Deborah Meadows, involutia

Paperback, 84pp, 8.5x5.5ins, £8.95 / $15, 15 February 2007
ISBN-13 9781905700196; ISBN-10 19057002199

Reviewed by Melissa Flores-Bórquez


From one angle this seems like quite a strong book of philosophical-essayistic sequences, and it is, somehow giving off a feeling of clarity amid the speculation on one and many, an emphasis on the sensible transcendent; or is it a kind of spiritual materialism? (There are bodies and languages and the most "mystical" moment is a thing which goes "straight to the point"). The first two parts present "Irigaray" and then "Deleuze" notating around and commenting on The Blue Cliff Record of koans (from the early 11th century). It sets up a smooth triangle between these three textual bodies, already becoming each other, and on those connections Meadows interrupts with her new lines.

Without dwelling on anything, four gates.

Go on through, standing erect like
the free birds we are.

A flow, a percolation,
a favored edge.

At points I was left thinking of this dual koan commentary written by a third, But surely signification and denotation should throw up more absurdity than this? But then, the Deleuze section admits "I'm not a great teacher either / I've already told you too much." Meadows' Deleuze, shadowing Deleuze's criticism of Diogenes in The Logic of Sense? Meadows returns to points of occlusion, "To cut through interpretations before the mirror / loses its light."


Another sequence promises an extraction of the poetry-possibilities of analyticity which isn't, thankfully, a climbing up of the over-worn rungs of Wittgenstein's ladder yet again. In 'Logic with Mr. Quine', among other things, Meadows splits apart some observation-sentences into a shuttling of long and short lines:

If nearly all our goings-on
go on
by necessity,
                    then little need for a word like

As I would like to be amused by a great deal more poetic workings of analytical philosophy, and more poetry which engages with set theory and perhaps even fuzzy sets (rather than cubo-serial ideas), than I currently find occasion for, this work was very welcome.

The barber slips out to another village
for a shave, and so
for a time
is not a barber from that other village.

Still, no conclusion on
whether in the second village
he shaves himself or
is shaved by a second barber.


At certain points in this book a deliberately under-determined love involves itself in the involutia, "can my skin your skin / touch / without ideology of valentine", to which the answer is probably no; Meadows wonders whether a body, or actually a "pear threshold", is "a death / deflected by weight". Such aphorisms are one of Meadows' particular charms – left when the rest has pleasantly evaporated - and such a kind of statement opens 'Dreamed World': "A dream quotes a world / parted by this world's reduction. / It spends but doesn't conserve." There is a contrast between the surfacing wisdom of the aphorism and a drifting poetics of incipience which pinches at any philosophical-reflection as illusory, and this provides much of the structural pulling and threading of involutia.

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