Here, one should note that Jenny Penberthy edited both versions of the poems. Why should they matter? Poetry is language that calls attention to itself, that takes its own textual activities as its ground subject.
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That means, necessarily, that poetical texts—[…]-turn readers back upon themselves, make them attentive to what they are doing when they read. McGann , They both affect our reading. It is a deliberate gesture that probes book-making as an artisan craft in an age of commodified culture and manufactured mass production.
This is what gets to be overlooked when the calendar frame is cropped out. This explains why we need to compare the various images of the same poems: conflicting images of the same poem invalidate "textual idealism" McGann , 11 sq. Overlooking editorial decisions or printing decisions means overlooking their role in meaning construction. They are not channels of transmission, they are particular forms of transmissive interaction.
The photograph stands for the material original. Rosalind Krauss famously argued in The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist Myths that "[the photograph] is a kind of deposit of the real itself" Krauss Her contribution to art history is of interest as she showed how photographic indexicality ruins the modernist notion of medium-specific art. In other words, because a photograph is perceived as contiguous to reality, its ontological relation to reality is not entirely compatible with the modernist ideal of autonomy, self-referentiality or medium-specific art.
Not only was Lorine Niedecker aware "of poetry as a system of material signifiers " McGann , 93 but she paid "the closest attention to the semiotic potential which lay in the physical aspects of the book and text production" McGann , Like so many of his contemporaries, Pound as a writer repeatedly imagines the page and the book the way a painter or a book designer would imagine it.
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They affect the way poetic language is used as symbolic exchange of saying, seeing and showing. Their edge-to-edge interaction only comes to the fore if we pay attention to the ontological status of poems as manuscript. It is unseen or overlooked in normalised print editions. It is this resistance I call the reserve of poetry. Reserve as gendered restraint has often been tied to women poets like Emily Dickinson or Elizabeth Bishop.
It is an area "kept free from an applied colour," "which remains the original colour of the material" OED. It is the color of its material. It is in that reserve that the handwritten verse was placed Fig. She erased the original calendar image and line of verse and pasted over a blank reserve she only partially filled in. In poetry, reserve is the other name for unreadability. Of course, looking at this line of verse means seeing the legible signs from the Latin legere which are graphic and visual - the eyes can make out what is written or printed.
But these signs do not easily lead to meaning, they are unreadable from the Saxon root read in the sense that they block the transparency of writing leading to meaning beyond graphic shapes. The poem is made to resist meaning by keeping it out of reach and by keeping it in reserve for other readings.
The potentiality of poetry—as opposed to its power—lies in its ability to mobilize unknown meanings held in reserve until the poems are read and seen differently. They may re- serve as Lorine Niedecker also "dwells in Possibility. They point to a deliberate choice which limits the reading contract between readers and poet.
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The portmanteau word resignment baffles the reader. It connects the resignation of voice to an assignment which marks out voice by a sign, and a consignment which seals voice with a sign.
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If we substitute for one question, "what does this poem mean? It need not be only construed as a temporary Surrealist excess for a maker of otherwise condensed poetry. It is not an obstacle but the defining trait of poetry as artifice. Artifice gives readers the experience of an "estrangement," "a making strange" which is a prerequisite to what Lyn Hejinian calls the reflexive "experience of experiencing" inherent to poetry Hejinian Were poetry to retain its obduracy, its ability to block understanding, then it would not be degraded into expository commonplace.
It would retain its disruptive potential, its tempestuous reserve and its p -reserve, if I but add a p to reserve. She separates words with blanks and breaks in lineation while connecting them in a meaningful sentence. Poetry both separates and joins coeval semantic energies which lead to partial, limited or reserved understanding:. June The line of verse that does not yield immediate meaning becomes a buried verbal remnant waiting for future engagement.
The literalness of facts is an ethical choice often explained in terms of Objectivist Sincerity.
It targets image-making, the ability of language to conjure up images and of poetry to create the illusion of reality through hypotyposis. Indeed, Lorine Niedecker blocks the image as readable analogy. Her calendar is not a metaphor of time but a literal object, an instantiation of time. Poetry is this gift of turbulence and deep silence 27 which foils the attempt at the visual coherence of Symbolist, Imagist or Poundian poetics. Her tempest was her literal temp " Test of Poetry " in Life is a path that breaks backward to its source, to the flush left of a text aligned along a margin.
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Like hand-writing, lineation is amphibious. It is carried out on paper and in life. Poetry here becomes "meaning not revealed but made" Brogan and Preminger When Lorine Niedecker preserved the gift as manuscript and sent it to Louis Zukofsky instead of transforming it into print through publication, she preserved poetry as living material.
When she appropriated a calendar, she preserved poetry in its objecthood, in its thisness. It operates on the page and on time as matter and material. Unlike watches, clocks or hour-glasses, calendars are rarely kept once their yearly relevance is over. However, appropriating the calendar both cancelled its use function while foregrounding time in the frame of months, numbers and days that surround every vertical poem.
Time as matter is foregrounded in the reading experience, which makes us realise it is usually an immanent, unperceived given. What gets to be visually experienced as an analogue of time is the vertical tabular organization of days and months on the page. Time is implicitly subordinated to verticality on the page. Nesting a vertical poem in a vertical frame signals the subordination of time to a rectangular, pre-ordained order. Gleize , The matter of flowing time is such an unnoticed, overlooked immemorial.
And yet, it is visually inscribed in linear poetry. Lines of verse which are horizontal visualize another linear image of time flowing, and this horizontal scheme is duplicated at the level of the letter, since letter-writing and reading are a linear consecutive progression despite breaks, stops and lineation. These two implicit temporal flows constitute an immemorial that is de-materialised by the calendar pre-set form.
Time as flowing matter dissolves into official calendar pages, into collective time.
Anne Louise Germaine de Staël
It surfaces again when it is re-materialised as poetic form on the page. It pits the regulation and regularity of time constraints against the unpredictable patterns of poetry. Order and pattern-bound predictability are on the side of the readable calendar while verse inscribes disruptive unpredictability and unreadability. The calendar is a serial object with self-similar pages which are assembled in an ahierarchical structure. In contrast, the 27 poem-pages are serial but unique, limited in number, open-ended, arbitrarily started in January and stopped in December But they are not terminated.
An infinite number of poems stands in reserve in the serial form which is a generative structure proceeding from a syntagmatic thrust.
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Poems function as what Joseph M. Conte in Unending Design called "an arrangement of mobile, substitutive parts, whose combination produces meaning, or more generally a new object" It is this new open-ended object that is preserved in the manuscript.
Her manuscript calendar poem preserved a resistance to the print medium, to print material that produces a different aesthetic effect on the reader. She preserved the ink matter of handwritten language which would normally disappear in print. She preserved the matter of time and time-regulated forms which are unseen immemorials. She exposed poetic sub-stance, the amnesia of matter in the material and the amnesia of the material in the finished work.