The exercise, upon reading Anne Carson’s Nox:
Build an elegy out of scraps, fragments, parts. At least some of its text should be found text.
Nox a text I admit to some mixed feelings re. Gorgeous seductive reproductions of crinkled scraps. You can see the shadow where the slip lifts off the ground it rests on. The tears and stains are palpable. The thing ages afore your eyes. A sepia principle squared and resquared perhaps. Apotheosis of mimesis.
First day discussing it, a tenth or thirteenth point threeth muse came down upon me, and I held the faltering accordion o’er my head, and cried out, “is document porn, people, document porn.”
I meant, it promises all the satisfactions of actual cotton fibre, passionate tears, coffee stains or such under your fingertips, but it’s mere dissembly. A 2D picture plane w/ a pretence to texture.
Yeah, I know, book’s an elegy, and first and last elegy for itself, and eros is longing for what’s gone missing, yadda. Porn knows it’s porn’s still porn.
Not, in the words of a comedian or three, that there’s anything wrong with that. But there are other options.
My students, bless’em, haven’t the production budget of a New Direction behind them, but their work on this exercise’s been wonderful. All sorts of elegy, acknowledgement of lack and loss and longing, and done without making their scraps into fetishes. (Admire Carson lots. Lots structural in Nox I love. But not its slick mimesis which makes me sort of sick.)
Herewith a gallery of their deft encounters.
One interrogates the torn edge without making a fetish of the tear.
One abrades the boundary between beauty and ugly in a way only plastics and the postmodern can.
One applies a mathematic of the shell to arrange swatches cut it might be from a Louis Quatorze drawing room.
Click on this one to get some sense how it shone. Also it had a warm shaggy waft of tobacco which made me want to smoke which I’ve never (almost). It was, that is to say, multi-modal. Okay now I’m doing the nostalgia I got on Carson’s case for. O mimesis. O Plato.
Been on this student’s case to get his thinking into his fingertips. He broke through and big.
And this one, my goodness, click on it too, the layers! the textures! the heart! (all of them, the heart)