To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Stuart Cooke: A Poem with Commentary from LYRE, 2019

author’s note.
Lyre is a collection of poems that attempts to translate more-than-human worlds into different kinds of poetry. As much as my encounter with each animal, plant and landform produced differences of syntax and vocabulary across the poems, I also wanted to allow the subject to unsettle poetic form itself. In other words, it wasn't enough just to describe the different worlds or unwelten of these different beings; as non-human lives were being translated into human poetry, human poetry also needed to undergo some kind of translation into something else. It was in this indeterminate, interstitial region that human cognition might break down, and start to encounter what it was not. The aesthetic totem of the book is the Australian lyrebird, both species of which incorporate collaged samples of other species' sounds into complex, polyphonic songcycles of over an hour; similarly, the poems of Lyre include modified samples from a diverse array of literature from the natural sciences, poetry from various languages, and my own field notes. 
n  Stuart Cooke, Brisbane, Australia

More details about the book & publisher can be found here:
Fallen Myrtle Trunk
in the temperate forests, the wet
                                  sclerophyll forests where tempests
                                            moan in yourm leaves, a storm beating
                                                  muffled drums at the entrance
                                                       to the underworld, the lands
                                                            of Gondwana, motherland of Australia,
                                                               South America, the hundreds
                                          of years creeping, the moss about youm creeping
                       the growling thunder, the grim sou’-wester
—by youm all this recedes, falls
like wilting springs

aged into agelessness, less
than age, giant
fullness, monoforest
of years and patience
hint of snake while touch crumbles
like chocolate flakes, vibration vanishes
in yourm tomb, tombing
yourm slumber rots, beachwards
a giant petrified through exposure

 imperceptible scuttle scattered
  deeply, cavern hymns at
    cave hertz, yourm august
                     specific music, cylindrical fugue
                                                   of dark russet scales, closed subdued pink
                                                        to reddish grain, edified with mountain
                                                             ash memory, guardian of closed passage
                                                                  pillar of larger sky, of facts like clouds
                                                                               their sky ways wending
youm know the lullabies of loneliness
the ways of wind and rain, youm moan
                of fire unless the flames come slowly
                         for yourm return to drowsy droning
                               the intoning of the wizard priests
                                   the sough of the southern seas
                                       youm’re the stage before the sea
                                         the ground’s stage, for all sea-yearning

                                           yourm limbed stances form too
                                           gradually for change, beneath such gestures
 the stygian flock shelters, shadowed
 in yourm underside, that invisible realm
 of canal venom and latticed vein

 to the light youm present carpet bridge,
 seeds of lives held
  by yourm unfolding descent, ink-
   plumed monarch, ebony laced
     with wing, by the mountain rills
        down to the parched saplings
            on the shore of a receding lake
                  youm know too much
                         of that escarpment beyond, rest
                                  pray, yourm beast prepares for rebirth
while everything frizzes, shifts
                               brushed and squeeze, sway
                       youm remain sound-
                               like, a solid gradient an always
                                     line, travelling
                                         and unravelling through the same place

yourm skin mimics lake ripple
grooved rivulets criss-cross like thickened years
stone currents into softer solids
edging damp, ripples merged with moss
the land’s dry, soft with moss
a surface of crawling speckleds, blood legs and
onyx bodies, orange-like
 fruiting bodies protruding from
  yourm furry, whaled bulk
      moss colony, moss scape, the stick shade
            of a seedling wobbles on yourm chest
                       flecked with sonnet, leaf voltas
                                         their jade rhymes, lost brilliance
then fresh blush, pinked to orange faded
                                  jagged, triangled teeth
                                             and fruits of three stunted
                               winged nuts, subtle flourish
                                     of lemon-green catkins, now a mouthing
                                        eddy where a bough broke off
                                         airborne spores of wilt lulled by such knots
                                          have settled on yourm lesion

one branch, there, pleads help
by reaching, others
 arch hardened spines around gravity’s slide
  while youm host the epiphytes
    while the termites elaborate yourm runnelled intentions
        while moss slowly fingers, surrounds
               slowly devours these juts of twig
                          slowly devours its own ground
                                     which youm perform patiently for it

NB. This poem contains echoes of phrases from ‘Mountain Myrtle’, by Marie E. J. Pitt, and ‘Out of Sorts and Looking at Elms’, by Simon West.

editor’s note

The following comments on the book may also be of interest:
'Drawing on the deepest resources of antipodean poetics, Lyre hymns the created world in all its prodigious diversity. It is funny, reverent, full of curious facts, and crazily ambitious. A triumph.' 
n                 JM COETZEE
‘Stuart Cooke invites us to a fabulous, exciting, wonderful experiment: what does it take to make oneself capable of feeling the poetry of every form of existence? What does it take to decode the poetry of experimenting, experiencing life? Cooke actually writes toward beings, and not about them or on them, seeking how to convey in our writing the way each organic and inorganic being writes (of) its own existence. Cosmopolitical poetry, or geopoetry: his poetry transforms what is seen into what is heard (melodic pixels: cries, crunching sand, murmurs, calls, crashing waves), what is heard into what is tasted (flavours of oceans, marshes, clouds, bodies, fruits), what is tasted into what is smelled (scents of seabed salt from sweet oxygen), what is smelled into what is felt, and what is felt into movement (dances of enduring life, momentum, convergence and friction, connections, desires and importances, compositions, migrations, territories, respirations, inspirations, aspirations...), movement into writing (geopoetry), writing into drawing (graphopoetry: gulf estuaries, waves, rocks, flickering lights of fireflies, optical epics on the pages), and, finally, drawing into enacted stories, as nourished by knowledge as they are undisciplined.’
n                  VINCIANE DESPRET 
‘These vibrational songs of selection listen in to the metabolic essays of life forms, imbricated in human exchange, across a wide swath of the southern hemisphere. Cooke’s Lyre sounds the depths of alien intelligence, in the nearby abyss between disciplines, languages, bodies, and in the drift of new yet barely discerned continents. Shaped poetry was never so planetary, nor as porous to other ways of seeing and knowing – an astonishing act of attention.’
n                  JONATHAN SKINNER

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