Tag Archives: unanswering rational shore

J H Prynne’s Unanswering Rational Shore (again)

Eighteen months ago I wrote with more than a little enthusiasm on the above and have been intending to take this a bit further since then. This may have been a productive gap because I’ve since discovered more aspects of URS to be enthusiastic about.

URS was published in 2001 and consists of 14 poems each of which has two seven line stanzas. There is a completely blank page between poem 7 and eight and rhyme does occur at least once. I’m making the assumption that this is a sequence and not simply a collection of unrelated poems and I’m trying to consider what the poem does rather than what it might mean in an attempt to respond to and build on Ben Watson’s remarkable ‘Madness and Art” which focuses on URS.

I’m also very grateful to Ben for explaining the ‘lo mismo / lo mismo’ epigram- ” a compacted lettrist sonnet made of Francesco de Goya’s despair of finding anything other than the Spanish words for “the same” to title his endless pictures of the horror of war” which has (at last) unlocked for me the recurring use of ‘same’ in ‘Streak~~~Willing~~~Entourage~~~Artesian’. URS entertains me and this is part of Prynne’s intention. I need to add that this isn’t just about making jokes, like most serious poets his jokes are invariably bad, it is about gaining my interest and then involving me in a satisfying dialogue or conversation about what language might be doing. I get annoyed when John Ashbery and Geoffrey Hill attempt to engage me in this way because they don’t deploy much verbal dexterity whereas with Prynne the potential for dexterity may very well be the ‘point’ or at least one of them.

I’ve also found that the way I read this material has changed. Two years ago I think I was still looking for clues that might help with gaining more of a foothold but now I’m trying to absorb stuff for the sense of involvement that it brings because it’s that involvement that is the attraction.

I want to use several bits from the sequence to try and illustrate what I mean about involvement and why URS makes me smile. This is from the second stanza of the ninth poem (unless we’re counting the blank page as a poem):

Elastic bravery tell your friends, profile margins
dilate the soft annular parallax. In such due process
with a furry wrap the favourite minces a hot share
of the pie, the offertory selection hoarded at par
for dark x-linked transfer......

One of the cleverer aspects of this is the things that aren’t said, those things that are nearly said that would allow us to make a bit more ‘sense’. Profit for profile, granular for annular, diligence for process, cake for pie and collection for selection would combine to make a much more straightforward reading which raises the possibility of a ‘shadow’ text running alongside the one that it on the page. This aside, there’s more than
enough here to hold my attention.

The first two words raise the obvious question about whether and in what circumstances bravery or courage or fearlessness can be described as elastic or stretchy or pliable?

A reading of the OED clarifies a few things about ‘elastic’ which I should have been able to think through. The main feature of elasticity is that it is pliable under pressure but springs back to its original shape and size once that pressure is removed. On a very basic level, an elastic band can be stretched but will revert to its original position once we’ve stopped stretching it. The OED also reminds me that it can be used to describe personalities- “Of feelings, temperaments, etc., hence, also, of persons: Not permanently or easily depressed; buoyant” which relates better to bravery in its primary sense. This is of no apparent help with ‘tell your friends’ which brings us back to the recurring retail trope that I wrote about last week. I have read this particular device as a sarcastic comment on and protest against the facile and unsubtle way that retail sloganeering plays upon and exploits our baser instincts but this may not be the case in this instance. “Tell your friends” can carry a number of different connotations but in a retail sense it is a term used to encourage marketing by word of mouth whereby satisfied customers are urged to recommend a particular shop or service to others. This is of course fraught with danger because you don’t have any control over what is ‘told’ although it does help a new business develop a customer base- I speak from personal experience.

To make any real sense of what might be going on, the best place to start is probably at the end, x-linked diseases are so-called because they are “single gene disorders that reflect the presence of defective genes on the X chromosome. This chromosome is present as two copies in females but only as one copy in males”, one of these diseases is muscular dystrophy in its Duchenne and Becker forms.

