Tyrone Williams | Genesis (page 6) »

While doing research for a proposed manuscript on the relationship between the history of intellectual property and the concept of “originality” in the arts, I came across John F. Kasson’s wonderful social history, Rudeness and Civility: Manners in 19th Century Urban America. Kasson describes the way that urbane Americans would “code” the cards they used to introduce themselves before entering a household. Each code—folding back a specific corner of a card—would signal the purpose of the visit. This information inspired the five “card” poems in c.c. Because every card has only four corners, the fifth card in the sequence is a control factor. It so happens it is the first poem of the book, “Card,” and it concerns the proliferation of the Bob Hope franchise. The number five figured—in some way—in the composition of every other poem in the book. For me, then, the number four, as the number of the greeting card, functioned also as the price of entry—paper, not metallic, currency—into the public sphere, and that last clause sums up the theme of the entire book. The “extra” number, as a control factor, serves as the “origin” and “end” of perspective: that I made it Bob Hope—Mr. Hope, he dead-ends—was my whimsical comment on cultural imperialism which may originate “inside” as well as “outside” a particular group. Thus, Jesse Jackson’s late 1980s mantra, “keep hope alive,” echoes Kofi Natambu’s insistence that the American empire would begin its slow fall only with the death of one Leslie Townes Hope. I tweaked that assertion a little by enclosing the Chinese and Russian empires in my little pentagon of evil.

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