Thursday, August 02, 2007

Prelude and Fugue-o-rama

I've been reading H. L. Hix's Chromatic, which was a finalist for the 2006 NBA, and enjoying it. It has three sections: an opening long-poem called "Remarks on Color;" followed by "Eighteen Maniacs;" and then a third section (which is my favorite part) called "The Well-Tempered Clavier" (after JS Bach, of course). The titles of the 24 poems in this section are all music: "Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C," " . . . No. 2 in C Minor," " . . . No 3. in C Sharp" etc. Each poem has a prose-like paragraph at the top (the prelude?), which explores in a lyric way some idea, emotion, or desire (there is a love relationship gone wrong, or a loss due to death, in some of this, I think). This is followed by an asterisk break, and a second poem that is a series of rhetorical comments or questions, many of them repeated in various permutations, in response or opposition to, or as an investigation of, the previous (the fugue?). I found many of these delightful (but I know nothing about classical music (maybe Rebecca could help here). One of my favorite "fugue" lines: "If not why not if so why" -- I could just turn it over and over in my head for hours like a smooth pebble. Perfect.

Here is a sample:

Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C minor

My cold dark salty desire: schools of krill spilled silver from light to light: whales jailing krill in bubbles before bursting on them from below: invisible algae and plankton suffusing the whole: seaweed waving goodbye goodbye: jellyfish these floating moons morsing your name here where it cannot be spoken: sperm whale fighting squid to the death far below any light: penguins sliding off ice into might as well be: elephant seals swimming deeper than radio signals can sink goodbye goodbye: orcas close to ice cruising for antarctic cod: cephalopods signalling complex codes of color and gesture: crinoids fanning for algae in eerie light beneath the ice: swollen tubeworms swaying over volcanic vents: luminous fish as far below day as stars stay above it: orcas bobbing up to peer across the ice then sending signals with their intricate exhalations.

he asked me and I said no which was a half-truth
half a truth was all I had all love left me
I am myself a half-truth now whatever I was before
whatever I was when I thought I never lied
before I learned I always had lied to him and to myself
before I learned love itself is only half a truth
before I learned there are no whole truths
nothing that guileful god flaw has not fondled
of our ascertainings our words our bodies
before I knew I didn’t want the truth
not because I couldn’t bear it I can’t bear what I am now
but because the me who thought she was telling the truth
also thought she could be satisfied
and this me can’t bear the half-self love left me
after it asked what it asked and I said no

(pg 43)


Happy reading . . .


Montgomery Maxton said...

i havent read much of his work, but i certainly have starred at his author photo many of times.

Brian Campbell said...

Very interesting work. Thanks, Peter.