Monday, January 01, 2007

Make A Song Out of That: Concretely

When I first saw this extant poetry, I couldn’t write it down because I took all my pens out of my pocket so they wouldn’t explode while I slept in the back seat of my car. I thought about the generations that must have puzzled over Paterson’s most prominent concrete poem, especially because the Q in JACQUARD—hardest, most lost and ancient word!—was the letter most eroded. Once I secured a pencil from a mini-mart, I appended my transcription with the line “a daily deformity to be deciphered,” which I think must be from Paterson but I can’t find the citation at this moment. In any case, I immediately crossed out this line, perhaps thinking it a bit much . . . maybe my initial lack of equipment let me appreciate the purity of this string of words that conjured and crafted string itself. Googling them, I imagined that there would be umpteen references on historical and city sites. However, it seems only the Japanese are hep to their poetry, and these particular tourists were even curious enough to find the referent, which I did not know existed. The actual Silk Machinery Exchange Building is now a half-way house, and the Paterson Museum, where you will now find the machines, is oddly across the street, which I guess is also half-way, between use and oblivion. The museum is hard-to-find for those of us who move more by serendipity than by travel guides, and it is over-shadowed by the more prominent “Cultural Center,” a stone’s-throw away.
The Paterson Museum is a bonanza of found language. A yellowed tag provided an addendum to the Silk Machinery Exchange text: Reeds, Harness, Lingoes, Shuttles, Quills, Pickers, Twine, General Weavers Supplies, Loom Fittings. I wondered how the pride of the “lingo” went apace with the development and mastery of the machine. We’ve (weave?) come a long way from the crack of the Jacquard Q to the narcissistic buzz of terms MySpace, iPod, and YouTube, even though the Jacquard card started it all, the origin of the computer. (Let’s not get sucked into the eddy of the mise-en-abyme again.) The words--like the machines whose noise once filled the air of the streets here--are now silent.
In a dark corner of the museum, a lexicon of nostrums: delphinium, quassiae, jalapae, digitalis, pimpenell, aether, lavender, anisi, citronella, myrrhae, cudbear, Syrup of Rhei, Mavis Talcum, Tancro Cough syrup, Unguentine, Salva-cea, Anti-Drink, Granulated Black Draught, Larkspur lotion, Vinol, Kondremul, 4-Way Cold Tablets, etc.

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11:40 PM, January 04, 2007  

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