Time. It seems always in deficiency when we catch up with friends. We speak colloquially of needing more of it — “Where has the time gone?” It runs off when we aren’t looking. But what if we were to look at it, relentlessly, with nearly unblinking attention? Could we hold onto it then?
“Lamenta,” the longest series in Myung Mi Kim’s fourth collection, Commons (2002), is structured after the metonic cycle, a calendrical unit of nineteen years. A lunisolar measure, the metonic cycle encapsulates the notions of simultaneity, equivalence, and difference. It is the “period of whole days over which the visible lunar and solar periods almost resynchronize” (Dictionary of Weights and Measures). This re-synchronization suggests a confluence between two different measures of time, which can be identified without subsuming one order of measure into the other. Importantly, there is a remainder when these two cycles nearly meet: “the difference between the 236 synodic months and 19 mean tropical years is barely two hours.” A portion always exceeds.
One of the ways an experience of time is produced in poetic contexts requires engaging our body's memories, such as how we hear a sound. The way sound decays in a space, or how it moves and dimishes across a duration of time, engages our ability to take note of the unfurling present moment. It's a particular attention, fixated on a deeply embodied phenomenon that reinvigorates our ability to locate ourselves in the world. To invoke a sound is to invoke the body in present time.
I find this link between sound, the present, and the body richly explored by Tan Lin's digital poem, “Echo,” archived at UbuWeb. An echo reflects sound waves back to the listener, often in a diminished manner.
When I was thinking about a motif or query that could help focus my Commentaries here at Jacket2, I kept returning to a central question about time. The way that we experience and imagine time is directly shaped by the quality of our attention and the terms of our engagement. There are many areas of interest through which I could engage this experience of time (film, for example), but while commentating here, I shall limit myself to the way that language operates in poetic contexts.