Saturday, January 12, 2008

A note on space in the work of Ed Dorn ...

by Welsh poet Ian Davidson, found over at the archived Masthead #6 (another fascinating online Aussie ezine), explores the presentation on the page of one of poet Ed Dorn's last major works, Languedoc Variorum. His piece digs more deeply than anything else I've seen:

Languedoc Variorum dislocates the reader at the level of the page. The title itself, a "variorum", is a word used to describe the different versions of a poem and emphasises the instability of the text and the possibility of multiple and diverse versions. Each page is split three ways, with two horizontal lines. The top portion of the page is entitled Jerusalem. The lower part, which is split by a row of crosses, is entitled SUBTEXTS & NAZDAKS. The NAZDAK is both a character in Star Trek and also a slang term for the Nasdaq, a stock exchange dealing in high tech stocks. On each page there is therefore a "main" text at the top, followed by a subtext and then a NAZDAK. The "main" text is about the crusades and the role of Simon de Montfort, written during Dorn's stay in Montpellier a couple of years before his death. The next text down is a commentary (a subtext) in a different font and a smaller size, and the third section is the NAZDAK, written in capital letters in the style of a stock exchange report.

There appear three continuous texts running from page to page, independent yet with intersections. ...

As they say on the big blogs, read the whole thing.

Davidson's perceptive when he characterizes the language of the NAZDAKS as " ticker tape language, running ceaselessly off the machine", if a generation of technology behind. I believe Dorn might well have framed the pages as he did as a satirical analogue to the busy screens of television news channels, like CNN and the repellent Fox, with their breaking news and their ever crawling updates.

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