From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan by Andy Couturier

From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan" by Andy Couturier

Pages 264-265

“Sooo..” I begin to ask him, a bit apprehensive, not wanting to be insulting, “Gufu-san, why write all this stuff down?”

Unperturbed, he replies simply, “To make a record. If you don’t record things, you start to lose your sense of the place. It’s also interesting when you talk to other people, or when I want to look up something later. But it’s mostly just to make a record, even if I don’t use the information.”

“Yes, but how do you decide which things to write down?”

“Whatever is possible to write down, I write. How much the bus cost. How much the movie was, or how much the hotel was.”

“But why?” I ask.

“I didn’t have any purpose in doing it.”

No purpose? Perhaps I’ve been too attached to all my own actions being done for a reason. Utilitarianism is so deep in my culture I don’t even notice it. Listening to Gufu it occurs to me that it may not be so good to be always reaching ahead in time. Sitting here with my friend in a farmhouse in the mountains of Japan, I find my way of seeing the world start to deepen and change. All these little, unlooked-at details create the fabric of memory. By writing them down, we are refusing to let the experiences of our lives get subsumed in the tsunami of time, the onrush of the next, and the next, and the next. I think of so many travelers (myself included) zipping from one location to the next, taking photos of scenery or a building. Have I been missing the beautiful in the obvious?

Gufu is showing me--not that he’s trying to show me anything--that the whole world can come alive with these tiny details, ephemera, you might call them. But not just a generalized “world,” but a specific world, an India of a particular time, and, as it happens, an India that is disappearing every day.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Still Reading "Shift & Switch New Canadian Poetry"

I'm still reading this book. I find it interesting. I especially like it's proposed goal which is to: expand the circumference of  the "official verse culture" which in itself is a neat concept for what I just call boring poetry.This book wants to introduce other ways of singing and I'm happy to say that they succeed in doing this. However, I'm not sure what the singing is about.

To be quite frank, for this reader, the arrangement of text and various text type on a page, the aural qualities of a song, the use of visual art to bump up the recognition factor--all these are worthy expansions of the genre BUT they have to have something to say that makes me want to keep going through the poem.

I found a few poets in here that were useful.  Rita Wong at the end of the book had a poem called "value chain," that I enjoyed, which starts off by asking  "how does one go about turning english from a low context language into a high context language?" and runs through the different forms of language use--internal and external; consumerism; advertising; leaching away of different cultural backgrounds; sexual language;  your dietary language; the words of your parents and of course, the terminology of the war machine.  It had the fun lines "so much depends on a thin wok/the number of greens you can eat it limited only by your fear of pesticides,./hello silent spring" and yet--what was this poem all about?  Values as mentioned in the title?  The values in the chain of language? Ideas embedded in our words?
The definition of context according to the FreeDictionary--

con·text  (kntkst)
1. The part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.
2. The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting.

So I suppose she is trying to say that the English language we employ is of low quality --the surround of it is so sparse--and processed that it a sort of fast food language and she is asking how to make it more nutritious and meaningful?
According to the introduction, Ms Wong is attempting to point our that our language, as used (I suppose in the low context form we use it in) is basically advertising products, engaged in encouraging consumerism and simply a flood of short catchy messages (slogans).
Hmm... did I get this from the poem?  In a way.  She speaks of "the internal frontier: my consumer patterns/" so we do get a sense that the interior of a person is basically a set of consumer wants.  The line "the military industrial complex is embedded in my imported electronics," gives us the idea of how pervasive is the influence of the "low context language" that also embeds racism into the language 'what is the context for "you people are hard workers?""

Even parents provide such language to us "sometimes i open my mouth, and my mother's words come tumbling out of/me: don't go to sleep with wet hair or you'll get headaches when you're old" and machines inundate us with EMF radiation "the electromagnetic fields of the refrigerator hum bewildered static".
The poem does jar us into realizing how mechanical most of our language is and now formatted it has become to encourage our consumer blank way of life. 

Jordan Scott's submission "excerpt from blert," was interesting to me simply for the unusual way he structured this poem. The first two lines were like this:

Their thick tongues blort, their eyes squeeze grief, a crowd
Of huge unheard answers jam and rejoice---

Then the second page goes on to ask repeatedly "What is the utterance." Then there is a brief answer.
Here is one such set:

What is the utterance.