With this, things begin to fall into place thus:

  • muscles function because they are elastic in that they return to normal after stretching or being made tense;
  • myscular dystrophy is a degenerative condition that is characterised by changes to the shape and size of muscles;
  • ‘parallax’, as well as the astronomical senses, can also mean a distortion;
  • ‘annular’ has a secondary definition of ” esp. in Physiol. of ringed or ring-like structures. annular ligament: a strong muscular band girding the wrist and ankle”;
  • for anybody who may be carrying this genetic disorder, there is an obvious imperative to inform partners of this fact prior to making a decision about having children.

Working this out, making the connections, is satisfying especially for those of us that get easily distracted and need a bit of a challenge to ‘engage’. It’s also intriguing to see how this theme of disability and genetics relates to the rest of the sequence and whether any of this is any help at all with the still baffling first part of the second sentence which will need further attention even though there’s the potential Langland connection with hot pies and the proceeds from the offertory….

The reason that URS makes me smile is that it is packed with verbal ingenuity and forces me to think in a completely different way- a way that has to carry several dimensions at once and it’s this, rather than the ‘message’ which brings on a reconsideration of the wider world. For example, what does it require to run a ‘ghost’ text alongside the main event? Can the workings and logic of capital be compared to the resistance to treatment and relentless degeneration of MD? The list is endlessly absorbing.

URS is in the 2005 edition of the ‘Poems’ which is available from the usual suspects and I believe the original is still available from Object Permanence.

J H Prynne, economics and the retail trade in this present crisis.

I think there can be little doubt that the free market ideology of the last thirty five years is having a few problems at the moment with most countries in the West experiencing the deepest and longest recession for over a century. For those of us on the left, the causes are reasonably clear and none of should be surprised at the tales of venality and corruption slowly emerging from the banks. The question is (as ever) what action to take because it is easy to provide the critique and point out the greed and exploitation at the heart of capitalism, it is altogether different to present a viable alternative because state socialism has an even worse reputation and track record.

I’ve remarked before on Prynne’s distaste for the fatuous tropes of the retail trade (‘buy one, get one free’, ‘three for two’ etc) and his use of these to express quite bitter sarcasm. This, together with an Old Left disdain for financiers, has run threadlike through the work since ‘Kitchen Work’ and it might be that things have changed a little with ‘Kazoo Dreamboats’.

I’ll start with a poem from ‘The Oval Window’ which was published in 1983:

What if the outlook is likely to cut short
by an inspired fear in the bond market.
The place itself is a birthday prank:
current past the front,
en premiere ligne
like stone dust on strips of brighter green.
Given to allergic twitching, the frame
compounds for invertible counterpoint
and waits to see. A view is a window
on the real data, not a separate copy
of that data, or a lower surplus in oil
and erratic items such as precious stones
aircraft and the corpses of men tigers
fish and pythons, "all in a confused tangle."
Changes to the real data
are visible through the view; and operations
against the view are converted, through
a kind of unofficial window on Treasury policy,
into operations on the real data.
To this world given over, now safely,
work makes free logic, joined to the afterlife.

I don’t intend to undertake any kind of attentive reading of the above, those wishing for a duller account of ‘The Oval Window’ might start with the Reeve and Kerridge essay on Jacket. I just want to note that this is, in part, concerned with the nuts and bolts of the dismal science, ‘fear in the bond market’ ‘a lower surplus in oil’ ‘the real data’ and ‘Treasury policy’ are all phrases that continue to make up our economic and fiscal discourse. Reeve and Kerridge refer to the ironic tone of this poem but I’m of the view that it’s angry sarcasm and that this is underlined by the last line reference to the genocidal thinking behind the Holocaust. I also need to say that I’m not a great fan of this sequence but this particular poem does seem to represent a reasonably clear ‘position’.

