Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mapping and Time

Back then Hazel and I lived in a basement apartment on Northumberland Street, near Ossington and Bloor -- at night you could sense the subway cars running under the city just to the south of us. I was reading a lot of Gerry Gilbert, and bpNichol, particularly Book 5 of the Martyrology, and the result was that I became really interested in the idea of mapping. I came to think of language as a map that was plotted by a body's motion through space and time, and I was interested in what was right around me as a gathering of places, things, and people that made up a cultural phenomenon that came into being in my mind, and that's how I wrote: daily, in journals, one poem or one page at a time. I read a lot. I slid across the earth by foot or by transit or by bike, leaving behind trails of language. I became the writer in residence of a bush lot that I visited once a month on the edge of Essex County between confessions 7 and 8. (Ha ha -- that was supposed to say concessions.) Gilbert's totem animal was a slug -- I liked the image of writing as a slime trail of language that you left behind just because of time. I also remember reading Greg Curnoe's Deeds Abstracts, his history of the property he owned in London Ontario that reached back to prehistoric times. That book, alongside certain texts by Christopher Dewdney, opened up the possibility that every space has a past that is deeper than we can possibly fathom with our general concerns in the present, and that maps (and I love maps) are actually static one dimensional representations that erase the past because they are overloaded with information about the present, information that becomes outdated the moment it is printed. A lot of the writing I did then was not published in anything larger than a small chapbook, with funny titles like Backroads and Other Creatures, and somehow that work, that mapping in language, seems to work like actual maps: it erases itself once it is written. Such work wasn't meant to last -- perhaps it is because I was young and it didn't say anything interesting other than "I AM ALIVE!" -- but somehow, that writing points nowhere except to itself. But I do remember the pleasure of writing it -- that cannot be ignored. Maybe no poem is meant to live very long any more, or direct a reader very far from itself. Truthfully, I'm super curious about what lasts -- what will outlive it's own mapping? and as such I'm supremely saddened by the fact that I won't be around in a few hundred years to see how it all plays out. Thankfully no one else will be either. Which is probably why it is so curiously sad and/or gratifying to see what does receive attention in the here and now. 


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