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vocabularies

“Formal choices are never without ideological implications.”
Marjorie Perloff

From the title on of Jennifer Karmin’s “aaaaaaaaaaalice” (Flim Forum Press, 2010), we are falling—crowning though sentiment and buckshot language splayed across pages. “aaaaaaaaaaalice” is a book grappling to hold on to meaning in the self-fomenting chasm that is our condition. In this way, sentience is a pain.

The book oscillates, like its speaker, between a traveller’s snapshots of exotica and an authorial responsibility to the readers’ experience with a crafted effect. In the tatters and wobble between sign and signified, the book struggles to make sense of the phenomena of experience. The book may be a performance score toward a diaristic and playful childlike freedom or it may be a series of exercises pulsing between apophantic closure and menu aperture.

Because I cannot read Jennifer Karmin’s “aaaaaaaaaaalice” for you, I want to insist on one thing: I want to insist that the book is not both a LANGUAGE text and a commodity but that it is between a LANGUAGE text and a commodity. The book is between a self-conscious Fluxus score and a distraction in the wax museum of the dream-life. Indeed, how can any experimental reading be anything other than the between experience of (1) the cutup language that points to the readers’ alienation from themselves and (2) the immersion in the placebo of closure?

One thing is sure (well, for rhetorical effect, it is): those who read poetry attentive to its medium will take pleasure in the different motives and motions animating this book. After all, why read if not for pleasure taking? Another sure thing: experimental readers should read widely, as Karmin does: from non-sense literature to Postmodern Physics.

For what seems to be a few very good reasons we hate to have our vocabularies extended. One such reason is that urbane and modern industrialized readers are lazy, so used to abhorring and going in dread of inconvenience are we. It is hard work to learn new words, even if we were to add such new words only to our passive lexical backwoods where many shadowy terms loaf seeing the light of use but rarely.  Perhaps, on the main unwittingly, we also detest distending our word-hoard because we intuit that new words bring new worldviews.

New words are like spinach for our mind’s eye. We may agree with poststructuralist philosophers that authorial intention is unknowable but then how do we square that with recent neuroscience evidence that the RTPJ (Right Temporal-Parietal Junction) is responsible for interpreting others’ intention and therefore vital to our moral judgment of their actions?

So how might experimental readers write about Tibetan yaks, as Karmin does, in English to Anglophone readers without tokenizing the yak and the yak’s milk-drinkers?

liza comes to talk
grandmother follows
smile gold teeth
many questions
for usa (80)

The more obvious delight of experimental reading presents with the ignition spark motion between the estranging assortments of address and the escapism of storytelling. The more often overlooked pleasure of reading experimentally is that such reading expands the readers’ vocabulary and therefore what is possible, between poetry and the other genres of knowledge such as philosophy for Charles Bernstein, the natural sciences for Forrest Gander, or the medical sciences for Paul Celan. In place of a hermeneutics of reading, as Susan Sontag’s ghost might say, we need an erotics of reading.