In a Way

Ange Mlinko - Poem Bejeweled with Proper Names. Check out the way Mlinko's voice ebbs from the word "nouns" in the title, producing a creaky fissure on the way to the pluralizing sibilant. Vocal quality they call it: what's left over after you've extracted the phoneme from its sonically-fuzzy husk. Then there's the rhyme of "we all went" with Rembrandt, shifting from list syntax to the subject-verb variety and from intellectual glam gallery to the humble repository that is the used bookstore. Fifteen seconds in, we get a tango of affirmations and negations (the long o is the organizing sound figure, the tempo is lovely and could never be guessed from the printed page), then a complicated accretive rush toward a postponed noun: "bits from the jungle economy's logic gates." Gendered patter about who's who ("I'm Voltaire, he said, so what, I'm Gertrude Stein") swerves into a mixed metaphor (pun intended) in which Joseph Cornell "hammers martinis into boxes" and Terry Southern has a quizzical cameo. Just past the half-minute mark there's a flashback to a scene of youthful reading. The allusion to two cultural authorities (or anti-authorities) who refused writing sets up a second cleverly strained rhyme, this time yoking "Socrates" to "paradoxically." The attempt to lend an illicit air to marital monogamy that follows is strained in a way I enjoy less, but the parallel to Abelard and Heloise is sufficiently ambivalent to get me past it to the stretched temporality where Cervantes and Tolstoy trade chess moves across vast intervals. The final ten seconds or so substitute a library, albeit a bizarrely situated one, for the opening scene's bookstore: "Hence to live in a cemetery / being the necrophiliac librarian you can be crazy / saved from thinking, in a way." What librarian isn't a lover of the dead? The vocal trail off on "in a way" differs from Wieners's: his was meant to mute an overly-emphatic sonic parallel, while Mlinko's laces semantic stability with enigma. Throughout the whole poem, Mlinko's handling of tempo and intonation suggest unsuspected dimensions to what could otherwise seem an exercise in style (New York School name-dropping semi-surrealist madcap). The close miking and audible inhalations give the recording an intimate feel, and Mlinko's voice, at once hushed and sharply articulated, is the perfect vehicle for subtle displacements.

Ange Mlinko's books are Matinees and Starred Wire. Her blog is bejeweled with Bachelard.

[Originally posted 16 August 2005.] XML feed here. • Elsewhere on Third Factory: index, ensemble, nb.

Friday -- 22 December 2006 -- permalink

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