Jim Leftwich

Three In The Morning: Reading 2 Poems By Bay Kelley from Lost and Found Times 35

Bay Kelley, LAFT 35 page 12

It is with a sense of accomplishment that we finally see the word "sprout" emerge from the smears and blotches of this beautiful lyric poem. That's not a baseline, that's the surface of the earth. Dirt. It is as if we are underground, observing this sprouting from the center of the earth (the opposite of a bird's-eye view). The word closest to the surface, broken, smeared, blotted-out, is, finally, "cling". "Cligh" and "clign" and then, finally, "clingg". Cligngg. These shards and scraps and drips of letters are the roots. One root reaches down, past a floating ellipsis, to the aquifer at the bottom of the poem. It takes a second to guess the letter repeated and erased between the initial VIC and the final ORY: T. There are ten of them, in pairs: TT TT TT TT TT. VIC TT TT TT TT TT ORY.

This poem leads us to recall another poem, as is so often the case with good poems, in this case William Blake’s Illustrated "Spring" (from Songs of Innocence, 1789). Its first panel is divided into above-ground and below (as above, so below, and in this microcosm, yet another "above" and "below", both of which are contained in the larger below). In the upper half of the panel, a woman is sitting under a tree and holding her exuberant child (who is standing naked on her knees, reaching out to embrace the air) while a flock of sheep graze nearby. In the bottom half, surrounded by roots and tendrils, is the text of the poem, the words of which join the other nutrients in the dirt to sustain what goes on above-ground.

At work in the wash of nouns, as if an ear was writing.

When the wind confesses to its availability as poetry, it is distributed as the echo of a dirty typewriter.

The talons of the general typewriter, for one additional example, appear periodically in pamphlets as ricochet and martyr. Which are addled and felt, like the editions of probable snowflakes.

Writing during the fire of 1972, full of sound and manuscripts, extensive copies of concrete — still concrete, niche concrete, flour concrete, watery concrete, concrete apparitions, the cult of concrete, still life with concrete piranha and mosquito, shadowy concrete, bibliographic concrete, flowering concrete, lyric concrete, dirty concrete, surfictional concrete, a concrete restraining wall (to keep Florida out of Arizona), a hand-drawn comic book ego concrete, a rubber band Maryland numen concrete, the concrete of labor and lock-outs, sequential concrete, mutagenic concrete transductions, concrete ideopomes, destructive concrete, noisic concrete, swimming pools, (China used more concrete between 2011 and 2013 than the United States used in the entire twentieth century), (in 2016, 7.7 million Americans own an average of 17 guns each), photoduplicators, pansemic scriptures, the campaign for nuclear disarmament, the festival of concrete, concrete inventions and interventions, the concrete of emptiness, concrete Mayakovsky remembrances ("Dreaming the future when Mayakovsky would be used to sell hamburgers in Red Square, Shklovsky cut himself, preferring emptiness to truth." —Joe Napora, from "Instead, the poet soared", LAFT 34, page 12), concrete sdvig and concrete zaum, horizontal concrete, vertical concrete, diagonal concrete, squiggly concrete, pulsing concrete, extreme concrete, the institute for the study and application of concrete, concrete juxtapositions,("language does not exist on just one level it exists on many. and rather than trying to find the one true level you must become fluent in all of them... two truths can exist side by side without contradicting each other." bp nichol), recombinative concrete fluxus collaborations, writerly concrete, readerly concrete, raphesemic concrete, dysraphic concrete, the concrete of quietude, official concrete culture, the lexeography of concrete, the concrete ear, the concrete eye, letteral and gestural concrete, quasi-calligraphic concrete, fireworks in the forge of alphabets, Simmias of Rhodes since 325 BC, the appropriation of Dada as an intuitive praxis, unwavering concrete, European Free Improvisation, a touch of the spectral, garlic, syllabic and lettristic painting, a new awareness of verbal audacity, childhood subdivision alphabet status, lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners, flamethrowers and badminton, unorthodox anarchic vocabularies, an envelope, taking the side of things, the elective affinities of the Neoists — “But to wear out your brain trying to make things into one without realizing that they are all the same — this is called 'three in the morning.'” —Chuang Tzu

Bay Kelley, LAFT 35 page 12

To fall. (Not to be confused with fail: the first and last tumblers here are clearly 'l's.)

The 'l's tumble and crumble.

The first line is, legibly, "pasha".

What is not entirely legible could possibly be "paid shape".

So, a figure of authority. Pageantry and wealth. Corruption.

The second line, a string of letters and blotches, emerges as "package".

Also "parc" and "kage", with the front edge of the 'k' serving as a 'c' in context, so "cage".

"Parc" is "park" in French.

The "pasha package" is a "paid shape" and it contains both a park and a cage (or maybe its shape is similar to that of a cage and what it contains is similar to a park).

A cascade of formless black splotches begins just above the first line and ends as an 'x' in the next-to-last line.

An 'e', suspended on what would be the baseline above the next-to-last-line (if that had line been written), emits, from its position far to the left of the body of the poem, a series of distressed 'x's.

These 'x's curve to meet the descending 'x's and form the beginning of the (misspelled) word "excution" — and "excution er".

The missing 'e' in "executioner" has been cut — as if by the blade of the converging 'x's — and has landed at the beginning of the final line, where a long smear suggests that it rolled until coming to stop at the end of the line.

All of the 'e's but this last one, at the end of the final line, have their upper enclosures filled, so they could also be seen as 'o's, or as yin-yang symbols turned on their sides.

Off with their heads, in any case, is what we are given to read here.

But how are we being guided to read it?

What if we read the poem as both "pasha" and "executioner".

The space occupied on the page is roughly the same as the space occupied on a page by a canonical lyric poem.

The "destructive writing" (d.a.levy) begins with the title, where distressed letters crumble and fall into the space of the body of the poem.

The first two lines are as much oversplotch and blot as they are letters and spaces.

In the first line of the second couplet the "e' vomits a stream of distressed 'x's and letter-fragments from the margin into the body-space of the poem, where it is met with another stream of subletteral marks to form the 'x' of 'execution".

The 'x' is the guillotine the dirty concrete poem uses to execute (in both senses of the word, of course) its incarnation as a lyric poem.

The 'e's as 'o's as rolling ying-yang symbols and severed heads serve as insistent reminders to both poems and poets: the dirty visual poem is present in the canonical lyric, and the canonical lyric remains visible in the destructive writing of dirty vispo.


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