Articles - March 2012

Basics of definition

The Hubble Space Telescope drifts over the Earth, 2009 (image courtesy of NASA).

Fisher: OK, I understand what is being asked and pretend that I no longer wonder what it is that a poem is and I’m guessing that we don’t all agree about this. It is clear to me that I don’t have a clue.

I think that we might as well agree what the reading limits are. What is being asked for in a selection, 5 or 10 pages each or 1,500 or 3,000 words?

I would be willing to conform to the suggestion of the convener and make a selection of parts, which is how most work first gets peer or public attention and particularly academic attention as “poems,” as unique blocks of substance or as parts from a larger sequence or amorphous mass. I continue to find it interesting that for practical reasons we are continually asked to fragment our work and present the damaged results as the artifact and then we will spend our time deciding what aspects of that damage, from what has been selected, can be named science as part of its content?

Adair: I don’t think it’s a matter of what a poem “is,” or even what “science” is. Surely the idea of potentiality is more productive here. We’ve all seen multiple definitions of what we’re happy enough to recognize, more or less hazily, as a poem, & as many or more disparate exemplifications. But it can happen that at some point, an urgency enters: we’re moved to try to reinvent the very notion of what a poem might be. I’m wondering if somewhere within what prompts that impulse to reinvention, or even to push further some line of investigation that has recently or long ago established itself, is what we might agree, more or less, to call “science” — even if further prompted to question what “science” might be in order to relieve the disquiet.

The reason I was disturbed by the readiness of the PoemTalk discussants of Zukofsky’s poem 12 to confine “condenser” to the realm of metaphor is that it seems to imply a world in which science entirely serves poetry by providing cool metaphors for ideas that have already otherwise been arrived at. The thing is, does anything about science or the scientific approach suggest an aesthetic problem needing radical tinkering with current strategies to address? Even if yes, it’s entirely possible that the “scientific bit” need not be demarcated in the resultant work, which will issue also from other ideas, concerns, aesthetic influences, etc. — from everything going into what Robin Blaser, in his essay on Olson’s use of Whitehead, calls “the fundamental struggle [in poetry] for the nature of the real” — for of course it cld be argued that science, or perhaps better “techne,” extends into the entire fabrics of our lives. Certainly, we find scientific disciplines that exclude what we might reflexively assume are sine qua nons of science itself, such as reliance on empirical investigation (Copernicus didn’t do this; string theory so far can’t), or a primacy placed on the ability to predict, with or without explanation (of little interest to archeology). Not the least interesting of questions is why “science” has come to mean some things to us, out of the many things it plausibly cld? & why “a poem” might have also. A key problem smoldering here, & precisely prompted by the suggestion that a poem is a crippled thing hewn out of “a larger sequence or amorphous mass,” is that of synecdoche. The “practical reasons” for which, with an implicit apology, this has to be resorted to seem to me rather ineradicable condition. This may focus attention on an abiding problem in its various phases.

Fisher: Here’s the extract I referred to earlier today, from “Confidence in Lack.”

Adair: Dear Allen —

Now it’s my turn to miss an attachment here — !

With respect to minding your initial contributions: for sure — their cogency has been repeatedly indirectly demonstrated —

Do send the extract —

Fisher: “Confidence in Lack” is the first essay in a small book of four essays titled Confidence in Lack and published by Writers Forum, Sutton, UK, in 2007. The preliminary work for the essay was to contribute to the proceedings of the Poetry and Public Language conference held at University of Plymouth in 2007 and published by Shearsman Books, in the book that gathered those proceedings, edited by Tony Lopez and Anthony Caleshu, in the same year [for the essay, plus other poems Allen sent to the forum, see the “Poetry Supplement”].

Hubble
[from Dispossession and Cure (1994), now in Gravity (2004)]

In celebration of the confirmation that the universe is expanding.

