August 12th, 2011 / 12:00 pm

Repetition as compulsion: that you could make yourself believe a thing exists by tagging it, by making it again. Only, semantic satiation draws the word away from being, like the thin, drained smell of burnt rubber, rent into an air duct.

I Heart Your Fate
by Anthony McCann
Wave Books, 2011
96 pages / $16  Buy from Amazon, Wave Books








A review of I <3 Your Fate, I [heart] Your Fate, or I [love] Your Fate, or, truly, the way your cognition’s filter makes you read it, maybe only when you look at the book, but maybe when you think of it, too, picturing the playful, blackbled type on the cover, I [hate] yr Fate, because the pull of the rhyme is stronger than the sound of the tongue-in-cheek, cardiod stain.


Our job, here, is to get to the bottom of each abjection. Or, there’s something McLuhan said about cutting-of-your-arm-and-that’s-media, or its your reflection, or that’s poetry: the thing you use to express or understand yourself that only changes or at least pushes the self further away: that is, that is your arm floating out in the middle of the lake, but the way the fingers curl up when it’s not attached is so dumbly beautiful you kind of like it that way. That’s the thing.




Here’s a list:


-All Caps:


from “Field Work”


The moat is full of
CHERRYBLOSSOMS and I count the cries of
BIRDS. Beyond that moat is
TEENAGE FRANCE. There youths frolic (7)


What can’t we say?


We can’t say that the capitalization of cherry blossoms obliterates the image called into being by the writing, by the incantation, but we might be able to say that it calls attention to the word more than the meaning. And yet, the image of cherry blossoms is somehow that much more pronounced, the letters like petals, or like fingers staining the petals, fingers making-translucent the petals in dark ovals of burst veins,


this lattice of flat, wet veins.


The destruction inherent in looking, and maybe the beauty in looking. The beauty of destruction? No. The beauty of fantasies of destruction? Maybe.


But teenage France? This works differently: this calls into being something that does not exist. It asks the reader to construct teenage France with all the concreteness that the capitalization asks of the other words. As with the other tools used to play with language on this border between concreteness and abstraction, each instance as a slightly inflected character based on its position in the text and the content of the word itself.






from “Putin with Lynch”


and then somehow we’re just sledding away!
Totally free like the songs that we sing
As the sled sings the song of a sled to the snow
but there’s a parallel world there under the snow
Of crinkling earth and little green leaves
Of grass struggle tips pushing up through the snow
The grass thinking snow thinking snow thinking snow (13)


Repetition as obsession: the thing detached from beauty, made into a tic or biological necessity/compulsion. Repetition as hedge, something to both reference and mitigate any cliché associations. Repetition as the path to semantic satiation, whereby the word ceases to index its non-linguistic referent, instead becoming pure sound. Repetition as both a sincere and self-conscious nod to the trance state—something altogether Lynchian, here, where the microscopic is rendered macroscopic by a cinematic/poetic shift in framing that models transcendent and obsessive thought in equal measure.


Regardless: repetition as a means to both concretize the idea in question by rendering it vividly in the mind, as well as abstract the words and draw them away from the referent.






from “Letters of Claire and Trelawny”


In the moon
My shovel
Sparkles like words


White beautiful words
With names like “Cocaine”


(I kiss each word
On its beautiful name) (9)



Sometimes you become obsessed with the thing you have the most trouble with. Does someone kiss the words on their beautiful name because the actual meaning of the words is no longer available? It’s hard to say.




-Line Breaks:


Sometimes, when he is alive and reading so you can hear him, McCann reads through his line breaks, like William Carlos Williams, while other times he pauses full stop (often when he is working within the kind of rigid structure that he makes for himself in the center section of the book, titled—like the book itself—I <3 Your Fate). For this reason it seems almost essential that we listen to him read the poems, as the relationship between the line breaks and the actual reading of the poem gives insight into how the poems were conceived, and indeed what we are to take away from them.


In particular, poems where the line breaks are not indicated in reading aloud seem to indicate a visual parsing of extemporaneous speech—a fantasy of freezing and separating words outside of time, so different words or groupings of words can be isolated and appreciated. McCann’s mix of lofty and colloquial speech is often consistent with this sense of speech frozen an manipulated in time and space—not to mention poems where the repetition, registral shifts, and dream-like echoes of phonemic or lexical pulses serve to make the text feel like a physical object that has been molded and copied and manipulated by hand or machine—text that at once asks us to approach language as formal and meaningful at once, a tension someone from another age might call “delicious.”



-In conversation with Anthony McCann:

AM: I disagree with you totally about the linebreaks. I definitely always try to read them as they are on the page. Maybe what you mean by “reading through” a linebreak is what I think of as a very subtle linebreak—an undramatic enjambment—read “correctly.” So it’s hardly there—so it’s just a blink. But maybe I’m completely wrong which would be very disturbing to me since I really do try to use the page as a score.

I guess you did watch the you tube video—the one that was also on the Huffington Post? That’s—for me—a good reading. If you feel that the linebreaks are as you describe them in that one then that’s very interesting to me—and somewhat alarming.There was also a posting on HTMLGIANT of a reading from Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn—it was video. That reading was not a good one. I was really fighting with the poems—trying to hear them—there’s a lot of noise there if you are on the stage—coming from the bar I mean—and I just wasn’t in the poems. And I know I messed up some linebreaks—I was not hitting the spots. So I’m curious if that had anything to do with your linebreak thoughts.

EL: Yes, I did rely mostly on the HTMLGIANT reading, so that’s probably it. I guess this kind of thing is what I’m trying to get at, by contacting you directly and giving you a way to respond to what’s posted—interpretation and criticism is such a delicate thing, where you essentially have to rely on an amorphous accretion of little bits of feeling and fact and build it into something larger and more cohesive, so its easy to make a departure into something that’s not necessarily very true to reality.

Though, after a more thorough look at the first three stanzas of “Field Work” here, I hear a mix of hard, soft, and no-breaks.

Sometimes I think maybe you elongate some of the sounds of the words very slightly, or use vocal inflection to produce a feeling of a break without an actual temporal break.


Ultimately, though, I think maybe that ending my review with that last paragraph about the line breaks foregrounds something—parts where a temporal break is not used to indicate a line break—that is actually quite rare in the readings, even if I feel it is significant in certain passages.

AM: Cool. If you look at “Field Work” you’ll notice that the difference in the enjambments has to do with where phrases are broken. Also, some words are entirely capitalized, and some of those lines are not enjambed—there are periods. Also there are stanza breaks.

For me soft linebreaks are really more like turns than breaks. Like an otter diving under. And then hard enjambments are like taking up an axe!

Thanks for your thoughts and this conversation!



Eric Lindley (AKA Careful) is one of America’s living makers-of-things. You can find his work in Fence, Joyland, and many other places, with a cursory google search.

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