To Moisten the Atmosphere
Notes on Clayton Eshleman
The following notes make local points about the work. My strategy was to consciously avoid being swept along in the mode of commentary, exegesis, and hermeneutic probing, because I sensed that Eshleman’s poetry compels, lavalike, an inevitable duplication if one tries to stay with it, reporting on it as it goes by. Many readers, I suspect, and themselves confused by Eshleman’s work. I have always found it commendably direct in laying out its motives; but the imaginal texture is congested, thick, tactile. It requires not so much reading as digestion. Gerere: IndoEuropean root providing a basis for the words congest, digest, ingest, suggest, register, gesture, and jest. Like Walter Benjamin’s unfinished Passagenwerk on the arcades of Baudelaire’s Paris, I feel as though the process of gesturing toward, digesting, and registering Eshleman’s suggestive congestions and jests is an interminable project. What follows are episodes.
In a 1977 article in Boundary 2, I identified Jack Spicer’s Hades in terms of his Orphic emancipation of pronouns. The way in which I, you, he, she, it, we, and they in Spicer’s book cycles get activated as phonemic particles extends not only to pronouns (spear points of identity) in Eshleman’s