Friday, August 14, 2009

Christopher Dewdney

Fovea Centralis, 1975

'In this particular thought sequence (reading up with time) the flowerhead of realization is preceded by tentative symmetrical idea-tendrils. The form coincides exactly with that of a Devonian species of Crinoid.
'Remote control is a linear paranoia tracing the absolute-event- horizon of omniscience. Remote control is singularity worshiping at the pagan altar of Fovea Centralis. Remote control is the incisionary instrument of a parasitic secret society in the violated memories of unwilling prisoners. Fear runs fast in still waters.' - Christopher Dewdney

The word “flux” comes up often in descriptions of Dewdney’s work, as do “fossil” and “memory.” Dewdney explores multiple binaries, positioning himself in various gaps between science and art, nature and culture, being and non-being or “defined” and “undefined” (or perhaps undescribed) spaces, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, spaces where stillness and chaos exist simultaneously. Karl E. Jirgins describes Dewdney’s writing as “a grid or network of intersections between worlds and words.” As a scientist he is interested in disseminating useful knowledge, fostering public interest in science, and continuing to research and engage in the world around him, but as an artist he is more interested in “perception” than “logic”; and in probability rather than certainty, favoring composition by association. These “contradictory tensions,” as poet Christian Bök points out, also shed light on the chasm between the “romantic tradition that depicts nature as a pantheistic avatar of a benevolent deity” and “the scientific tradition that depicts nature as a subdivisible continuum of objective phenomena.” These tensions are inviting and alienating, pragmatic and wildly innovative. They may also partly explain the comparisons by Steve McCaffery and Bök, to William Blake, Yeats, and Jack Spicer, in terms of his shamanic, visionary, and projective work.In order to achieve his goal of scribe to the natural world, Dewdney invented poetic structures that engage him in every aspect of production, including design. This process began in 1971 with the self-produced Golders Green published with Coach House Press. A Paleozoic Geology of London, Ontario: Poems and Collages (1973), which he also designed, won him an Award of Excellence for design. Foavea Centralis (1975) was written in a stream of consciousness, illustrating Dewdney’s intuitive sense of poetry. The first of the natural histories, Spring Trances in the Control Emerald Night (1978), established the erotic, primal landscape conflating the present with what be seen as a continuous past. Prefaced with an account of the inside of a tornado, this text foregrounded Dewdney’s roll as witness/poet. Alter Sublime (1980) focuses more on language and discourse, suggesting, as Darren Wershler Henry has pointed out, that Dewdney is a “data harvester”, and his skill at harvesting, or selecting material, is what reflects the quality of the text.

The second natural history, The Cenozoic Asylum (1982), contained “Grid Erectile”, one of Dewdney’s best-known poems, a random, scientific catalogue with the repetitive, mantra-like quality of Ginsberg’s “Howl”. Dewdney’s major work, Predators of the Adoration: Selected Poems, 1972-1982, a finalist for a Governor General’s Award for poetry contained the first two natural histories and the series “After Sublime” as well as introducing readers to the epistemological and fragmented “Log Entries”, as well as the “Remote Control” series. A preface by Dewdney and an afterward by Stan Dragland provide biographical and critical context. Permugenesis: A Recombinant Text (1987)—while not published as part of the natural history—continued to explore similar themes in a lyrical prose style similar to the first two natural histories. Radiant Inventory (1988) is a mix of prose and more lyric poems. In 1991 Concordat Proviso Ascendant, the third book of the natural history was published. Demon Pond (1994), marked a shift to a more accessible and familiar erotic lyric, followed up in Signal Fires (2000), a collection that also contained the final two books of the natural history. ECW Press published The Natural History in 2002, bringing together all four books for the first time. Critics have hailed this book as a Canadian Paterson. The work is an erotic pastoral as much as an epic love poem, or adoration—an undertaking for which Dewdney is uniquely suited, and which with its blend of history and myth, technical and poetic language, is significant not only in the tradition of the long poem, but the field of Canadian poetry.
From "The Cenozoic Asylum"

Wooden alveoli erect and fragile
in the rarefied air of October, leaves
frosted-glass,rock chapel orange and red.
The sky no longer enclosing us. The sound
Of a distant airplane blossoming into clarity
and not enclosed. Eels pulled from
the canal. Even the planets are motile,
hoary with diamonds above the chiming
sunset. She swims alone and naked
in a clear October lake. A white building
stands free and O the spirits look dimly
out from there.

A light Modigliani orange as June evenings
are a pastel rainbow of dreams and mercury
vapour lamps,like giant mantids, just
coming on over the shopping plaza.
The violet and pink light setting tanned
skin aglow.Each muscle a new surrender.
The quiet village streets technologized
by our telephoto insignia,lush nightfall
still after a summer shower. The expectant
interglacial period gardens, their scale-speed
hierarchies squandered by darkness. Stars
arbitrate the carnivorous writhing
of cycads.

Here's Dewdney reading one of my favorite list poems

1 comment:

Lemon Hound said...

Ack for the loss of formatting when one cuts and pastes from word docs. Any advice?