The poems, writings, texts – I’m not too concerned with definitions – in this short collection of recent work is purposely heteroglossic. Or maybe that’s polyphonous, or dialogic, in its multifarious registers of language. It encompasses instances of office jargon, marketing strategy terminology, symbols lifted from popular culture, references to continental philosophy, Marxist theory, art theory and critical studies, old documentary footage, movie-star biographies, science texts, Elizabethan drama, nature writing, local observation, memoir, dreams, overheard conversations, below-the-line comment from websites, phrases altered sequentially through an online thesaurus, the occasional neologism, slang… and more.
Quite usually, the various parts collide in quick succession during the course of a single small work. I don’t think we experience the world in straight lines. I mean, there may be a beginning, types of mid-points, and then a disappearance that we may wish to see as some kind of an end, but how we get from one to another is never even, never consistent, never quite understood.
(Outside, as I was writing, it suddenly started to rain. Now it has stopped again, and this sentence is already too late. And now…)
Let’s shout out to American composer Charles Ives and his Unanswered Question, and to Leonard Bernstein discussing ‘the delights and dangers of ambiguity’, after which we can measure the value of doubt and uncertainty against things that are capable of being understood in two or more possible ways. Why do we need all our questions answered? The biggest, life-giving ones are always beyond us. We rarely seek certainty from the music we listen to or the best of the paintings we see. We don’t need to understand why Rothko switched to yellow paint for that particular canvas for us to be in awe of it, or to understand the tonal scheme and shift from D major in Mahler’s ninth symphony for us to enjoy it’s great, deep beauty.
Writing raises questions better than it answers them. Or at least that’s some of what these various poems (etc) seem to demonstrate. I hope so. Maybe in them we can see a few of the symmetries, elisions, repetitions and deletions we experience in our everyday lives. Maybe, in re-writing the poems as we read them, we’ll stumble across the temporal subjectivities that undercut any ideas we have of finding definitive versions or true authorship. Maybe, out of the debris – the imagism, the rivulets of consciousness, the cut-up, the bricolage, the Po-Mo, the deconstruction, the hauntology – we’ll find something useful or good.
All of us know very little. That’s a start.
You can buy The Zircon Ferries from Beir Bua Press here.