First reading of Rae Armantrout's 'Spin' (2)

Katie Price

Katie Price’s short essay on Rae Armantrout’s “Spin” is the second of five first readings of that poem we will publish in this new series. Jennifer Ashton’s was the first. The series page can be found here. — Brian Reed, Craig Dworkin, and Al Filreis

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A note on the text: To read a poem for the first time, publicly. To document an encounter with a text. I took Brian, Craig, and Al’s invitation seriously. I wrote as I read, encountering each word, and each line, on its own, without expectation of what would follow. What does it mean to write the process of reading? How does our mind think when we read? What is the language of reading?

Spin. Pin. Pins. In. To spin.

“That we are composed / of dimensionless points.” That. A premise. A proposition. A shared proposition. That we are composed. That we are poems. That we are written. Come. Poised. We are composed. That we are composed of. That we, like Walt Whitman, contain multitudes. That we are of something. That poems and words are something. They are composed. That we are composed dimensionless. The boundaries between “we” and the “composed of” are unclear. The “we” and the what “we are composed” of do not have clear demarcations, although we denote them, here, clearly, in language. The dimensionless point as opposed to Alfred Jarry’s tangential point, though related in their impossibility. We are multiple unboundedness.

“Which nonetheless spin.” Which. A hinge to our premise. A concession. A clarification. An extension. A further-ness. Which nonetheless. These points, free from dimensionality, nonetheless. Despite a space that cannot be defined, points. Spin. Points move. Points circulate outside of knowable space. Points move unbounded, unclarified. That we are composed of pointless points in motion. That we, and the blank space in between stanzas, spin without defined space. Comma. A seated apostrophe. To spin. To curve. To punctuate. To delay. To change course. To pause, only to start again.

“Which nonetheless exist / in space.” Which. Another hinge. A moving hinge. Another concession. An alternative concession. A grammatical disruption. Anaphora. A list. A listing. Which nonetheless. These spinning pointless points, nonetheless. Nonetheless exist. They are. We are. Being. A being without space. Being without space. Being in space. In space. A contradiction. Dimensionless space. Space without dimension. Being there. Spinning. Comma. A seated apostrophe. To spin. To curve. To punctuate. To delay. To change course. To pause, only to start again.

“Which is a mapping / of dimensions.” Which. A third hinge. Another concessions. An alternative concession. Which is. Which exists. Which is a. Which is not particular. Which is a mapping. Which is not a map. Which is an action. Which is spinning. Which is in movement. Which is space. Of. Of dimension. A mapping of the concept of dimension, not of dimensions themselves. Period. Completion. Points map dimensions. They are spinning. They exist in space. We are spinning. We exist in space. We are mapping. We are not mapped.

“*.” A separation. A dingbat. A multidimensional point. Typography. Editorial choices. A point which points, stretching, reaching outward. Prepare for a second thought. A parallel thought. An alternative thought.

“The pundit / says / the candidate’s speech / hit / ‘all the right points.’” The. Specific. Something specific. The pundit. Politics. OED: pundit. Now usu. In form pandit. In India: a learned or wise person. Pundit of the Supreme Court. Now hist. an officer in the Indian judiciary with the responsibility of advising British judges on questions of Hindu Law. In extended use: an expert in a particular subject or field, esp. one frequently called upon to give his or her opinion to the public; a commentator, a critic. The pundit in extended use. An expert. A commentator. A poet. A critic. A writer. A learned writer. The pundit says. The expert speaks with authority. The pundit says. An action. An occurrence in the poem. The pundit says the candidate’s. The pundit speaks the other. The expert speaks the candidate. The face. The face of politics. The candidate. The option. The one put forward. The pundit says the candidate’s speech. The pundit speaks the speech. The pundit re-articulates. The expert ventriloquizes. Experts re-say. Hit. The speech acts. Not a speech act. The speech hit. Speech as subject. Quotation. A quote. An allusion. A lifting. Marked appropriation. Irony. All the right points. A construction. Speech as hammer. Speech as that which hits the nails that are already marked. Already demarcated in space. These are not the points in the first stanza. These points are cutting points. Piercing points. Tongue in check. Point in mouth.

“Hit ‘fed-up’ but ‘not bitter,’ / hit ‘not hearkening back.’” Hit “fed-up.” Hit a tone. Speech hits an affect. But. A Clarification. A parallel. “Fed-up” juxtaposed to “not bitter.” To strike a tone. To hit the right points. To persuade. To invoke. To manipulate. Hit. Hit. Hit. Violence. Insistence. Repetition. To hit. To hit again. Not hearkening back. Moving. Moving on. Forgetting. Historical, collective memory. To forget together. To hit so we forget.

“*.” A dingbat. Three parts. Multiple separations. A “point” to stop, to complicate, to add on.

“Light strikes our eyes / and we say, ‘Look there!’” Light. A revelation. An insight. A pushing back of the shadows. Light strikes, as opposed to hits. Lightening strikes. Emily Dickinson. Light strikes our. We are together. A collective knowing. A collective insight. Light strikes our eyes. Light enters. Light distinguishes. Light passes through. And. Additionally. Also. And we say. We speak. We, not the pundits, speak. We say, “Look there!” We exclaim. We ask you and others to look in a specific direction. Direction. There is italicized. Direction matters. Look directionally. Look over there. Look over. Look beyond. A look described in language. Spin your eyes. We spin. We turn. We look. We show you the direction. We spin to look. There.

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Katie L. Price is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania, where she specializes in modern and contemporary poetry. She is currently completing her dissertation, "'The Tangential Point': 'Pataphysical Practice in Postwar Poetry," under the direction of Charles Bernstein. Portions of the work are published or forthcoming in Canadian Literature and Contemporary Literature. Katie maintains positions as Interviews Editor at Jacket2, and Associate Editor at the Electronic Poetry Center.

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Rae Armantrout, “Spin”

That we are composed
of dimensionless points

which nonetheless spin,

which nonetheless exist
in space,

which is a mapping
of dimensions.


The pundit says
the candidate's speech
“all the right points,”

hit “fed-up” but “not bitter,”
hit “not hearkening back.”


Light strikes our eyes
and we say, “Look there!”