I am however an enormous fan of ‘Unanswering Rational Shore’ (2001) because it exudes technical skill and confidence and because (this is important) it makes me smile a lot. I could go on for a very long time about how this is the kind of stuff that everybody should be engaging with and responding to but, for the moment, I just want to focus on this:

On the track the news radiates like a planet auction,
for the best rates hard to chew. If it seems too good,
sucker, the pap is surely toxic, unless the glad
hand goes your way, soft as velvet. The strokes
of the palm not even touched, a waft of livid air
gives the take its donation, sexual preening overtly
lavish in symmetry; your flicker goes to mine and

locks into warranty, well why not. Over lush fields
a rising sun pitches out its sulky damp shadow, in
reminder of cost levels in the benefit stream. Oh
fight this fight or sleep when others wake, the
maze of a shining path leads on without a break;
count the steps in retrospect, burnt umber places
engrossed forever in dumb-struck dropped reward.

So, here we would appear to have a more grown up and considered economic thesis relating to some quite complex stuff, the ‘glad hand’ of corruption (or patronage systems) as the best way to avoid toxic ‘pap’, the rising sun of the developing nations and their ability to cut cost levels and the impact of consequential unemployment in the West on public finances. I’m reading ‘a shining path’ to those nice agrarian reformers in Peru who also happened to be murderous thugs with a very odd economic programme which, if successful, would have represented several steps backwards. I’ll save ‘fight this fight or sleep’ until later but the whole sequence is full of this kind of elegant / graceful detail.

In the interest of space I was going to skip over ‘Streak~~~Willing~~~Entourage~~~Artesian’ but I think this needs to be singled out from the third poem in the sequence:

Fix out gaze on this, on virtue. Acknowledge
skid forward or same fervid plastic embankment
her link antler, rising and drive. Above his
anthem converge tall preening slips to axial

The economic ‘aspect’ of this only becomes apparent with the knowledge that a subsidiary definition of ’embankment’ is “A banking speculation; a bank account” which then makes sense of ‘fervid’ and ‘plastic’. There’s also the ‘preening’, sexual display link between this and the poem above.

This sequence is probably Prynne at his most austere and resistant and I’m not entirely clear why a reference to the banking crisis should be placed in a work that is mostly ‘about’ the civil war in Ulster with a particular focus on the Maze hunger strikes but I’ll continue to read it as economic rather than ideological.

‘As Mouth Blindness’ is the first poem in the ‘Sub Songs’ collection and reads as a response to the ongoing fiscal self-flagellation currently being promoted and/or practiced by people who really should know better. The poem starts with:

Right now beyond the brunt yet afforded, gainsay now
for aspect close to residue, you'll see it there. Not full
scanned at damage so far, ridges debased fetch so plainly
or even gradual, nothing not due. Lay a hand over plus
be level be sane two for one. Her voice was ever low, nil
transfusion plot negative to hum under par in the race
to tint and show a true recoil, you are there from the shot,
the star flinched openly.

This uses the ‘two for one’ device to scathe about our current economic dilemma and carries on in a similar vein until this conclusion:

Time in the news to be not silent indoors, mouth in thought
shut up chew it the choice separates its like or is lame for
wounding in what is due would tell you suffused. For both
market done and stunned in face of, great lack breeds lank
less and less, claimant for right. Flatter by great expectancy,
for so resemble by just match, no less than fitting the race
to birthright and natal place, our lingo.

The place-work of
willed repeats gains a familiar tremor in jointure, we say
sustainable our mouth assents slave dental unbroken torrid reason
will commute previous and lie down. None more credible, mirror
make up flat sat batch pinup gruesome genome. Now get out.

This is a similar analysis but with more of a focus on the fact that it is always the poor who suffer most in a recession and there is more than a little obscenity in the deeds of our political leaders to punish those already in poverty for the greedy stupidity of the rich.

The last three words signal a similar level of anger and ‘lack breeds lank’ seems to encapsulate what many of see as the hidden reality of where we are now.

