Sean Bonney is another poet who turns to a poetics of iteration as a poetics of revolution. Especially in Baudelaire in Englishand Happiness: Poems after Rimbaud, Bonney adapts iteration to revolutionary poetic and political ends. In these two books, Bonney attends to the way revolutionary writing, if too direct or smooth, can become implicated in the power structures it seeks to overcome. Bonney’s Baudelaire in English concludes: “the poem is in danger of becoming an overly smooth surface fit only for the lobbies of office buildings and as illustrations / expensive gallery catalogues, that kind of bullshit.” In Baudelaire in English, Bonney stresses the relation between echoes and cracks in the smoothness in his version of “Correspondances,” which contains the phrase “their echoes split us.” Bonney’s texts are idiosyncratic translations of Baudelaire’s poems so breaking the smooth surface of standard translations. Bonney’s translations overlay lines of typewritten text to the point of illegibility, even as they superimpose twenty-first-century London onto nineteenth-century Paris. Through grainy photographs of neglected and forgotten places in London, Bonney (like Baudelaire) emphasizes the ruins and decay of the modern city, the fissure lines and suffering that are the neglected side of the progress of modernity.
In Happiness: Poems after Rimbaud, Bonney again makes the city of London his subject, this time through a focus on the protests against the existing economic and political order that took place in 2010 and 2011 in the wake of the financial crisis. Much of Happiness first appeared on Bonney’s Abandoned Buildingsblog so that the book functions as a retrospective archiving and framing of poems written as news, as part of and in response to a movement for revolutionary change.
I’m reading about hearing loss, and creative use of hearing and listening, in essays in Beauty is a Verb, ed. by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, and Michael Northen (a must-read book!). Thinking about how all hearing is probably mis-hearing, and all movement from one source to another (poem in head to poem on page, poem from poet to poem in book by publisher, poem read in book to poem in reader's head, poem uttered in reading to poem heard in reading) involves evolution, change. Laurie Clements Lambeth, in her essay “Reshaping the Outline,” in this book, speaks of this with grace and clarity, including the creative potential of such transmission, or, if you like, mistransmission.
I find myself reading Norma Cole's essay in the book, “Why I am Not a Translator II,” and echoing its words as I go, according to thoughts I'm developing about the book's (in a large sense) openness and impermanance, maybe the idea's openness and impermanence. From this point, until and not including the last line, I have taken excerpts from Norma Cole's writing, including that essay, and the following poem, also included in Beauty is a Verb, titled “Speech Production Themes and Variations,” and those excerpts appear first, not in parentheses, with my echoing of them following in parentheses.
Word-seeds. Sphota. ( ideas seeds flax paper book )
one has ideas before one has words to say them. . . . No tabula rasa. ( the book is always pre-content )