Thursday, June 28, 2007

File this under: Coincidence?...

I think not.

This morning, I got an email from friend and colleague LJS that made reference to The Martyrology by bp Nichol. I opened the email to find this link to a site on Muppets, where I found out that apparently, bp Nichol wrote several episodes on one of my favorite TV shows growing up -- Fraggle Rock!.

I've mentioned bp Nichol in passing on the blog before, but for those who missed that installment (lackluster, really), Nichol was a Canadian poet. His poems tend to play with language and meaning, and in the Martyrologies, he tells the stories of Saints -- all of whose names derive from words beginning with "st". Thus storm becomes Saint Orm, and stand is canonized Saint And.

At any rate, I began reading Nichol because of David Clark's article in Monster Theory. The most intriguing questions raised by Clark's article concerned the way in which language becomes fragments in the fifth book of the martyrology, and how these pieces become monstrous, in a sense, because of the indeterminacy of the subject's status vis a vis the inherent threat of language in the poem. A particularly compelling quote: A large part of the Minotaur’s repulsiveness comes from its grossly indeterminate status, neither human nor inhuman, but both at once. What is so threateningly alien about one’s own poem that it can be thought of as similarly monstrous? What cruelty lurks at the heart of the labyrinth of language?

It's strange for me to find out, all these year after I watched a show about tiny 22-inch-high creatures who lived underground in a network of caves, that a poet whose work fascinates me so much was a writer for the series -- indeed, a writer who penned a number of episodes I'm almost completely certain I remember.

I'll end this post with an excerpt from the preface to the fifth book of Nichol's Martyrology, which takes the form of a letter -- a section of the text that haunts me still, both in thinking of the poem itself and in remembering Clark's brilliant commentary on it.

It was also weird to hear bits of The Martyrology that far back and I had a sudden image of your poetry capturing you like the Minotaur in the labyrinth - and started wondering what is the relationship of someone to the mythology they make up? Anyway.

Best, Matt.

Works cited in this post:

David L. Clark, “Monstrosity, Illegibility, Denegation: De Man, bp Nichol, and the Resistance to Postmodernism” in Monster Theory: Reading Culture, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1997)
bp Nichol, The Martyrology: Book 5 Coach House Books, 1999. (Web link: Coach House)


J J Cohen said...

Funny how these things all seem to converge!

A sad note about David's essay in Monster Theory is that the layout of the bp Nichol poem reproduced in the volume got screwed up, so much so that David decided he couldn't show the essay to Nichol's widow (I hope I'm remembering that correctly) since the reproduced poem was no longer true to the poet's vision of precision in his word poetry.