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Paul Buck’s To End It All (Test Centre, 2015)

Paul Buck’s To End It All (Test Centre, 2015)

To End It All is a prose work by writer, poet and artist Paul Buck. The text is composed of the final sentences of a varied selection of books by authors whose names begin with the same letter of the alphabet.

It began as an investigation into the endings of books, and the openings these endings offered for new beginnings. The book concludes with three extended texts, as examples of where each ending could begin to lead, as well as an implied invitation for the reader to respond to the provocation.
Edward Said argued, in his study Beginnings (1975), that a ‘beginning,’ is its own intention and method, and dependent upon an interaction with modern thought and criticism. Distinguishing between ‘origin,’ which is divine, mythical, and privileged, and ‘beginning,’ which is secular and humanly produced, Said traced the implications and understandings of the concept of beginning through history. A beginning is a first step in the intentional production of meaning and the production of difference from pre-existing traditions. It authorizes subsequent texts, both in terms of enablement and limitations. Buck’s work has an inherent argument that endings can be seen in the much the same light. Clearly a good ending should take the reader elsewhere, from back to book’s beginning to further contemplation of what the book has or has not achieved, to new possibilities of thought and writing. Here’s a sample from To End It All:

That dim hope sustains us.
That.
The choice may have been a limited one sometimes, but what an immense privilege to be able to choose!
The copper-dark night sky went glassy over the city crowned with signs and starting alight with windows, the wet square like a lake at the foot of the station ramp.
The direction seemed the right one, too.
The main thing is always the same: sovereignty is NOTHING.
The nurse left then, and Kristie heard her outside, locking the door.
The Other is what allows me not to repeat myself for ever.
Here the endings vacillate between ending and beginning and seem caught in a space somewhere adjacent to them both.

I recently saw Amy Cutler, at the Litmus 2 launch, read a poem based on the index of first lines from R S Thomas’s Later Poems. She saw the potential of forming a narrative around a love affair with memory and landscape in the background from the index. As she read along figures and a development arc emerged suggesting that the process had found latent meanings. Using an index based upon the alphabet creates its own structure. The ‘I’ is clearly a pivotal and activating point and that is the same in Paul Buck’s text. Critically one has a sense of the range of books and material Buck has used for his endings / beginnings. There is the pleasure in guessing some of the authors and books that he selected from, and beyond that an emergence of a psychic flow in the selections and possibilities opened up. Buck’s first paragraph based on the line ‘I give in to temptation’ shows that endings can indeed lead to new beginnings.

There was something against my body, there was an opening, a blaze, there was the heart. Always the crunch of gussets in the discarded harmonies. Many malcontents could be seen lounging. Through failure she snatched the gift from his broken fascination. Waiting for a constant, the chaotic condition, not the most exciting. Not as exciting as his own catastrophe, his own elimination.

David Caddy 6th March 2015

Ephemeris by Dorothy Lehane

Ephemeris by Dorothy Lehane

Nine Arches Press

Dorothy Lehane opens her recently published book of poems with a quotation from that old Black Mountaineer Buckminster Fuller:

‘I live on earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category—a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process—an integral function of the universe.’

Let me add another quotation to this and it comes from Part One of Fuller’s Critical Path essays:

‘In scientific prognostication we have a condition analogous to a fact of archery—the farther back you are able to draw your longbow, the farther ahead you can shoot. For this reason we opened this book with our “Speculative History,” taking us back five million years through four ice ages, and at least three and one-half million years of scientifically proven presence of humans on Earth. We are confident of the validity of our speculative prehistory because it is predicated on naked humans’ physical limits of existence and on environmentally permitted and induced human behaviour and on human artefact-altered environments and their progressive circumstance- delimiting and capability-increasing effects. It is also synergetically comprehensive.’

Lehane’s second poem in this volume of energetic sparks is titled ‘Buckminster Fuller’:

‘heck, pioneer, maverick
Buckminsterfullerene: clean coal,
giant trilby, the dome geodesic

spacer molecules
unitary air is in the air

primitive bacteria are alive with you
man is not consciously cell
nor quasi-paradox

consumption with depression
meaning inertia’

We may indeed not be ‘consciously cell’ but Fuller claimed, soon before the publication of Critical Path that in July 1980, at eighty-five years of age ‘I have consumed over 1000 tons of food, water, and air, which progressively, atom by atom, has been chemically and electromagnetically converted into all the physical components of my organism and gradually displaced by other income atoms and molecules.’ The Foreword Fuller wrote to this, his most important book, concludes with a quotation from e. e. cummings, a poet’s advice: ‘A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words.’ And Fuller then goes on to add ‘I’m not claiming to be a poet or that this book is poetry, but I knew cummings well enough to be confident that he would feel happy that I had written it.’ Dorothy Lehane is a poet.

I like the movement of sound in that early poem, the clicking echo between the slangy ‘heck’ and the claim for amateurism in ‘maverick’. I like the movement of eye between the human and the mathematical as ‘giant trilby’ sits beside ‘dome geodesic’. I like the merging of plurality into oneness as ‘molecules’ and ‘bacteria’ are recognised as part of the life within. The consumption of language, reading words and digesting meaning, makes us who we are and is provocative of movement not ‘inertia’. From its Greek origin onwards synergism suggests propulsion towards work. Odysseus was the only one who could string and draw that bow: get out of the way suitors; wrong time, wrong place!

In her introduction to the second issue of Litmus Dorothy Lehane directs our attention towards poetry which is ‘inherently neurological’ and yet which ‘doesn’t labour to assign literary parallels for scientific theory, nor promote heavy use of devices such as metaphor’. The work to be found within the hundred or so pages of this startling new issue of what already promises to become a major magazine player for the forthcoming years presents ‘subtle coded work operating at the limits of collaborative engagement’.

Bucky would, I suspect, have appreciated Dorothy Lehane’s poems and would also have had respect for ‘the neurological issue’ of Litmus: dip into it and see!

Ian Brinton 27th October 2014: centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas.

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