Sunday, November 03, 2013

ModPo 2013 #53 Katipunan Avenue, The Personal Is The Political: On Silliman's "Albany"

Link to text for Albany by Ron Silliman here.

"The line is the distance between." I think this pretty much sums up the Albany chapter of Silliman's The Alphabet. With the aid of the video discussion, I pretty much get that the sentences are intentionally jumbled up (inviting reader participation) and that the "between-ness" is the goal of the prose poem. There is no logical point to it except to witness how the self gets created "in between."

These lines were so evocative to me: "Our home, we were told, had been broken, but who were these people we lived with? Clubbed in the stomach, she miscarried. There were bayonets on campus, cows in India, people shoplifting books. I just want to make it to lunch time."

It's a jumble, it's a mix. But there's something so powerful about "Our home, we were told, had been broken" juxtaposed with "but who were these people we lived with?" It's non-sequitur but I can imagine that these two lines make sense to someone growing up in such a home. And then a moment of violence in American history: a woman clubbed in the stomach, miscarrying. It's a piece of trivia. But it is also very personal. Very "in-the-gut" wrenching. What a line to follow a broken home! It's an exclamation point. And then right after, we are whirled from bayonets on campus ("militarized" universities), cows in India (that are sacred and left to roam the streets) and people shoplifting books. These three are so far from each other that the reader needs to find that line, that thin line in between that connects random worlds (and words). It's a mix of rights, ancient and recent, and the breaking of laws. And then that last line: "I just want to make it to lunch time." Who hasn't thought these very same thoughts? The poet invites the reader to draw the lines.

This prose poem will give you a headache...if you expect a narrative. But who wants this much work? I think I asked this question all the way in the chapter on Emily Dickinson. I guess those who want to look into the nuances of words and language. Puzzles with no end.

Here's one for you:

I'll tell you a love story. There are books on the bed. And the Pope is here. And there is some writing on the blue journal. The one with flowers. A chair is thrown. A sleeve is ripped. What is Biogesic for? Give me the keys. I can get out of here now. But where would I go? Look at my cheek. What color is it? Not really here. There's a knife in the kitchen. The note on the bathroom mirror is in black. The grass is all around. There are dragonflies hovering. The letter is stapled. I take a match. My head is exploding. I have a prescription. We smile at the back of the car. Grow up, grow up, grow up.

That was a short response to Albany. Maybe I'll call it Katipunan Avenue. A short excerpt.

I can feel what's being said: the personal is the political. I agree.

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