We now come to ‘Kazoo Dreamboats’ and what I’m thinking of as the ‘Hot Pie problem’. For weeks I’ve been flummoxed by:

For fields thus filled it was no dream if yet so dear I lay, pronate
attempered pronoun sounded dear heart how suckled, hot pies! be
blithe, for integer broad alleged awake among the things
that are, in spoken footprint cordial how alike by probe to lit
shelf grains.

Following on from Michael Peverell’s comment last month, I’ve being noticing just how much of ‘Piers Plowman’ there is in ‘KD’ and would like to suggest that this ‘Hot Pies’ is more than just a line from the initial scene of a “fair field of folk” but also an echo of Langlands more extended criticism of retailers and especially those that try to ‘corner’ the market in certain goods-

To punischen vppon pilories and vppon pyning stoles,
As bakers and breweres, bocheres and cokes;
For thyse men don most harm to mene peple,
Rychen throw regratrerye and rentes hem beggeth
With that the poor peple sholde potte in here wombe.

This is the first part of (in the ‘C’ text) of a 40 line digression about the greed and sharp practices of urban traders and retailer and does seem more or less at one with the Prynne perspective. Incidentally, ‘regratery’ is glossed by Pearsall as “buying up goods in the market at advantage (eg by setting up price-rings) and is defined by the OED as ” To buy up (commodities, esp. food) in order to resell at a profit in the same or a neighbouring market” and also notes that various laws were passed in a vain attempt to stamp out this pice of sharp practice.

Of course, price-rings continue to flourish in many areas from personal banking to airline tickets to gas and electricity with governments affecting to be shocked once these arrangements are exposed- it could therefore be that the hot pies refer to a disdain for these kind of practices.

Towards the end of ‘KD’ the call to arms seems to have modified. There are those of us who take the view that capitalism proceeds by means of long waves and that the end of a particular wave need not present a fundamental threat to the system. There is also a view that this particular crisis is so systemically threatening that the time could be ripe for a change.

Towards the end of ‘KD’ there is:

Taunting themselves with foresight badges, now is how to finish 
without fiduciary rank ending induced. Fractional deponent
closeness is not so hard too: when the time travel equals the
period of a sampling frequency, the contribution to the inter-
action is screened down to about half its unretarded strength.
Yet the recursion cannot be close since the stop key is well out
beyond reach, even in transform assignment.

I’m reading ‘the stop key’ as the point when the free market breaks down and the above suggesting that this moment is not going to occur as a response to the fiasco that is currently gathering steam. I’d agree with this and think it significant that Prynne has read this at an Occupy event which may well signal his approval of their quietist and undogmatic approach.

Prynne, Unanswering Rational Shore, and Paul Celan

The previous post went on a bit with regard to my new-found enthusiasm for the above poem (URS) and took issue with Michael Grant for making things more complex than they actually are. This is going to be an illustration of where complexity may be appropriate. I’ve recently amended the arduity page on ambiguity with regard to what Celan said about “ambiguity without a mask” and this has led me to consider whether there are closer similarities between Prynne and Celan than I’d previously recognised.
I want to start with a couple of quotes from Prynne’s “Difficulties in the translation of “Difficult” Poetry” because these seem to set out a view with regard to ambiguity:

A reader can move slowly through dense compositions of this kind, and pauses at moments of choice can enrich the activity of reading; it’s not necessary all the time to make precise decisions, because uncertainty may be intrinsic, to the text and its internal connections to its method of thought.

and-

But in a larger context within a poem a less “probable” may also open a semantic possibility that can give the overall meaning a richer sense, even (or especially) by irony or contradiction, so that often a very wide range of different senses can be found to be active and having an effect, maybe on different levels or discoverable in different stages of the poem’s development.

