Sunday, October 08, 2006

Allan Peterson IV

Lavish in The Nick in Theory

I think it was Auden that said it was the poets job to “detoxify”. Peterson’s mind seems to want to work within the "new metaphysics" of science (sic), these being (broadly speaking) the theory of evolution, cosmology, and chaos theory. But these theories have implications, ones that are wide and deep. A scene has no close, a poem should not end in some predetermined manner, contingencies can (and should) occur in the process of observation and in writing.

Peterson wants to write in the Lavish Nick in Theory, as Wallace Stevens might want to “wink at that wink in the design”. For Plato there is unity within difference but for Peterson “a theory works if it answers accretions” (Swallowtails); it is never final, it too is evolving. There will be fruitful results if the poet does not stray into fancy, but remains in the hardcore centre of imaginative capability.

You remember poets those that write tangibly, about the intangibles
the way confident water softens read beans overnight
just by conviction


We have seen earlier in Peterson that making tangible the intangible is an aesthetic concern. After all, electricity is abstract until it buzzes up your arm. But Peterson is also concerned with defining, as in “to define is to limit”. In the poem “Viscosity” the onions shed their skin in layers, losing some part of their essence, and ‘something goes missing’. This dark matter is always within what we consider the final, finished object. Indeed, the dark matter that completes the object. Perhaps, he theorises, this is why sketches are so compelling, often more so than paintings, because the ‘unfinished sketch’ can ‘induce’ the final painting, it still contains all future possibilities, all future endings. This is how it sheds its dark matter. It sheds its dark matter (it’s exclusions) by maintaining the possibility of their return. Likewise the poem ended, contained, air-proofed in its jar, is a poem of ‘desperate messages/ turning yellow on the shelves/ whether handled or ignored’.

Where the word and poem might exclude in order to define itself, yet remain essentially open, the device or spirit of this theory is itself in operation in the human spirit, in kinship and conscience, in the human affirmation: “yes to prints”, “yes to innocent ginkgoes’”, yes to

Even in December it is summer by the lamps
and we linger there
the dust like diatoms in the salty ocean falling slowly
hanging suspended

and the myriad-hands of possibility within each cell, each dust mote, holds them, unfallen for an eternity in mind and resemblance, the remembrance of the time he first saw Francis in her studio, the aroma of printmaking that even now has not yet reached the ceiling. The image or scene is not ended, it is connected to the ocean scene, and that connection is fired in the brain and forever. What is interesting here on a structural level is that the dust motes falling in the dark of the ocean are buoyed by a forest of hands in the molecules themselves (and I take these to represent “blind process”), and the aromatic print particles ascending in the daylight studio, in labour, in love are likewise always ascending, and (by parataxis) also perhaps a similarly “blind process”. Both scenes are impregnated with the dark matter of absence, as dark is by light, and light by dark.

It is the scene in light that thickened in memory, time chemically slowed, attains viscosity in cross-sense memory, sight, smell, solidified, yet like glass never fully settled. Even though we are falling in the dark, in the blind hands of process, there are cross currents that connect, and in themselves become a living thought, a cosmic synapse.

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