mesostomizing a Romanian body (a verbal drawing)

This week’s assignment for Modern & Contemporary American Poetry course (as I’ve posted it today for the Coursera platform).

(a BBC report in Cage’s program)

































 chanc E




I preferred using the text of a BBC report on the Romanian elections from this weekend instead of a literary reference. The reason for this was that I a non-literary source-text offers the opportunity to study the way each word accesses different registers of language once it is taken out from the original context. The online program offered automatically only 20 lines, so I had to add the last two manually using words from the report (actually, the first and the last words of the poem – “Romania” and “chance” are the first and the last words of the original article, as it can be seen at the first link).

Coursera_Computer_NarrowI enjoyed the fact that the automatic selection included all the tensions from the reality. It pretty much works as an electronic DADA poem with the essential included. Using news piece as the original text emphases the change in the words condition from journalism to poetry. Actually the different functions of the language, as identified by Roman Jackobson take turns in this automatic poem. The beginning is referential as “Romanian’s/ electiOn” is the background event even for (and in) the poem. The chance worked well with the inclusion of “On” as beginning in these first lines and then, the “Me” on the third one.

I’m not so sure about the way the strange Romanian names included in the text work here. Ponta and Basescu, I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything for a non Romanian reader, so it might very well be considered as a mark of the conative function of language, as it engages a receiver for the poem. Then, as it doesn’t seem necesar to know the political relevance of the names it simply works as a device of the poetic function (the message for it’s own sake). As for the expressive function it might be identified here in the recurrences of euphonic devices (the repetition of “occasionally”, the way these words sound in relation with “nation” and “election”).

Then, as for the exact poem, the first and the last letters of the spine are the first and the last letter of the poem. The spine, also, puts into action a metalingual function of the poem, as it denies identity between text and reference. Going farther, I might add, that this is not really a poem in the expressive tradition of the ego, but a poem that emphases on the non-identity of reality and it’s description. In the end, text’s function is only phatic (it remains just language for the sake of interaction, like greetings or any casual conversation) in the terms of the same linguist and literary theorist. Even more, deleting the ego of the writer is one of the most important experiences of this kind of writing. Instead of a text about something that is (or was) somewhere else (in authors life, or mind, or “soul”) we are provided with a device that invites to perform the text, to make it present. This might be exactly what Marjorie Perloff called “”real – ization” in her essay on Cage or (as the critic noticed) in Cage’s own (spine) word, “performance”.


photo Dennis Jarvis

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