Wednesday, April 20, 2011


ANTERIOR ADDENDUM: Prefacing statements below with a stretch from Ryan Dobran's open-circuit comment on Pattison's fables included in the pamphlet published in conjunction with her February 18 reading at Cambridge: "The movement from without and then further through and back within translation is the discovery of amplified historicity, of vectors both deeply intimate and ejected; by routing the potential overlaps, mismatches, frictive displacements, and subtle solutions, the acoustics of belief dissipate by heady imposition."


Loathe to comment for fear of diminishing the splendor of their force, but here a couple of Reitha Pattison's extraordinary fables (Some Fables, Grasp Press, 2011):


Mistaken for fame, notoriety clings
tourniqueted in the height of guise.
This tumble in armour from the talons
of greed or want is highly instructive.
Some caress away the indelible mark
written broadside on the itching pelt.
In alien furs words reveal the pitcher
empty. Deceit in a dust bath there
on the lane often floors the moralist,
tricks the carrion's rapt onlooker.

[I see now in the Cambridge pamphlet that Pattison read from John Ogilby's 1651 Fables, paraphrasal politicization of Aesop's. Ogilby on Aesop: "On his plain Song I Descanted, on his short and pithy Sayings, Paraphras'd, raising my voice to such a height, I took my degree amongst the minor Poets."]


The cock missed the asterism of the gem.
Not eating wisdom or starlight his red eyes
focus only on corn which at least sticks
to the ribs. Grounded meal is a celestial
mirror; axis mundi lies in a yard tended
by an unregenerate astrolabe, the other
element braced in a dun husk. Farmers
and vipers are plangent for their venom,
jewel-like nearer veracity than being
left in snow, which makes a frail
parable, more reptilian comitas in scales.

In all twenty fables split down the middle, separated into two books; a diadic construction that supplements poems targeting the self-congratulatory constructedness of the imagined distance rescuing human civilization from a pure animality; targeting, too, the reduction of animals, their wholesale ghettoization, by way of a reason that assuages the irreconcilable uncertainties of a far more savage, fundamentally economic beast.


No deluge: now the dove's mouth
carries grass. The undersong of
the "economic cosmos" is heard in
the meadow where the herbicides
work swift harm for a margin like
inharmonic blue prairie fires. In
this one, sous get stone again, miser
bereft, the pain is phantasmal or
in the pocket, coffered in the grove
in locked land of external goodness
for: "who dothe enuy at the treasury?"

Pattison's fables offer an opportunity to refuse the allure of shiny stones — of aggressive writing strategies and grandiose forms of poetic production — and take up the poem as the pathological or pathetic lyric space of an active and internally explosive thinking. The pathetic is puny, small in its way. There is a recognition, or more a valorization, in these poems of smallness, the character of one's scale among others. Naming the undersong, registering its destructive force, seems essential; or "Excessive conceit of hides: whichever beast | ventriloquises its instinct for the fabulist | through the sockets of quarry can't prop | up the dictum."