Recuperating a Lost World

It's an abecedarian book filled with delightful acrostics. My favourite is the opening one with its anaphoric elements that build to an acknowledgement of the generous amplitude of the small.

As flake is to blizzard, as

[...]

Near is to far, as wind is to weather, as
   feather is to flight, as light is to star, as
   kindness is to good, so acorn is to wood.
Robert Macfarlane The Lost Words: A Spell Book illustrated by Jackie Morris.

And so for day 2294
25.03.2013

Fricatelle Cyprin

Nicole Brossard
Sous la langue Under Tongue

Fricatelle ruisselle essentielle aime-t-elle le long de son corps la morsure, le bruit des vagues, aime-t-elle l'état du monde dans la flambée des chairs pendant que les secondes s'écoulent cyprine, lutine, marines.
In the translation by Susanne de Lobtinière-Harwood
Does she frictional she fluvial she essential does she all along her body love the bite, the sound waves, does she love the state of the world in the blaze of flesh to flesh as seconds flow by silken salty cyprin.
In the 1987 publication, under the dual imprint of L'Essentielle and Gynergy, the translator provides a note to the choice of the word cyprin: "Female sexual secretion. From the French cyprine [fr. Gk Cyprus, birth place of Aphrodite]. We are proposing cyprin for English usage."

There is an earlier translation of this text appearing in Writing 16 (1986) under the title "Sa Main Qui Prenait Appui Sur Un Livre Pendant Que Nos Corps A l'Oblique". There we learn that
Nicole Brossard wrote this text for the erotic festival held at Theatre Expérimental des Femmes (now known as Espace Go) in Montréal the week of March 8, 1986. It was a glittering Saturday evening; 15 writers' texts were read/performed by 15 actresses.
And our trio appears as "silken salty spritely". This last capturing "lutines" marvellously well. I appreciate the alliteration which captures the rhythm supplied in French by the rhymes. And it is alliteration that is carried over into the 1987 version.

In Writing 16 Susanne de Lobtinière-Harwood provides a note on fricatelle (missing in the 1987 version)
fricatelle — from fricarelle, the rubbing together of women's thighs. Thirties slang for lesbian, Nicole explains, via Marie-Jo Bonnet, Un choix sans équivoque, and Nicolas Blondeau, Le Dictionnaire Érotique Latin-Français. Blondeau's dictionary was written in the 17th century but not published until the 19th century.
The rub of language. The spark of neologism.

And so for day 2293
24.03.2013

The Ordinary Openness to the Not Ordinary

Mary Pratt
obituary by Leah Sandals
[concluding paragraph]

"I think with my work, even things that are are ordinary are not ordinary," Ms. Pratt said in 2015. "Because I don't really believe that anything is ordinary — I think everything is complex and worthy of conjecture and worthy of a close look." She concluded: "I really believe that you could imagine the secrets of the universe by looking a pile of grapes."
Cluster. Luster.

And so for day 2292
23.03.2013

Whimp Out

Dear Diary,

Saw Wainwright's and McIvor's Hadrian. A disappointment. Sabina's aria in Act II was the best part. The ending backed off a possible naming of the gendered nature of Hadrian's love for another man. We were treated to a tedious repetition of "He loved..." (with suspension marks) without the transitive completion of "him."

The opera is confused. Is it a love story? A tale of political intrigue? A search for immortality?

That ending! Apotheosis of the god-emperor, chorus chanting the coming rise of monotheism, the prophecy of to-be-forgotten pagan gods?

Sabina's aria "Why am waiting; what am I waiting for" (I paraphrase from memory) foreshadows the audience waiting for the recognition at the end of a man loving a man. Waiting for the word.

He was loved. But was he loved as a man? No amount of same-sex scene pantomime can substitute for the artistic exploration of the theme of reciprocation. Let alone the saying - the enunciation - that marks a coming to knowledge and action. Who did he love? Who loved him? Who had the courage to speak? Of what? To whom?

And so for day 2291
22.03.2013

The Cut and the Cooked

Jane Byers
Steeling Effects
"Starfruit"

The extended comparison at the end of this poem stretches out a food metaphor into a celebration of the plain.

Mashed potatoes and turnip are nutrient poor from the endless boil
but love doesn't leach.
I buy starfruit when I can.
Thin cross-sections make a constellation
atop my roasted salad of parsnips and beets.
They still dazzle me,
though I've learned it's roots that sustain.
A bit of dazzle is not uncalled for. The metaphorical splendid on its base of the literal.

