Tender, Phallic, Kimonoed

Lisa Robertson - "Plentifully of reason..." (1'00"). I first heard Robertson read from The Men in February of 2003, when she closed a New Writing Series set drawn mostly from The Weather (New Star, 2001) with some pages, quite different in tone, from a work still in manuscript. I recall the reigning affect of those pages being an exhilarated, fine-edged anger, indicative of a wised-up but residually pissed-off member of the "I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused" school of advanced heterosexuality. The mood in the track I've plucked from the middle of a twenty-minute set Robertson delivered in Toronto this spring is a little different: more melancholic, more mixed-up (note the Dantean formula at 34 seconds), more aching than arch. The adjectives encircling the undifferentiated "men" betray trace elements of tenderness, fond condescension, sympathy, but nothing so unmasterable as genuine desire. So faint is their collective lure, in fact, that it arouses from the speaker nothing more than a polite "I would like to very much" (audia 21 at 36 seconds), which you needn't be a Henry James character to recognize as a seven-syllable cognate of "no." In the midst of masculine plenty, this speaker has discovered only a "nothingness" compounded of hollow intellectual display ("the mental") and smoke-scented pretense, and she finds it an ultimately declinable invitation, even if the sadness accompanying the refusal is real (in the sense that it marks a forfeited cathexis?). • Recording notes: lots of in-situ hiss; a duet with cooing infant toward the 20 second mark.

Listen to the rest of Robertson's Test Reading Series performance of 24 May 2006. Entry on Lisa Robertson at Wikipedia. Robertson's week of dispatches for the Poetry Foundation website. The spring 2006 issue of Chicago Review includes a special section devoted to Robertson's work. Amusing publicity for the recent book-length dinner reading of The Men. Ron Silliman on The Men. And some thoughts on Robertson's 2004 Nomados chapbook Rousseau's Boat.

Waveform representation of words from Lisa Robertson poem

Friday -- 18 August 2006 -- permalink

The Lipstick of Noise is a product of the Third Factory • Inspired by the music blogs • And by Paul Blackburn's reel-to-reel deck. Intending to make good use of PENNSound and other sources of digital audio files of poetry • Comments welcomeXML.