I think I’ve probably written about these passages before but now I want to add Celan into the mix. Before I do this I have to say that I recognise that it’s important for me to identify similarities between these two poets and I’m trying hard to avoid any wishful thinking but sometimes affinities hit me in the face and can’t be ignored.
Earlier this week I was doing Eliot and Jarvis avoidance behaviour and picked up an essay on Celan’s ‘Solve’ and ‘Coagula’ by Anders Olsson which spends a lot of time describing the ‘Rosa’ ambiguities in Coagula. In the course of this description Olsson quotes Celan in conversation with Hugo Huppert:

And as regards my alleged encodings, I would rather say: ambiguity without a mask, is expresses precisely my feeling for cutting across ideas, an overlapping of relationships. You are of course familiar with the manifestation of interference, coherent waves meeting and relating to one another. You know of dialectic conversions and reversals – transitions into something akin, something succeeding, even something contradictory. That is what my ambiguity (only at certain turning-points, certain axes of rotation present) is about. It stands in consideration to the fact that we can observe several facets in one thing, showing it from various angles, “breaks” and “divisions” which are by no means only illusory. I try to recapitulate in language at least fractions of this spectral analysis of things: related, succeeding, contradictory. Because, unfortunately, I am unable to show these things from a comprehensive angle.

I would argue that these two positions aren’t miles apart and that both Celan are interested displaying “several facets in one thing” and in setting up contradictions and ruptures within the verse in an attempt to show things “as they are”. One of the first things that I noticed about Prynne is the way he uses words to mean two (or three) things at once but I hadn’t (in forty years of reading) drawn the same conclusion about Celan – I’d joined in the spirited debate of what certain phrases may allude to but hadn’t considered that ‘Todtnauberg’ may be deliberately ambivalent or that ‘temple pincers’ could mean three things at the same time.
This does not mean that each poem is an open text and we are free to read whatever we want into it. Both Prynne and Celan seem to be setting up a variety of possibilities and inviting us to consider (at quite a deep level) the relationships between them.
Before proceeding to Prynne, I’d like to go into the ‘Rosa’ problem in more detail. Olsson offers four different identities for Rosa;
1. A figure from early Christian mysticism;
2. Rosa Luxemburg;
3. Rosa Leibovici;
4. The maid from Kafka’s ‘Country Doctor’
Pier Joris translates the poem as:

Your wound
too, Rosa

And the hornslight of your
Romanian buffaloes
in star’s stead above the
sandbed, in the
talking, red-
ember-mighty
alembic.

I’ll skip over the fact that I have four completely different translations of the last two lines and point out that the first and the fourth Rosas listed above seem a bit tenuous and that the two ‘real’ women do fit better with the Romanian buffaloes, especially as there doesn’t seem any other good reason for having these particular beasts in the poem. Luxemburg wrote a letter to a friend from prison which describes how these animals were abused as beasts of burden by the Germans. The second “real” Rosa had a short affair with Celan in 1940 and she came from Moldavia, the home of the buffaloes. The other two could of course be intended, as facets of the same thing, but we’d need to be more confident about the subject matter of both poems before that ‘thing’ could be identified, taking into account the Jewish mysticism alluded to in “Solve”.
Now, in contrast, here’s one of the more complex bits of “URS”:

Before this the custom of granite replicates
trademark parry for money, feel the stirring
of an earthly emotion on a fling. Hold still over,
time to strut and fret, you the debonair chicks
grabbing a tartlet, on a fashion spree. Licit
banter for an ardency to file acrostic intermission
as thousands would, the cynosure up to snuff

making steps on a hot station. Thereat hitherto both
under the chassis, checking off the empty cockpit
or the milk run see how, see where on balance
the main chance is blank and chancred so truly
in the hard morning light. Take a flutter it’s
about time vacant on either side, embroidered over
with excused panels advising early redemption.

