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Tears in the Fence 55: The New Visionary

Tears in the Fence 55: The New Visionary

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Published by Adam Fieled
This piece addresses issue #55 of the UK print journal Tears in the Fence (ed. David Caddy), which was released in the summer of 2012.
This piece addresses issue #55 of the UK print journal Tears in the Fence (ed. David Caddy), which was released in the summer of 2012.

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Published by: Adam Fieled on Aug 19, 2012
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 Tears in the Fence 55: The New Visionary
Cohesivemomentsinanyofthemajorhigherart-formsarerare.AsmuchaspoetryintheEnglishlanguagehasproducedsomecohesivemoments,theproductionofsuchmomentshasusuallybeenretrospective.ThecohesivenessofBritishRomanticismwasnotparticularlyapparentduringitsheyday—thepointsofcontinuitybetween,say,ByronandWordsworthweredemonstrablynotapparenttothetwopoetsthemselves.Scholarsandartists,looking back,projectthecohesionontothem.Thus,ifonespotsamomentofcohesioninahigherdiscipline,itmaybeonlysuperficial,boundaroundacenterwhichcannothold.TimewilltellifthisisthecasewithTearsintheFence55,editedbyDavidCaddyandreleasedthissummer—butthatthisissueofthisimportantUKprintjournaliscohesiveissomethingI’dliketoarguefor.WhatIamdaringtocallthe“newvisionary,”asspottedinTearsintheFence55,isthis—amovementbyacadreofpoetstowardsthetranscendentalasarebellionagainsttheconfinesofapoliticalandaestheticworldtoobentonfutile,stale,materialistic(and,fromtheUS,imperialistic)realism.InthecontextofTearsintheFence55,itisacohesivemovementwherebyimaginativeleapsdestroytheredundancyofplainparataxisandeasydisjuncture.Ifitisagenuineevent,itisforthisreason.Experimentalpoetry,onbothsidesoftheAtlantic,hasbeenengagedforhalfacenturywiththetaskofself-scrutinyandself-analysis.Differentformsofmeta-poetryhaveproliferated,andvariouspoetrycommunitieshavefoundalternateroutestoself-scrutiny.HannahSilva’s“Citadel”isbothameta-poemandaconsolidatinggesturetowardsaspecificpoetrycommunity(ostensibly,experimentalpoetsintheUK).Totaketwostanzasofthepoemasexemplars,weseehowthevisionaryimpulsedoesnothavetobeincompatiblewithLanguagepoetry’sinterrogativeimperative—Theskyiswalkingontheearth,graveyardsarerecliningintheclouds,languagefallslikewaterthroughasieveservility—youngones—slaves.Iknow,Iknow—ghostsmadefromdiamondswillcopulatebeforeworlds’end.Anyway,theysaywe’rewinningsoshush—youngones—shush.”Thequestionisbegged—whatisthiscommunitywinningagainst?Theimperialistic,militaristicUnitedStates,thegreateconomicrecession,allkindsofforcesagainstthevisionary(thesecouldbeinwardpsychologicalforcesaswell),thosewithinpoetrywhopreferwaroverpeace,oreventhegeneralpowerofthequotidiantopulverizethehumanimagination?“Citadel,”asaliteraryconstruct,hasahingetoGabriel’strumpet(theBiblical)andtheapocalyptic—buttheresolution,importantly,ispositive.Wedonot,asaudience,knowwhothe“they”iswhohaveconferredablessingonthiscommunity—wearelefttodecideforourselvesiftheyseemtobewinningornot.ButthatSilva’spoemhasmanypointsofaesthetictriumphaugerswellforboththeappearanceandessenceofthegroup,whichisnotpresentedasundulyexclusive.Inanycase,acitadelismeanttoprotectthosewhotakerefugewithinit—ifthepoemhasamechanismbuiltintoittoprotectus,itisby
 
