Saturday, September 01, 2007

Donato Mancini, Ligatures

Ligature is a typographical joining of letters, and Ligatures, by Donato Mancini is an investigation of the phenomenon. It is conceptual poetry at its best: entertaining, illuminating, intelligent. Ligatures, or letter pairings, reveal much about the way we use language, not unlike the revelations Christian Bok offered us about vowels with Eunoia. Here we are looking at words and their mirror, or perhaps syllabic opposites:
Hollywood wooden denim nimbus bustier tiered
redundant Dante anteater terse seat atop operator torso
soursop soporific fictive veal align ignite iterate teem
embargo Argonaut autopsy psyche
cheddar daredevil villanelle
lemur murmur murder derange ranger angered
redbird birdbath bathos hostile stiletto
toro roof offer feral almost ostrich riches
chestnut nutrient entrée tree
reed re-educate categorical callous louse
seethe ether thermos mosque
I had a hard time deciding what to excerpt because although there isn't "meaning" so to speak, there is sound, and the sound and associations have a cumulative affect. Once the reader figures out the notion of ligature itself thee are all manner of burbling connective pleasures. Go ahead, read it out loud.

"The Starfield Series" may be my favorite, casting letters and words up to the night sky is a practice I imagine poets have engaged in for centuries. Mancini achieves the impossible:

There is a lot of fun here, and some of it, such as "The Body Remembers: an @lphabet reader," or @lphabet (see that here), while exciting to look at, didn't speak to me as much as others--22 baby mesostics for example, and "Still Lifes with Alphagetti":

“The new teachers at Lord Elgin are settling in nice, and wow
what a great bunch of people. They come

from many backgrounds and have enough initials
after their names to fill a can of Alphaghetti.”
and fun is good, fun is something lacking in much contemporary poetry that favors revelations of sympathy (often from rather unsympathetic sources!) as opposed to discovery. So yes, fun. But I wanted the whole alphabet, and I wanted it pushed to its extreme a la Christian Bok or Kenny Goldsmith. And that is really my only critique of the book. Some of this work has appeared in galleries as text based art, and one does have the sense one is looking at sculpture, and sometimes an artifact or documentation of an undertaking. Not surprising given the work looks at typography itself, meditates on varieties of typeface--Q for instance, which appears to be here an ashtray, here a side view mirror, here a nail in a coconut shell--font, filial sounds. Others are more difficult to interpret:
Clearly this is a poet with a lot of talent. I'm very curious to see where his investigations will lead him, and eager to see the forthcoming book, ?thel, also with New Star, the small west coast press who had the foresight to publish Lisa Robertson a decade ago.

I've been thinking of the whole iPod generation of poetry and its place in our contemporary world. Surely there is way that it can do more than soothe and replicate, or act as a nature preserve. Can it not inspire new ways of thinking? No one wanted to invest in that little wooden Apple computer. They couldn't imagine the use of combining a computer with a keyboard...well, imagine people.

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