Monday, March 9, 2009

reading my "I" in Zukofsky's "A"

quoted-printable Blank Rachel,
I just wanted to let you know
right here by writing this, that
I too am a stranger in these tangled
corridors of strangeness
threaded through the buried graffiti and strata,
prussian blue over burnt umber
a glyph of the twentieth century.
So far, this one, too.
from Draft 64: Forward Slash by Rachel Blau DuPlessis

I should warn you, the post that follows is pretty disgusting.

I read my name into Zukofsky's "A" in several ways. I do this, not out of narcissism, but as a celebration of the arbitrariness of names. Or... how better to escape from how disgusting narcissism is than by reveling in it? This is what naming does too, we escape from the arbitrariness of the universe by assigning arbitrary signs and sounds to things (we're pretty smart).

In part, my meditations on names began in high-school when, inspired by Shakespeare's multiple spellings of his name, I came up with 10,000 alternate spellings to my own boring 3 letter name (Ian). This was the same time I started spelling my name "Iain", which at the time was a lame invoking of my Scottish heritage, but has since taken on many more meanings for me.

Many poets have brought their names into their work in some way:
Zukofsky ("A" by "Z"),
Rachel Blau-DuPlessis pulls the "ache" from "Rachel" in one of the Drafts (can't find it right now, sorry),
Bach composes on the letters in his name in Contrapunctus XIV
Clayton Eshleman in JIG ("Before I was Clayton, I was clan toy,/ lacy ton, ant cloy, any colt.")
In Lorca ("how strange to be named Federico!")
John Cage built his acrostic poems around various poets names.

As I said, I read my own name into "A". Some examples:

-"I AM" (that iamb) is misspelled "Ian" several times in "A"-12 (in "Jackie's" letters)

-placing my "I" (pronounced "eye") into "A"'s implicit title of "An" also produces "Ian" (I:an)

-my spelling IAIN places I's (pronounced "ah, ease") around the A in AN

-"A" in german is "Ein", one the alternate spellings of my name.

EANM ("Ian M") is present in "A", particularly "A"-7 (MANE). EANM is an english tetragrammaton. It's various incarnations form our triune laws of language:

everything must have a NAME
every word must MEAN something
every "prayer" must end in AMEN (closure).

E begins the tetragrammaton (standing on one leg with its MANE of three I's streaming after it).
and then:
on "two legs stands A"
on three N
"four together M"

Read EANM as "E" an "M", as the letter E becomes an M when placed on its side, inviting us to further "turn" the letters.

From "A"-7:
Horses: who will do it? out of manes? Words
Will do it, out of manes, out of airs, but
They have no manes, so there are no airs, birds
Of words, from me to them no singing gut.
A horse's MANE is given voice by the wind (airs), or when it runs (work). But, here
Zukofsky is talking about wood horses (would horses), sawhorses (see horses) set up on the street to hang signs from (horses for working, but hoarse without air). Words will do it (words are NAMEs).

The NAME gives it a MANE, so that it can MEAN. AMEN.

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