Jared Stanley responds to Arakaki Permutations
I love Jim’s project – his desire to bring his poetry writing and the embodied practice of the Kata together might seem kind of scary, or too pure, or something, but you know, there’s drama in its rigor and (should I say it?) faith in its unity of purpose. Mostly it’s a great pleasure to read – the mind turning the graphemes into motions. It’s exciting, and more than anybody else I can think of, Jim’s trying to write poems that are embodied (not ‘about’ the body) and are, at the same time, about a rigorous, demanding idea of embodiment. Jesus fuck, that sounds like a blurb.
Has anybody mentioned the form of the book? It’s divided into five sections of permutations of the first poem in the section. So, the first line of the first poem, is ‘word.’ This serves as the title of the next poem. The second line is ‘in process’ serves as the title of the third poem, and so on and so forth. There’s a kind of rigorous efflorescing out of the first poem’s primary intention which I find super exciting, hinting at levels of meaning that can be endlessly generated from the first line. And they’re not glosses, or poems dependent on each other, permutations, gusts and motions of changes.
Permutation. Do I even need to say it? It is the most important gesture of poetry, in these days of endless, extrusions, transformations, metamorphoses. So much of it seems uncontrollable, apocalyptic, I don’t know, disordered, some fearful inevitability, nihilistic even. (I read this headline: Ocean Noise Pollution Blowing Holes in Squid’s Heads) So, sometimes, I think of permutation, and I am afraid of such things. This world has trained us to fear transformation.
But not in this book. Here, permutation and change are ‘of the process’ – should we have a look?
Arakaki no Jo
aroundabout way to confer
cropping with the best of all
intent rivet gatling
in the offing
strategies break one loose
I want to stop and hear the cryptic echo of ‘conifer’ in there. And indeed, the permutation explores the echo fully. The violence of motion, and of rhyme! Can you imagine sapling and gatling together, in this way? the motions of the kata are supple (saplings).
Here’s the permutation of the third line, exciting to me for its animistic conflation of trees and body parts:
the tension wire
by swinging it low
a battery’s worth
of spent shells
and without care
in ward or wood
intertial force lost
flung from orbit
The permutations linger on pain or violence. The suppleness and grace of the knee is snapped or broken, and the language is rife with the special intensity of concentrating on the work a knee does – you know it when it stops working. I don’t know if you’ve seen either Grizzly Man or Twin Peaks, but both the movie and the TV show have these amazing shots of trees, just trees, in motion, in wind, both supple and breaking, falling apart, being acted upon. There’s a similar feeling of an invisible strength made visible in a form in this poem, of centrifugal stress – now you, and your reading mind, are flung –are you not?