demonstratingthatdespairmaybepresentinthepoet,butnihilismisneitherpresentnorevenaconcern.“TheBurningofBeslan,”bySheilaHamilton,isdarker-tinged,andthetriumphofthepoemandthepoetessisrepresentedsideways.Thepoemadumbratesthefigureofanartist,workingwiththematerialofmodernterrorismandcompelledtotreatherlaborsself-destructively:sheliftsacandleeverydayshedoesthis—whentheyhavetheirgrenadesfirmlyintheirhands,shelightsacandle,thenfeedstheintruders,men,women,intoit.Andwatches.”Thereisastrangevisionarysensebywhichtheartistinthepoemconflatesburningherpictureswithkillingofftherepresentedterrorists.Itisafalsesense,ofcourse,andachild-likesense,partlybecauseartisticrepresentationsofterrorism,doneinthecorrectspirit,mightbecapableofpushingthemback.Yetthemeta-trickHamiltonperformsisverypungent—byrepresentinganartistdestroyingherrepresentations,sherevealsthepsychologybywhichterrorismiscapableofdestroyinghumanlives.Evenactsofempowermentgetswallowedupbydestructiveimpulsesandvengefulfeelings.Theartistinthepoemterrorizesherownart—shecannotpulloutofherownviciouspsychologicalcircle.But,weknow,bywritingandpublishingthispoem,Hamiltonhaspulledoutofhers—and,bydoingso,hastriumphedoverboththeterroristsandtheself-destructiveartistinthepoem(whichmayormaynotsignifyher).Thedensityandcomplexitylevelsoftheserepresentationsareadmirable—anditmustbesaidthatthevisionaryseedsplantedbyTearsintheFence55almostinvariablyhavesomehingetowardspositivityandpositiveoutcomes.Sexualityisonerealmthat,aswewillsee,notonlykeepsthedarknessinbutletsthedarknessremaindarkinTearsintheFence55.ConflationsofsexandthevisionaryareamainstayofseriousEuropeanpoetry,fromtheRomantics(GermanandEnglish)totheSymbolistsandSurrealists.In2012,thisconflationamountstoastudyofdichotomies,presencesversusnon-presences.GaryLechliter’s“OnceinaMeadow”playsgameswithsemanticrepetitionsinparallelstructures—whatthegamesseemtoalludetoistheevanescenceofsexualcontactinaninhibitingpolitical,economic,andaestheticcontext.ThewryhumorLechliterdemonstratesattheconclusionofthepoemgivesallthedarknessaplayfuledge:Tonight,inapastureIseeyouridingthetallwhitehorse,bathedinthelightofagibbousmoon,wearingnothingbutbootsandthehatyouboughtatthefive&dime.Nothingyoudo,somnambulist,
 
canmeasureuptothat.”Lechliter’sisasortofencounterpoem,that’salsoadreamscape.Its’variedrepetitionsrenderiteffectively“lateral.”Asabsurdasitseems,avisionof“lateralsexuality”(distinguishedfromqueernessorgayness)issoapropostotheZeitgeistofarecession-eraWest(circanow)thatitmakesdirectrepresentationsofsexualityseemcomparativelyretrograde.Sexhastobe“lateralized”or“visioned”becausetheresourcesthatpropelbothexpressedsexualityandreproductiveinstinctsforwardinsociety(materialfluidity,abundanceofsparetime)areinabeyance.Thepositivityhereissimplyinhearingthetruthexpressed,albeitinanellipticalcontext.Ifpoliticsisbuiltintosexualitybysexuality’ssimultaneousrevelationsofgenderandbasicpsychologicalselfhood,politics,ifdealtwithdirectly,hasthecapacitytorevealanentiresocietythroughanindividualpsyche.JoelLane’s“Underground”does,infact,accomplishthis—theironyisthefeatisthatheperformsthetricksuccessfully(revealingasocietythroughanindividualpsyche)withoutemployingthefirstpersonsingular.Hispoemistoopassionateandtooincisivetobeconsidered“Objectivist”;butifhisobjectivewastotweakObjectivismtowithstandboththevisionaryanddirect,cohesivecontactwiththepolitical,hesucceedsadmirably.Thatthelanguageofthepoemistautandmuscularhelps:Apathy=Collaborationmorepoemthanequation.aweeklater,thewallsarepainteddeadwhiteforthefirsttimeinyears:themessagesjustvisiblebutnotlegible,thetunnelabnormallyclearlikeavoidedthroatorabankruptcistern.”What’svisionaryaboutafirmlypoliticalpoemlikethisisthattheentiregestaltofitsvisionismanifestedinvisualsymbols;thescenerepresented,whichismeanttoworkonocularlevels,seemstosuggestanobjectivecorrelativetotheEnglishgovernment’sdealingswithitspeople.While“Underground,”ofcourse,hasadoublemeaning(politicalunrestequatedwithatubestop),thepoemisitselfakindofdouble,becausetheimplicit“I”behindit,whichdoesn’tappear,representsarealityobjectivelywhichisobviouslyofgreatsubjectiveimportancetohim/it.Butthepoliticaldimensionsofthepoetic“I”(anditselisionhere)are builtintothepoeminsuchawaythatafirstpersonplural(collective)orientationisnotdifficulttoimagine;andthatthisisthepositiveinversionoftheApathy/Collaboration“poem”thepieceposits.Whereinversionsand“doubles”areconcerned,IanSeedusesthemin“Ways”tocreateametaphorthatisvisionaryinitsscope—the“girlnextdoor”fortheentirenationofEngland,especiallytheEnglishreadingpublic.Seed’sconceitisalmostaDonne-levelmetaphysicalone—thathe“writesthealphabet”ontheclitorisofthegirlnextdoor(in

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