Saturday, February 19, 2005

How to Review the Poem You've Now Read

I found "The Wire Harness" while trying to understand why Simon over at Rhubarb is Susan finds Lara Glenum's images "strangely unimaginable". Lucidly reviewing her "Eggs of My Amnesia", he nonetheless "stumbles" over the line,

It was running radio wire through the holes in my cheeks

This is the image he can't get his kopóltuš together on. He explains:

It is the radio that destabalizes this sequence, turning one act -- one of mutiliation -- into a second -- the creation of the conditions of possibility for communication.

Simon cannot imagine what running radio wire through holes in one's cheeks is like because he associates the radio wire with radio communication. To see why this threw me, consider the following line,

He was running piano wire across the hairs on my jaw

I have exaggerated the conventionality of the image, but we are dealing with (or "spiting") a comparable "simplicity of terms". My question here is whether the piano destabilizes the sequence. Does it turn the act of execution (or perhaps extortion) into the act of creating conditions of possibility for music? My first inclination here was to think that "piano wire" and "radio wire" are grammatically equivalent. Indeed, when we Google these terms (with some added limitations) we find stuff like:

... learn routing (Programming exchanges) by physically running piano wire and jumper wire through a frame to connect switch points ...

... Running piano wire around the window always worked
for me. Use it like a saw ...

... Take the Red #940 radio wire and connect it to the radio constant hot wire ...

... do a final check of the remote radio wire and measure the ...

But closer inspection reveals that piano wire is a much more ordinary object than radio wire, which often appears only in very narrowly defined contexts. (It should be noted, however, that "radio wire" is a fully legitimate physical object. Statistics Canada assigns the Standard Industrial Classification number SIC 3381 to companies who deal in it.) So Simon was in a sense right to wonder.

His puzzlement, moreover, reminded me of the story Norman Mailer likes to tell about Picasso, namely, that he couldn't learn math for a long time because the "7" just looked like an upside down nose to him. "Radio wire" makes Simon think of a radio and communication, though I would think in most similar contexts "piano wire" would not get him thinking about a piano and music.

I'll continue on this later. Thanks to Simon for starting this off, and giving me a way of keeping my promise to Laura.

No comments: