Cardinal Formants: Emplacement, Tangence, Witness, Rapt

 

[for Cecilia Vicuña]

 

Kenneth Sherwood

 

 

 

Emplacement

 

we are the walkers of the dry sea

the walkers of the dry sea

 

It risks becoming a commonplace to image the post-industrial estadounidense as a driver cruising in Humvee, and for whom, even clotted in suburban gridlock, there is no place -- but roads, networks, multi-lane shunts that bypass by design the particulars of place or locale.  Reading Vicuña on the hummingbirds chasing automobile tail-lights that pierce the smog of Santiago streets,  one suspects that she knows El Autopista del Sur of Cortazar, in which an unreal cessation in traffic flow brings travelers out of their automotive shells to enter a mutual space, a flickering of utopia before the movement is resumed.  Premonition of the local, lost.

 

Vicuña speaks "on location," in situ, eschewing compass and G.P.S.  As one learns from Dennis Tedlock, this is not anomalous but fundamental to such "other americans" as the Zuni or the Maya.  And not just at the scale of architecture or monument or ritual act, but as a function of everyday living. Vicuña orients herself--to the cardinal points (or four directions), the wind, light, topography and ecology--with equal intensity whether gazing from high in a university building in upstate New York or scanning the horizon in west Texas.

 

Accessed again with texts, audio tapes, and notes sitting beside one, the performances overlay physical spaces and remembered locales: the canvas "Ode to Joy" hangs behind the podium in Capen Hall, Buffalo New York . . . a flotilla of ice shards sweeps towards the falls at Niagara . . . late light tinctures the tributaries of the St. Johns River become earth's veins in Jacksonville, Florida  . . . wisp of Swallows sweeps above the flatness of the Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas.  Each performance begins in place, bringing it--the placeness of the place--freshly to the minds of the locals who should (but as often do not) know it . Then the coming inside, entrance into a performance space and the space of language.

 

it was hard to come in

inside

because outside

you know you have this terrace

you've been to this terrace?

 

 

 

Plural Tangence

 

do you know what's inside the word peace

look at the word

it is not a word at all

 

Or it is not a word in the fixed, singular sense.  The event creates a pluralized space, employing various media.  But more than the simple multiplication of media--a chanted song, the silent video of dancing figures weaving, the images of a cloud-net, rays of light (threads) superimposed upon poet, audience, screen, room--it is an effect of tangence.

 

The book. Joining in space and through sight/sound from tangent to tangible (from tangere, to touch).  In: touching the linguistic dimension.  On: touching the visual dimension.  Off: touching the temporal dimension.  Words' forms weighed and weighted, assuming sound shapes, page shapes. Before us, language transpiring (breathing), "connecting" through patterns of repetition, etymological riffs, puns, and rhymes.

 

imagine the sound of writing

bringing about the page

 

the page of peace

are we in the same page

you say?

are we in the same pact

pacting peace

 

The performativity brought to her readings foregrounds less the expressive spontaneity associated with improvisation, and more a kind of listening.  Roland Barthes writes: ". . . whereas for centuries listening could be defined as an intentional act of audition (to listen is to want to hear, in all conscience), today it is granted the power of playing over unknown spaces . . . listening grants access to all forms of polysemy, of overdetermination, of superimposition . . . by definition, listening was applied; today we ask listening to release . . . ."  Place the performance/transcription of  "Tentenelaire Zun Zun" (Zit Zit, Hummingbird) against the pages of Unravelling Words (74-75).   Grounded in the text, a virtuoso crossing between languages unfolds.  The conventional bi-lingual page of the translation enforces a kind of cultural separatism; in the performance, a fusion or melding creates a new, local arrangement -- in Spanish and English, with lines ommitted, repeated, reordered--a new versioning.

 

Versioning--the creating a new arrangement of a poem during performance -- shifts our orientation towards the poem, or the Vicuña poem.  Nick Piombino writes:  "There is a distinction that can be made between written works that can be appreciated by means of ordinary silent reading and those in which each word should be heard read aloud or individually sounded out aloud in the mind.  With the latter works readers are encouraged to experience the poem by sounding it out internally in a process of concentrated, yet freely imaginative listening and reading ... (Close Listening 62)

 

The witnessing of a performance encourages one to begin to read as a listener, entering and stretching the language itself and the "texts" of the poems,.  We sound out the words in an echo of the composing process.  Vicuña embodies the "poet [as] researcher who must listen closely to the sounds and voices of actuality to discover where the poetry may exist within it" (Close Listening 65).

 

are we of the peace

do you say

 

do you say a peace

pac pac pac

 

Burnt Witness

 

the word comes to you

as a bird to a nest

who is she

who is she

it comes from others to you

 

does it come to you

it dwells in you

it speaks in you

it comes in you

 

Here oral performance exploits the mutable, the fusion of syllables and tongue.  The page, the sounding.  Sounding takes the form of a resistance to forgetting, as if it never ever ever happened.  Sounding and forging, as if every every happened, an other. 

 

Somehow the performances foreground the ethical, historical, and political in their enframing of a communitarian space.  Whispered, gestured towards: the towers and the architecture.  Here too resonates Nathaniel Mackey's observation on the experiencing of September 11th not as a sudden crisis but as part of an ongoing catastrophe.  For Vicuña, there is the need to construct poems amid some thirty or more years of dust and debris.

 

Ears hear: The word comes to you /as a burnt witness.

 

 

Chatter After Rapt

 

Doors opened to a performance and the space was filled, or rather syllables performed its dimensions. Words as worlds as warders, watchers offering themselves up, leaving the memory of shared space and words.  Then from the audio file which runs on past the end: sightless digitized sound replicates a space, a vertiginous, stereo simulation.  Shifts, tensions, patterns as invisible migrations across a transparent sky, or the settling into order of tracks across a blank field.   Voices cluster, breaking the crust and the words rush back as air into a vacuum.  High-fidelity chatter after rapt.

