Saturday, October 07, 2006

Allan Peterson III

Lavishly Looking Into Nature

From speculations about evolution, its implications and repercussions, Peterson never strays far from the nature outside the back door. It is a nature laden with his processing, heavy with his look. Pay impossibly close attention to what can only be seen in the mind like “the ciliated tufts in the oviducts of a mouse waving like grass/ seasonal variations in salinity” (From The Heart) and “Since I am of nature, my speculations are of nature” as he puts it elsewhere, and it is the property of looking deeply into natures empty spaces, into its strange relations, that is “like seeing the sky twice, one birdless and empty, one almost metrically alive”.

Lavish and Language.

In the heat of writing, Peterson feels the numinous behind and within each letter. From the physicality of how the ink was made, to the language of words and metaphor, to the fact that the relatively simple combinations of 26 letters should be made to represent all these. Yet “feelings outnumber flies”. In emotion it reminds me of Wilde, in image Eliot, but the guiding intelligence, to my ears anyway, seems to be Wallace Stevens. Imagine a Stevens pondering the index of refraction on a sea surface full of clouds, throw in a reference to the fact that the dog by your side does not see the sea, but a surface of pheromones’, introduce the poem with some wonderful aphoristic line, and resolved in a cumulative image well worked for.

Thoughts and Things: Lavish Words In Extemporised Structures

Saying what he means is often not enough. The form must show us that this feeling is a thing in itself, that could be turned around in your hand, be physically experienced. It strikes me somewhat related to the idea that the plant or animal “fits” its space, is adapted to it. Peterson wishes (I believe) to ensure that the form is adapted to the idea, yet as is the way of things, sometimes structure attracts its own meanings. In “Today The Swallows” the relationship of form and content is a kind of compromise with the structures of reader expectation, with the semiotics of everyday things, the ceiling, the roof with its wings on downstroke, the home symbolically leaving. Peterson wants us to see that he sees the binds, the seeming walls of an idea, and by looking closely, by associating, will show us that this too is always a partial understanding, that in the gap there is more to be seen, a pulse to be felt.

Of course with Peterson, the opposite course of action simply must be explored. Instead of giving us the image-structure outright, he buries it. In “Ample Evidence” the overt reading is a kind of peon to just being civilized. But the true structure is the material (bones) and rational, versus the “abstract” (word, song) and fundamentalist. The buried narrative given through references to place, and glimpses at objects (timepieces/detonators), places (NY), and ideas (fundamentalism) to build the background of “a likely someone in his off-hours/ that might travel from the Newark Clock Shop to the Apollo”.

With regards the priests and mullahs that call others to die, be martyred, to appear in paradise, and typically of Peterson, he places his attention on the “disparity in theory”, “disparity in history” and the abandonment in logic that that this fundamentalism raises. Even though the martyrs will be flown to pieces (sic), leaving their bones behind, their summoned bodies would appear in paradise”, and for this, “there is ample evidence”, which of course there couldn’t be. Note the use of summoned, followed quickly by ‘helpless’ and ‘obeisance’. Without their bones they end up, yet again powerless, before yet another throne. This from a people that ‘made time a common province for machines and music (i.e. a rational, scientific, civilized people), that created the devices that were like a backbone for music. The bones here, are surely the bones of a secular society. But labour of all kinds is also blessed, “something accomplished elaborately is devotion” and refers to the hours it takes to lavishly engrave the wheels of a timepiece that no one will see, much as the old stonemasons used to do in cathedrals.

I am guessing that another oppressed people, the black Americans of the 1950’s might also have taken to blowing things up, but the four live harmonizers at the Apollo, who stood together, shovelled the air, sung and recorded as if

“music could be wound up be sewn to the living air

to make it last and whose audience chimed like clockwork”.

It is not the only poem that refers to bones. In “Bone Structure” examples of parallax images and inversions abound.

“Fish bones, a puzzle that shatters like broken glass

A clock impossible to wind or rebuild without parts left over

Mirror images of no and on, a spine cascading like a flight of stairs.

Every bone with its dark-finned shark process swimming

Relentlessly through daylight”

Peterson's joy is in showing how the idea can be made fit in fit objects, and in negative spaces, and other times, in the play between the two.

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