immesurable divisions? (Jennifer K. Dick)
|Anemone nemorosa. Frome, 19 March 2021.|
When we poetry readers move between different poems, there's a kind of leakage across our readings, they're not insulated. I came from thinking about Sir John Davies' 1599 poem Nosce Teipsum, a philosophical account of the soul, and my questions about the distinctness of personal identity seemed to proceed uninterrupted into the dramatically modern turbulence of what I picked up next:
This is the beginning of the first of a group of five poems by Jennifer K. Dick in the anthology women: poetry: migration ed. Jane Joritz-Nakagawa (theenk Books, 2017). My thoughts still ran on Sir John Davies' soul: is it both single and singular, or does it only appear single by being singular ("singlular")? Or single by virtue of appearing to be only in one place; but are places meaningfully distinct from the soul's perspective?
But tonight I read the poem more as about migration, about humans in different places. (Jennifer K. Dick was born in Iowa and lives in Mulhouse (France).)
But still, there's a questioning of singleness and demarcation that's deeply ingrained in this text. Words aren't just words, they are activated words. They are constantly being marked as quotations, italicized, capitalized, parenthesized, question-marked, energetically spaced across the line, creatively misspelled, multilingual, and conversing with each other by meaning (meant, means), rhyming (meant, spent, rent) or partial repetition (schlept, shipped; exile, reconcile). Stop jogging my elbow while I'm trying to read! That's what I imagine a traditional reader protesting (and I still have that traditional reader buried inside somewhere). This writing interrupts the flow, it asks us how the word reached us, about intention and control. It says that words conceal as well as reveal. That, after all, reality is outside the words, we might need to look past them and not just through them.
The quotations are from a book by Erín Mouré, so Jennifer's poems are building on a practice that´s already inclined to multivocality and multilingualism. Like when we build two towers of bricks and then try to put one on top of the other. It courts a collapse of what separates one from another or inside from outside. Which is a recurrent image in her poems. As here in the fourth poem,
the lost, regurgitated sandstormgrit on windowless windowsill
Sure, you left the newspaper articles, fragments of
windows to be replaced, the beige sawdust coating the blackened
broken cement, the shattered café front.
from What holds the body, in a section that considers explosions as well as balancing on a tightrope (Sourced from here: http://www.dcpoetry.com/anthology/25 ).
Some say that the first fundamental of primitive life was the cell wall. Only when there's separation can life exist, evolve, create. And that's how most of us think, most of the time. To write a poem you start with a new page or empty screen, you paint on a blank canvas, you make dinner when you've wiped down the sides, you begin to build a home by laying down a clean foundation. This is poetry that wonders what's at stake in these ideas of infection and apartheid, and whether we can think it differently.
There's a good amount of Jennifer's poetry available online, and a good list on her website. Or rather, two lists:
Two poems by Jennifer K. Dick on Jerome Rothenberg's Poems and Poetics blog. "Boundary" and "Timber Hitch" are from an in-progress project called Shelf Break that uses a lot of nautical terms. (Somewhat ironically for an Iowan, as she notes.)
diatribe or troubled
glint atop the gangway
gate or plate
schlepped up on
“next to baroque mermaids” DA, 58
Having decided, Girl moved there. She was clawed in time with barque masks. She collects herself for a while, herself several damp examples leaning on the pulpit by the end of the rented hall, and she would give them up next time she felt herself leaving town. But the hall was comforting, it was renewable and unlikely, her slapping feet from one end to the next.The hot wine drunk down her throat. To be alone and yet populated with exemplars was an aim she was learning to adopt alongside books with lists of names, one anchored to the next and the next, one heaving according to time, another according to license or locale, another simple alphabetic comforting. She had these by her strange eating, piece by piece, piled thin. The sniffing of the skins of the books taught her how to think and speak here.
|Anemone nemorosa. Frome, 19 March 2021.|