Friday, March 23, 2007

exchange with stan apps

there's an interesting exchange between me and stan apps, stemming from his brief comments on my serial poem "brakhage notes," which just came out in the latest issue of primary writing. it's going on mostly in the comments box, so i pull it from there and reproduce below -- but read the whole post for his take on joseph mosconi (in the same issue) and stephanie rioux (in the very interesting previous issue).


Tom Orange in his “Brakhage Notes” aims to provide a language of “defamiliarize[d] vision” in order to “discover a more natural, primal vision” similar to the vision that Brakhage’s films share with the viewer. I can’t reproduce Orange’s spacing but a typical series of images is:

undermerged / climbingdown mouth / pickedup armheld / fingers / eye turns to eye / to mouth / fingers / taste / from spoon

branchlined / glitterbreeze / playground / relearned mass skeletal / shaken scream

This language does enact an interestingly primal narrative of childhood sensory experience, the romanticism of which presents an interesting contrast to Mosconi’s fierce critique of the legacy of Romanticism in the same issue. Orange’s work here seems unlike much of his other work; “Brakhage Notes” seems to succeed at performing a rather limited intention. The sensory narrative it constructs seems to be offered entirely for its own sake, with no intention of recuperating it for any broader purpose or project. So when we are given the image of a playground climbing structure as “skeletal” and shaken with children’s screams (assumedly mostly happy screams), I find myself with nothing to do with the image but to relate it to my own experiences; this particular work resolves into narrative for me.


At 7:48 AM, tmorange said…

hi stan,

just to clarify: by claiming brakhage's cinematic goal was "to artifice and defamiliarize vision so as to discover a more natural, primal vision," i did not mean to infer this to be the goal for my "brakhage notes" piece as well.

i am, however, interested in the plausibility of this goal for any creative endeavors -- even tho i'm suspicious of modifiers like "more natural" and "primal," which i think are far more important to brakhage than they are to me personally.

as i think about it now, the "brakhage notes" are concerned primarily with the (failure of) translating of visual experience into language on the field of the page. that is, much of what's going on in the brakhage films cannot be captured on the page. (as a multi-track sound-text performance, the piece comes closer i think to a more faithful rendering of the visual experience.)



At 12:12 PM, sa said…

Hi Tom,

That's very interesting! I seem to have seriously misread the intention of your piece. I read your piece as a sort of reconstruction of the Brakhage, whereas it's actually more intended as a critique of mimetic processes.

I'm always trying to decide how interested I am in this question of can a work in one medium be reproduced in another. It seems to hinge on whether one is reproducing "content" or "sentiment".

It seemed to me that your piece did reproduce sentiment typical of a Brakhage film, and that was why I read it the way I did--these notions of "natural" and "primal" are interesting sentiments. You must have had some sense that you were re-transmitting these?


At 9:52 AM, tmorange said…


well you're right actually -- i guess in a similar fashion to joseph's bristling at the idea that he had written "persona poems," so i initially bristled at the idea that i was striving for brakhage's "more nautral, primal vision." to the extent that my poems are a verbal record of the visual experience of the films, it's inevitable that brakhage's "content" will find its way in -- "a sort of reconstruction of the Brakhage" as you say.

and the passages you cited and commented on certainly reflect that kind of "more natural, primal" content, going back to childhood and all. so i guess i'd say i admire brakhage's goals but don't thereby identify with his natural/primal framework, or the sentiment that inheres to it.

quite the contrary, i'm suspicious of something like "human nature" as a fixed, unchanging, transcendent category, as well as appeals to origins and the primitive. it's all a bit too noble savage, child is the father of the man for me.

if instead we take "more natural" to mean more enabling of our untapped human potentials (wcw's "the perfection of new forms as additions to nature") and "primitive means complex" (rothenberg) -- then i'm on board.


p.s. i'm curious tho, if by "sentiment typical of a Brakhage film" you mean the natural/primal thing or something else.

1 comment:

sa said...

Yes, I meant that Brakhage films typically seem to idealize the natural and, especially, the primal, and that the way your poem re-enacts elements of the film also seemed to re-transmit those messages. The very stripped-down nature of your imagery in the poem is probably the main element that transmits that.