Monday, February 14, 2011

19. “where the firing squad has nothing to aim at”

It’s the opposite of the blind oracle.  It’s the allegory of the cave but in the inverse. Also, it’s not just an epic.  Or it is an epic for ghosts and paranoiacs.  There is very little future here.  How does one write an epic for an end, when everyone born is of a new species, made from the needle (the defect)?  The new species might not even have song. This is “the year of our president” and there are other problems:  literature as it is is useless for the vision of the new species; it is made up of either stories that “love whatever people do” or poetry (the poets “tinker”).  Also the forms are made by men, and this literature that can change this is not the literature of men.  The seer is weak: “Part bird.  Part rat. Part Voice.  Part Elephant.”  Finally, there is the question posed on the first page: “If you detest everything about your society, you say, why are you writing?”
“It is time to change writing completely.”  
We are never girls in our visions.  But this does not mean we are men.  Once I almost died and in those minutes met a man just like Satan, but in a spaghetti western and more bureaucratic, and after I that I saw a doctor, with his Grecian formula and cowboy boots. I swear Alice Notley's In the Pines is a dialogue with that same satanic bureaucrat, the one who is always sitting on the foot of the hospital bed.
“What can I trust? he said.
Your death?
My death, he said. For that was right.
Mine will not be right, I say.  For I won’t have vindicated women. I won’t have seen the fall of male power. I won’t have helped to heal the earth. Why should I die and men still hold power? Why should I have lived to be treated like a woman?”
This is a politics.  The other reviews I’ve read of this are trouble. It's like they are eviscerated by the poem as a  necessary function of the poem. This is a part of the literature the escapes “the critical apparatus.”  This is not a faux-metaphysics; it is “I always knew the house was on fire. It was one of the first things I knew.”  There is nothing on which one can be Aristotlean here and also, to write criticism of these later works of Alice Notley is exactly like launching a missile at a ghost.  One imagines exactly an egg, “appearances,” and also the egg being cracked.  I've got nothing like science here.

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