Deep Noir Pt. 1

What "noir" connotates, in popular culture, is an aesthetic condition of extreme stylization. Look at the elements which configure, say, the average Raymond Chandler novel, and which do not change from book to book; stylized elements- a hard-bitten detective (Marlowe) pursuing a treacherous villain, encountering a standard cast of characters. There's the coy femme fatale, attached somehow to a criminal underworld or with underworld connections; dirty and double-dealing cops, who may or may not be trustworthy, and in on certain hits; and innocent bystanders drawn into matrixes of crime and hustle against their will. What stylization implies, as a kind of mold for artistic forms to fit into, is homogeneity, and the solidity of homogeneity- we, as readers, never need to wonder what to expect from Raymond Chandler. To the extent that more serious artists develop individual and individualized aesthetic concerns and formal-thematic, consistent topoi, stylization in their work becomes inevitable- this is how we know Picasso from Manet, Manet from David; or, in literature, Milton from Byron, and Byron from Browning; etc. If I am interested in "noir," and in poaching "noir" from American popular culture and granting it another context, it is because the stylistic elements of my Apparition Poems series shares, in the kinds of moods, impressions, and ambience generated, something with noir, and noir stylistic conventions. All three major Apparition Poems collections cohere around a set of imperatives, which lean towards the revelation of shadows rather than light, dark tones and hues rather than bright ones, and labyrinthine complexities rather than scintillating clarities. Levels of cognitive awareness, represented in texts which seek to boast some philosophical import, particularly in regards to ontological awareness in the midst of extreme (even pornographic) vulgarity, separate the Apparition Poems drastically from the rote, pop culture consonant facility of Chandler's books.

Indeed, the chiasmus between noir and serious, sustained intellection is, as far as I know, a novel mode of stylistic inquiry and exploration. My equivalent of Chandler's shocking plot-twists and peripeteias are linguistic innovations which multiply meanings and make key words and phrases serve dual, or triple, ends; so that these words and phrases are set in place, figuratively, to "split the heads" of their audience, towards recognitions of hidden semantic-thematic depth, and against surface ("surface-y") orientations and sensibilities. That's why I call my version of noir "deep noir"- the Apparition Poems are crafted, on some semantic levels, from similar molds- towards chiaroscuro and the enchantment of multiple meanings. It is also easy to notice that the Apparition Poems are, in fact, haunted by coy femme fatales, dirty-dealers, and an interrogating, interrogative protagonist ("I"), who attempts to sift his way through mazes of psycho-cognitive, and psycho-affective, complications. The poems shudder towards satori-like head-split semantic inversions; and whether any give satori ends its poem or not, the ultimate stylistic effect is to startle, unsettle, and re-wire the minds of the audience who reads them. Chandler, in a pop culture context sans intellectual heft, is far less unsettling. The Apparition Poems create mysteries and remain centered in them, in a negatively capable fashion, while Chandler's level of stylization insures easy, unchallenging comprehension. Still, I like "noir" as a stylistic formulation around the Apparition Poems nonetheless, because they do create and maintain a "shaded" ambience, which is recognizably itself from poem to poem and book to book. I have spoken of the "body heat" passed from the twentieth to the twenty-first century, in spite of the new century's reservations- and, as one level of inheritance which takes the Apparition Poems to a secure hermeneutic locale, "noir" and "deep noir" both work surprisingly well.