Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary

Kelsey, Karla. Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary. Boise, ID: Ahsahta Press, 2006.

A portion of Plato's Theaetetus acts as an extended epigraph to Kelsey's collection, in which Socrates likens the human mind to “an aviary of all sorts of birds” wherein “the birds are kinds of knowledge” and one can “hold any of them after he has taken them, and again to let them go.” Using this introduction as a guide to engaging the text, one can read the book's words, and the corresponding thoughts and images they produce within the reader, as “birds” in an aviary that can be captured and released, each moment offering “modes of transformation” (35) “out-limning new objects” (43) in an “elliptical escaping” (44). Stated differently, the poems create “new objects” within the reader's consciousness, but due to slight alterations, or “transformation[s]” between poems, an absolute or transcendental meaning will not be attained, thus lighting the reader upon an “elliptical escape” into “an alternate scraping of trust/ and through a crack in the sky,” so that “the mind/ draws a relation between patterns” (43-4). “Patterns,” not knowledge, then, is what Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary seeks to develop; and through these “patterns,” some sense of “new objects,” as well as a subjectivity that is both tautological (i.e. “I am I” (78)) and paradoxical (i.e. “Or I have left// myself abroad, and vast, in/ many acres” (78)) cannot so much be attained, but be entered into momentarily. Content-wise, Kelsey focuses on the natural world, exploring landscapes with “mountains hedging up” (53), a “Pocket of valley full of clouds” (59), and an “Overload of palm” (57) where, all the while, “birds flutter/ and fling” (67) themselves upon a “wind beating...to a new sound” (66). Formally, the author structures her collection around three, discrete sections, titled “Flood/Fold,” “Containment and Fracture,” and “Impression, Flux, Continguity.” While each section contains a distinctive style, “Flood/Fold,” divided into four, “Aperture” subsections, is the most innovative of the group. Specifically, Kelsey writes fragmented lyrics “Marked/ by the spaces/ between” (4) them; moreover, these spaces contain a series of centered asterisks varying in length that act as “crosses” which “tell us to be.../ cross-hatched in hope--/ as in a pattern” (8) while they foster an “inner rhythm” (9). In other words, while the spaces do not contain tangible, semantic meaning, the do generate a “rhythm” or temporal “pattern” between stanzas; the “rhythm,” in many ways, can be understood as an affective, auditory cycle that offers “hope” through affirmation by undermining normative epistemological formations: “The movement of perfection between scent and sight/ attained and then lost, thought not as an escalation of vision” (28), but as “sensations” and the “taut wires between them outlining...space” (34). In addition to the asterisks' production of “inner rhythm” and “sensations,” they also offer the reader a visual landscape upon the page that forms “nether relations” which are “mutilated in the mind” (48), to the extent that conflate sight and sound. The second section, “Containment and Fracture,” contains, exclusively, prose poems with a highly-charged lyricism; for example: “our going into, called inter-atmospheric arms gesturing out and out as in flickering action as the ugly world haloing your head” (57). In addition to extensive use of alliteration, the excerpt contains repeated words (i.e. “out and out”) and an aversion to linear narratives. The author subdivides the final portion of the collection into “Sound and Image Accordances.” While formally less dynamic than the previous two sections, “Impression, Flux, Contiguity” does provide readers with “Instruction/ embedded in our spheres” (79) in that we learn “the story [is] not to be told,” per se, “because it has come out folded, melody lost, left/ to face another direction” (84). And what is this “other direction”? It is “a refusal/ to arrest into meaning,” it is “words” that “float/ tilt through air” (89), it is “word and eye...no longer part of...muscles” (90); in other words, Kelsey refutes language as a conduit for epistemology, instead conceiving of language as disassociated from our consciousness and our bodies, floating through the “air” as objects of their own accord.

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