Thursday, June 24, 2010

There Are Birds

Taggart, John. There Are Birds. Chicago, IL: Flood Editions, 2008.

Taggart investigates both sound and repetition in There Are Birds through use of the serial poem. The centerpiece of the collection is a sixty-page poem, sectioned into eighty-nine units and titled “Unveiling/Marianne Moore,” which displays most of the characteristics at work within the book as a whole. The extended form of the serial poem offers Taggart and his audience an ideal platform to explore these principles because it is a “deliberative sequence a line of thought/ which is not a straight line which is a branching/serpentine” and “which stops and starts/restarts which has life/ a form of its own cut up or broken/ nonetheless a life form rhythm/ of its own” (23). By deliberating through and within a “branching” and “serpentine” thought pattern, that at times is “cut up or broken,” the poem forces the reader into neither a particular instance positing itself as a false totality, nor a rational line of thought predicated upon logic; instead, readers encounter an accumulation of sounds and words, or “stops and starts/restarts” that produce “a life form rhythm” beyond the grasp of classification and representation. Stated differently, by exploring similar words, sounds, and themes over the course of the poem, a “reduction and the composition of reduction” results “in intensity”: an affective rhythm that consists of “birdsong/ mourning and unmourning at sunrise” (1), “delicate textures (6), and “color and pattern” (19). Of course, this is not to say that the intellect has no role in these poems; in fact, Taggart believes that one needs a certain amount of concentration and control to direct intensities in a positive manner. He writes: “As an individual reads and writes he gradually learns to close or inhibit the input of senses, to inhibit or control the responses of his body, so as to train energy...upon written words” (25). In order to aid in the process of intensity control, the poet incorporates a great deal of white space into his writing. The Notes section at the end of There Are Birds further expounds upon the purpose of spacing when it informs us that we “will occasionally come upon internal space gaps of varying proportions (varying durations of silence)...They provide time for rest, for an image to assume depth and definition, for reflection. They are not so much 'holes' as cadenced parts of the whole” (90). To wit, the pauses created by the “gaps” attempt to provide a “cadence” for readers wherein “the space between white space and spaces in the head” fuses so that “things,” or images, words, sounds, and ideas, “that belong together...are made to hold together” (23) in concentration. But, just as soon as we produce these image-thoughts, they dissipate, shifting from “operative” to “operatic”: an “evolution...from speech to cry,” from linguistic and intellectual to emotive, intensive, and “ultimate unintelligibility” (38). In addition to the aforementioned traits of Taggart's poems, they also lack regular punctuation, more often than not relying on line breaks and the reader's internal rhythm to determine the cadence of the poem. As such, one must foster a “rapport with the body [and] the note,” or inscription, so as to move “straight/ into sounds colors”; only then can one make “room/space for...a new sign” formed from “the/ shadow of// ...what was given to him” (82).

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