor Samsa, with chitinous extensions shoving out from her brain through her cranium, her dura mater (tough mother), her pia mater (her little mother), her arachnoid mater (spider mother). Stabat, mater, my black pincers stabbed you in the eye, and now I’ll plant my eggs there, time flowing backwards, you carry the eggs again for me."

Take a text message, say "lets meet @4 Egan's."

Take a text message, say "sidled, slid, billiard boys I'm wasting my life."

Language slips back into the pocket of the reader, one way or the other. What happens in the world outside the language has always been anybody's guess but well known it is that you got to the end of this sentence and may turn around and read it again. Or hyperlink.

But that is urban. Go out to the pastoral and bring your urbanity with you, yes. Speak your new verbs to the plains, or hills. Or mountains. The only thing dead is the sound you just let carry. Nature isn't in a caring mood. Hyperlinks are not in place. Mountain time has no concept of linear, it is metamorphic or basalt. We know our searches inform the advertisements on the margins of our screen, we have been profiled by corporations and are a profile with a picture. This isn't about consuming, it is about producing on the consumption, and when we die of consumption (pun is there and I keep it there) we are born out of it again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Joanna Klink and the Necropastoral

To my friends I give many books, usually what I would consider good reads. It is usual, however, that when I pass on the poetry of Joanna Klink the receiver, upon reading, is usually left cold.

"It's just too lyrical," they say, which I suppose is fair. Klink is deeply rooted in the lyric pastoral, a pastoral that may be dated for the millennium.

There have been some new theorizing on the pastoral, mostly from the blog Montevidayo featuring Joyelle McSweeney and her concept of the Necropastoral. From what I can understand (and correct me if I'm wrong), the idea is something like this:

The pastoral has always been synonymous with a kind of wilderness that is itself an anachronism of city life. That is, the pastoral is the reflection of the city cast out into a space that is occult, a fable, a fantasy. It has been appreciated and celebrated for its "other-ness" but it merely reflects the city's own decay in a larger space, since it "contaminates" itself with a kind of past glory in the present tense. It is a death of itself in the making, always.

As readers of poetry, we've come to expect this in lyric pastoral; in fact, it is what we are anchored to. A.R. Ammons "Visit," in which the poet, inviting you the reader to his place in the woods, advises the reader to "treat yourself gently: the ascent thins both / mind and blood and you must / keep still a dense reserve / of silence we can poise against / conversation: there is little news . . ."

The celebration of an anachronism. The desire in present to be in a dead past.

Joanna Klink, however, is one of the few poets who still believes in the pastoral as pure and devoid of the city and its pushy homages. I don't think she repudiates the necropastoral, but she certainly complicates it. It is not nostalgia we find in her landscape, but ardor. A yearning that must reject itself and the city. If that's the case her poetry finds itself nowhere, it is a negative of a positive of a negative. Here is the poem that begins her latest book, Raptus (Penguin, 2010):

Some Feel Rain

Some feel rain. Some reel the beetle startle
in its ghost-part when the bark
slips. Some feel musk. Asleep against
each other in the whiskey dark, scarcely there.
When it falls apart, some feel the moondark air
drop its motes to the patch-thick slopes of
snow. Tiny blinkings of ice from the oak,
a boot-beat that comes and goes, the line of prayer
you can follow from the dusking wind to the snowy owl
it carries. Some feel sunlight
well up in blood-vessels below the skin
and wish there had been less to lose.
Knowing how it could have been, pale maples
drowsing like a second sleep above our temperaments.
do I imagine there is any place so safe it can't be
snapped? Some feel the rivers shirt,
blue veins through soil, as if the smokestacks were a long
dream of exhalation. The lynx lets its paws
skim the ground in snow and showers.
The wildflowers scatter in warm tints until
the second they are plucked. You can wait
to scrape the ankle-burrs, you can wait until Mercury
the early star underdraws the night and its blackest
districts. And wonder. Why others feel
through coal-thick night that deeply colored garnet
star. Why sparring and pins are all you have.
Why the earth cannot make its way toward you.

Dream-state, death-state, beautiful annihilation. We are discouraged by her style because she will never offer us what we really desire, to die in a wilderness and awake inside our urban walls. If we die the door will open in a wilderness, but what we walk into is the unknown.