Co-winner of the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Award and born and raised in Regina, writer Judith Krause is the current and fifth Poet Laureate of Saskatchewan, an appointment that acknowledges her having “meaningful connections with other writers and experience organizing occasions for thinking about poetry differently” and that includes her teaching experience at Sage Hill, an inspirational place for visiting writers. In an interview with The Leader Post, Emma Graney indicates that Krause’s main goal is to raise the profile of Saskatchewan poetry and “celebrate the spirit of poets” in the province, despite the genre's “quiet profile.” In her most recent collection Mongrel Love, we may admire her uncanny mix of wry humour and mammalian sympathies that Dante Alighieri would surely agree flow along absolutely caninamente.
Mongrel Love by Judith Krause (Hagios Press, 2008, Page 73)
The way songbirds call the park home.
The year beavers chewed every tree along the creek bed.
The rotten egg smell that fills the air when the ice breaks up.
The place under the bridge where a man’s body was found,
one of the oldest unsolved crimes in the city.
The way fireworks douse the park with light.
The way lovers park, lights off, engines running.
The way police drove up and down the snowy lane a January night in 1984
looking for signs of a neighbour’s murderer.
How tadpoles invite you to shed shoes and socks. And how, on a hot day,
the fountain in the paddling pool invites you to shed even more.
How a sudden bloom of dragonflies becomes an iridescent veil,
a living scarf, floating through the evening air.
The sound your bicycle makes as you clank clank your way
over the wooden footbridge.
Geomantic Riposte: Footbridge
Beavers are a-okay with David Suzuki and may save the world A giant
beaver sculpture is testament to this although one of my characters tries
to drown himself on that lovely little bridge before an RCMP officer asks
to see his Status card Now that “one of us” is in power we hope you
will deconstruct matters from within Creative Saskatchewan is not
what we hoped it’d be and it’s still hard to get from here to Les Sherman
Park on a Sunday or holiday how about a few hours grace for them folks
who clean the malls for our Sunday shopping pleasure oh did you say
murder how quaint in the “big city” we have a lot on we don’t really
have time to stop for that also those barking dogs on Robinson Street
near 13th need to be let out in public park Unacknowledged legislator
please see to that Poetry is UP but short fiction is down but since your
reign began the cyclists walk their bikes across footbridge Skateboarders
cease their shreds and curtsey right where the circle of red serge starts to
tighten around my character it’s a courtesy and out of respect to you
and what that dude and his kid think is a muskrat or even afanc
adorably shiny otter or beaver according to the OED Word of the Day
I have often thought of Werner Heisenberg’s interpretation of quantum mechanics as the most conceptually radical of the breakthroughs in theoretical physics to emerge in the last and current century, in part, due to its claim that physical reality cannot be observed. This claim challenged Isaac Newton’s classical mechanics and the scientific method, which assumed that physical reality can be observed and tested and that principles of nature can be determined.
Quantum mechanics changed the discourse about physical reality from “what is the truth about nature?” to “what is nature?” in much the same way, perhaps, as L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing changed the discourse from “what is the meaning of poetic language?” to “what is poetic language?” In this regard, I see quantum mechanics functioning as a kind of imaginative eco-poetics in physics through its proposal that at subatomic scales, the future position and momentum of particles can only be measured in terms of probability. Today, leading physicists are attempting to reconcile quantum mechanics with relativity into a single theory or description of physical reality.
According to his book, Physics and Philosophy (1958), Heisenberg developed the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics after reading Goethe’s Faust and considering the role of the imagination in scientific discourse. The uncertainty principle articulates that at subatomic scales, a particle’s position and momentum cannot be predicted because the present state of the particle cannot be known without ambiguity. While the mathematics used by Heisenberg’s mechanics was not new, the theory itself was original for developing what Max Born called “symbolic multiplication,” which illustrated that the commutative law of arithmetic (AB equals BA, i.e. 4x3 is the same as 3x4) is not valid in subatomic systems. One outcome of Heisenberg’s symbolic multiplication is that a particle’s position multiplied by its momentum (AB), minus a particle’s momentum multiplied by its position (BA), was not zero, as it would be if the product of position and momentum commuted. Instead, a particle’s position multiplied by its momentum, minus a particle’s momentum multiplied by its position, is proportional to Planck’s constant, a physical constant of subatomic quanta that is nonzero. Since Planck’s constant is always nonzero, uncertainty is at play in measuring observable subatomic phenomenon of the present. By invalidating causality as well as attempts at measuring non-observable subatomic phenomenon, Heisenberg’s quantum mechanics suggests that the future position and momentum of subatomic particles cannot be calculated because the determining elements of the present cannot be known with certainty. This proposal of quantum mechanics marks a largely unacknowledged shift, in my opinion, of when science became philosophy.
