Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Is a Door a Word?

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Is a Door a Word?

Article excerpt

The following is a ramble that tries to recover the compounding cipher in image-text as an opportunity for recognition and surprise. A passage of in-betweenness, the photo-hyphen-text is played here as the liminal, the referential, and the punctuative, a little music at the heart of thinking.


I have called this talk a ramble in order to locate that site of aloofness so important to a poetics of the hyphen, another tool in the resistance to closure that sustains the dynamics of "betweeness." What I plan is, simply, to rehearse the hyphen between image and text pretty much as I had occasion to engage it in projects involving poetry and photography. So this is a poetry photography reading (in two senses) that I hope inflects some of the discourse around both practices, particularly in order to expose some of the lexicon of hybridity, a topic that is crucial to me as a mixedblood person and as a writer. I've been writing about, in, and around it for years so please forgive me if I sound a little repetitive. Some of you may have heard some of this material in other contexts. The door and word part of the title I hope reveal themselves for what they are: Language.

I was thinking of Las Ramblas in Barcelona, the boulevard of aimlessness, digress the irregular and methodless improvisatione of William Carlos Williams's Kora in Hell and the "actually" in his prose-poem sentence: "Beautiful white corpse of night actually" the word, particularly this one, is interesting as a noisy end of a sentence but this is not the word versus the sentence but itself, actually, a site of intersection, not just syntagmatically or as a more provocative paradigmatic thought suffix, that is a rhyme after all its "itness" does here occur poetically privileged at the end of the line slash sentence, might be ol' Ezra Pound's "phanopoeia" "throwing the object (fixed or moving) on to the visual imagination" (63) after all William Carlos Williams was an imagist too and that (along with Fenellosa's "Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry") my kind of fodder (isn't photography the mother?) IE word as picture, word and picture, word picture.

    Ezra Pound the Chinese Written Character for truth
          defined as a man standing by his word
                           Like the word picture: a forked creature
                           standing by a box with birds flying out
                           representing speech of the, mouth
    (Ginsberg, Wichita Vortex Sutra n.p.)

Actually, it's neither. Picture or Word. But the space between them. A poetics, then, of the hyphen between image and text, the "actually" not a "finally" but a between, a hybridity:

    IN THE DIAMOND, AT THE END OF A long green vinyl aisle between
    booths of chrome, Naugahyde, and Formica, are two large swinging
    wooden doors, each with a round hatch of face-sized window. Those
    kitchen doors can be kicked with such a slap they're heard all the
    way up to the soda fountain. On the other side of the doors, hardly
    audible to the customers, echoes a jargon of curses, jokes and
    cryptic orders. Stack a hots! Half a dozen fry! Hot beef san!
    Fingers and tongues all over the place jibe and swear You mucka
    high!--Thloong you! And outside, running through and around the
    town, the creeks flow down to the lake with, maybe, a spring thaw.
    And the prairie sun over the mountains to the east, over my family's
    shoulders. The journal journey tilts tight-fisted through the gutter
    of the book, avoiding a place to start--or end. Maps don't have
    beginnings, just edges. Some frayed and hazy margin of possibility,
    absence, gap. Shouts in the kitchen. Fish an! Side a fries! Over
    easy! On brown! I pick up an order and turn, back through the doors,
    whap! May foot registers more than its own imprint, starts to read
    the stain of memory. … 
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