Suddenly the sleeper listened intensely
and what took so long
became unexpected what was remembered
obscured

No ditch rough but stinging nettles
Absent-minded attention
after an age of waste and decoration
view vectors revenge fought pesticide

Cloned as desperate renditions
Casually breaks vacancy a jet-propelled
climb guessed-at before inject and exhaust
legalises suspected values
 
Simply rested on grain couch
Without concern for pattern
guessed-at reprieve by indiscreetly rested attention
a pull driver flattens rock
 
It never becomes too easy
Often lost but momentarily refocused
without position certainties risked onto disparities
holds onto the carpet as it recedes from underneath
 
So we think the values are clear
and a resounded snap remainders in over-order
in singularities squeezed through the bottle-neck
existence learnt on assumption
 
The carpet cracks the static underway
A row of tasselled rails to prevent the viewer
evolved from involuntary excuses
in a chord ascending into blossom
 
But it’s fixed
The rubber the liquids the wind
all this are measured
shackles in the bounce of oblivion
 
Tousle regretables shut psyche in reason
opinion spat beneath the coving
vermin ridden
in the expanse of motorway drainage
 
From thought ignorant of cure
Repeats ornament what seems like always
recurrence and expectation rebound on each other
a series of soon-to-be continuously on view
 
Period living becomes style Tonight’s theme is “desire”
Cretinous in bibulous ridden indeterminacy
arums infestation exorcised purely reprieve affection
plant life situation as unexpected attainment
 
Lambda DASH and FIX clone your DNA
into superior vectors surrounded by
Not I sites that facilitate easy excision
of inserts and rapid gene mapping
 
Glad at once to be failing in what is heard
Persistence off investing bought has marvelling
habeas-corpus grudge meant respect shuns vegetates plover shelf
mote reality’s adjourn when crag is meant
 
Desire, applauded and excused
Chaos this scribe eradicates “the precise sphere”
rusted fences vegetate need on
pushed and wrist volts into gracious into Oedipal play eruption
 
Pyre vent of parade, applauded and excused
Oedipal puns lap cat
each vessel’s limits auricular nerves
building which often told pattern erodes
 
Plenty pirouetted practicality
No offense you decide in a minute victory spread city
helpless barren and uniformity of phonemes
view play of squawking magnifies situation
 
FLASH non-radioactive labelling and
Detection system can achieve single
gene detection on your Southerns and Northerns
FeatherVolt to provide all your electrophoresis power needs
 
Hows planned implode bodily necessity
Pallid fortune expand fortify shields
vial “common view” thrown over perversity
funds power in the self gains domicile station
 
A quiet space
Taken on board as requirement
without loss of aesthetic function
the feel of confidence
 
Vectors of acceptance given in to employer’s need
Root and beat rudder
wet fruit can of vested inturn often vernal per fiction
enough of thanatism runs after peace
 
Inner rip often this appeal meant
The sleeper rapidly becomes the dreamer and then the stag
leaves through the front of his chest
nothing imagined holds away from what it is
 
Products that take you
From your tissue your cells to high quality
library in the superior ZAP vector
incorporates the unique in-viva excision feature
 
Volt metering excitement then ecstasy
This is what I expected all the many whiles
rakes posture the trade-in fool nothing in the mire
the pelt perioded discover
 
Addressed where impediments dove this baggage full
Confirmed by presentation
black star of the intellect peppered post-life-off
the playback interest of the intentions of beauty
 
Hand shakes the thumbs-up
A list of vitamins with good causes specified
ratify rupture over prop-up objection grudge best
occasionally pitch of desire as foundational
 
Suddenly he listened
and as ages passed
became freely immediate
as it happens.

