I’m back, with apologies for the long absence. The bad news is that I had to take a month break from these Commentaries due to a minor but temporarily disabling health issue, that pretty much knocked me out of commission, for anything but the day job. The good news is that I’m healed, my “tenure”here has been extended, and I'll be posting these Commentaries through November.
Last fall, on my trip across the country (mostly by rail) to visit the park spaces designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, I worked in a visit to one of the poets most readily associated with American space (though not urban space), Gary Snyder, at his residence high above the Yuba River, Kitkitdizze. I have yet to document that conversation (we spoke, amongst other things, of Gary’s experience bivouacking in Central Park in the late ’forties, while awaiting his seaman’s papers), which will happen, when I get around to it, on the Olmsted blog. After I left Gary, I stopped just on the other side of the Yuba River, to check out something called the Independence Trail. It turns out that the trail — occupying the site of old, abandoned hydraulic miner’s ditch — was built in answer to a request to, “Please find me a level wilderness trail where I can reach out and touch the wildflowers from my wheel chair.” It is a mostly level trail, shaded by oak and pine, that contours the slope of the undeniably wild Yuba River valley, with views to the river below. At the time, I did not know that this trail, the “First Wheelchair Accessible Wilderness Trail in America,” had been created by one John Olmsted, a distant relative of Frederick Law. J. Olmsted worked to save hundreds of acres in what is now the South Yuba River State Park, as well as what is now Jug Handle State Nature Reserve on the Pacific Coast in Mendocino County, Goat Mountain in the Coastal Range, and the Yuba Powerhouse Ranch. He wanted to create a “Cross California Ecological Trail.” Walking his Independence Trail helped me realize, yet again, how limited my conception of wilderness can be.
Jordan Scott’s blert, simply put, is a book about stuttering that stutters. Which in fact means that it is anything but simple. blert is a mouth that mouths me as I mouth its phonemes with my mouth. It is intensely physical, clinical and my mouth becomes both hyper personal and treacherous.
“Imitate: frazil ice. Say clacra, frazil ice, clacracla.
Imitate: muskoxen. Say flafra, muskoxen, flafrafla.” (Jordan Scott, blert)
I imitate and my utterance “fails.” Or does it? For how can an utterance fail or succeed. Doesn’t an utterance just utter? Don’t all mouths approximate the sounds of other mouths? And yet we place so much judgement on accents, speech discordances, lisps, stammers, stutters, even pitch and gender. In these judgements we fable, much as the fables of cures for stuttering that blert dissects:
“The chichara has to sing inside the mouth… You will learn to use your mouth.” “You will lunge your thorax unto spring… You will sing like the birds.” “If you wish to become an eloquent speaker, you should bury the hyoid bone of a lamb in the wall of your house.” “You will learn to eat your grasshoppers.”
and nowhere at once” (Anarchive, 71) An address, as physical location, necessarily connotes boundaries, ownership, enclosure. Land is demarcated and receives an address, a name and number, so that it can be owned, so that it can enter into an economy of production and consumption. But as you, dear Stephen Collis, through your multi-volume, on-going work, “The Barricades Project,” turn the address back into an address, into speech, into the spoken toward someone, I, among many, find myself addressed and become part of this spoken which is not enclosed, not monetarily and economically situated, and which moves. And the spoken that you evoke between us, dear Collis, is not in straight lines, it meanders land and lexicons and authors, swims in rivulets, gets tangled in brambles.