Entanglement, by Allen Fisher (The Gig, 2004)
Cover by Allen Fisher, four panels (5-8) of allotment days. ($22 US, 109 Hounslow Ave., Willowdale, Ontario, M2N 2B1 Canada)
Nate Dorward, who put Entanglement together—edited and typeset—must be a one-man dynamo. I received the book as part of renewal promotion offer’d by the Chicago Review, rather skeptically ticking the Fisher box, knowing little of the work, though convinced, on the basis of a few copies of The Gig, that Dorward is—as Pound’d say—“a serious character.” My skepticism last’d only for the period I took thumbing—that havoc of th’optics trying to see through the “eye-fringes,” words back-glancing and skittering off. Hitting Fisher’s “Introduction” steady’d my thumb-hand immensely, sound’d my corporal mind. Thus:
One of the more engagement problems encountered in any urban catchment can be an unavoidable decoherence due to the coupling between the quantum system and what if the environment. Experimental praxis can address this problem through a poetics of crowd-out and this what is it has partly been achieved in the poetry of Gravity as a consequence of shape, using a necessary critique of modernist coherence, and its precedents in roaring and the enlightenment. If Entanglement achieves indistinguishability, it is because several methods have been used to guarantee overlap in spatio-temporal imperfect fits. Some of the starts, books in Entanglement, such as Fish Jet, are complete in themselves and were published as complete entities. Other books lack this obviousness.(Rather not unlike a card out of Charles Bernstein’s goofy deck, though more subtly (enactingly) play’d.)
What’s here in Entanglement—in nearly 300 pages—(scouting around in the front matter), is, then, “the second extended collection” of poems in the above-mention’d long sequence, the first (simultaneous) collection of which were publish’d (also in 2004) by Salt under the title Gravity. Noted, too, is th’omission of “associated pieces from Ideas on the culture dreamed of (Spanner, 1982) for reasons of space.” Available, though, here. All adding up to a fine example of how “indistinguishability” + “obviousness” = “spatio-temporal imperfect fits.” Precisely. Roaring modernism shuts down inevitably in a “fit” of overdetermination unfinish’d. Just two more unbeatable sentences out of that “Introduction”:
Critique of any ‘you’ concept, implicit in critique of the individuated self, any entity fixed to a garden fence left to rot there with the slugged geraniums, can lead to a heap of worn tyres, better for a worm compost or the edges of a boat lap than for use on the road. On the evidence of chronology there is an assurance that Spenser could not have read Nietzsche.Implicit, too, that—damn the chronological aspect—even if Pound were to return for a day he could not (immediately) read Fisher: see “the traps of any participant’s consciousness radicalise the aesthetic tools in the process of their use.”
How is it that what appears first forbidding becomes so oddly comforting, almost intimate? Some core samples, for—in part—the variety of dictions, th’occasions of technique. Here’s a section out of “Ring Shout”:
He downloads Thoreau’s Civil DisobedienceDomestic freight (moving) intercut with what I associate with “corporate noise” (most often issuing out of “personnel” wings)—that “Presentational immediacy . . .” business. Directly opposite “page-wise” are the lines:
as a therapy, shifting each narrowed text
Presentational immediacy arises
from the integration of a strain-feeling
and a physical purpose
We are both in pain
perhaps reasons are complexly different
Both ranges of reasons are human
She is very beautiful the way
I hardly ever weep now
It takes fifty years to make a man
When so much you have loved torn from you
and you expect to remain the same.
by a river she bends over a torn epiphytic lichenNew register. “Ring Shout” is accompany’d (as many of the pieces herein are) by a page and a half of “Notes and Resources”—tuck’d all together at the end of the book. It comes to me how much I love such apparatus, the lists of books, the pointing off at the detritus (compost) out of which these spears poked up. (I recall tracking down the Rev. Francis Kilvert diaries precisely because Ronald Johnson’d quoted something therein.) For “Ring Shout,” items include Epicurus, Alfred North Whitehead, Zola, Blake, Benjamin, and Malraux, and books on lichens, Chernobyl, biochemical oscillations, and millenarianism. And a note identifying Lobaria pulmonaria as “the tree lung wort.”
resting on the heavy, close textured loamy soil
of a marl partly concealed by an orchard of perry pears
in an April rain shadow the puzzle posed related to
the presence of Lobaria pulmonaria away from limestone . . .
Another core sample, a tiny (ineffable) section of “Mummer’s Strut”:
The line between sense and non-senseResisting th’impulse to impose that on Fisher’s work, though it is clear, I think, that he sees borderlines rich, fecund with possibility. Hedgerow. Beach. Treeline. Suburb.
Wider than both the areas it divides
One more (though I should also mention the Zukofskyan fivers that make up “Fish Jet”). A sample:
What I, in it, grievedOne (I was saying) more, out of “Pulling Up and Quasi Queen”:
Strive to get out cavity
Variant arrangements of human life
I am grieved to want
And give you reasons many
Give more than one reason
To draw a thing moving
Draw that which cannot sit.
Thought image, a kind of narration, gets detectedOne of the pleasures here, certainly, is the gentle enactment—inserting that verb “to shower gel” into a wash “about” how the mind “functions.” (Since Dylan’s been hovering nearby—I was trying to “use” the line about “when gravity fails / And negativity won’t pull you through”—to no avail—I’ll say—Dylan’s epigone’s line—how the mind “sees what it wants to see / And disregards the rest.”)
at a distance measured downstream from an exegesis
there thoughts traverse a cell sheet of resonant analytical light
and the understanding that results a kind of fluorescence
detected in a surf gush by a change-coupled device
listed as comprehension.
Thoughts in a thermal park of the process
showed up in a red-mauve field
where a screen test of the mind
proposed itself as an activity that involved self-expression,
self-actualisation and self-knowledge
to say that mind is all reality or that mistake is mind
is thus to shower gel the most awkward feature of reality
There is, in a “poetics of crowd-out,” a terrible lot more to Entanglement than I know, (my “obviousness”) or can hint at here. Suffice it to say my skepticism’s unwarrant’d, my reading cut out.
Note: Nate Dorward enclosed a “gentle reminder” regarding The Gig’s “forthcoming book of criticism on women’s experimental poetry in Canada”—including Peter O’Leary and Susan Schultz on Lissa Wolsak, Gerald Bruns on Karen Mac Cormack, Peter Larkin on Lisa Robertson. First I’d heard of it—$19 US in advance of publication. Judging by th’unstoppable reach and richness of so much recent Canadian writing, I’m planning to plunk down my greenbacks, and you too?