Best of Drunken Boat
Issue Two: Poetry
by Jean-Jacques Poucel

     When we decided that editors at Drunken Boat would write a comment, like this one, about one of the previous nine issues, for this, the 10th issue of the journal, it occurred to me that the exercise is not only a celebration of each previous issue, but also a more general self-reflexive exercise for the enterprise that has become and is still becoming Drunken Boat (dedicated to cross-pollination and interactivity). 

Relatively new to the crew, I decided that to write this piece I needed a method. What came to mind first, as I was reading the pieces in this second issue, was the important RDF (Resource Description Framework) principle that "anyone can say anything"—a notion that epitomizes (the real? the mythical?) the virtual freedom of writing / coding the web, as well as its continued idealism as embodied in the Ravi Shankar's panegyric: the potential democratization of information, internal repositories of collective wisdom are externalized and made equal to every other bit of data.

For me, the idea of potential freedom is not related only to web design and its interweaving of information in open source structures, but also to these two fragments of the preface to John Cage's I-VI: MethodStructureIntentionDisciplineNotationIndeterminacy InterpenetrationImitationDevotionCircumstancesVariableStructure NonunderstandingContingencyInconsistencyPerformance : "all answers answer all questions" and "anything says what you have to say."

Adopting these axioms as guide and license, adding to them the constraint of linearity (going through things in the top-to-bottom, left-to-right order listed on the index page), I decided to write through the poetry segment of Drunken Boat's second issue with eyes partially focused on what each piece is (consists of), what the experience of this pursuit conjures (reflexively), and partially adrift--shuttling between the becoming and the passage of circumstance, nonunderstanding, performance, and notation (however (un)intentionally).

[Needless to say, the principal omission is everything that figures under the headers Prose, Photo/video, Web art, Sound, and Criticism. In those ample subsections, however, one quickly finds: evocations of the random and entropy (Yael Kanarek, Awe of World); views on the chaotic (Jody Zellen); reflections on the passage of time (Peter Alwast, Deferral); a mélange of poetic montage and testimony as injunctive document (Lisa DiLillo, Tongues that Don't Have Bones); a casting of language as fragment into song, at times electronic (Karlheinz Essl, Hoquetus) at others whisper-intimate (Nahoko Yamashita, Japandelic); and a sonorous quilting of found matter (Ed Osborn, Shuffleboard Walking). These finds, as well as the layered configuration of a hypertext essay (Linda Carroli, Speak) are, in other words, sheer temptation.]


Thus, all words written in orange are borrowed from Drunken Boat 2. Parenthetical initials mark the end spot of my pillaging from that contributor, and are listed alphabetically at the bottom of these notes. For ease of purpose, connective fodder has been freely or sparingly added—the movable standard of Drunken Boat's presentational practice—all of which appears normalized in white. Where the third color (green) intercedes, words are stolen out-of-order from the more classically orienting and more fully articulated editorial notes [RS] already integrated into that second issue.



What collective wisdom figures here might be comparable to nail clippings and clumps of hair that catch in the brush grooming the distinction between what readers—prior to as well as after selection—relate more or less to contrived versions of "me and not me."  Even if the common chemistry of things written, spoken, sung, painted, photographed, and filmed shared the same properties in coming apart, in each and every case the graphics shift as a finger spends whole mornings tracing patterns on the mouse-pad and descending the blue index bank [PD].  The thought of such knowledge, hard to gain for this copy, should go to 5th season, where we'd devour the prey one pulls from the sea of interconnected slips backward through variously structured representations (time and space), surfing the magma of signs. 

You can't pocket the idea of that knowledge, but it comes with you afterward, not unlike a calendar (for sight) or a calculator (stabilizing decisions), but packed deeper within your mental baggage, and thus not quite as easy to forget.  If to forget is to conceive, to not forget to turn away from arrival, the medium itself locates, catalogues, disseminates and distributes, keeping what shimmers afloat, stilled for interpretation in a moment. 

Familiar forms call and respond in a forest of collaborative hypertext that illustrates how the very concept of digital poetics encourages us to catch a, an adjusted do-over, to rotate and turn all present and traditional practices into the nodal reel of a virtual imaginary, unleashing, should we see it, a complete precession [SS], a parade for the unfurling (of) mind.

Indeed, I am here dancing the wherewithal, the fierce pleasure of whatever-it-was-going-to-be, to open up the broad stakes, illuminate passageways here inside this grab bag, this plump body of joyfull knowing not toppled by thought. Of these straight out poems, I'll sing of singing in the shower of wandering around like a perpetual groom [SW]—here, have one, a long stemmed rose to prick the eye, the luster of our riddle-aged voyeurs who look for something unprepared, immeasurably [MR]. They've strayed far from where they'd played chalk-scrawled street games and caught glimpses, between the gates, of ancient cities on the other side.

My elaborate blueprint, far from unique, wanted to wed myth and theory, old and new stories, mindscapes that were supreme, to their places along rose-colored streets. Medusa's laughter and Circe's flair would decay into muons and neutrinos (though none has been seen). Shiva's dance becomes hypnotic in the spin of particles, Ariadne's thread is reconfigured to weft and warp of superstrings. And, why not, this carnival of myths would want nothing more than to co-exist with the latest antics of our inner telescope?

I, who keep making these paradise gardens, planting them inside my head, out of season—yes, I know, their borders delimit both me within this breathing anthro-museum built on the milk and honey of dreams—I'm talking a different version still [BL], where trees twitter truth on how white crows gather under windows [AT]. Even when extenuated, Mayakovsky's suicide note was a poem praising all creation. So why we can really believe in happiness and in success, Borges would conclude, is because Kafka wanted his books burned; he preferred to tell the truth, not the truth of facts but the truth of his dreams [DL], beyond the birth of technologies, the renewal of an environment cut, like Occam's razor cuts, through the mess of language.

Taking both at once, marriage and parsimony: my missive, my gazette, tomorrow will be below the cold convergence, where frazil, floebergs, and breccia - sea ice and mists that well up - collide, to trace this thunderous break with a storied crystallography. No need to worry how too well we play at ghosts [RM].


List of poetry contributors:

AT - Alberta Turner

BL - Barbara Lefcowitz

DL - David Lehman

MR - Mark Rudman

PD - Patrick Donnelly

RM - Richard Mathews

RS - Ravi Shankar

SS - Stephanie Strickland

SW - Sidney Wade