Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fractal Poem #2

Fractal Poem #2

"I started early"
Emily Dickinson
"To be fractal
a form must be [...]
between dimensions"
—Nigel Reading

blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—Skeptical readers might think Dickinson? What is she doing here? And poets have always used repetition. I can only say again that newness is a composite. Dickinson – with her broken syntax and maximal dashes – is a fractal forbear blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ By juxtaposing transparent with textured passages, fractal poetry constructs a linguistic screen that alternately dissolves and clouds
~~~~~ blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—
I started early—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—took my dog—blue—blue—blue—blueblue—blue—And visited the sea—blue—blue—blueblue—blue—The mermaids—blue—blue—blue ~~~~~~~~ The motion of reading is horizontal and vertical: our eyes skim across and edge down the flat planes of print. Poetry has held language to this single plane rather than using linguistic properties as a means of constructing three-dimensional space blue—blue—in the basement—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—Came out to—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—look at meblue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—And frigates in the upper floor—blue—blue—blue—Just as paint fosters illusions of proximity and distance on canvas, words can suggest spatial depth on paper. A fractal poem can do this by shifting its linguistic densities: the poem’s transparent, easy passages impart the sensation of negative space; they vanish into meaning when read rather than calling attention to their linguistic presence. blue—Extended hempen hands—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—Presuming me to be a mouseblue—blue—blue—blue—Aground, upon the sandsblue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—But no man moved me till the tideblue—Went past my simple shoe—blue—blue—blue—And past my apron and my belt—blue—blue—And past my bodice too—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—By juxtaposing transparent with textured passages, fractal poetry constructs a linguistic screen that alternately dissolves and clouds blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—And made as he would eat me upblue—blueAs wholly as a dew—blue—blue—blue—blue—Upon a dandelion's sleeve—blue—blue—blue—And then I started too—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—Planes of varying densities move us into and out of the poem, as if it were a field of three dimensions. We gaze "through" thin lines and are deflected to the surface by "showier", distracting, dense language. This modulating depth of field allows us to experience the poem as a construct of varying focal lengths. Such palpable architectonics also create an awareness of the poem as thing-in-itself rather than conduit for meaning. blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— And he—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—followed close—blue—blue—blue—blue—behind—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—I felt his silver heel—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—Upon my ankle—then my—blue—blue—blue—blue—Perhaps it’s worth noting that transparent lines are not drawn solely from simple, lyric registers. They also can be forged of exposition, reportage, platitudes, advertisements, or clichés blue blue blue blue ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Blue shoes would overflow with blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—pearls—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—Until we—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—passages are not composed only of arcane, difficult words. Density need not be leaden or dull."Texture" can be built, for instance, from sequined, woolly, stippled, flannel, marbled, glittery, or drippy linguistic registers. Resistance is key. blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—met the solid town—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—Of course, The Cantos also can be read as "planes in relation". Yet that staggering poem does not create a sense of three-dimensional space; it splices disparate people and places so that readers can draw inferences from the allusive montage blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—No man he seemed to know—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—Rather than excise stale portmanteaus, fractal poetry might use empty rhetoric sardonically, as a means of splintering the "sincere" voice that was a modernist value. Abstractions are arguably the most rarified words because they have no relation to a specific physical object blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—And bowing with a mighty look—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—In fractal poetics, abstractions are not forsworn as redundant explications of self-sufficient concrete symbols; rather the abstract becomes a valuable realm in itself, a means of adding ether, gasiness, fumes, breath to the poem’s corporate mix. By adjoining abstract with concrete pigments, poets are afforded another method of refracting the poem plane blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—At me,the sea—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—Although fractal poetry does not adhere to a predetermined scheme, it offers a terminology (planes, surface, canopy, textures, transparency, opacity, obverse, metabolism, understory, cluster, supercluster, limbic...) that is descriptive of its structure. The vocabulary used to de-scribe form changes the way that we think of form. And changes in thinking emerge as changes in the work blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—the sea withdrew—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—
blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue— blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue—blue ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
—Based on Emily Dickinson’s poem “By the Sea”
and Alice Fulton, “Fractal Amplifications: Writing in Three Dimensions,” Thumbscrew, No. 12 – Winter 1998

By the Sea
—Emily Dickinson

I started early, took my dog, Rather than stressing the retrievable wholeness of separate parts, fractal poetics investigate – and prize – the spaces between the parts. And visited the sea; The mermaids in the basement Came out to look at me. In Chaos: Making a New Science, James Gleick writes, "One simple but powerful consequence of the fractal geometry of surfaces is that surfaces in contact do not touch everywhere [...] And frigates in the upper floor Extended hempen hands, Presuming me to be a mouse Aground, upon the sands. Failing might seem an unlucky inclusion, but with it I mean to suggest not only a relinquishment of subterfusion but a taste for subterfuge in the guise of accidents, pratfalls, slippage, and mistakes. But no man moved me till the tide Went past my simple shoe And past my apron and my belt, And past my bodice too, And made as he would eat me up As wholly as a dew I have two copies of The Waste Land. One is a recent, clean edition. The other, the one I favor, is a used paperback re-mastered by the marginal scribbling of some eager, previous reader. One comment refers to "the lonely, arid dessert within", and the phrase’s connotations are more interesting than the "right" words would have been. Fractal poetry is enthralled by such failures and fallshorts, such improving accidents. "Plan addiction with Hank", I find on a to-do list. And in a letter, "I’ll have it to you by the end of the mouth." Upon a dandelion's sleeve—And then I started too. And he—he followed close behind; I felt his silver heel Lengthy, scholarly notes at the end of poems (as in The Waste Land or Marianne Moore’s books) pre-date this sense of the absurd. Unless such notes become creative works in themselves (a parodic means of undoing the poem’s precious gestures, for instance), they remain a mod trait. Upon my ankle—then my shoes Would overflow with pearl. Until we met the solid town, No man he seemed to know; And bowing with a mighty look At me, the sea withdrew.

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