Wesleyan University Press/
University Press of New England
The beauty of innuendoes posits the possibility,
on some level of the imagination, of recreating the
blackbird's whistle from the silence afterwards.
Joan Retallack seems to be working with something
like the beauty of detritus, and it's something like
the detritus of nothing. The afterrimages she
creates, in the first section of this book, are
the equivalents of the afterimages -- spots of
color -- which one sees after staring so long at
one color that it cancels another out.
The first part of each "afterrimage" poem is a
handful of lines, some or all of which may be found
poetry. The second half, under a heavy line or a
dotted line bisecting the page, is a repeat of the
first half, with about 95% of the characters removed,
so that what's left is a small spatter of letters
and punctuation marks, as though the poem had
been peeled off a wall, leaving only a few letters
that one might go back and scrape off with a razor
blade -- or else just paper over.
Here's an example:
could be tragic if still possible
now no ""god" is able to restore a
"virgin" (sic) after her (sic) "downfall""
[preceding to appear illuminated in pastel colors]
[something about a nasal twang]
.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Is the reader supposed to recreate the inflection
from the detritus? I'd guess not. I'm also guessing
that the first half -- the unpeeled poem -- is
itself the detritus of nothing. I'm guessing we
can extrapolate it as the tatters stuck to a larger
wall which we are also not supposed to be able to
Afterrimages is right smack in the Parallel
Tradition, which is unfamiliar territory for me,
so I'm sort of fumbling my way through it. The
tradition which it parallels works off of movement
.... does this tradition work off of stasis? The
only thing moving is the eye of the blackbird, and
it's not moving either?
The succeeding sections of Afterrimages
explore different concepts, and are susceptible
to the same sort of concept-teasing. I believe that
all this adds something to the vocabulary of art. But
I don't know how to judge it. I can't tell you if
this is good stasis or mediocre stasis...le
detritus juste, or the wrong scraps on the wall.