Saturday, November 09, 2013

ModPo 2013 Assignment #4: Meditation on Mansanitas and The Shared Nature of Language

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Meditation on Mansanitas


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Visit the link to the "Mesostomatic" here. First, choose a word or phrase to enter into the field marked "Make a mesostic using the spine." Then, insert into the "textual data" field either a URL (web address) for one of the poems we've read in ModPo or the URL of another poem that interests you. Alternately, you may enter the text of a poem in the box marked "Or paste text here." Finally, select any number of mesostics you want to produce, and then hit the button marked "mesostomize." Using the Mesostomatic, you will be "writing through" the poem you selected for your textual data field.

Then, in a short essay of approximately 500 words, describe, explain, closely read and/or "interpret" the results of your mesostic.

"Meditation at Lagunitas" by Robert Hass is one of my favorite poems. I can't pinpoint exactly why it is a favorite of mine. I do know know that it has to do with the word "numinous" (a word I just love) and because it has to do with the mysteries of the universal and the particular and how that dilemma has to do with words. 

I chose this poem so I could confront it in a defamiliarized way. The spine text that I used is "manasanitas." Mansanitas (Cebuano term translated as "small apples" in English) or aratiles (the alternative name in Tagalog) is a word that I've always associated with this poem because we don't have any blackberries in the Philippines. As a way of experiencing the poem, I always imagine mansanitas because they have so much to do with my childhood and the experience of picking them in the summer from low-hanging branches. It is my contribution to the experiment. 

The result of the mesos-tamitized poem is fascinating. The "meditation on mansanitas" resembles all thinking and "erases the clarity." What a happy coincidence! The clown-birch is created in the first strophe. It sounds like an organism straight from the dystopia of the Hunger Games, a mutated tree. What would that look like? The erasure of clarity continues in the last three lines of the first strophe: "the because is." There are no reasons, there are no answers. There is only being. 

The second strophe then moves on to the bramble blackberry (it should be "bramble of blackberry" but I let it be, soaking in the alliteration of bramble blackberry). The bramble blackerry is what signifies. I like how that leads nowhere. Signifies what? Nothing. It only signifies. And that should suffice! I also love the last four lines: It is/ late/ and/ querulous. "It" appears, signifying everything and nothing. What is late and querulous? This question? My attempt at getting answers? What signifies is late and querulous? What signifies does not matter. 

The third strophe starts with "woman," followed by "holding small." I was very tempted to add "shoulders" to small... following Mac Low's "engaging with contingency" and still "not being in control." But I realized that adding "shoulders" was being in control. So I let it go. When I put that together: woman and holding small...I think of "My Emily Dickinson." The world of woman is also holding "small." It is holding the crawl space that comes with being female. The stutter, the hesitation. So I love it as it is. "Holding small" is an accidental and wonderful phrase that comes with woman. And then, further on, this connects with the phrase "at presence." "Holding small/ at presence" is a difficult phrase. Holding small in the face of presence? Projecting "holding small" against presence? It's fascinating how these words have lined up. And then the lovely last four lines (a simile) of the strophe follows: like salt, island willows. Woman, holding small, at salt, island willows. Salt, being so essential. Salt like "salt of the earth." Woman, holding salt. And then "island willows." I loved Robert Hass' poem partly because it evoked something of my childhood. But in this mesos-tamized poem...the willows become the second part of a simile of salt. So essential. 

The fourth strophe has another alliteration: From pleasure/ pumpkinseed. It could be interpreted as from pleasure, pumpkinseed arises. Or it could just be "coming from pleasure pumpkinseed" with pleasure as the "adjective" of pumpkinseed. Either way, I like the musicality of it and I did feel the pleasure of saying that line. There is also a command that follows: Say. After: "Have/ been/ I/ the way/ she." It's a cut-off line. But it contains something like a jumbled-up question: Have I been the way she? And it gets cut off. But I like how "the way" has emerged in the text....calling back Rae Armentrout into this poem. Of course, if I never took up ModPo, I never would have made that connection! I like how the command to just say is followed by a difficult phrase, a fragmented phrase. It is a dare. Go ahead and do it. Let this not make sense. 

The last strophe begins with: "dreamed" (in the past tense!). It's such a loaded word. And then a couple of fragments: are moments/ is that continuing. The last line, in particular, should be a question but is in statement form. This whole poem are moments... and it is "that continuing" of the project. I also like how this strophe is also connected to the previous strophe, creating the phrase: "Have been/ I/ the way/ she/ dreamed." Wow! That's just amazing. The way she dreamed. Moments always continuing.  

"Composing" this poem was a great pleasure. And doing a close reading of this deterministic poem was the second half of the pleasure. It made me come to realize that aleatory poetry is indeed a participatory kind of poem. It is "owned" by Robert Hass (source text), me (close reading and oracle spine text), and UPenn computer program (actual randomization of text and creation of spine index), and Mac Low (creation of process), and ModPo (context, references, additional insights). 

I experienced the resistance of being "author," the creator of the resulting work. But when I let go of that temptation, that urge to "own" what was being created...I realized that meaning is always shared. This generosity in reading and creating opened up what was not possible before. It allowed me to experience "Meditation at Lagunitas" in such a personal and meaningful way. Language is always continuing. And clarity is not necessarily the end, the purpose of language. It is play, it is pleasure. It is the way we dream. It is our way of continuing and engaging each other. It is the endless puzzle of being human and it is bearing witness to the simple (and complex!) presence of you and I. There is no language if it is not shared. Fantastic! 

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