Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Robert Hampson on Peter Gizzi's Threshold Songs
Peter Gizzi: Threshold Songs
The volume inhabits the poetic world of the four elements – air, earth, fire & water – that is also the world of atoms & electrons, particles & waves, DNA &CGI.
It is a work of mourning - from the technology of hospitalised dying:
When those green lights flash & blink, is that it? When the ‘it’ continues strangely for a bit, then falls into a line, is it over?
To the mythic realm of Orpheus, of Thoth & Anubis of the Egyptian death cult, of Charon and Mercury, of the Bardo Thodol. Myths of attempted (& failed) rescue & recovery of the dead; of judgement; of the process of dying & the liminalities of the after-death:
Is there a world?
Are they still calling it that?
The after-death of Bardo – with its lights & colors – that maps onto modern clinical accounts of the brain closing down – is also the poetical world of this volume – but cut with folk tales in their multiple versions.
Between the dedication ‘called back’ and the epigraph from Beckett (‘a voice comes to one in the dark’), the volume situates itself at the start in the liminal space of grieving and haunting – the two-way movement between our yearning for the dead – and the dead haunting us: ‘felt presences/ behind the hole/ in the day’. Gaps & absences, but also revenants, ghosts, memories – the otherwise present.
At the same time, the poetry apprehends another threshold: ‘death we carry/ within us’: the nature of living in time:
now that you’re gone
& I’m here or now
that you’re here &
I’m gone or now
that you’re gone &
I’m gone what
did we learn?
In short, negotiating the facts of ‘time-based carbon life’: a relationship to mortality that is a way of valuing life.
A childhood world of snowglobes, Pinocchio, cartoons as trace. At the same time, what seems often like a non-specific location that crystallises momently as
England through specifying lexis. A planetary awareness of ‘deep
space’ – ‘stars scattered’, ‘solar wind’, ‘planet spin’ – Pascall’s terrifying
interstellar spaces – but also a vantage point – like the posthumous
perspective – a distance – like the mediated vision of lens & telescope.