a phoetics: fragment 5
After transcribing "the wells at the mouth of itza" (see "on 'the wells at...'" I began in the early 00's to experiment more consciously, and so concretely, with the possibilities of moving away from a fragmentary use of the voice recording to composition in time of whole works, with "whole" defined in its Old English derivation in hal, meaning "entire, unhurt, healthy," as in "hale": A "whole" work is "well," as previously defined. I use the terms "well," "healthy," and "whole" are more or less indiscriminately: all point toward a state of being-in-making and making-in-being. (Perhaps one could go as far as pose a neologism "whelth": In terms of a poetic rule, I would call "whelth" what is unbroken or uncut, and in this light poets, as physicians of the logos might speak an oath "to do no harm.")
(Note: I recently chanced on a blog entry that takes the "hale" and "whole" and "health" along an interesting path pushing off Descartes to "holy": "Middle Way, Part 6: Death vs. Growth vs. Cancer".")
This took light after 2002 when I bought an Olympus W-10 digital voice, which allows for photographs to be taken simultaneous to recording and, sequentially tied to the sound track, played back as they fall. These digital photo-audio recordings are "phoems" in a field I call "phoetry." This term was suggested to me by Nicole Peyrafitte in the course of a March 2006 presentation of some of these works at the Experimental Cabaret, which she hosted at Albany's Lark Tavern. While compassing a photo-poetry yoke, phoetry sounds like "foetry," the online site dedicated to outing poetry contests colored by collusion, of which I was a victim. So, while descriptive, it is also ironic, which touches a nerve of our experience of language: Foetry hurt me.
The discreet series of phoems used in "Street Mete" is entitled "Transverse" after the east-west automobile transverses cut through Central Park, near where I lived in the second half of the '90s through 2001 and through which I walked each day to and from a job. In terms of locating this work, a direct translation of "transverse" may be useful: "trans-," meaning "across, beyond, to go beyond," coupled with "verse," meaning a "line of poetry," though earlier related to song, viz. "line or section of a psalm or canticle." In that, one could define this title as "across or beyond verse," which interpretively opens numerous readings.
The "Transverse" series contains about 80 phoems ranging in length from about 30 seconds to about three minutes. Most feature a single photographic image, though some have as many as five. At this point, the "Transverse" phoems have a sequential order, organized according to a combination of intents: Negate the construction of a story that will divert attention; mix them between both night and day and above and below ground (again, to avoid a story, or events sequential in time); and trust nerve. They are entitled by single words, such as the first five in the actual (electronic) sequence: "rock," "sum," "eclipse," "eye," and "edge." The choice of titles was usually an actual word spoken in the phoem, though sometimes a word that seemed to touch on what was spoken. The single constraint on titles was to choose words that are polysemic along the noun-verb axis: Namely, words that may be employed as a verb or noun, with context defining use.
What I found immediately fateful about these digital recordings is that you cannot alter them: They are as they are. They occur in singularity: no verbal addition or subtraction. You can erase them (intentionally or accidentally), but you cannot alter what was recorded"”what happened"”as one might revise pages of writing toward a finality. They occur in the irreversibility of time. I was forced to cleave to the "move" as it and I happened, together or apart. There was no longer any place for the urge to fix: The question "how can I fix the moment" is as absurd (and perhaps interesting) as Emerson's positing how can we "finish the moment..." So, while forced to cleave, as a maker one is simultaneously released from the bizarre "future past," or an eternally recursive bind of a future as a recovery, not mounting,
A moving example of the inherent suffering of desk-bound composition, tied up with the re-tuning of texts (editing, reworking, rephrasing, etc.), colors T.S. Eliot's "East Cocker":
So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years"”
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres"”
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it [...]
For there is only the fight to recover what has been lost [...]
This thinking and thinning is tied up with perfectionism of the ideal escape, which ironically is an imprisonment, sandwiched by war in an unlucky Pierre style: Eliot understands "every attempt/ is a wholly new start" not as the promise but as an entropic dilemma in which "failure" and "lost" is what we bring to the act. Judgments end in incarcerations in which the "better of words" becomes just a cushier cell. The move in AV phoems, however, either works"”makes a well thing"”or it doesn't "whole." Of course I use "whole" here contra-gramatica, or at least in an obsolete manner, but the use of "whole" as a verb follows Thoreau citing in "Walking" the Spanish gramatica parda, which he translates "tawny grammar." He calls it "a kind of mother-wit derived from that same leopard to which I have referred." Associated with his thesis of "Useful Ignorance," such an interstical grammar is of the wild ("leopard"): a spontaneous, disheveled, surprising arising out of the act, even of composition. In such may lay wholesomeness, and if a leopard's claws may rend they leave the prized half-moon dueling scars of the Viennese logicians.
In making these AV phoems, in the niche of the accompanying photo peeking into my actual location at the move, I began to "see" that aforementioned larger, non-intentional integrity inherent to the process: That the event, the site-specificity, of my speaking into the recorder provided a sensibility to my words that I could not have brought to bear willfully. Rather, it welled . One may even read phoem pictures as wells, as looking over the edge of a well into a darkness where a deep crime is sunken, I realized"”and not to overstress the point by these repetitions but assuredly to underscore an importance to me and to what thoughts I have managed to gather"”that moments, if one can move with sufficient speed, confidence/openness and interest, are readymades, as though certain intervals were waiting to be recognized or framed. There is in the compositional moments of making the audio-visual recordings a feeling of found object close to Marcel Duchamp's "L.H.O.O.Q." moustached word-game defacing of Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" What may differentiate the "Transverse" phoems from the above "retinal art" (Duchamp) is they are performances, albeit with an audience absent and/or to come.
At any rate I also found that even as the use of images makes the context (the place of composition) seem relatively fixed, voice escapes: The sound of speaking in time. My idiom is there, and as idiom relates to identifying a self, I (my self) have escaped too. In that escapes an "aim" is: An "I" hidden in an "am," like Odysseus. Moreover, being a "self""”being apart"”possessing a self"”means that one has something to add. Each of us do, as we may distinguish our selves.
one: "I began working with voice recordings..."
two: "The week Robert Creeley died..."
three: "'Thing,' from the Anglo-Saxon..."
four: "While I mark the beginning of my interest..."
five: "After transcribing 'the wells at the mouth of itza...'"
six: "The distinction”and so mental distance..."
seven: "The PIE *wel- also means "to turn, roll...'"
eight: "Contrary to the fix in which Eliot lost and found..."
nine: "My relationship early on with ESB meta-intellect..."
ten: "It is absolutely important to remember..."