Fisher: “Friendly Polemic”: I should start with the physicality and palpable substance of aesthetics and its relation to consciousness and cognition, its cross-disciplinary application, call it poetry or science. I’m going to leave that for another complexity. On the accounts of some of what has been said across this email desk, I may be unqualified to write poetry. I have a formal education in human physiology and contemporary physics, drawing and painting practice and art history, but not in English Literature. I guess I had better sign off now in case I terrorize my neighbors, but I am persuaded otherwise. Scientific concepts, proposals, demonstrations and providing argument through repeatable evidence, present a mismatch of ideas poorly characterized as ‘science’ or any part of a single body of thought. There is no rational basis for agreement between those committed to different paradigms or conceptual schemes. Thomas Kuhn noted that the language in one scientific paradigm is incommensurable with language in a competing paradigm. Nature, the “International Weekly Journal of Science,” as they subtitle it in the UK, was printed on Bible paper when I first started reading it, it was that authorative. Henri Poincaré maintained that Euclidean geometry and an altered physics was needed to keep the total system of beliefs simpler, rather than adopting a non-Euclidean geometry and the theory of relativity. I immediately think of the perpetuation of theoretical and critical writers still convinced of the convention to separate space from time in their sentences. The use of vocabulary in the Nature journal differs considerably through different disciplines and laboratories, if I was to name the linking threads I would caricature their differences into a sameness. I would say that they are writing up their work with a view to getting support from the war machine or its homely counterpart, commerce. You can’t present Quantum Mechanics’ algebraic signs or biotecnologies’ scan-outs across a funding board’s table and expect to get support, you have to spell out the proposed advantages. Baron (C. P.) Snow’s 1959 radio lecture (I don’t think it was a Reith lecture) and its follow up responses in the Listener (the BBC journal at the time that published transcriptions of radio talks) and eventually the responses of the elite literary commentaries around F. R. Leavis, are for me debates about class and privilege. I sometimes appreciate Leavis’s literary criticism, but his social manners, like Snow’s, are out to lunch. J. Z. Young’s great radio talks (Reith Lectures in 1950) were already published as Doubt and Certainty in Science when Snow was broadcasting later in that decade. (Young was a scientist of animal physiology and paid attention at the time to the nervous system in squids. I attended Young’s talks on aesthetics at the Tate, I think they were called “Beauty & the Beast”). They can be pasted against fifties ‘popular’ paperbacks of Weiner Heisenberg’s Nuclear Physics and Hermann Weyl’s Space Time Matter. Before he was rector at Black Mountain College, Charles Olson had attended lectures by Willem De Sitter, had read Albert Einstein’s crucial 1905 and 1910 papers (Einstein declined Olson’s invitation to talk at Black Mountain). Olson was also reading widely, Carl Sauer’s geographies, Wilhelm Reich Cancer Biopathy, Norbert Weiner’s cybernetics. When we had lunch I said, “Surely poets like you aren’t interested in the cosmos or the world or humanity” (only kidding). My point is that Olson had understood that the figurative and imaginative life of poetry directly links to the poet’s physicality. His Proprioception paper is a strong indication of this. It is an understanding that aesthetics is physical and is a component of consciousness.


Josef Albers, Homage to the Square, Night Shades, 1957, © 2003 the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

The whole business of repeatability, exactness and inadequate vocabularies were discussed at breakfast in the late fifties and through the sixties. Henri Poincaré noted that it is our linguistic and inductive practice that makes geometrical claims immune to refutation. He argued that some determinations of simultaneity relations between physical events are simply conventions. In the General Theory of Relativity Euclidean geometry has been replaced by dynamic non-Euclidean geometries. The laws of motion of the theory of relativity and of quantum theory are not the laws of motion that Isaac Newton postulated. Josef Albers (the acting-rector at Black Mountain before Olson) developed a color theory that developed through an understanding of aesthetics through perception as well as measurement. That is a physically understood aesthetics. That is why I question the uncritical use of Golden Section by my contemporaries. Now that’s also of course a whack box for my own stupidity, but the debate now, across the email desk, has moved on, has a new sophistication. My stance among this range of displays varies a lot. The poor conceptual framework for some aspects of bioengineering, the deep philosophical spanner-rattle of Quantum Mechanics and the manipulation of momenergies too small to perceive except through machines are my main difficulties and attention to what is promoted in the journal Nature. John S. Bell, who ran the CERN project with his wife, until he died in 1990, had been explicit about the problem for a long time. (His writing on the speakable and the unspeakable makes this clear.)

