Tuesday, July 08, 2008

KAREN MAC CORMACK'S IMPLEXURES

The first part of Karen Mac Cormack's Implexures appeared through Charles Alexander's Chax Press back in 2003. For some odd reason I thought Chax was planning to bring out a second installment of the work, but to my surprise and pleasure Chax brought out a "complete" edition of Implexures containing both first and second parts. Maybe it's the lure and illusion of totality, but there's always such comfort in possessing a complete project — and it's this notion of totality or completeness which seems to reside at the center of Mac Kormack's project — if in fact such a center is identifiable or even present. This to say, the work rigorously theorizes itself as it unfolds, investigating through prose passages, lineated verse and epigraphs the character of constantly shifting subjectivities across time — compounded by time, inextricably entangled in the movement of history, an overdetermined space of relation between the materiality of being, textuality and cultural production. As Cole Swensen notes in a comment on the project, we have in Implexures a "delicate polybiographic structure out of research, hearsay and quotation that zings to the core of identity and displays how collaborative it really is."

There's little I might say here that can speak to the thrust of the work or keep from sapping and misreading the force of it, but I would like to point to the two epigraphs that bring us into it — one from Bryher, the other by Nancy Cunard. The quote from Bryher comes from The Player's Boy:

Time tangled; it never ran in a straight scythe cut, as they pretended in the moralities, but lay in loops, like the grass at haying time when the conies scampered for safety, and stem and flower were upside down together.

And Cunard from These Were the Hours:

It was a discovery of something entirely new, bound up with something entirely past.

Or, as Mac Cormack herself writes, commenting on a "he" separated by time from a contemporary "we":

What might have been the fastest ship of his day would not be so for us, but the observed speed of a bird's flight is more or less the same for both.

And it is this constant tension between a sort of structural continuity and radical historical disjunction that drives the work. Bound up in the new, along with those aspects of being that move across time in a seemingly immutable way, are the fractured alterities produced by history — alterities which, precisely by way of their distance, create the conditions for the production of newness.

The work is complicated — delightfully so. It's historiographic orientation insists on investigating not so much what is spoken but, as Andrew Benjamin notes, who speaks. And for Mac Cormack this who is always plural, the character of this speaking always collaborative. Jean-Jacques Lacerle remarks that the work is "not so much a polyphony of fictional voices as a collective assemblage of ennunciation." That every ennunciation, every textual fragment, is an assemblage shot through with refracted elements of the past detectable through a rigorous attention to the present, is what these poems seem to suggest.