Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cat Poetry

*Note: The other...afternoon, I woke up to an unfamiliar beeping sound. I raised my head from the pillow, craning my neck to see what could be making the sound and saw, Miette, my cat, crouched on the desk with paws on the laptop keyboard, her head turned looking at me. She seemed to be saying, "Yes, I am doing this." I realized, sleepily, that the beep had something to do with she and the computer and waved at her to get down, trying to both wave and keep my head and body prostrate at the same time. When that didn't work, I shouted, "Miette! Get off...the...aaack...get off the thing!"

She did, she got off, because she's a good cat and the beeping stopped. Sometime later, when I got up, I scrabbled over to the desk and found that she had somehow caused the computer screen to zoom in an extra 50% or so, which was a bewildering experience to say the least. I also discovered the following "poem" entered into the text of one of my desktop sticky-notes.

nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnC.V. and app. for CAPIS and mail
-Email C.V. andmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm coverletter to PAW

*Note continued: It is about what I had unknowingly always imagined Miette's poetry would look like: sort of Tristan Tzaraesque sound poetry but with a more tender feminine touch (less angst, more purring); an apt appropriation of a found text that both honors and disrupts the intent of the original author, potentially bringing to the fore, the subconscious desires and impulses of that author. Her use of white space in contrast to the dense patterns of lower-case n's and m's belies a highly developed aesthetic as well as aural sensibility. What lies in those blank spaces? Is it the pained silence of Celan's later poems? Why does she ask us to hold our breath? Clearly, this is not only a commentary on the current economic crisis (see references to C.V.'s, applications, coverletters) that causes us all to "hold our breath", waiting to see what will become of us, but also a stark critique of our breathless email culture. What Miettekin Cutesandra Princessa Lovey-Dovey Boldterson asks us to do, in this poem, is: slow down, breathe, consider the sounds of n's and m's in combination, tune in to those warm purring vibes and come on back to earth. I for one say, thank you, Miette, for the wakeup call.

**Miette will be available for speaking engagements and interviews this Spring. She is currently taking some time for herself and working on a new series of erasures under the working title, "What Lindsey Should Have Said".


Pirate Station said...

Miette's [pauses] [pawses] are less pained than **pregnant**. Her first prolonged "nnnnn" sets up a sense of just-about-to-utter-ness, a feeling that something is about to be communicated, but then leaves us to imagine the nature of that communication.

This effect colors our reading of the generous blank areas that Miette leaves around the appropriated phrases. We see them not as simple empty space, but as unstable vacuums awaiting an injection of expressive content. The never-completed "mmmmm"s make us wonder: What might have been written here? and so we find ourselves attracted more to the empty areas than to the words. In this way, Miette achieves a kind of figure/ground reversal, in which non-text upstages text.

This act recalls Rauschenberg's celebrated erasure of a De Kooning sketch. Like Miette's poem, Rauschenberg's erasure brought attention to what the other artist **might** have created, rather than what he did create, foregrounding blankness/potential over mark-making/completion. Rauschenberg and Miette's pieces share Whittier's Romantic obsession with what "might have been!"

I look forward to Miette's direct exploration of erasure. May I ask if she already has a publisher? Perhaps her work is more appropriate for academic presses.

Ridiculous Human Things said...

Pirate Station,

Thank you for your insightful reading. The idea of "just-about-to-utter-ness" is especially striking. I too feel that she may be intending to communicate a lack, a stutter, an absence of communication or an absence of ability to communicate. Words catch in our throats. By indicating a blankness, a lack, she indicates our inability to fully communicate. This kind of problem always reminds me of the line in one of Beckett's Texts for Nothing, "I can't go on. I'll go on."

What is so exciting about Miette's work is that she seems to find a way to solve or assuage the anxiety of that white space, the lack, by transforming it instead into a pause or breath between hummings. There is something innately soothing about humming. This poem captures that calm while still acknowledging the existential angst we all struggle under.