Let me say at the outset that I have not one clue as to what this might be about but that doesn’t matter too much because all I want to do is point out the various ambiguities and how they might relate to each other.
The first problem is to identify which phrases/words are intended to be ambiguous and which aren’t. Fairly obvious candidates for intentional ambiguity are:
file acrostic intermission
the milk run
custom of granite
a hot station
it’s about time
a fashion spree
excused panels.
The candidates for being read ‘straight’ are:
parry for money
strut and fret
debonair chicks
an ardency
the hard morning light.
With the rest somewhere in between. As well as ambiguity there’s also what might be a number of allusions- does “time vacant on either side” refer to ‘Plant Time Manifold’ and to Whitehead? Is “the hard morning light” a nod towards Blanchot’s “unchanging morning light”? I suggest this because I’m still being mesmerised by most things Blanchot and because the previous poem in the sequence contains the word ‘demise’ which is a Blanchot word – as in “demise writing”.
There’s several other things of interest going on. Nobody uses either “debonair” or “chicks” in everyday speech any more (do they?) so I take it that the tone of the phrase is meant to be either ironic or sarcastic. “tartlet” is a bit odd unless he’s quoting, aren’t tartlets a Victorian confection? Or, is tartlet being used in a more pejorative sense? “Fashion spree” completely eludes me, it sounds as if it should make sense until I try to explain it to myself although there seems to be a bit of a fit with “strut and fret” in the previous line.
The search for ambiguity (and contradiction) is further compounded by the use of demotic speech and by whatever “thereat hitherto both” may allude to.
The next step will involve working through the above ambiguities in conjunction with reading the rest of the sequence in greater detail to get more of an idea of what Prynne refers to as “context”.
I also need to say that paying this kind of attention is immensely pleasurable and rewarding especially when reading Prynne and Celan.

Prynne, “Unanswering Rational Shore” and Blanchot

Before I dive too far into what I need to say, there’s a precursor to try and demonstrate some method to this apparent leap. Some weeks ago I started reading Blanchot’s “The Writing of Disaster” primarily because of my abiding creative interest in Bad Things that happen. I then found my self both staggered and mesmerised by the first twenty five pages to such an extent that I’ve now re-read the first forty pages on about 8 occasions whilst resisting the opportunity to copy out (or learn by heart) every single word. The last time this kind of thing occurred was with Foucault in 1985 but this is much more intense and personal.
Because I’m really enjoying this process, I’ve resisted reading anything else by or about Blanchot except for one interview given by Levinas.
I’m also distracting myself from writing about Eliot for arduity (see the previous post) and I find Prynne, Celan and Sutherland to be the best way to fill up my head. The normal Prynne route is to re-read “Streak~~~Willing~~~Entourage~~~Artesian” but on this occasion I decided to have another look at “Unanswering Rational Shore” and surprised myself with how instantly good it is for reasons that I’ll attempt to explain below. I then did the Google thing and came across Ben Watson’s piece which was written as part of his “Art and Madness Circus” in 2001 and Michaels Grant’s blog on the poem which was written in 2008. Grant, among other things, quotes extensively from Blanchot to contextualise what Prynne might be about and then throws in Celan and Olson for good measure. I’ve never come across Grant before but it’s fairly clear that we share at least some of the same interests so I’ll need to catch up.
So, this is a blog that’s about not being able to get away from Blanchot and whether his views on poetry are helpful in getting to grips with Prynne. I’ll start with the obvious, “Unanswering Rational Shore” (henceforth “URS”) appears to be two sequences of seven poems divided by a single blank page. Each poem contains two seven-line stanzas. We are therefore led to infer that each sequence has a separate ‘theme’ (or that the blank page may be a blank page without significance at all).

I’ll get on to Grant and Blanchot shortly but I’d like to give one example of why I thinks “URS” is utterly wonderful. This is the sixth poem from the first sequence in its entirety:

On the track the news radiates like a planet auction,

for the best rates hard to chew. If it seems too good,
sucker, the pap is surely toxic, unless the glad
hand goes your way, soft as velvet. The strokes
of the palm not even touched, a waft of livid air
gives the take its donation, sexual preening overtly
lavish in symmetry: your flicker goes to mine and

locks into warranty, well why not. Over lush fields
a rising sun pitches out its sulky damp shadow, in
reminder of cost levels in the benefit stream. Oh
fight this fight or sleep when others wake, the
maze of a shining path leads on without a break:
count the steps in retrospect, burnt umber places
engrossed forever in dumb-struck dropped reward.

