Syncopations: The Stress of Innovation in Contemporary American Poetry

By Jed Rasula | Go to book overview
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11
Taking Out the Tracks
Robin Blaser’s Syncopation

The queen of rhythm, syncope is also the mother of dissonance; it is the
source, in short, of a harmonious and productive discord. The process
allows some limping before the harmony, however: it is sometimes
said that syncope “attacks” the weak beat, like an enzyme, a wildcat,
or a virus; and yet the last beat is the saving one. Attack and haven,
collision; a fragment of the beat disappears, and of this disappearance,
rhythm is born.

Catherine Clément, Syncope

Robin Blaser has long incorporated these interruptions as a rapture of his work. The syncope, its syncopation, involves the risk of letting in some arrhythmia, some inspiring fatality (duende resounds here), and the trick is to survive this creative prostration. To make of its arrest a restorative bewilderment (and I hear arrest here as the final word of Robert Duncan’s last poem, as well as Clayton Eshleman’s Under World Arrest). Arrested: somehow spasm back into play.

The spasm concurs with the randonée, or sporadic syncopation of the hunt, the sudden natality of spoor. Eruptive sigillation.1 When these

1. “Sigillation” is a term I take from Walter Charleton’s Physiologia (1654), by which he means the natural imprint of signs in objects of nature (Patey 37). Charleton went on to consider the temporal erosion of such natural sigils, in dismayed consideration of the elusive unity of nature owing to its invariable reversion to entropic illegibility. But this ruination still spelled out the rudiments of a script—for Charleton, an admonitory utterance like the Sybilline leaves or the gnomic pronouncements of the Delphic oracle (“a hole in the wind/it is an alphabetic wind rises” [Blaser, Holy Forest 131]). In Chorea Gigantum (1663, 3rd ed. 1725), he argued that Stonehenge was an ancient monument, linking monumentum etymologically to moneo and memoria, so that this “inanimate remembrancer” served as “ad

-262-

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