Thursday, November 03, 2011

On Curtis Jensen’s ‘Aldeburgh1

Notes: i/III

As though a spirit or group of entrained spirits come out of the river over me leering from the blunt hilltop I see…

‘As though’ and so not quite. Not quite but almost. Hallucination’s quiet insufficiency is furtive. ‘The almost: love’s dreadful regime, but also the dream’s disappointing status-which is why I hate dreams.’ 2 I, on the other hand, love dreaming.

i. The poem’s first movement is from the almost, stuff of personal and banal fantasy, to a pure phantasmal mysticism: ‘spirits’. ‘As though’ imposes the limit – the limited transformation of the simile - that the subjunctive I wish, kissing cousin of the conditional, sees and longs to erase.

I read the poem twice. Or rather two momentary temporalities of mine read the poem once, part convulsive memory and part present reading self. Such a close fold of my internal time seems to mirror the almost’s symbiotic affair with the real. Just but not quite. At one moment I am standing next to Jensen in church. At another I read his poem in London. Such doubling of my time seems only to amount to a sadness I no longer really feel.

ii. Regarding the sadness I no longer really feel. I am preoccupied with Pascal again as I have been for years now. This was written once as an example of ardent and secular doxastic voluntarism though it is now only a statement of fact.

‘I see.’ This subject is still, contrary to ‘leering’ spirits. The subject is seeing and only seen by beings born of the subject himself. (The subject seen is the subject as object. But if you are seen by the fragile figments of your imagination are you a subject-object?). ‘As though’ and so not quite. The almost, this mutation of possibility, rouses your leering spirits.

‘…I see a vertical form within which as within a lightshaft are held dust particles distinct points in space & so in motion…’

A move from the ‘blunt hilltop’ and the river, my adored flat countryside, to the ‘vertical form’, this marks a step across the pencilled axes of a graph. Mirrored footfall from one register to another, from the spiritual to the geometrical, from ‘spirits’ to ‘vertical form’. The ‘lightshaft’ is still on the vertical axis but returns the reader to the transparent forms of the spirits.

‘I’ still hasn’t moved, my childhood countryside drawn around him, has its own agency, an agency I ascribe, as only I can for Jensen, to the secrets I know from a childhood running round these churches and rivers, a possessive passion that envelopes me when I am there and that exercises a cloying movement of belonging upon me. My family are buried in these Suffolk churchyards and sailed on these rivers. These spirits - such ghosts are born only of a desire to be protected by a childhood countryside, by a countryside that will, infuriatingly, exercise no agency of its own.

1 Notes for Curtis written in May 2010. Revised as preparatory exercises for ‘Certain Works’, a play co-written with Andrew Hardwidge and performed at the Bonnie Bird Theatre Laban, June 29th 2011. Curtis Jensen’s poem Aldeburgh can be found in its entirety here.

2 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, (London: Vintage, 2000), p. 66.

‘Le presque : régime atroce de l’amour, mais aussi statut du rêve – ce pour quoi je hais les rêves.’