Thursday, March 20, 2008

Juliana Spahr's "2."

My last few morning commutes have been occupied by reading WORK #2 (See the entry several prior to this for general information on WORK#2). The item I've returned to most often has been the 2.5 page contribution entitled "2." by Juliana Spahr. When I read "This Connection of Everyone With Lungs," one of her full length manuscripts, I was challenged by her lyricism, how despite focusing so much of her critical work on the writings of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets and other mostly anti-lyric writers, her own writing often embraces a forthright and unashamed lyricism. But I think it might be more appropriate to say that she is re-embracing lyricism, and not the lyricism I've been accustomed to through my readings as an undergrad (i.e. high-modernism, the song of his self and her self). Juliana's lyricism seems to be more of a song of selves, both intensely personal, accompanied by idiosyncratic experiences, and yet sincerely aimed at connecting with readers, revealing itself to be an empathetic text.  

What I found in my recent reading of "2." suggests the continuing evolution of her relationship with a certain brand of lyricism. If I were to describe the piece, I'd have to call it openly biographical, factual and stocked with facts, an eerily cut and dry tone, the kind of confession that comes from remembering. And yet, were this description told to me, I'd suspect something very different than what is on the page. I would imagine the delivery somehow embellished and dramatized or obscured, as is often the case with anything biographical.

Beneath the title, it begins "1969, 17.8 percent./ 1979, 14.1 percent./ And a story about the invention of rubber soles./ And sometimes when people came by the station she would/     curse at them and tell them that my father was a son of a/     bitch." Further down it reads "Each evening the computer was programmed./ Eventually a lawsuit was filed./ Every useful thing, for example, iron, paper, etc., may be looked/        at from the two points of view of quality and quantity./ Forty jobs per 100 people in 1969." 

The personal continually and inevitably runs into the public. The statistics aren't simply dry material, they are delivered dryly, without immediate association with any meaning. We read dates and ratios as they bookend literal facts of lives. Each incident is shrouded by glib deliveries, many of the lines seeming more like simple responses to questions rather than sentences woven together to explain a situation.

The result is more jarring than most "I"-less attempts to meddle with language. I finish the poem thinking about people. 


Katrina said...

wonderful review of this work of juliana's. and speaks to her work at large, i'd dare say. glad to read your review.

Jeremy James Thompson said...

Thank you, Katrina. I hope to start generating more brief reviews, especially of our colleagues and professors. Community, you know.


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