Many writers and readers of poetry consider poetry to be a philosophical activity, one that inhabits its claims through formal properties and contextual frameworks. If physics is the study of physical reality, what happens when physics becomes philosophy and when poetry, as a philosophical activity and symbolic language, becomes a physics? These are some of the central and wilder questions of quantum poetics that I have been developing and which I think are timely to practitioners of both science and literature who want to extend conversations in the contemporary milieu. Acting as a ’pataphysical correspondent, speculative documentarian, and poetry informant for this three-month commentary series, I will be exploring these and other questions about literature and science; introducing what I call U+F+O+L+A+N+G+U+A+G+E; examining contemporary literary movements such as conceptual literature, post-confessional poetry, and visual poetry in relation to quantum poetics; and discussing specific poems, books, and authors who seem to be working—consciously or without intent—from concepts in relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory, and more.
The way the line never ends
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.
I decided to title my series TIME TEXT BODY NOISE because these elements are all centrally linked in how I am coming to understand the production of time as a poetic experience. Embodied realities inform how time proceeds for us when we encounter a work, but there are also historical and discursive habits that engineer time for us as readers, watchers, and listeners of poetry...the short breaks on the page as synaptic observations mirroring the spoken phrase in Creeley's work, for example, or the way Myung Mi Kim's lines begin to "cohere" like fallout or debris from a slow-moving explosion in what constitutes a different sort of "dailiness" in her book Commons.
One quick example of this that I'll use as a way of opening is from Truong Tran's 2004 collection, within the margin (Apogee). The title poem is composed almost entirely of one long line that becomes a horizon on the page. As a reader, I feel an interminabiilty in the line that suggests density. All events get thrown into this horizon together. The line reads and feels as if it will never end. This begs the question to me--what is complete? What has deeper "value" in this flattening, endless, running time?
[Himself on the cusp between “outside” & “inside” poetry & art, Chirot, whose work, both verbal & visual, is a great too often hidden resource, writes from an authoritative if barely visible position in contemporary letters. The Fénéon commentary excerpted here is from a longer essay/talk, “Conceptual Poetry and its Others,” written for a symposium at the Poetry Center of the University of Arizona, 29-31 May 2008 & appeared earlier in the blogger version of Poems and Poetics. The depth & breadth of his more recent work is outstanding. (J.R.)]
From Félix Fénéon’s Faits Divers, circa 1906
Nurse Elise Bachmann, whose day off was yesterday, put on a public display of insanity.
A complaint was sworn by the Persian physician Djai Khan against a compatriot who had stolen from him a tiara.
A dozen hawkers who had been announcing news of a nonexistent anarchist bombing at the Madeleine have been arrested.
A certain madwoman arrested downtown falsely claimed to be nurse Elise Bachmann. The latter is perfectly sane.
On Place du Pantheon, a heated group of voters attempted to roast an effigy of M. Auffray, the losing candidate. They were dispersed.
Arrested in Saint-Germain for petty theft, Joël Guilbert drank sublimate. He was detoxified, but died yesterday of delirium tremens.
The photographer Joachim Berthoud could not get over the death of his wife. He killed himself in Fontanay-sous-Bois.
Reverend Andrieux, of Roannes, near Aurillac, whom a pitiless husband perforated Wednesday with two rifle shots, died last night.
In political disagreements, M. Begouen, journalist, and M. Bepmale, MP, had called one another "thief" and "liar." They have reconciled.
In "The Painter of Modern Life," Baudelaire is the first to define Modernism and does so as a conjunction of the eternal and the ephemeral. To find that element of the eternal in the ephemeral which Baudelaire saw as embodying modernity, he turns to an emphasis on the particular form of the living art/art as living of the Dandy. The Dandy is the non-separation of art and life in the conceiving of one's existence as Performance Art. The Dandy becomes not an expression of Romantic personality and individuality, but a form of becoming an animated Other, an impersonator going about performing the actions of a concept, rather than producing the objects of a conception.
This stylized impersonating, non-producing figure begins to appear dramatically" in the works of Wilde and Jarry and in many ways in the "life and works" of a Félix Fénéon, who "creates at a distance" via anonymous newspaper faits divers (discovered to be his and republished posthumously as "Nouvelles en trois lignes" [News/Novellas in Three Lines]), pseudonymous articles in differing registers of language (working class argot, standardized French) in Anarchist and mainstream journals, unsigned translations, and the barely noted in their own pages of his editing of journals featuring the early efforts of rising stars of French literature. Quitting his camouflaged and concealed writing activities, Fénéon works the rest of his life as a seller in an art gallery.
The actual "works" of Fénéon, then, are not written objects per se, but anonymous actions, ephemeral pseudonymous "appearances in print," and the works of others which he affects a passage for in his editorship and translations, in his promoting and selling the art works of others. This "accumulation" which one finds "at a distance" in time as his "complete works," is often unobserved and unknown to his contemporaries, who know of him primarily via his "way of acting," his manner of dressing, his speech mannerisms, and as the public triptych of images of him existing as a painted portrait by Signac, a Dandy-pose photo and a mug shot taken when tried as part of an Anarchist "conspiracy." Fénéon's "identity as a writer" does not exist as "an author," but as a series of "performances," "appearances" and "influences," many of them "unrecognized" and "unattributed."