(There shouldn’t be a gap between the first and second lines but WordPress is being oddly difficult).

I find this to be everything a great poem should be, it’s beautifully phrased, has lines that I would kill to have written, is oblique without being obscure and is incredibly clever without any sign of pomposity. It also makes me smile.

I’m not going to make too many guesses as to ‘meaning’ but there’s fairly clearly references to corruption that’s inherent to capitalism. The “unless the glad / hand goes your way.” is a brilliant compression of our complicity in these tawdry practices and a fine example of what Prynne does better than anyone else. The “or sleep when others wake” takes some thinking about but is nevertheless sharp and to the point. The “well why not” embodies that degree of world-weary cynicism that pervades corporate life and I love/am staggered by “a rising sun pitches out its sulky damp shadow. The last line is a supreme example of how to end a serious poem, summing up how we live our lives in the current economic order. Or (of course) it could be ‘about’ something else entirely.

What I’d like to draw attention to most of all is the exuberant use of language, this is the work of someone who knows exactly what he’s doing and is revelling in his skill. Milton does this and it’s an indication of true value that we need to be able to recognise and celebrate. “URS” is also a powerful rebuttal to those who persist in maintaining an image of Prynne as “fearsome” and “impenetrable” (TLS 2010).

Whether the sequence(s) require what Keston Sutherland calls “the work of interpretation” in the same way that “Streak~~~Willing” does remains to be seen but I’m certainly looking forward to alternating between the two.

“Unanswering Rational Shore” is in the 2005 Bloodaxe and should be read by everyone immediately.

I now turn to Michael Grant and Maurice Blanchot. Grant deploys Blanchot’s “The Space of Literature” to provide an explanation of what Prynne may be aiming for. The piece is full of inspiring ideas and embodies an attentive reading but is (probably) wrong.

I’d like to start with this:

Whereas discourse expressive of truth typically takes the form of propositions, whose structure can be fixed in advance, this is writing that would have us see it as errant and excessive. It is a poetry of exile, of wandering, and ‘where the wanderer is, the conditions of a definitive here are lacking’. The wanderer’s country, the dwelling-place of the nomad, is not a place of truth, but the abandonment of place altogether: such a figure ‘remains outside, on the hither side, apart’ [The Space of Literature, p. 238]. While reading Prynne’s book, one is made aware of language as though one were this side of it, this side of the process of its being uttered. Rather than passing through it to what is said or meant, one is struck by the visibility and fleshliness of it, as the event of it occurs in the here and now, in the singularity of the one, unique, repeatable, and unrepeatable, moment of it.

I quote this at length because I want to give one phrase it’s full context before looking at it more carefully. I’ve read and re-read the section of “The Space of Literature” that Grant refers to throughout his piece and I’ve reconsidered what I know of Prynne and I think Grant is incorrect on two counts. The first is the assertion that there’s an intention to make the reader aware of language “this side of its process of being uttered”. This sounds great and is conceptually intriguing but I think it’s wrong in this particular context and only serves to further mystify and complicate what is reasonably straightforward. I do think think Prynne has an interest in primary unmediated perception and expression and there is an “oh” in the poem above but I don’t think he’s aiming for some kind of primal language prior to it making “sense”. Such a project would seem at variance with Prynne’s repeated intended to say things “how they are”. The Blanchot quote isn’t given in full because, I suspect, it doesn’t say what Grant wants it to say. The last bit of the sentence reads “which is by no means a beyond, rather the
contrary.” which is typical Blanchot but also puts the excluded poet back in the middle of things.

Grant also makes use of Levinas, Celan and Olson in his reading and quotes more from URS than I have to support his thesis which is that the work has a double nature which is illuminated by Blanchot’s observation that the poem is ” the point from which words begin to become their appearance, and the elemental depth upon which this appearance is opened while at the same time it closes”, to which the obvious response is “no it isn’t”.