Sunday, January 23, 2011

Feeling We's Way Thru Michael Cross's Haecceities

Poet-book artist Kate Robinson just posted a few Stan Brakhage films over on her blog, and it triggered in me two auto-responses. First thought is that many Brakhage films, due to their abstraction, their silences, and their length, are probably as accommodating to You Tube as any extant films made for the screen can be. I'm not suggesting that watching one of his films on a large screen in the dark isn't a different, in fact contrastingly rather magical and disturbing experience. Just that there's something about this work, most of it from the late 50s thru the 70s, that is (maybe) both context-sensitive and torsional enough to be twisted, shaped, and transported--like phonemes as they are used and then used again from word to word, and then used and used again as self-contained, prosodic units that arrive within, and as, different material sites of expenditure, but retain shape too. A solidity and a flexibility of usage--and of affective treatment.

Which got me to my second Kodak half-baked thought-moment: having just received--thank you, Michael--Michael Cross's new Haecceities, tho I am loving this book, it wasn't till I was visited again by Brakhage that I had any idea with regard to how to describe it. (Well, I had some idea due to some very good reviews, and yet mainly due to an interpretive dance by Brenda Iijima, CA Conrad, Erica Kaufman, and Debrah Morkun while I visited Philly in Aug. The dance--a cathecting response of bodily energy transformed, inscribed by the poems--is lovingly influencing my thinking about what Haecceities desires, and so really coloring my thinking here.) The linguistic popping of Haecceities presences, as Talyor Brady implies, an emergent language-labor of what has not yet been foreclosed or what does not yet disclose, where the word-as-unit of measure is often a futuristic or torsional variant of an Elizabethan item, where "words... [arise] weed-like in the interval of that vanishing" "medium of the emblem" and so a particular prosody stemming from careful etymological research treats one so strongly that all one can do is submit to the "strain" of the lines, submit and then revel, hold tight with others in a collective act of squinting, then letting the image be--where what we end up trying to make out, giving into meaning-as-this-prosody, is our own future, instigated, perhaps even shaped, by the poetic in our midst.

This sensation of submitting to the inscription of the future by letting present unknowns carry me in the aftermath of struggle at least gives me a prima facie impression analogous to experiencing Brakhage's work for the first time. In a double sense: in the sense of letting it rake us, the impressions thus becoming a future-making in lyric gestures, of the work getting some handle on us, allowing us to make things of the work's internal and referential relations. And in the sense of reflecting on the process that Brakhage became famous for, manipulating the medium directly by scratching it, painting on celluloid, and via various emulsion techniques. Cross's prosodic elements are dug out, made by casting shadows on word parts and jamming them up against other word parts, or collaging found minerals, forming what Brady points out is a rhythmic duration as extimacy, which I think describes quite beautifully how the work reads by line and as one contoured and communal poem also. And it occurred to me that Brakhage's work is analogous--only analogous, nothing really more--in its extimate movement.

Thus it's worth--after reading the book on its own terms--having one or two parts read to you alongside watching, say, Brakhage's Glaze of Cathexis. Relating, for example, that film via link to the left, with (pg 19):

the many hundred wing-lit hives

so saucily so the onerous fever kenning

the coupling come coupling bound by night

this little things strung plenty like

yield the hollow soft hem the light

It's at the level of a sort of politics, a sort of reclaimed future, that I think said analogy, as any analogy, breaks away, where Haecceities it becomes even more obvious really is an island in our making it (of course islands these days aren't impossible to get to--we have all manner of transportation for that). A unique sense of active commoning as wreading emerges, for instance. As does (alongside that commoning) an imminent critique of the very "vocabulary of heraldry" that Brady identifies, again quite beautifully, as the saying stockpile here. A critique to draw upon from "higher" ground, built out of these units that build that vocabulary, co-created by Cross. By Cross and linguistic bedrock and, well, us.

So, I suppose this speaks to even James's warning about forming hypotheticals, let alone full-blown arguments, out of the Kodak moment, the sense-impression--but I couldn't help myself.

A gorgeous, uncompromising, and singularly unique book, Haecceities.

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