And so for day 2290
21.03.2013

All Around Us

I cannot celebrate enough Jane Byers impeccable justesse in the endings to the poems in the Keen sequence in Acquired Community. Look at how poignant and yet defiant the ending of the last poem in the sequence, "Elegy", is

But I don't want to keen,
I want to live.
So did we.
If you want immortality, write a book.
Your book falls apart in my hands.
Read others, including elegies.
Damn the elegy.
It took decades for all of us to plainly say
I love you to someone who is alive.
Eventually you will love
more of the dead than the living.
Of course, those who recall Laurie Anderson's lyrics to Speak My Language ("Now that the living outnumber the dead") would have a different take on finitude and the love of the dead. And by the way Byers is spot on, Michael Lynch's book in its perfect binding falls apart in your hands. The glue dries and crumbles. There is no immortality through the book. There is also no guarantee that one will live to the point of loving more of the dead than the living. Destiny can claim the young before they age. There is some bad faith being peddled here. And if we back up to the strophes that link to this exchange we find a plurality of activities that are necessary to sustain community — and thus the poem itself betrays the privileged position of the wisdom of the ending. The end is not the end.
I love the gay community.
Our community.
What have you done to help our community?
We forged our own families of choice,
created bonds of affection not blood,
celebrated sex, helped each other die.
But I don't want to keen,
I want to live.
And so on until the end. I am not fine with that exclusionary "we" — it cannot be recuperated by a half-hearted intimation of mortality. Read others is the imperative embedded earlier. And so I will turn to Lorna Crozier The Garden Going on Without Us, "Even the Dead"
Even the dead reach for you
as you walk, so beautiful,
across the earth.

[...]

The bouquets in your room
are the hands of the dead,
transmuted. Roses.

[...]

Even the dead bless you.
Their blossoms glow
like muted lanterns

lighting your way
as you walk
green paths of sleep.
Quite a different sensibility than the Protestant-tinged guilt tripping of the ghost in Jane Byers (in an earlier poem in the sequence the ghost admits that "Religion gave me stories / and a place to put my rage"). But Crozier's transmuted dead are in keeping with that very same raging ghost's notions about transfiguration. Just needs a return to a more expansive notion of dancefloor. The end is not the end. On this I am quite keen. And a duet is not a dialogue.

And so for day 2289
20.03.2013

Dance Craze Blaze

Elsewhere I have examined the closing scene of Queer as Folk in terms of the ongoing dance of the community. Here I cite Michael Lynch from These Waves of Dying Friends, the fifth section of "Sand"

My friends who rarely boogie never know
the telling mark of the great DJs, the sense
of everlastingness, music with without end,
of seamless mixes and 8 a.m. conclusions that
don't conclude but do go round again
one more time. When I last left
I knew when I'd return I'd have the sense

of nothing ended, nothing altered, nothing new
in the only life I count as true: the dancefloor.
Jane Byers in Acquired Community has a whole section called "Keen" which is an intergenerational dialogue between a young gay man and the ghost of Michael Lynch. The poem "Transfiguration" in the Keen sequence touches upon dance. The ghost of Michael kicks off by asking: "Tell me, when you dance / do you rage against loss?" The answer is a predictable and puzzled "no" given the exchanges to this point: "Huh? No, we just dance / in the hopes of getting laid." There follows more in this vein as the poem runs through the nature of belief and why one might make a rapprochement between dancing and Christ's transfiguration. It leads to a priceless ending (the ghost of Lynch is on the right; on the left the guy not wanting to but talking to the dead guy)
I'm a ghost.
No pallid mourning.
Just furious rage on the dance floor
that electrifies our bodies with energy,
transfers power to the living—
that could only have been his legacy.
Whose?
Another dead friend.
A new Jesus
Careful, you'll go to your hell for that.
Wait, you are telling me to be reverent?
All your sex and fluid ethics,
your post-AIDS privilege.
Ah, your soapbox.
Stand down.
It's just dumb luck.
Do you think only Jesus shines with rays of light?
Do you think your energy comes from only you?
I thought ...
Not by yourself, you didn't
The whole poem deserves to be consulted to fully savour this sharp ending.

And so for day 2288
19.03.2013

The Almost Forgotten Fairy

Craig Claiborne in the revised edition of The New York Time Cook Book recounts the characters that characterize a fine dressing.

An old culinary chestnut states that if takes four persons to make a sauce for salads: a spendthrift for oil, a miser for vinegar, a counselor for salt and a madman to stir the ingredients.
And a fairy to sprinkle in herbs or some minced garlic or a dab of mustard.

And so for day 2287
18.03.2013

Speak of the Hand

A celebration of all good things that can be piled on toast or crostini is prefaced by praise for the hand.

I find something intrinsically "right" about eating food while holding it in my hands. It is as if this is how food was meant to be eaten all along, with knives, forks, and chopsticks being part of a parlor game that somehow got out of hand. I certainly enjoy the feel of the food in my fingers, and no doubt aspire to the primitiveness of it all.
"Out of hand" indeed.

Nigel Slater
"Bakery Goods and Drinks"
Real Fast Food
from the American edition as you can tell by the spelling.

And so for day 2286
17.03.2013

Invasion of the Peacemakers

"wants" is on its first appearance a verb, on its subsequent appearance a possible noun indicating a plurality of desires until enjambement forces it back to singular verb status — still an echo resides of wanting to end wants — a tendency to être comblé

anyone with
sense wants
madness to end wants
Canada to invade the
United States of
the Americas
bring us to our knees
dissolve our military
imprison our leaders
distribute our wealth
insist we live in peace
"The Nerve of Honey Must Prevail"
CAConrad
Ecodeviance: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness

Note the fictional state - the United States of the Americas - not to be confused with the United States of America. More play on singularity.

And so for day 2285
16.03.2013