 

 


 

Vicuña, Cecilia. Poetry Reading.  11 April 2002.  Minidisc recording.  University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Odessa, TX.

 

 


 

[Melodious Chant - Vocables]

 

 

a la salud    ustedes

salud

 

 

ahhh

 

ay ay ay ay

 

gracias a todos por venir

gracias a ken por traer me

gracias a todos

 

you all understand that don't you?

 

gracias

 

you know

what's the origin of the sound GRAA

GRAAAAAAAA

 

he thinks its very funny doesn't he

 

graaaaaaaa

gra   in its most ancient form

is heart

 

and the idea is that when you say gra

it's like saying heart aloud

so each time you say gra  cias

it's like you bring the Aloudness

of the heart

back

 

heart    aloud

gracias          concha y tu mar

 

graaaa

graaaaaaaaaaaciassss

 

. . . .

 

 

it was hard to come in

inside

because outside

you know you have this terrace

you've been to this terrace?

 

so you can lie      flat

watching the falcons

play a game with the swallows

 

and the swallows do just like the hummingbirds

they pretend

that light

is flashing

on their bodies

 

TAH    they go like that

and turn the ray

in a different direction

so I will begin

with a hummingbird poem for you

because this is what they do

some of these creatures they have

this is the males

they have this red plumage

here in the front of their breast

 

and this is how they catch the females

they play with the light in such a manner

Tah they go like that

and Fum, throw a ray of light

so she

will catch

the one          

that  throws the best

rays of light

 

 

 

 

La luz

 

 

es el primer animal visible de lo invisible.

Light

 

is the first visible animal

of the invisible.

 

That's

Lezama

Lima

 

 

Tienes algo que communicar, Colibrí?

Lanzas rayos

colibri?

el jugo de tus flores

evidentemente

te ha mareado Colibri

lanza rayos  

lanza rayos,

colibri

 

that's

Chiripá Guaraní

 

Have something to say,

Hummingbird?

Hummingbird flashes

rays of light

The juice from your flowers

has made you dizzy

Hummingbird flashes

rays

of light!

 

Ten

tenelaire

Zun            Zun

 

 

La luz

 

Traga néctar

lumbrón

 

Espejo

que vuela

 

Oro tornasol

 

Cáliz

corola

bicho fulgor

 

Vence a la muerte

 

Altarci         to licor

 

Light plays upon you

 

[you] sip

nectar

 

[nectar in death]

bird-fly

[fly in death]

 

Mirror in flight

 

Iridescent gold

 

Chalice of petals

[shine           shine]        shining critter

 

beat death

 

nectarine

liquor shrine

 

Child licking      Sip sip

 

Chupá

[chupá chupá] picaflor!

 

Nadie es lo frágil

Quicker than quick

heart

beats

Pico en perfume

Flying prism

light of the edge

 

I'm off

to work

Ven a

trabajar

 

Viso y derrumbe

 

Cálamo zúm

 

Humming [the] feather

 

Dream

whirring

don't

 

 

stop!

 

 

 

Gracias

el pobrecito hummingbird I

I had not thought of him

 

do you have them around here?

[Yes]

 

They've been hiding from me though

 

I haven't seen them around

and

I never saw before the association between that

the red light

somehow in you made me think

it was really them

doing it

 

in reality

when I thought of showing you this film

 

it's because that film

I did in 1999

 

years before it all happened

 

do you remember that line

that says

 

we will all

go away

 

unless

a new

net

 

worth

is born

 

imagine the worth

of the whole

net

as a new

net

worth

 

imagine that

 

imagine too

that this is my second 11th of september

 

imagine that in the second

for you

it's the second

because for you this one will always be the first

 

but for me the first

is 1973

 

do you remember the american pilots flying chilean planes

to bomb la moneda in Santiago

do you remember that

 

remember that

remember that flight

 

forgotten in threads

forgotten in threads

forgotten in silence

 

as if it never ever ever happened

gone into the black black hole

 

gone

gone

 

form addresses shadow

 

Tsao  Chien says

 

form

into the shadow

 

peace

 

peace

 

do you know what's inside the word peace

 

LOOK at the word

it is not a word at all

it is a state

it is an inner core

it is

something I cannot even see         

here in the page

the scribbling goes round

I cannot see

it says the three are a trelice

the first meaning of peace was a trelice

a trelice of hands?

no

a trelice for vines?

no

a trelice of words?

no

the origin of page

a pact

pact in peace

an accord

as if the page agrees

to be

with us

as if we're in accord

waiting waiting for an accord

 

as if the page

the sound of the page is bound together

with us

as if the sound of this page

is moving

about

 

is moving about

is moving

about

 

 

imagine the sound of writing

bringing about the page

 

the page of peace

are we in the same page you say?

are we in the same pact

pacting peace

 

are we of the peace

do you say

 

do you say a peace

 

pac pac pact

 

the word comes to you

 

as a bird to a nest

who is she

who is she

it comes from others to you

 

does it come to you

it dwells in you

it speaks in you

it comes in you

 

walkers on a dry sea

on a deep blue sea

 

someone asked

what is this permian basin

floating about

floating about this dark oily sea

 

we are the walkers of the dry sea

the walkers of the dry sea

 

last night

we were on the fourth floor of this building

looking out into the dry sea

 

people flying kites

kites against a deep blue sky

 

floating about

the dark dark oil

 

going up in flames

going up in flames

going up in flames