I am a poet interested in vocabularies, but I am also engaged in what it is that glows yellow this morning through a quietening mist. What does it mean to be alive, desking activity on the basis of probability of exactness or statistical or Boltzmannian approximations, the outcome is both contingent on successes and fraught with giving damage to humankind in the name of improved food manipulation, better animal, plant and human health, or readiness for the extended alternative to more exploitation. I appreciate the erudite comments from my literary peers and superiors, but I do wonder what assumption I am making. Isn’t all language in the world metaphorical, isn’t metaphor what Jacques Derrida named the white man’s myth? What about the complexity proposed by William Empson? Are scientists, as we charactertize this huge range of competent and irresponsible Cretans (Epimenides the Cretan says “All Cretans are liars.”), really thanked for their improved use of vocabulary. How many of my peers are as angry as I am or as worn out as I get, continue to use antiquated ideas of spacetime in the weird discussion of narrative, in their tragic reiteration of the violence of logic and its perpetuation in a bundle of societies we call civilization? I’m making this sound personal and grumpy about the world, well the world is wonderful and I love it, but that makes me stridently protective. It seems that I am making myself into the bad boy, but really I find literary exchange difficult. I will write again, maybe discussing the matter of aesthetics and health in the community and ethics and perhaps then indicate why I think so-called scientific concepts, proposals, providing argument through repeatable evidence and demonstrations continue to be important, but my premise draws from understanding my aesthetics.

I hope this is readable in this form, I’ve added it as an out-of-date Word attachment in case that helps.

Adair: Dear Allen —

Many thanks for your contributions — so far, no takers (except me, near the beginning) — not least, perhaps, because the younger of those involved may not know of your work — also, perhaps, because of occasional awkwardness of tone (where there’s a mix of professed humility & barely suppressed sarcasm) in a forum iced with a felt need for politeness —

I own up to sarcasm, but it was much more widely meant than an address to this particular Jacket2 group.

I’m never sure where to jump in here — initially I was going to just light the blue touch-paper & retire — I did, in a personal email, call Joan Retallack’s attention to your posting of poems & essay, mainly because “Watusi” seemed a perfect example of her call for “how texts can literally (lettristically, for instance) enact the dynamic principles that a scientific model has been developed to understand.” The poem she posted to exemplify that seemed to me at once very moving & frighteningly remorseless as an elegy, but fairly mechanical in its actual operations, yet not trivially so — there comes back to me a performance Lawrence Upton did concerning his father’s death, with grinding tapes & reiteration of “to be mechanical — to be mechanical — ”

Anyway. The critique you’re advancing is surely valuable for this forum. Let me just propose what I’m thinking that is:

There’s no “science” because there’s no common language across scientific disciplines (if that’s the case there’s probably no “poetry” either);

Yes, I think there is a wider debate saying that we might be more specific in the discussion than simply saying poetry.

I found this startlingly clear at the Royal Geographical Society conference last week. There were three sessions of papers and readings dedicated to Geography and Poetry. But having said that, does the category “science” permit a wider range of disciplines than the category “poetry”? At an epistemological level there are different disciplines in the category “science,” in “poetry” maybe there are fewer.

hence disquiet that “sciences” can be smeared together into something over there that can be raided for cool metaphors or vocab, rather than taken as integral to efforts to engage critically with reality —

If so, it’s to do, as Peter says, with questions of knowledge & how it’s arrived at, inc via an aesthetic predicated on physicality that spreads across the board. I do think all the poems posted so far are informed & shaped by a sense of physicality & would welcome any further take you have on how that relates to health — even if in some sense we all do the best we can, given experience & training arrived at & sought after, & the consequent specificity of the work can (& often should) be rejected by anyone —

Yes, I will consider and respond to this matter of health and also what Tina called citizen.

Pierre recently wrote an essay on my work in terms of health.

