In “Composition as Explanation” Gertrude Stein writes: “The only thing that is different from one time to another is what is seen and what is seen depends upon how everybody is doing everything.” .
Lydia Davis is a writer who is a great influence and inspiration to “everyone,” when everyone includes readers of experimental fiction as well as a myriad of poets “doing everything.” Davis is a master of short fiction and extremely short fiction, as well as a celebrated translator, novelist and poet.
At a recent reading at Bryn Mawr College, Davis addressed the audience at first by noting the grandeur of the room. She said, “I’ll just stand here and be impressed for a while.”
A novel in which the subject is Paris. A collage novel. A list novel. A novel of various forms of hopefulness and despair.
“We’re moving towards something that does not exist. The voyage is infinite. The passenger is not.” .
Where has Adnan taken the form of the novel, as a poet of many countries and languages? She has chosen place for character. She has chosen Paris, all of Paris. Her gaze penetrates the beauty and limitations. She does not ignore Paris as “the heart of a lingering colonial power.” She has taken the reader not only to the streets of Paris, but to the skies, and to the passing thoughts of the relocated Parisian who writes through circumstances, concerns, observations.
“Some rare evenings, the glow is so strong that pink hue, an after hue, an illumination made of color and fire, seeps between the buildings, these evenings which are an illumination for the whole body, not only the eyes.” .
That no other persons come into focus for more than a moment creates an experimental cinematic sense of the city. We are lured toward not merely a visual surface but a detailed map of luminosities and gravities
The first thing you might notice about The Malady of Death is the visual components to this book. It is slim, only sixty pages of text, like many volumes of poems. On each page the font size is larger than most large-print editions of books. I measure the opening capitol “Y” beginning “You” at one-half of a centimeter. The page that appears the fullest contains one-hundred and sixteen words. A page appearing one of the sparest contains sixty words. Section breaks appear as multiple paragraph breaks, a multitude of white space, and an occasional asterisk.
Laynie Browne: Is there such a thing as the poet’s novel?
Bhanu Kapil: The poet’s brain changes, perhaps in mid-life. Perhaps the poet moves from one part of the country to another. The poet turns to the sentence as the place where questions of magnetism, gravity and light — the forces that bind a person to the earth and then release them, abruptly — might most fully be worked out. Why? On a scrap of paper, I draw three overlapping rough arcs. These are sentences. These are vectors, complicated — in this preliminary sketch —by refraction and shame: the reality of what happens — does happen — has happened — at the limit of a nation state. Sometimes, as I’ve thought about elsewhere, a person doesn't get to cross. A person sees their body reflected, perhaps, in the gelation membrane that extends above and just beyond the border like an invisible dome. To exit you rupture. What the novel-shaped space lets the poet do (perhaps) is work out what happens both before and afterwards: the approach to that multi-valent perimeter [the shredded plastic on the floor.]
When I think of Incubation A Space for Monsters, I think of the form of the list, and how Kapil has transplanted this form so common to poetry into the form of the novel.
We think through lists, live them, annotate and move through time non-sequentially as we insert our prerogatives into lists. With each iteration on a list, as we enact it, who do we become?
“The secret pleasure of refusing to live like a normal person in a dress/with a sex drive and fingers/dreamy yet stabilized in the café of languages” .
Incubation A Space for Monsters, is a book akin to movement as a form of identity. The movement is many-directional. A character, Laloo, is literally moving. She is in transit via hitchhiking, which means in a sense that she has no idea which direction she will move. Her body is spliced, part “monster” part “baby” part “cyborg” part “dream.” She is moving in the direction of female identity, an identity between borders, between safety and risk, between any fixed notion of intimacy and the question — how to be a person intact?