Monday, July 6, 2009

Why Meadow?

This Is Me There Not an Earth
On Robert Samuel Snyderman’s Poem “Meadow and Torrent”
by Lonely Christopher

“Why Meadow?” Robert Snyderman writes closer to the far edge of intelligibility than is comfortable for some who’ve read him. There have been problems approaching his work with usual instruments of critical analysis. So what can be said about how this operates? Is it, perhaps, a text of figurative decomposition? What can mean in this poem? There is definitely something of this text that’s not as opaque as all that. It’s an obvious personal history --- a history of no history. “You want a history of the meadow. What / is history?” The Meadow is the unanswered question; the poet’s vehicle through the chaotic outbursts of his subjectivity is also the unanswered question. “For each word that mentions her. I will ask who she is? / She might be more than one. / Like the meadow.” There is an “I,” very centralized --- and there is a “you,” who is slightly inconstant but often referring plainly to the reader. The poem takes place across the totality of the poet’s experience. “I have memorized all instances.” The poem is the poet embodying the mythopoetics of Robert Samuel Snyderman. The work opens with “I” --- without irony --- “I am.” He asserts himself boldly: “I am introducing a sequence / to you who would not have advertised me.” The reader enters a hostage situation. Does the poet want to recast the reader as the mirror for his mythologized self? “All poets should horrify themselves and enjoy mirrors.” This text is an emotional autobiography framed within an abstract crisis of determination. The content is not organized with much deliberation, but personal details about the poet’s family, friends, life in Brooklyn, travels out of the city and into nature, and &c. squish around with sexual hang-ups, the historical weight of religiosity, crises of meaning, literary references, and solipsistic obsession (plus more). The poem is an erratic piece of free verse; the only formal tool importantly at work seems to be repetition and variation --- most pages fall under the rubric of “Meadow and Torrent” or “Salvation Limbs,” while other phrases reoccur elsewhere. This doesn’t lend the whole much structural integrity, but keeps some of the slippery text a little moored. Despite authorial claims, “Meadow and Torrent” is not a sequence --- but the declarative statements that the poet uses throughout sometimes undermine the efficacy of signification. “Love does not exist.” “Women do not exist.” He says, “I am not a poet.” He asks, “What is not a poet?” There’s not much internal logic available, and craft is pretty ignored, but the text isn’t impossible --- just feral. Snyderman could be describing himself when he mentions the concept of a “coherent anarchist.” He also describes his writing as “automatic contemplation.” It has always seemed like Snyderman relied heavily on a stream-of-consciousness method of writing; what he presents as finished work often has a first-draft sort of coarseness to it (even with spelling, though he might be retaining those errors now). He types up about two pages a day, most days, on his manual typewriter. Maybe he is afraid of not writing, of there being no writing. “The chore is not the content, The pain is no content.” His constant assertion of the “I,” the self-reference threatening to overwhelm all reference, reads occasionally as insecurity. Maybe he is worried about being erased by silence. He mentions “the terrorism of objectivity.” Perhaps the “I” is an attempt at being a constant subject, disallowing the assault of inscription. The reader will be made to advertise him; everything will be made to advertise him. Objectivity’s erasure will be erased. The poet will incorporate “nihilistic silence” and in doing so bury the threat of that silence. He swallows negation, becomes it all, so the “I” perseveres despite the collapse of signification. “Am I not silence? I am not a poet. Love does not exist.” This poet (who is not a poet) can abuse meaning to the brink of the void. He writes: “I am introducing an oblivion.” The poet’s will to determination endures because no matter what’s around it, the “I” remains, profoundly. “I want to be an enormous gasp.” It is as if he wants to be the last gasp. Is that how the salvation is reached? The poem is, perhaps, a celebration of solipsism as “unconscious joy.”

[Note: “Meadow and Torrent” appeared in Correspondence #2, was published as a chapbook by Beginners Press, and is included in his forthcoming book CLOTH]

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