(For what it’s worth, I find Empson’s attention to the felt mental palpability of things like rhythm more valuable than the more cognitively-based criticism I remember from Leavis — indeed, Leavis’s dismissal of Milton would relate to insensitivity precisely to mental palpability — but the disquiet I’m sensing from you would also be cognitively related — questions of knowledge are also to do with questions of reference, & the full version of the essay “Strips,” from which Peter posted an extract, includes a consideration of how wide a chasm, in that respect, exists between Olson & the Language poets, insofar as Olson believes he can, if not master a fantastic range of languages of the sciences, participate aesthetically in their findings on some level of intellectual parity, while the Language poets tend to variously aestheticize a fascinated/wary alienation from the opacities of scientific vocabs) —

I haven’t read through all of Peter’s or Joan’s responses yet and will do so tonight.

Adair:

I see now that your mind, thought upon thought,
is all entangled, and that it awaits
most eagerly the untying of the knot.
—  Paradiso, VII (tr. John Ciardi)

Hubble’s orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere allows it to take extremely sharp images with almost no background light.
—  Wikipedia, “Hubble Space Telescope”

I’m making this sound personal and grumpy about the world, well the world is wonderful and I love it, but that makes me stridently protective.
—  Allen, “friendly polemic”

No mortal eye, though plunged to the last bounds
of the deepest sea, has ever been so far
from the topmost heaven to which the thunder sounds

as I was then from Beatrice; but there
the distance did not matter, for her image
reached me unblurred by any atmosphere.
—  Paradiso, XXXI

The decoherent rendition of this little collage, drastically whittling the real or potential complexities/contradictions: There you go, in christianity was the dream of science.

“Hubble,” one of the six poems from gravity as a consequence of shape sent to this forum, has for subtitle “In celebration of the confirmation that the universe is expanding.” The published text lists among its various resources “Dante, The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, the end of Canto 33.” What might they have in common? Evidently “Hubble” looks to an open universe, although it may be working with a constancy of mass/energy whose larger configurations constant expansion at ever-increasing speeds wld itself cause to strand apart, break up. Paradiso, by contrast, appears to culminate in a resolutely closed system, the Mystic Rose of the Empyrean (what lies beyond the last of the physical spheres, the Primum Mobile), wherein all souls of the blessed circulate in bliss forever around the center. Well, not yet “all souls”; the finitude already guaranteed by circularity is underscored by Beatrice when she notes in Canto XXX that every rank of the Rose’s benches “is filled so full / that few are wanted before” it is complete. & this finitude is a requirement of Dante’s own need for apocalypse, the violent cleansing of the Florentine stables. Yet beyond & before apocalypse, where “the laws that govern nature do not pertain,” finitude is given as fusing with eternity, & Euclidean geometry falls short, for at the same time that Mary is distinguished by being on the outer circumference of the Rose whirling around the divine center, everyone is whirling around her — the paradox reiterated in the first line of Canto XXXIII, when St Bernard addresses her as “Virgin Mother, daughter of thy son.”

Also pertinent: Clearly, Paradiso is much more abstract-discursive-cerebral than the richly if variably imagistic Inferno & Purgatorio. In Canto II, this involves what wld later come under the category of “science”: What causes the markings on the surface of the Moon? Beatrice not only gives the answer (I mean, not for us the right answer), she refutes Dante’s speculation with a thoroughness it takes effort (& a good translation, or good notes) to follow. Subsequently, metaphysical/theological/political quandaries are likewise extensively discoursed on in ways that fall under the heading of what Dante wld call arti, i.e., in Ciardi’s words, “the skills, the crafts, and all the methods by which man understands and wins command over nature. It is always distinct from the higher knowledge of faith.” My point is — & I say it as an atheist — that with the beginning of the ascent to the Empyrean in Canto XXX, the reader’s strenuously exercised intellect cld well have been brought to the relief of breaking-point & readiness to flow into glad receptivity to the wonder of endless divine love —

“Hubble,” then. If I’m right, the Dantean ambition is announced in the opening stanza:

Suddenly the sleeper listened intently
and what took so long
became unexpected what was remembered
obscured.

