Friday, August 29, 2014


For this challenge, I asked Jamie Sharp, a writer and editor who once published a couple of my poems in his journal, The Associative Press, and whose work I love. He has an amazing book of poems that stretch your logic-skin the way a jawbreaker stretches out your cheek. And it's hilarious. It's called Animal Husbandry Today:
So his challenge for me is, in his words:

Given that not all gibberish is equal, why do we form preferences for one kind of nonsense over another? Can nothing be conveyed; is every word/note/brushstroke a mirror?

He directed me to this music video by an Italian entertainer, Adriano Celentano, who wrote a song meant to mimic the sound of English, but where the words (as you can hear) are meaningless:

So this is a question I'll be thinking about for a long time. With or without the help of Wittgenstein, I can't say.

But I can say for the present that poetry is most interesting to me when it does function as mirror, at least in some ways...when it gives me space to imagine...when it acts as a spark for meaning-making.

I thought about Jabberwocky here, too, the most famous nonsense poem. One technique there is the portmanteau. Similarly, I decided to try a poem that looks like it's written in a different language, but which is a series of combined English words that can (usually) be pulled apart and translated. This is especially apparent by the last stanza. But once you translate the words out of their combinations...there's still some meaning-making left for the reader to do. 


O moodim offall orich fishearer
rubyells areating gleamstill
o goldoor.
Dontake damnos
dontell theater goldoor

Heartear comesoft overwhelmy bellights.
Tastevening, teaseven,
believe o droppedeal.
tone saidove, tother nominalion.


Illeave beforeverest
toverwhelm tovercome
toffer mysteryous
foreaching goldoor.

Here's Jamie's review, which parodies certain approaches to the interpretation of poetry and raises some deep questions in the process:

Another Ivy Grimes poem, printed long ago in The Associative Press, asked “How could they wrap their minds around it,/ like foil around a piece of red candy?”

Take a single golden idea and wrap it around: the Italian music video; Ivy’s poem; the world. Everything contained in the wrapper is now digestible: is sense. Everything outside the wrapper is nonsense.

What is the golden idea that can envelop Ivy’s poem, “Goldoor”? Psychoanalysis!

Notice the toffee in this piece and the red candy in her previous poem. The world—its sweetness—is primarily to be explored with the mouth. An oral fixation is strongly at play. The poet was probably switched to bottle feeding, at around six months, and now feels disconnected from: the real, the mother, the world.

But what if the golden wrapper is actually Efficient Market Theory? Clearly the poem’s “nominal lion” is…

This is too hard. But existing without the wrapper is hard too. I am overwhelmed! I can’t embrace “toffer mysteryous.” And one thought frightens me most: if the gold door doesn’t exist, is the reaching for it real?

Great poem, Ivy. Now I’ll go cry myself to sleep.


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