Thursday, November 10, 2005


Agee (Let Us Now Praise Famous Men):
Emma’s paper suitcase is lifted into the truck beside the bedsprings which will sustain the years on years of her cold, hopeless nights; she is helped in upon the hard seat beside the driver above the hot and floorless engine, her slippered feet propped askew at the ledges of that pit into the road; the engine snaps and coughs and catches and levels on a hot white moistureless and thin metal roar, and with a dreadful rending noise that brings up the mild heads of cattle a quarter of a mile away the truck rips itself loose from the flesh of the planed dirt of the yard and wrings into the road and chucks ahead, we waving, she waving, the black hat straight ahead, she turned away, not bearing it, our hands drooped, and we stand disconsolate and emptied in the sun; and all through these coming many hours while we slow move within the anchored roundures of our living, the hot, screaming, rattling, twenty-mile-an-hour traveling elongates steadily crawling, a lost, earnest, and frowning ant, westward on red roads and on white in the febrile sun above no support, suspended, sustained from falling by force alone of its outward growth, like that long and lithe incongruous slender runner a vine spends swiftly out on the vast blank wall of the earth, like snake’s head and slim stream feeling its way, to fix, and anchor, so far, so wide of the strong and stationed stalk: and that is Emma.
What I want’d, what a reach’d into the massy text to lurch up with: “we slow move within the anchored roundures of our living,” or maybe just “anchored rondures” is what stung me into seeing. And pulling it out brought up all the marvelous tough roots and rootlets, clung full of clods of dirt and debris and a sole earwig halved and eating its own hindquarters, that kind of recklessness that Agee’s prose romps in—I know no other like it, though I am remind’d somewhat of Marguerite Young’s ariatic whoosh in Harp Song for a Radical. I love how it is all so perfectly tuck’d between two “Emma”s. One Emma here in the rag-apron’d bosom of family, one there—“that is Emma”—that is, gone, nowhere, annihilated. All one hears at the end of that sentence is the roar of blood coursing in one’s own ears.


To note: a book title’d Poets Talk: Conversations with Robert Kroetsch, Daphne Marlatt, Erin Mouré, Dionne Brand, Marie Annharte Baker, Jeff Derksen and Fred Wah, by Pauline Butling and Susan Rudy (University of Alberta Press, 2005)

I thrash’d about in the Jeff Derksen pages, collect’d Derksen saying:
One of my poems—“Jerk” or “Jerk Jeff Derksen” . . . talks about wanting an art more complicated than The Gap. The Gap outsources for its labour. They can make T-shirts more cheaply in Malaysia than in Hong Kong, but making a shirt with a collar is cheaper in Hong Kong. So if you went to The Gap and spent a couple of hundred dollars on looking like a Gap person, then actually you’re wearing all the contradictions of capitalism on your body . . . you are kind of hauling this stuff around.
Which made me think of Gap nothing, though it did make me think of “flarf” (and similar “sampling” techniques) as a kind of outsourcing, a “making cheaply.” Alors, what “stuff” exactly do “flarf” products “haul around”?

And (collect’d, I did) the following parenthetical factoid (just the kind of thing I love) in Derksen remarks regarding a poem call’d “Neighbourhood”:
Then I put the square brackets (in the Vancouver tradition of using square brackets, like Kevin Davies’ Pause Button) as kind of an authorial intrusion into the poem:
. . .
david did idle lentils
slug luggage gage
genuflect ectomorph physical [more 1970s
for me] meal lame me . . .
Follow’d by a mischievous remark: “Because I was a copyeditor and a proofreader I use all the punctuation in the standard forms. So the square bracket is the authorial or editorial intrusion into a text.”

And: an exchange with Pauline Butling regarding a Steve McCaffery comment that “the demise of the phenomenological voice is what these poems provide us with.” To Butling’s question whether the comment makes sense to him, Derksen says:
Well contextually it does. It was written in 1990 or something like that when there was a struggle going on between writing communities—the refigured subject that Language poets and post-language writing were trying to construct, and the more self-assured or stable phenomenological subject, the unified or stable subject.

Pauline: Is “the phenomenological self” unified and stable? I wonder if he was referring to voiced poetry.

Jeff: Yes, I think so. The tension is between a poetics of speech and what’s supposed to be the great rupture that initiates the Language poets, the “I hate speech” (“On Speech”) essay by Robert Grenier. But one of the most stable phenomenological subjects I can think of is Ron Silliman in his big project, Alphabet. So this question was worked out antagonistically in a discourse of poetics, but not so in the poetry.
No comment. I love the sheer bafflement of origin stories. See baffle.