But it’s hard to hold onto, because the mild semantic trickiness here is as nothing compared to what will follow, both in terms of syntactic trips, curious precisions of vocabulary, & technospeak evocations of the exclusionary professionalism of genetic engineering. But this is to say that the affect perhaps proper to the experience of a recondite content by the non-inititiate is coupled with, is part of what shld nonetheless be well within a poetry reader’s purview. Stanza 2:

No ditch rough but stinging nettles
Absent-minded attention
after an age of waste and decoration
view vectors revenge fought pesticide

The references are harsh, elusive or lurching in terms of scale & actors, hard to find identification with — in the last line forces different in type clash in a field, not a sentence — but the stanza is certainly readable, more than capable of affording pleasures of not-too-long-delayed gratification. Stanza 3 opens “Cloned as desperate renditions,” which seems to indicate a concern, here & in stanza 4 & again in an Olsonian-type field rather than any kind of narrative line, with attention paid or not paid — “attention” is emerging as a major theme of the poem, the call for close attention as its method — to machines: a fault in a jet seems to have been caught in time & either corrected or rubber-banded; elsewhere a tractor, under “indiscreetly rested attention … flattens rock,” which apparently it shouldn’t do but isn’t fatal (“guessed-at reprieve”). Why “guessed-at”? — ‘I guess I was lucky’? — it brings in a minor complication that may slowly, after hesitation (“was this really meant?”), more fully realize the vignette. But what in stanza 3 “[c]asually breaks vacancy,” & what vacancy? “It never becomes too easy” (stanza 5) — no it doesn’t. But in fact, the whole of this stanza comes across as a set of self-reflexive musings:

It never becomes too easy
Often lost but momentarily refocused
without position certainties risked onto disparities
holds onto the carpet as it recedes from underneath

Key here seems to me to be “without position,” at least without a position secured by narrative or any guaranteed route from themes to particulars. A corollary would be that the particulars are, necessarily, what they are, must often seem odd, arbitrary, or just baffling, & are to be dealt with as such — & by “particulars” I include individual words or phrases. “Casually breaks vacancy”? — why not the vacancy of the page before the next phrase, or the vacancy of the imagination that has preoccupations but no relevant particulars until they arrive, “disparate” as they risk being — “OK, I understand what is being asked and pretend that I no longer wonder what it is that a poem is and I’m guessing that we don’t all agree about this …. I continue to find it interesting that for practical reasons we are continually asked to fragment our work and present the damaged results as the artifact and then we will spend our time deciding what aspects of that damage, from what has been selected, can be named science as part of its content?” (from Allen’s initial response to the request for relevant poems). “So we think the values are clear / … / existence learnt on assumption” (stanza 6). I hope my own sense, at least, is now clear — clearer, actually, than it had been before, via this relatively close reading so far of the “damaged result” that is “Hubble” — that the poem’s minute particulars & thorninesses of language, & its choices of content, are not separable in its response to/intervention in the complexities of the world in which the poet states he finds himself; neither object nor method of reference are self-evident things. The next question would be: Where is Hubble, either the man or the space telescope, in all of this? What comment is being made on “the confirmation that the universe is expanding”?

When I first heard this poem read, in ’91 or ’92, Eric Mottram, who was also in the audience, asked, half tongue in cheek, why expansion of the universe shld be celebrated if it wld just mean more of the ghastly same. Allen replied that he wld have to take that on board. In fact, the poem already had. Just as thundering denunciations of papal & other corruptions persist into the late Cantos of Paradiso, pervasive in “Hubble” is the sense of late-Thatcherite England as a scene of environmental degradation regulated by brute recurrences (cloning is the obvious metaphor here, but see also stanza 10, “From thought ignorant of cure / Repeats ornament what seems like always …”), smoldering with grudge & violence (“opinion spat beneath the coving / vermin ridden / in the expanse of motorway drainage”). These are large statements; contexts cld be found in which they wld indeed be “easy,” but “Hubble” strives to not be one of them. Certainly, once we get into this groove the stanzas decode more quickly, but (& it’s not a new innovative-poetic strategy) every stanza presents a challenge, has to be paused over & searched. Stanza 11, for example, takes retro imitations & TV talk shows as representative of the regulatory field, but the anger, the near-viciousness of expression here, given the pervasive determined impression of impersonality, may be missed on a first reading. “Cretinous,” okay. But lines 3 & 4 feature a characteristic verbal music (in stanza 13, it’s downright terrific): it has none of the time-honored poetic servants to the mellifluous, not only in the lack of alliteration, say (when that does come, in stanza 16 — “Plenty pirouetted practicality” — it’s p-p-parodic), but in the clunky clustering, without the aid of normative grammar, of words with multiple syllables:

arums infestation exorcised purely reprieve affection
plant life situation as unexpected attainment

