09 June 2011
JAMIE TOWNSEND'S MATRYOSHKA
Brenda Iijima and I were emailing back and forth the other day about Jamie Townsend's STRAP/HALO, and she sent me this totally brilliant, totally off-the-cuff reading that I couldn't help but share here:
"The permutations in STRAP/HALO definitely shift between the worldly and unworldly and also the mechanical and visceral. And these seemingly polar states combine and mutate. There’s a drama in the way echoes appear inside of the language. This document becomes a cacophonous chamber of echoes. There is a sense that the body has become a listening chamber but is also its own instrumentation. The humming resound of the body as energies precipitate and issue from/and away. I picked up on his line 'into similar voids' and think that's where a huge part of the ontology falls or filters through. Bodies too, as familiar voids, especially the bodies that will have been already the case but have yet to be—a play on/of the future anterior which has found its way through Tyrone’s work to Rob’s, Thom’s and now Jamie’s—a very particular Derridean temporal positioning.
There's this Marco Polo-like expedition that is happening (which sounds epic). A search for the brother figure and what is collected (instead) is the social detritus along route. I think so much of Siddhartha and other spiritual tales of becoming and overcoming but this work has none of the attendant grandiosity—there’s a sense of discretion, privacy and vulnerability. Jamie parses through various umwelts, undoing worlds of perception—its so subtle.
There's also this incredible friction that I sense. A clashing, 'anterior worlds, conjoined so artfully not/natural must be framed as brazen'. Also a psychosexual dimension (homoerotic) that brings on tension—the words rub up against tensions instigated by the rigors of cultural forms of normative gesture—there's quaking going on all around these enforced terms of the body. And at times the words seem goth, sublime, romantic, remote, hanging on like relics. The residue of religiosity butting up against hot sensuality. 'Graceful as brute redirection'. Principles vs desire/instinct/force/energy. Anyway, some notes I’ve jotted down."
Wow. The body as a listening chamber or "familiar void." Brenda Iijima, ladies and gentlemen! And then over coffee the other day, Rob Halpern said something like, "I think of the poem as an additional sense organ" (or maybe it was "I think of the poem as an extension of a sense organ"?!). Anyway, I was thinking about all of this this evening when my yoga instructor asked us to "empty" our stomachs so our abdominal muscles could massage our organs!
MATRYOSHKA, Jamie Townsend's other new chapbook is less dense than STRAP/HALO, but no less challenging or rewarding. The poems are totally elemental (down to the binary "1" and "0" headings) in that the language seems to register phenomena in the body while processing it ("rendering" it?) on the page (as if the chapbook were a sense organ). Townsend uses tons of nouns in these short bursts, which contribute, I think, to the haptic weight of each page. And Dawn Pendergast's INCREDIBLE design work (including some super delicate sewing on every page) further adds to the language's material presence. Little Red Leaves co-editor Ash Smith writes of MATRYOSHKA: "The title...denotes famous Russian nesting dolls, and yet the subtle physics and physicality of such poems which attend to "sub-dermal termites scattering" reveal that such momentary nesting is in fact a station in orbit." Indeed.
While this book MUST be held in the hands to fully appreciate its execution as a book object (and you can buy it here for only 8 bucks (if it's still in print!)), the folks at Little Red Leaves have also posted the entire text online for yr. reading pleasure. Take a look here...