When reading Michael Farrell’s new collection enjambment sisters present, I find myself casting my mind to the work of Pierre Macherey, whose theory of literary production stressed the inherent incompleteness of the text. That, “the book [or the poem] is not self-sufficient, it is necessarily accompanied by a certain absence, without which it would not exist.”
The collection is, itself, a structure of complexity, demonstrative of both growth and decay; it is at once about the acquisition of words, assembling into the joy of the literary, and at the same time about control, contortion, the finite articulation of syllables, its careful dissection. In Farrell’s collection, then, we find a disarticulation, a pensive joy which attends the simplest utterance.
The challenge of the work is to ascertain the disarticulations of meaning, of a language which is heading in two directions at once, trading the polyvocal utterance, which stresses and strains against the limits of language, for a syntax of response, which dynamically gathers in and infolds relations with other elements.
Farrell’s poems are as set on the acquisition of language as on the construct of the domestic.
(Oedipus the King, Hoicking)
Which, playing with the notions of containment, punishment and the territorial, of the notion of home for one who argues, in ‘Schopenhauer , Ford’:
makes the compossible claim that the lyrical ‘I’, the eyes of the poet, are tied both to the “mouth” as well as to “youth”. That the claims of articulation are tied to the past, to that which might only exist in fragmented utterances, in glimpses, in an uncertain, testing, and experiential wholeness, that allows an apprehension and renewal in retrospect.
The necessary incompleteness of the text means that the reader is a constant in the flux of the collection, a constant brace to its stutter and pulsing language. The forms and patterns break with an unceasing, teasing velocity, to which Farrell’s voice adds a sense of calm lucidity.
The repetitive patterns of ‘Some Enchanted Odding’ and ‘Schopenhauer , Ford’ are reminiscent of Marinetti or Hugo Ball, but the real treasure of Farrell’s work is in casting the world through the eyes of a child. In that, I am reminded of Hejinian’s line: “ I cannot separate lucidity from undressing” which makes a riddle out of a grammatical proposition, characteristic of her work in ‘The Composition of the Cell’.
Farrell’s fantasmic and creative imagining have the whimsy of childhood, “try this donut made out of doll rubber, tarpaper , and seaweed”; “I want to climb ha / lf an a / lpa / ca”; “If I could r / each the star / s”, which strikes me particularly as playing Wittgensteinian language games, to which children render a language malleable, mold it, create with it, stretch it over the world, and hand it back to you. As Gertrude Stein asked in ‘Arthur a Grammar’: “What is the difference between resemblance and grammar. There is none. Grammar is at best an oval ostrich egg and grammar is far better.”
Farrell’s enjambment sisters present is a brilliant plaything, it is lithe and agile, it turns and twists and jumps across the room, finally falling in a writhing heap on the rug. It contains all the joys and “sounds [of] the nest”. Reading it will put the melody in you.
- Matthew Hall
enajambment sisters present by Michael Farrell will publish as a free download on Monday 31 December 2012. It is the fourth instalment of the Black Rider presents Lyrics series.