Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Matter of Influence

Finished reading misled today, and Harryette Mullen's Muse and Drudge yesterday. Thoughts are forming, and posts will come. Until then, here is a response i wrote to Meredith Quartermain's beautiful book Matter for Influency 5: A Toronto Poetry Salon - a course i took in the fall run by Margaret Christakos. Other writings by some of the brilliant people in the course can be found here.


“Each word, a theory of everything”: the theory of thesauri was alien to me. To be accurate, I was unacquainted with Roget’s organizational principles applied to language. It didn’t matter – Matter still commun(icat)ed: with me, but also with something I read recently: The Ledger by Robert Kroetsch. There is redefinition here.  A revivification of old texts, a re(de)fining of old records. Kroetsch writes about the archaeology of writing: discovery of objects, speculation about said objects, creation of a story, or a multiplicity of stories. The Ledger is a history of a ledger; it is also an interpretation, a dictionary, and a story about some people. Multiplicity of Matter: also an interpretation, a dictionary, and a ledger of sorts? I allege it is (ooh, bad!). I think about this eating cold pizza at three in the morning. Think about my mother saying “pizza at this hour?! What’s the matter with you!?” Mothers matter.

My favorite Matter is 12, which says “Each word, a theory of everything”. Language power. Abstractions. Language as fluid: dynamic, changing, forceful. The ability of language to erode. Also, the power of language to create rivers, birth streams. I picture language as a river system – you can map it, temporarily. The scop (OE) was “shaper”, a power held only by wordsmiths and gods. He “unlocked his word-hoard”, his treasure (thesaurus). The organizing principle (theory). Thesaurus as holy book. Followers of the prophet Roget; dare I say “old-fashioned”? New thesauri claiming better principles, clearer structure. Division into thesaurian sects. My mind roves. Does it matter? This poem clarifies the Matter for me; seeing the fluid in the images – “Ripple of Chinese / in the street. Zag of a saw” – the curve of motion illustrates the connection between the waves of words. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle – to know one thing is to not know another.  You can know the position or the momentum of a given particle, never both. You can never completely define matter. Language is matter, clearly. Or maybe it is the space between particles. Theory: to theorize, you need language. Everything is a theory of words.


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