28 September 2006

KNOT by STACY DORIS (notes from a first reading)

Now that Stacy Doris’s Knot has been out for several months, I find it as exhilarating as ever I did when I first read it in manuscript. And now, I thought I’d share some of the notes from that first reading. Zukofsky had it right when he stated that the test of poetry is the pleasure it affords as sight, sound, and intellection; as did Pound with his centers of poetic value: phanopoeia, melopoeia, and logopoeia. But both these systems imply a certain distance between reader and poem, a distance that is specifically broken or collapsed when a poem is successful as an experience, when it literally takes one “outside oneself,” or, as Emily Dickinson powerfully states it in a letter, "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that it is poetry." It is this sense of the powerful experience of reading poetry, not the later activity of reflection and analysis, that I hope to convey here. If I can carry over even a small piece of that experience with regard to Doris’s Knot, it is enough.

Some of my thrills, notices, etc. from a first reading (very informally stated) —

1. What is the unit of measure? the line is lovely but it is not here, where thought coheres. neither is it of the page — sometimes seems the phrase, but that's always folding into something else, not secure. maybe that's it — nothing is secure. maybe the unit is the whole & acceptance/understanding is a matter of absorption, both absorbing & being absorbed. yet the line IS a unit — each line is integral, albeit integral, partial, and multiple, all at the same time.

2. It was at i.XIII, particularly beginning "Where is ambers" until "That uninflected" that I first stopped, startled, remarking how absolutely beautiful the language is there, but also where I think I first began to be absorbed into the work, feeling I was strangely inside it.
Where is ambers, which reputedly captures or preserves? In air, so all in all,
There aren't ends to any step's echoes; no bridge back to the bland fizz
Of ice milk, depilatory scents, nodes labeled "home," a voice. Recycling's
That uninflected.
It was also there that I began to notice repeated words/ideas, like "cordon" (which turns into corridor and other avenues of travel, in the world, in the body, etc.) and "absorption" and a lot more as the work develops.

3. A couple of pages later, i.XV, the work started (or I first started noticing it) articulating what I was feeling about the process of reading, i.e. "Ricochets, so destination disorients." and truly "where the sky cave in comes illumination." I.e. that it was in the process of giving up reading as understanding, and accepting reading as process, that I did feel I was understanding the work, that it was illuminating me, or its own illumination was clearer to me. It took disorienting to become oriented. Somewhere near here I began to feel that this work is perhaps the best example I have ever seen of a poem where the process of reading is the essential excitement. Undergoing the work is an experience, and one well worth having.

4. i.XVIII where "I dissolves to a haven of buzzing." This is not the first buzzing, nor the first dissolution in the poem, but a place I marked where what happens in the poem also happens in the reader (and in the writer? or is that even important to think about?). This is also a section in which I felt some relationship between this process and many parts of the experience of love, which may just be the experience of breathing — “In breath, so you're hugged." There is something very physical about what is happening.
I dissolves to a haven of buzzing. Since altering circulation recharges,
You's are restrung from your own elements even; aired, exposed. If lenses
Have magnitude, each act dissects, oxygenates the particles, drenches
In breath, so you're hugged. There, light's no longer felt in contrast
But as increase, thickening in depth. Illumined as a desertion from
Surfaces collides, balming in flames, angles in, zeoes, thus heroic and
Erotic: a building.

5. ii.V "water's / Architecture where somebody swims" is like an earlier passage I remembered where genes are using bodies for their own ends. I.e. the terms in which we usually understand things are turned around or folded in a certain way. And while there are plenty of dualities in KNOT, I felt like the fold (or the knot) is more at issue. Another place this is felt comes later, at ii.X, in "Blood's useful only enclosed in coursing" and of course here "coursing" related to earlier "cordon" and "corridor." It's all part of the knot one is in while reading this work, constantly returning, but not a return of the whole, rather a return through, around, and out again.

6. ii.XIX In reading "Why a galaxy's the mirror of one / Explosion, in exhausting facets" to the end of this passage, I wondered if there isn't a cosmology going on in the work, and I'm not certain how I feel about that. But even if it is a cosmology, it's more an anti-cosmology, or multi-cosmology, at the same time. "Logic's gaping, most liminal then." makes this felt.

7. I like the way "the cat" keeps coming back. It lends a sense of humor to the work, and a sense of the everyday, strange as cats can be.

These are only a few of the occasions for amazement about this book, possibly Stacy Doris’s best – and that’s saying a lot.

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