Laura Mullen
VERSION notes Re: Verse
(Tense: tension / Verse: version)                            (page 11)


Oddly enough a lot of readers seem trained to think of the poem as a sort of Styrofoam cup: toss back the hot meaning, crush that fragile container of language, and (roll down the car window) chuck it out. As if the words we found were interchangeable, as if each synonym didn’t change everything, as if the form wasn’t part of the meaning nor the music…. But reference only points us elsewhere, the medium doesn’t vanish (the landfill won’t go away if we don’t look at it), and the position of the poet, as Wallace Stevens made vivid, is that of a man (let’s say a human) on the dump. Of course transparency involves the discounting of or disregard for the delivery system: we’re not meant to think about the materiality or etymology of the word “stop.” The context (red & white octagonal sign) is part of what’s meant to keep us (instant recognition) from getting interested and curious when we ought to be (perhaps need to be) obedient. I assume you’re not reading the poem (or even this poetics) the way you would read the airline safety pamphlet in the middle of a crash… But perhaps you are? “Like amnesiacs, in a ward on fire,” wrote Olga Broumas in an early lyric, “we must find words, or burn.” That image haunts me—though I’d say my life has been one long lesson in the fact that words are very nice indeed in the burning ward but if you can’t find a door and a way to open it or a window to leap out of you are fucked. Take a lesson from your cat. Perhaps the pressure on all our communications to be as transparent, as “accessible,” as possible comes out of a perceived need for obedience above all other goods, as we see ourselves (Americans) in the plane going down (cf Laurie Anderson) or deep in what Naomi Klein called The Shock Doctrine or disaster capitalism. While I’m on that subject…Brenda Hillman and Evelyn Reilly have done enormously important work on Styrofoam (that deathless plastic) and this entry is itself mostly meant as reference…

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