Noir Resonances: 1341/1488

Built into Apparition Poems as a literary construct, and as a textual embodiment of what I call a “noir” or “deep noir” sensibility, under the aegis of the Neo-Romantic (and of post-avant behind it), are resonances from poem to poem, and from poem-sequence to poem-sequence. You could call these resonances textual “games” of a sort, and when two or more poems game with or against each other, the resonances between motifs, linguistic structures, and approaches to textual development highlight, in microcosmic form, what constitutes the text as an epic in fragments. Here, I would like to investigate the game between two Apparition Poems— 1341 and 1488— and thus demonstrate how a representative Apparition Poem game works. The motifs I see intermixed in this game— drunkenness/intoxication, possible alcoholism, Philadelphia as a site for both interpersonal drama and textual creation, heterosexual (here) games between men and women, over both sexual and psycho-affective issues, and an unnamed epic protagonist’s relationship with language itself, and with his own cognitive capacities— recur throughout this nouveau epic text, and as it weaves its wayward course, this particular nexus serves to underline the labyrinthine depths (and heights) towards which the text attempts to ascend:

Secrets whispered behind us
have a cheapness to bind us
to liquors, but may blind us
to possibilities of what deep
secrets are lost in pursuit of
an ultimate drunkenness that
reflects off surfaces like dead
fishes at the bottom of filthy
rivers— what goes up most is
just the imperviousness gained
by walking down streets, tipsy,
which I did as I said this to her,
over the Schuylkill, two fishes.

liquor store, linoleum
floor, wine she chose
           was always deep red,
           dark, bitter aftertaste,
           unlike her bare torso,
                      which has in it
                      all that ever was
                      of drunkenness—
to miss someone terribly,
to both still be in love, as
she severs things because
             she thinks she must—
             exquisite torture, it’s
             a different bare torso,
(my own) that’s incarnadine—

The motif of drinking/drunkenness has to occur throughout Apparition Poems— the characters who inhabit the text tend to be excessive rather than moderate, and indulgent rather than abstemious. Why 1341 and 1488 both make incisions into the nature of drunkenness— “ultimate drunkenness” and “all that ever was of drunkenness”— is that drunkenness is seen not to be simple but complex, a multi-tiered state of consciousness which might move consciousness itself (and the relationship of consciousness to language) in any number of different directions. Yet, the dark-hewn nature of Apparition Poems, its stance in shade rather than light, draws us to the abyss that whatever the “all” of drunkenness is, it must be redeemed in our re-exploration of states of drunkenness in text, not necessarily as a state of consciousness in itself. The obvious facets of the drunkenness game here— that social contexts and sexualized relationships can drive us to drink in 1341, and that some humans choose to dwell permanently in drunken states of psycho-affective torpor in 1488— are undergirded by a meta-consonant sense that engagement in certain forms and levels of textuality have “all that ever was of drunkenness” built into them, and that the seemingly sober composer of the two poems has inhering a drunken sense of the possibilities of dual meanings and other games as redemptive of/for the self-respect of cognition, and its possible enchantments, of which drunkenness is one. “Drunkenness” is also a specialized version of Philadelphia; as a city of romance and intrigue, intoxication, passion. Aughts Philadelphia was, in the broad sense of the word, romantic— freedoms to indulge were enjoyed there.

On another front: the sense of heterosexual, sexualized relationships between men and women— one of the backbones of serious art for the length of human history— had been edited out of serious avant-garde poetry a long time before my arrival, for no good reason and against the natural proclivities of most would-be poets. I have no problems with queerness or queer art whatsoever— many of my Aughts Philadelphia compadres were queer— but I felt that, for myself and for the greater good of the art-form, a re-introduction of passionate, sexualized (“experienced”) hetero interest would be both healthy and germane to this text’s sense of itself (sentience) as an epic (the formula works also for ballads and other forms, as in The Ballad of Robert Johnson). Sexualized, hetero relationships with drunken, semi-alcoholic Philly as a background, sequestered in the racy Aughts, up the tactile ante against the merely cognitive, or even merely cognitive-affective, gaining an upper hand; and these two Apparition Poems together seem to be about the same relationship. That the relationship is tempestuous, encounter based, and also hinged to a secret-whispering social nexus, add a broad range of coloration and perspective tricks which make the poems work in an engine like way together, towards the conclusion of 1488 in heartbreak and a sense of entropic loss.

The loss, it should be noted, is epic, even if rooted in a series of fragments— pitched to a high frequency both of intellect (level after level of semantic scaffolding from line to line) and of emotion. The sense of gravitas-in-passion, mixed in with sex, booze, and Aughts Philly energy, is uniquely situated so that some audiences will miss the intricate sense of the poems as word-machines, systematically checking and balancing themselves for achieving the unique, simultaneous prosodic effect of maximum coherence/maximum complexity.