Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Poetry as Scholarship" by Ange Mlinko


Hippocampus: a sea horse with a horse’s forelegs and a dolphin’s tail.  Ignis fatuus:
a phosphorescent light that hovers or flits over swampy ground at night, possi-
bly caused by spontaneous combustion of gasses emitted by rotting organic
matter—alternatively, something that misleads or deludes.  Pioneer: foot soldier.
Placebo: “I shall please.”  Standard: rallying place.

A dictionary of words from other languages with no counterpart in English
would include chreos, “the poet’s obligation to praise,” and charis, which means
“the charm specific to poetry.”  But sometimes you wanna say: Screw you,
charm! Sappho doting on her girls, I’d like a little thumos, i.e. a hoof’s kick to the

I’m at the typewriter being useful, meanwhile—doctors walking freely, profess-
sors walking freely, addicts walking freely, priests walking freely! Who is as
useful as I? Larousse and Bescherelle, Roget & Webster, Liddell & Scott: I would
put them in a play, the play I don’t write, called Ignis Fatuus.

As Roussel’s putting a statue of Kant in Ejur was completely faithful to the
bizarreness of Africa, so I am obliged to find the precise correlatives to
describe the randomness of the universe, those rifts out of which the hatch-
ing of a new being, or alternatively, the brick that falls on your head alone from
the scaffolding. But it’s not even a brick, it’s the fingerprints on a brick or sec-
ond cousin to the experiments done from leaning towers, measuring the
velocity of falling objects of different weights; time loses its place, and you get
the placebo.

To be a pioneer of archaic meters, check out the newly excavated encyclopedia
of horse gaits, which metamorphoses into an ode on the mount with strophe
and antistrophe interspersed with didactic choruses, seguing into an instruct-
tion manual on the training of steeds, a pre-Socratic treatise crossed with an
Arabian libretto, a hybrid text you send out on a sojourn rather than the race-
track, communicating intelligence reports across the spice routes, ending with
the rules for a military funeral for a mule.

I was trying to describe the perfect library when I remembered that all you
need to know is its etymology, rallying place.

Source of the text - Ange Mlinko, Starred Wire.  Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 2005, pp. 42-43.

Bourguignomicon: Hybrid jeremiad. In this poem about aboutness, Mlinko glides by passion versus placebo, the false fire of lexicography, & a poem as library.

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