Ironically, it his most "clandestine" activity—his Anarchist activities—which brings him the most in to the public and tabloid spotlight. As one of "The Thirty" accused and tried for "conspiracy" in a much publicized trial, it is Fénéon's severe mug shot that for a time presents his "public face."
The severe mug facing the viewer is actually producing a Conceptual Poetry "at a distance." By not penning a single line, by simply "facing the music" to which others pen the lyrics, Fénéon, in doing nothing more than facing the camera "capturing" his image, proceeds to enact a series of dramas "projected" on to him, a series of "identities," and "revelations" which use the documentary material to produce a series of mass-published fictions.
The possible prison term facing the "Félix Fénéon" in the inmate-numbered "anonymous" mug shot, "presents its face" to the viewer, a face "taken," "imprisoned" and "caught" by the image and its publicity. This publicized face facing camera and viewer and possible hard time, is "taken to be" the photo of the face of a being from whom the mask of the clandestine and conspiratorial have been torn off, revealing "the cold hard truth" of Félix Fénéon.
Facing trial, however, all that is learned of this imprisoned face is that it is "the
wrong man, an innocent man." This fixed image, acquitted of its "sensational"
charges, is revealed not as a truth, but instead as simply a mask, a mask operating
like a screen or blank sheet of paper, onto which are projected the dramas, fictions and "think piece" writings of others. Nothing is revealed other than an "identity" which shifts, travels, changes from one set of captions to another. It is via these captions written by others under his image in the papers and placards, that Fénéon continues his "writing at a distance." Simply by facing the camera, facing charges, "facing the music," facing his accusers at trial and facing the verdict and judgment, Fénéon is "writing" a myriad captions, breaking news items, commentaries, editorials, all of which change with wild speeds as they race to be as "up-to-minute" as the events themselves are in "unfolding."
The professionals, these writers, these journalists and reporters of "reality," chase desperately, breathlessly, after the unfolding drama in which the mug shot is "framed," and in so doing produce texts of "speculative fiction," a serial Conceptual Poetry with as its "star player" a writer whose own texts are deliberately written to be unrecognized, hidden, camouflaged, unknown. And all the while, this writer writing nothing is producing vast heaps of writing via the work of others, as yet another form of camouflaged clandestine Conceptual Poetry, "hot off the press."
Rimbaud writes of a concept of the poetry of the future in which poetry would precede action—which in a sense he proceeds to "perform" himself. If one reads his letters written after he stopped writing poetry, one finds Rimbaud living out, or through, one after another of what now seem to be "the prophecies" of his own poetry. That is, the poetry is the "conceptual framework" for what becomes his "silence" as a poet, and is instead his "life of action."
In these examples, one finds forms of a "conceptual poetry" in which the poetry is in large part an abandonment of language, of words, of masses of "personally signed" "poetry objects," "poetry products." One finds instead a vanishing, a disappearance of both language and "poet" and the emergence of that "some one else" Rimbaud recognized prophetically, preceding the action--in writing—in the
"Lettre du voyant," "the Seer's letter"—as "I is an other."
An interesting take on a conceptual poetry in writing is found in one of Pascal's Pensees, #542:
"Thoughts come at random, and go at random. No device for holding on to them or for having them. A thought has escaped: I was trying to write it down: instead I write that it has
The writing is a notation of the "escaped" concept's absence, its escape that is a line of flight that is a "flight out of time" as Hugo Ball entitles his Dada diaries. Writing not as a method of remembering, of "capturing thought," but as the notation of the flight of the concept at the approach of its notation.
Writing, then, as an absence— an absence of the concept. A Conceptual Poetry of writing as "absent-mindedness"!—A writing which does nothing more than elucidate that the escaping of thoughts "which come at random, and go at random" has occurred.
This flight of the concept faced with its notation—indicates a line of flight among the examples of Rimbaud—a "flight into the desert" as it were, of silence as a poet—and of Fénéon—the flight into anonymous writing of very small newspaper "faits divers" items punningly entitled "Nouvelles en trois lignes" (News/Novels in Three Lines), of pseudonymous writings in differing guises at the same time according to the journals in which they appear, and as translator and editor as well as "salesperson" in a gallery of "art objects," a conceptual masquerader among the art-objects embodying "concepts" and becoming no longer "concepts' but "consumer items." Fénéon's framed mug shot on to whose mug is projected a "serial crime novel," written by others and "starring" the mug in the mug shot, a writer of unknown and unrecognized texts who now vanishes into a feverish series of captions and headlines.
Anonymity, pseudonyms, impersonations, poets who write their own coming silence and "disappearance" as an "I is an other," the deliberately unrecognized and unrecognizable poet whose mug shot becomes the mass published and distributed "crime scene" for police blotters and headlines, speculative fictions and ideological diatribes, the writing which is a notation of the flight of the concept, the writing of non-writers who "never wrote a word," yet whose concepts may be found camouflaged, doubled, mirrored, shadowed, anonymously existing hidden in plain site/sight/cite—these nomadic elements which appear and disappear comprise a Conceptual Poetry in which the concepts and poets both impersonate Others and reappear as "Somebody Else," an Other unrecognized and unrecognizable found hidden in plain site/sight/cite.