Thursday, October 27, 2005

Samperi's personal polylogue 

I’ve been reading Frank Samperi of late, and find his craft to be intricate and masterful. Take this untitled poem (most of his poems are untitled), for instance, from The Prefiguration that I have been chewing over for the past couple days:

Not soul, but body
otherwise limping we go;
Intelligences’ substance

matters not, really,
glass vase

and liquid in it
that seems
same color—

First of all, the unspoken question is, to me, intriguing, something to the effect of: What moves us? And what moves what moves us? These are questions to which I am deeply committed. Next, I find the way he moves between levels of utterance, from a formal vernacular (“Not soul, but body”) to an internalized cognition (“Intelligences’ substance/ tautologic”) to a truly colloquial voice (“matters not, really”), suggests a dialogue with the self that is so engaged that the internal and external voices become blurred. Further analogous to the act of thinking are the disjunctions that segue between the changing levels of utterance, as if the voices can anticipate each other.

And then there is Samperi’s seemingly boundless and restless innovation. Every couple pages, he is trying a new form, many of which would appear to be new, all of which are within the ‘open field’ tradition popularized by the Black Mountain school. Look at the risks he takes just in this poem. To spring the weighty “tautologic” like a sandtrap in the middle of a largely “spoken” poem is audacious, yet completely assured, because this phrase “Intelligences’ substance / tautologic” is the intellectual meat of the poem, upon which it turns. The real work happens right there, and the poem would deflate to quotidian utterance without it. Then, he softens (transmutes?) the concept, brings it into the “spoken” world with the glass vase image.

Finally, the idea of a personal polylogue is strengthened by Samperi’s use of Intelligences, not, as would be the intuitive choice, the singular, more knowable Intelligence. This metaphysical, perhaps mystical, idea is only partially explained in that its volitional agency is unified with body, and hence, perhaps as knowable or unknowable as such.


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