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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Debra Di Blasi, Miekal And, and Vernon Frazer at

I am going to do a series entries where I discuss material that is readily available on the web. This has two advantages: 1) you readers can have ready access to it, and 2) I won't have to buy anything.

Today, I am discussing writing at All three pieces are in the current issue: Debra Di Blasi, Miekal And, and Vernon Fraser.

1. Debra's is a fascinating piece of visual poetry. It appears to be two pages frayed from a larger book entitled "What the frond delivers." It looks like an illustrated novel or even an illuminated manuscript, but the sharp edges and off-kilter repetitions of the word "frond" give it an uneasy, maybe even menacing look.

Then comes the writing. While it looks to be two frayed pages from a prose work, it is definitely prose poetry. It is thorny, difficult and syntactically radical. Thematically, it also addresses ponds and dragonflies and other things associated with lots of fronds near the water.

We also come to see there is a third-, then first-person narrative buried in the thick language, language as "green pea" dark, thick, and full of fronds as any lake side. It tells the story of a male twin, apparently a drowning victim, saving his twin sister as she goes down screaming, three times. 

Diane refers to her at one point as "Little Miss Nobreath." Then later comes, "Golly, Mother." The tone is at times so flippant, that the subject matter is almost not able to come forth. When it does, it is all the more horrifying. The girl almost doesn't make it.

The second page gives the dead boy twin's perspective: "Was I pushed you through the jade blades." It also falls into Gerard Manley Hopkins sprung rhythm, even using some of his famous words "doppledreams," 'dappled." Characterized by internal rhyme and alliteration, sprung rhythm allows for a lot of repetition and reinforcement.

These two pages show what the green fronds deliver: life and death. The murkiness of green lake water, water dark as jade, we come from and go to. The text is surrounded by green on the side of death, and blue on the side of life. But the green will always swallow the blue, "that dreamy place my twin still hides, biding his time until my time's up."

2) Miekal And
I would have no idea what to do with this piece if I didn't know some of what Miekal has been up to the last decade or so. He is fascinated, if I understand him right, with the various relations between fonts and nature. I recall seeing one piece of his which had letters hanging in trees. Was the concept that letters grow from our nature, which is connected to wider nature, namely, trees?

This piece looks to me like a hide. On it are pictures, but they seem to be pictures verging on fonts. The philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty famously observed that song, historically and developmentally, precedes speech. In a similar manner, drawing precedes fonts. Written language evolves out of drawing. In this piece we see one font that is repeated. It is the second from left on top and the third down on the far right. This may be a representation of beginning of writing.

Leaving Miekal's piece at this level is a little unfair. There are other things to consider such as how the light is hitting the piece, the resemblance to animals and people that many fonts have, and the sheer beauty of the fonts themselves. One value of work such as this is that it helps us to see fonts rather than simply reading through and past them.

3) Vernon Frazer

Writing about nonrepresentational language is also difficult. How do we contextualize a line such as  "salmon feet" in "The Future Brings"? Obviously, we can't, if we try to look at it from a representational point of view. Instead, we have sound and rhythm.

How do we say this piece, and these pieces, work, as I think they do? How are they different from a child randomly putting magnetic poetry words on a refrigerator? What skill does it take?

It has tremendous energy, coming I think from all the active verbs, including some interesting ones such as "mottle." The energy itself is excessive, pushing the language and spilling beyond semantic limits and into alternative spaces. It's exciting. Finally, the poem is an event, not a meaning. It's about this excessive excitement, together with the rhythm and sounds riffing throughout.

This is the answer to why it's better than magnetic poetry: there's a controlled excessiveness, that breaks the taboo of "making sense," but does so in a musical way that keeps the poem from spinning apart.

And I don't think there is any more to say.

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