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

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chris Tanasescu: The Graph Poem (Four Poems & a Note on the Poetics)

[Chris Tanasescu is an active & highly regarded poet, critic, translator, and performer, writing in both Romanian and English. His poetry-performance/action-painting rock band Margento won the 2008 Romanian Gold Disc, & his most recent book in Romanian & English, The Book from the Court and 9 Other Topologies (Cartea de la Curtea) was published by Vinea Publishing, Bucharest, in 2010. His writing continues in a line from earlier Romanian poets like Tristan Tzara and Gellu Naum.]

Graphs are ways to understand and (re)generate language, society, and biochemical structures or entities. They literally are ways, paths that connect vertices. Vortexes. Overt axes.

Every poem, that is, every person, is a graph – of instincts, beliefs, phrases, and so forth (news everybody knows but wants to receive proof of) – and yet they may be read and then involved as a (set of) point(s) to start networks from or to connect through.

Even throughout the most remote hamlets of Romania, folk verse abounds in sea-related stories. From hundreds of miles away, through a network of memory and metaphor, the sea iridesces irrepressibly. Its dynamics permeate the language by means of the mathematical sublime.

At the physical limit of the infinity within the poem infinitely stands a person. A poem. A person. Persons are networks of language, and therefore poems, while poems are networks of people, and therefore persons.

Şi pasu-n urma-ţi zboară c-o tainică mânie, / Ca un smintit ce cată cu ochiu-ngălbenit, / Cu fruntea-nvineţită, cu faţa cenuşie / Icoana ce-a iubit... (Eminescu, “Amorul unei marmore”)
My flighty steps now follow you, all manic, stealthy, / Just like a mad man searching with his jaundiced stare, / His forehead bruised, his haggard cheeks gone pale as ashes, / The icon once revered…
(Eminescu, “Loving a Heart of Marble”)

Graphs are present in Simona Popescu’s reading of Gellu Naum’s oeuvre as a live network and in Deric Corlew’s neuroscientific approach to William Carlos Williams’s poems, where ideas are to be found only in things, indeed, since the latter themselves are part of an encompassing life-enmeshing reticule of nerves and synapses.

In my experiments with Margento I have explored a “groundbreaking” discovery that actually has always worked as confirmation of things ancient but perpetually common – namely that a poem ramifies by nature into music and painting/video and vice versa, and the graph thus growing generates a syntax of (artistic) language(s) and relationships, which can be then enriched into (cross-)cultural meaning, just as an abstract semantic graph can be constructed from a given abstract syntactic tree.

Yet such abstractions also have a heart and blood; their blood, each art’s specific language and means of expression, their heart, creative and interpersonal love.

[Note: In the fragments below the graph ramifications are marked by * and a variable number of ~ signs]

(from the longer sequence Europe. A Gypsy Epithalamium)

I passed the cathedral slowly heading to per
gammon – per-Mammon, as Tom loves to call it –
and noticed at last the oak trees there:
gigantic, thickets thick as tall as the spires, roaring;

They snatched me... here, my brains still rattle with their rustle.
Oh, but not exactly Ionesco’s childhood [*~]
experience of sudden luminosity,
I guess, said Tom, although he also felt
a sensation of floating off the ground…

Oh, no, replied Grigore, rather a pulsing
darkness... The milky light in the German
skies that came down sifting through the foliage elect
Ro-cuted me: a dream suddenly resuscitated glistened [*~ ~]
from behind my memory like a lake deep in my brains,
sucking me back into the museum, and slowly drowning me
through the branches into the market gate of Miletus…

Part I

The Image of the world of the great mystics
is the same above and beyond every
century and above and beyond all geo
graphical location. One single in
tuition…Will I see France again next year?...

It is necessary to emphasize what makes us
identical, not what separates us. [19
67: That depends; sometimes the differ
(esse)nces are more interesting than the re-sem-
blanches. This is true, for example, in the case
of works of art.]
The brightest light, the light
of Italy, the purest sky of Scandina [*~ ~ ~]
via in the month of June is only a half-light
when one compares it to the light of childhood…
Even the nights were blue.
Too late.
In what depths
can this buried light be sought? Several life cycles
have gone by since then. Centuries and centuries.
Centuries separate me from myself.

[*~ ~]
(From the longer sequence “How Was Ion Iliescu NOT Assassinated”)

There once was a gifted girl, but a bit homely / a bit of sucker, a bit of a stutterer, called / Romania, and one day she woke up to find something / growing on her forehead, and it kept growing today / and tomorrow when the pimple became / a boil, and began to move, taking on life / becoming a little man stuck there / an beauty mark named Ilyich (Iliescu), and then the old / cancer relapses, infecting / the brain. Today, tomorrow, she endured /
pitiful girl—shouldn’t be pitied! / But finally she finds the courage and goes / one day to see the surgeon. There, / Ilyich (Iliescu): good doctor, look what’s grown out of my ass!

[*~ ~ ~]

They say Eric the Red called it Greenland
to entice more colonists; “‘They’ being
the Vinland Sagas,” bantered our vocals.
This is the land of wine I thought almost

drunk on the thought. Dreamlike vineyards under the ice. / We get off the plane and I’m bashed / by memories of Basho, all of a sudden so cold: / Winter solitude – in a world of one
color, one sound, the wind. The heart
says Tove the waitress, the seal heart –
eat it raw and you will live long.
The frozen mouth fills up with hearty blood
from animals that animate the blood clots in your voice.
Nothing dies here, everything gets eaten alive by the living.

We’re going to strike roots, said Ralu, / when she saw another round of Greenland / brown ale coming. Yet Tom replies: At least that’s the bright side
of this global warming thing, they brew the beer with water taken / from the melting Arctic ice cap, 180,000 / years old! Indeed, but that doesn’t mean / we should spend the same number of years drinking here. Of course / not, we’ll do it in a flash: millennia drunk up in just one night…
Still, how could anyone grow roots in ice, / their mouth dead frozen, and dead frozen limbs?
And we all leaned on the bar like a clump / of Rosenvinge pine trees, ourselves also planted
here a century ago, from Europe.
Neruda: I can’t tell lips from roots…

“Unruly Neruda / under stones under snows / in the damp hole / look, there is no dead man
Pablo the child with Chilean voodoo / raised the coffin, whose coffin? / his father’s – he thought – up from the grave, / but out of the box there poured water, more water…”
I kept whispering into your ear but you couldn’t hear me / in the hell that had broken loose around us
Margento chimed in a conch shell held up to the frostbitten ear / like a glass bell full of the water we’d drunk back in Bucharest.
Outside – the glacier, and the winds screeching stuck in it… Inuit… / We get to be of the same blood – as we slowly chew the seal heart, half asleep.

[All of the above were written and/or translated into English by the author, except for “Envoi” – translated from the Romanian by Martin Woodside]

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