Phonemes flounder brickette warmth. Tethered to seven mollusks, an
Osteoblast chomps into the burger of kelp's wreck; an Osteoclast nibbles a
Puffin's scapula in mid-afternoon weight.  Each webbed foot tussle, the soft
hum of slipper, on hardwood floors.

I like the mixing of bone cells, with sea life, birds, sounds in this poem.  In later sections he mixes time with ear and mouth parts.  And then finally the offering goes onto lament "What a poor crawling thing you are!"
Which I suppose our singing is. And then he mutters "if you must have an idea, have a short-term idea," which seems to be the mantra of our poetry as well.  

Interesting poet. 

A. Rawlings had some tiny poems. "love poem for a sailor," was one I liked as well as "our tongued jigsaws aphasiatic".  Jeremy Mcleod had a poem called "would the remote province," that I liked, as well. Don't ask me what they mean. Look to them and decide for yourself.

I liked Danielle Maveal's poem "flowers, fire, wind, fish"  which has this line:

single white, bending its spine against the wind's fire

Which I believe later, she identifies as his or her hands that are like "fish that know fire" to go under the water and "disappearing slower, thievish". 

Jason Le Heup had a neat poem "excerpt from Indefinite Sweat," which I am not going to try and explain since I haven't a clue what it is about --except it may or may not involve  " the transport of sexes". Hmm..

I liked Larissa Lai's excerpt from Rachel.  This poem is about a cyborg and part of it is like this:

i half my memory
what's past is polaroid
i collect like water in ditches
my body ticks out

You get a clear sense of human and machine in these lines.

Frances Kruk had some interesting poems combined with illustrations by anna mandelkau in excerpt from "The Thought Process."  The picture poems worked.  I don't know if I'd buy a whole book of poems like this as I was getting dizzy going through them but they certainly are clear in what they depict.
Jesse Huisken's "excerpt from Objectives" is supposed to be about a table but seems to be actually about the rain forest that table's wood originated from but who knows? I could be wrong.

I really liked Sharon Harris and her definitions of poem and poets in her excerpt from "Fun with 'Pataphysic (Poetic Experiments for Ages Zero to Ethernity)" Here are some of her few amusing definitions:

162.    An uncuttable poem

Place a folded poem around a knife blade.  You can cut a reader with it without
damaging the poem.

The poem is forced into the reader with the knife.  It is not cut itself because 
the pressure of the blade on the poem is countered by the resistance from the
reader.  Since the reader's flesh is softer than the poem fibre, it yields.  If, how-
ever, you hold the poem too firmly, the pressure balance is lost, and the poem 
is broken.


I'm sure this is true.  A poem cannot be held "too firmly," and it is all too easy to "cut a reader with it".  A second part of the excerpt is also useful and fresh:

99.      Where do poems come from?

Moisten your finger and hold it straight up in the air.  You will notice at once
that one side of the finger is cold. This is the direction from which the poem
is coming.

This poet is having fun with language and you know what, so is this reader.

Ryan FitzPatrick's poem " A Life Less Originary," was fun as well -here is the last stanza:

I'm afraid. I connect wires to
turbines.  I spin in place. I light
fires in sense. I plagiarize openly.
I eat meat. I watch the clock.

And don't we all do this?
Alice Burdick's poem "The meat leaves, slowly," was interesting (I say that a lot don't I?) And so was Michael Debeyer's poem "The Frictionless  Room." 

The book needs more rereading on my part. I find my head starts to evaporate neurons after a bit of reading and I have to reconstitute my brain and its perimeters with regular poetry before returning to this alternate universe of words.  

But the book has done what it said it would do which is to move out of "sameness of subject,form, & structure." It wants to get out of the "personal confession & reflection," icebergs with its "limitations of expression," that pander to the fast food needs of "the most conservative of audiences."

Hmm... I guess I'm part of that most dull audience.   I still liked this book. And I was reassured that the language isn't wilting, isn't root bound, isn't about to keel over like every chopped tree in the rain forest and heck might even survive annihilation by consumerist, ancient fogies like myself.

I'll try and go back and look at the other poets in here but right now I'm slightly off center and need to head back to the safe shores of conservative poetry.

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