“Reprieve” again: affection is the reprieve but the exorcism hardly pure. Arum is a flowering, berry-bearing plant found in Europe, North Africa, & East Asia, with the highest species diversity of any plant around the Mediterranean; it comes in many variants, & every part of all of them is poisonous. We come into the anger, the bitterness of its sarcasm, thro’ effort of interpretation (the stanza also sets up a series of references to vegetating that will continue in 13 & 14). Stanza 18 (“Hows planned implode bodily necessity”), again without once mentioning human subjects, compactly evokes expanses of locked-in situations of domestic abuse.

A break seems to abruptly come in stanza 19:

A quiet space
Taken on board as requirement
without loss of aesthetic function
the feel of confidence

In the following stanza, this is given as political necessity: “enough of thanatism runs after peace.” Now “the sleeper” returns, in danger of dream-surrender to fantasies that have already surrendered to what prompts them: “arums infestation,” etc, & earlier, in stanza 16, “you decide in a minute victory.” But it’s hard to resist. Yet stanza 23 holds & only to a degree fuses a new set of extreme contrasts:

Volt metering excitement then ecstasy
This is what I expected all the many whiles
rakes posture the trade-in fool nothing in the mire
the pelt perioded discover

Ps again, as the seeker for satisfaction on the terms of consumerist ego finds only signs of mortality on his or her skin. Meanwhile the poet is precisely distributing hints as to what the strenuously exercised reader’s interpretive faculty is now being given permission for release into, such as: “black star of the intellect peppered post-lift-off / the playback interest of the intentions of beauty.” Rupture — “ratify rupture over prop-up objection grudge bent” — is the expansion the poem enacts, in awareness, as Allen writes in his “afterword” to Shuddered by Aodan McCardle, Piers Hugill, & Stephen Mooney (Veer, 2009), that the pursuit of happiness may recognize “that aesthetic function, as a component of consciousness and cognition, becomes subsumed by the plight of others.” Release is at the same time real, “post-lift-off / the playback interest of the intentions of beauty.” As suggested earlier, the reader may already have come to love the experience & memory of the recalcitrances of the language. Release is now into the certainty that the aesthetic is a fundamental mode of human integration into the world, even a world trashed by machines lacking larger attentions; release may be even into a rush of love, wonder, gratitude for the cosmos whose ever-expansion has been ‘confirmed’ by the technical marvels of the ever-absent telescope. Watch for the individualistic caution in the closing line:

Suddenly he listened
and as ages passed
became freely immediate
as it happens.

Catanzano: Dear Allen Fisher:

I was looking at your “Blood Brain Bone” project on microfiche last week. Do you remember giving this to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE when he visited London for a Neoist apartment festival? The day after you sent your first essay to this group, tentatively mentioned I might be interested in looking at “Blood Brain Bone” when I visited him. I said, Allen Fisher? I have an email from him in my inbox right now!

We looked at the first two fiches in tENT’s library. We were enchanted by the scope of the concept, the way you filtered the medical and scientific data with the performance notes and the graphic sculpturing of the records. The fiches and their manuals reminded me of an apothecary card catalog. We also enjoyed the participatory and non-dogmatic nature of the invitations you pose to the reader/audience. tENT told me about the project’s background. I’m interested in the way you combined your subjective experience with the scientific recording and then made the performance for the Fluxus show. It so happens that tENT has written a number of reviews of your early work on GoodReads. We hope to return to “Blood Brain Bone” and write a review of it together.

Fisher: Dear Amy,

Great to hear this. I will get back to you.