THE M.A.G. SPECIAL EDITION :: JIM LEFTWICH ::


from a few letters (re: John Bennett's rOlling COMBers)


It seems to me that you always work with the letter, shifting one or two in
a word to create another word. This is part of how transduction works, isn't
it? Misreading one text, whether yours or someone else's, by rearranging the
letters and/or phonemes, mis-sounding the words. And the calligraphy
definitely works on a letteral basis, one ambiguous letter allowing for two
or three variant readings of the same word. So foregrounding the letters
with typography in these new pieces is in some ways just a means of
emphasizing how you work, what your focus is when you are writing.

These recent poems take the word apart letter by letter - and yet the word
remains intact, available, sense, sound and even syntax remain intact,
available beneath or within the turbulence of the typography. It's like the
image from chaos theory, recognizing the pattern of a lawn sprinkler in the
middle of a thunderstorm. What you are doing amounts to writing two or three
poems at once, not only that, writing two or three kinds of poem at once.
The process gets right to the core of what this kind of work is always
about. The reader is forced to observe himself in the process of putting
together, or holding together, strings of meaning and patterns of sounds.
Reading this material is like thinking two thoughts at once. You're
conscious of the flow of language, but you're also conscious of the work
you're doing as a reader to maintain the appearance of that flow. This is
language working against itself to almost forcibly open consciousness.
There are at least three ways of reading one of these, three paths you can
take through each one. A reading which is a struggle against the typography
(I almost wrote topography, which would also be accurate), which works to
collapse the exploded words back into their conventional forms, imposing a
conventional reading on a radically disrupted text; another reading which
rides the visual rhythm, indifferent to denotation, and which results in a
sort of scored sound poetry being seen and heard; and another reading which
lets the words foregrounded within words work as collisions, producing a
cacophony of sounds and a turbulence of associational meanings. Very rich
terrain. And there is a fourth reading, which is a failed attempt at
incorporating the previous readings, in which the poem begins to work as a
visual field, a dissonant music, and a stream of interruptions and
significations, all of which acts as an ambient gestalt providing entrances
for interpretive play.

from a few letters (re: rOlling COMBers)

My immediate response to LUGGAGE AIR is that you are working some kind of
rhythmic magic, creating a sort of spell with spacing, typography and
punctuation, hypnotic and trance-like, like Lamont Young's idea of the drone
and the drone state of mind, but disrupted, interrupted by the text's
invitation to meaning, so entraining the mind to theta, as in trance, but
also to the clarity of beta, awakening the reader to a receptivity that is
lucid.

Spacings transform single words into pairs of words, thus offering a
collapsed collision of meanings, but also creating a polyrhythmic texture, a
rhythmic pattern within another rhythmic pattern, like the counterpoint that
Hopkins found in Milton, the conventional rhythm that a reader might impose
upon a line subverted by the actual rhythms of the syllables.
There's a sort of ambient phonemic noise in some of these "dribblers" -
e.g.: "lectation", which is a kind of portmanteau mutant, then "sheet" &
"death", then "teef" (or "streef"), which is what, beef teeth tear reef feet
street stiff, and if we can read this, then we can read across the gaps
between the dribblers, "ae", "lec h ef", "tateh", "ioe", "nt". It begins to
sound like an industrial noise-oriented jazz band is playing inside this
song. I like it. Semantics comes apart, and is reassembled as a
constellation of new options for meaning.

m.a.g.