With Much Professionalism

Sawako Nakayasu - "Capacity." At a crowded party, the poem's speaker and a companion slip out for some fresh air ("be right back"), only to find the balcony crammed to capacity. "What happened next is true...." Two uniformed men, white-gloved like the Tokyo subway workers whose job it is to eliminate such interstices as may remain between rush-hour passengers, mount the staircase and head—"with much professionalism"—for the doors of the balcony. The poem ends with the direct presentation of their imperatives, the first two transparent enough, the final one cryptic. • For the longest time I thought the final sounds of the text aimed, through the noise of cross-language phonological transfer, at the words "kiss you," and the abrupt abandonment of body-packing "professionalism" for limb-loosening libido cracked me up. I've grown less sure of that interpretation with time, but no other unequivocal lexical candidates emerge to replace it: is this the one moment when the poem resorts not only to a "Japanese accent," but to an actual Japanese word? • The accent, perhaps you will have gathered, is feigned, laid on thick—which is to say it belongs to the interpretable performance and is not something to be screened out on the way to the "real" message. How such a displacing strategy, bending the distorted allophony of "accent" to its own artistic aims, relates to the graphic mimesis of speech labeled "dialect" remains to be explored. In the meantime, one of the pleasures of the audiofile as text: to be relieved of received pronunciation ("unaccented speech") as normative horizon.

Sawako Nakayasu edits the magazine Factorial and writes the blog Insect Tutelage. Her new book, Nothing Fictional But the Accuracy or Arrangement (She, just came out from Quale Press. The two disc audio issue of Kenning magazine, on which this recording of "Capacity" originally appeared, is archived online at PennSound.

[Originally posted 6 March 2006] Elsewhere on Third Factory: index, ensemble, nb, links.

Sunday -- 31 December 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.