Peter Jaeger in and of the world

Melissa Flores-Bórquez and Edmund Hardy

Peter Jaeger, Rapid Eye Movement (Reality Street, 2009)

Peter Jaeger’s Rapid Eye Movement runs continuous paragraphs at the top and bottom of each page – the upper consists of sentences from dream accounts; the lower consist of found sentences containing the word ‘dream’.

EH: In this bicameral book, what might appear to be the emancipation of lyric subjectivity into an ongoing, jagged spark (the upper line) is also an estrangement of this running world by a reflection which isn’t its own, poetry as the political experience of a double thread which runs everywhere through the polis.

MFB: The rapid eye movement of the title can be the waking rapidity which Jaeger’s archiving allows. To be positivist about it, the upper paragraph consists not of dream accounts but of dreams themselves – the telling of a dream is the dream, that’s how the dream exists and that’s all we know of it.

EH: Which is precisely the viewpoint in Norman Malcolm’s Dreaming (1959), a response to the then-dominance of rapid eye movement as a scientific theory of dreams.

MFB: A book I like, a little footnote to Wittgenstein. Perhaps the estrangement is more simply the displacement of narrative passing through language.

EH: At the first read, Jaeger’s book is like listening to the speaking shell in Book V of The Prelude – a book abstracted from a place about to close – only you’ve got one shell for each ear and they’ve both taken an ethnographic turn - or one ear has gone for a high speed version of The Canterbury Tales, a tale a sentence, with the dream frame from earlier Chaucer poems reinserted.

MFB: Immersed in these dreams, the idea of the sensible world has become destitute, the world has been cancelled from within - waking cancels itself out in endlessly restless narratives. Which is to say that the poem is all body and no sense.

EH: Or all sense but no world. Contrariwise, I would say that the subjects shown in the upper sentences don’t fit anywhere, but this is not a suspension or cancellation – it is its own dream of sparks, subjects passing through poetry in an inverse to any visibly shared spectacle of politics. Here matchless given images rise up into a reassembling horizon-line.

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