Some Thrilled Thoughts on Mark Cunningham’s eBook, Georgics, With Eclogues for Interrogators
People talk about the importance of sentences, their primacy. Georgics, With Eclogues for Interrogators, the new Lamination Colony ebook by Mark Cunningham, gets down to the importance — or sheer unimportance — of words, through phonemes. What does “Poison Ivy” mean? I tried to trace out the time of day, found nothing. Tried to tie the synonyms in the algorithmic georgics to each other and not much accrued. Said the words out loud and stopped, fell down, rolled around happily. Yes, may the powdery leaves keel over. I’m not a Buddhist or a surfer but I know the tide when I see it coming for me.
A Georgic is a poem about the country. An Eclogue is a poem written as a dialogue between shepherds. Yeah, they got a name for that and an Internet to look it up in. There’s even some controversy about that definition coming from a mistake in etymology, whereas it in fact means, simply, a shorter poem excerpted from a larger work, especially in reference to Virgil’s pastoral poems appearing separately from the original in a form called “ekloge,” Greek, or “selection.” Answers.com is seriously the rulingest tool for the public intellectual. (Here’s a tip: when looking up a word, don’t go to dictionary.com or m-w.com or whatever. Just type the word after a slash after answers.com — for instance, http://www.answers.com/eclogue.)
So because of that I wonder: were the various sections broken up like this originally, or was that an editorial/collaborative decision later? I can see this being a collection of three or four longer poems, broken up, entwined. I would love to have seen the original manuscript.
The “–” sections strike me as kind of typical “Life’s Little Instructions,” but new, new poems — very good, very enjoyable, smart and fetching, but not surprising to me. Clever is never so wow as huh. (In a writing workshop this semester we were assigned to mimic Jamaica Kincaid’s rules piece, “Girl.” That’s what these remind me of.)
Fetching is my favorite word when describing poetry. It means attractive in the sense that it goes out and gets you and pulls you in. I would like to find a word that means that but also means repulsive. I think this word is “abject,” but I’m not sure how Kristeva would use it in a sentence. If that David fellow is still around, maybe he can explain.
I would buy this if it was an actual book. I would want to have it on my shelves. I would take it down and show people, and wish they would read it too so we could talk about it, and be annoyed that they wouldn’t read it, or if they did, they wouldn’t have anything interesting to say about it.
It’s really a fun thing.
This text should shame Justin Taylor for his meanness about e-chapbooks not being chapbooks. Who cares, grampa? Who cares what it’s called? Words are important and should be used correctly, but they are also malleable, and for anyone to diminish the power of this ebook because of whatever lameness he senses elsewhere is lame, is mean, as in average, as in base, paltry.
The eclogues for interrogators thing, I wonder if that’s the ones about the two people, one who looks one way, the other who looks the other way, and if that’s about, like, interrogation techniques. Like you know a person is lying if they look up in response to a question. Anyway, sometimes they are whoa, wait:
I glared lower right — she blinked
I glanced upper left — she blinked
I would buy this if it was an actual book because I need to ease up and slow down on my reading of lines like,
that oven-bird just answered a call.
that sharp-shinned hawk just grunted.
that northern flicker just went ah-ah.
that spotted sandpiper just said morning George.
I mean, these words are for pure enjoyment. I don’t expect anything more of them.
In the poem “Chicory,” Cunningham references and dismisses the philosopher Novalis in preference of a cup of coffee. I’m sure he does this because Novalis also wrote:
Matters concerning speech and writing are genuinely strange; proper conversation is a mere play of words. We can only marvel at the laughable error people make—believing that they speak about things. No one knows precisely what is peculiar to language, that it concerns itself merely with itself. For that reason, it is a wonderful and fertile mystery—that when someone speaks merely in order to speak, one precisely then expresses the most splendid and most original truths.
Which encapsulates everything I’m trying to say about everything he’s trying to say.
Anyway, this is no rational treatise (clearly). I think poetry can be discussed stupidly, and I just wanted to post these thoughts to see if we can discuss this book, stupidly.
Let’s get stupid about enjoying ourselves with poetry.