A collection of poems by Robert Dodsley

By Robert Dodsley

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They saw beyond the mists. 30 With windows blown ‘wide open’ and vision reaching ‘beyond the mists’, revelation once again appears within the reach of the sentence. 31 Taken as ‘­deferred action’, the juxtapositional mode of automatic writing entails such ‘play’ both within and between sentences. 32 Silliman may have had just such a concern in mind when he allowed syllogism a limited purchase in the dispensation of the ‘new sentence’. An example is also to be found in Breton’s piece under discussion.

Perhaps, then, this is a moment of self-­recognition. If so, it is not a moment of self-identity; the man is caught between the present of his recognition and the past of his infancy. What delays him, what keeps him waiting is none other than the sentence itself. The anaphoric cluster of ‘comets … eruptions … dreams … charlatanisms’ does not bring the final clarity of recollection but perpetuates the paralysis of symbolic redundancy, falsification and mystification. Retranscription is poss­ible but it is for the reader to see, perhaps, that aspirations to heroic status are only the ‘ophthalmias of sterile youthful days’, that the natural place for dreams of fame and glory is really the ‘lunatic asylum’, since, in their assimilation of ideological imperatives, they construct barriers and constraints that need not be there at all (‘non-existent walls’).

Nowhere, perhaps, is the ethics of poetry more urgent than in the representation of war, which accounts partly for my concentration on Palmer’s sequence ‘Seven Poems Within a Matrix for War’. Also alive in this discussion of the poetic ‘theatre’ of war is Benjamin’s image sphere, rocked as it is by the contemporary face of the informational image. Like that of Palmer, the writing career of Susan Howe is somewhat en avant of the emergence of ‘Language’ as a cultural signifier in the late 1970s. It is in her concern for the ‘dark side’ of American history that she connects with the themes of the present work.

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