Pioneers in the Study of Motion
Poetry. Like lyric field notes from a worldwide anthropological journey, Briante's poems scrutinize human and urban situations. "Amid a riot of signals, cranes, and circuitry--from Mexico City to Antarctica--the reader succumbs to a sense of non-stop construction, to the craven expansion of cities in the glistening fields. In the chaos of sensory overload, the poet still manages to detect 'droplets of pollen slip from anther to stamen, ' to feel a stream running dry inside. It's a work of shuddering velocity--an ode, a screed, a lament, a love song of 'pristine and inarticulate mornings.' Susan Briante's PIONEERS IN THE STUDY OF MOTION details the ravages of the world in a voracious struggle to savor its sweetness"--C.D. Wright
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Notes on Susan Briante’s
“Pioneers in the study of motion”
by Danilo Lopez @danilo_lopez The book’s cover gives the sensation of motion. The table of contents and the contents proper are a mosaic of different types of motion. There is a collage that references disparate art mediums including music, popular magazines, languages, painting, video, poetry, countries from Vietnam to Mexico, from the USA to Brazil. The book opens the question on me: what are the things that influence my poems? Peel one by one, each stanza, each verse, each word; where does it come from? Why is it there? It would be a good exercise to know what inspires us? Where or who do we borrow from?
This book owes as much to Barthes (structuralism, semiotics, post-structuralism) as to post-modernity. If, as the post-structuralist school asserts, the text is a collective cultural product which does not arise from a single individual, then “Pioneers in the study of motion” clearly represent that collective culture. The book is divided in three sections: Eventual darlings, Pioneers in the study of motion, and How cities are founded.
The characteristic that caught my attention the most in the first section was the state of ever-present attention in which the poet is. As Buddhist monk Rinpoche used to say to his disciples, the secret to understand the world is to pay attention to it and its motions. Briante does so brilliantly and conveys these motions through the use of original images, as in “dawn is a damp hand slipping beneath my knee”, or “like a fist, I feel inside of me, a kick”, or “the needlework of rain”.
The form into which the poem is presented in the page is as important as the content. These free verse poems often assume the shape of prose, or long double space lines that make for effective delivery-reception of views on political positions, indigenous sayings, and man-woman relationship. The juxtaposition of large international political schemes and man-woman, but nonetheless not smaller schemes abound. In “Love in the time of NAFTA” the relationship between two economic worlds is paired with the broken line of communication between a man and a woman, a brokenness that may have its origin or its worsening, in the larger scheme. In “Eventual darling (Galang Island)” the interior devastating whirlwind of the individual at a refugee camp, is paired with those of the world and complicated and empty? nomenclature conventions of tree-naming. In “5th day of the rainy season” the abstract concept of masses is paired with the “women above” in a motel. “Unquiet” becomes a litany, a prayer that desperately tries to reach beyond.
The construction of images blends figurative with descriptive languages:
“a broom licks the sidewalk” (7th day of rainy season), “a seat by the window suffices to stitch the world together” (12th day of rainy season). From attention, Briante goes into processing the world, to then canvass it into poetry. It is a poetry that addresses the world around her and the individuals affected or forsaken of the world. It appears to me that sensitivity towards the poor of the “third world” for those who live in the “developed world” can only be achieve by living extended periods of time in the “south”. That would explain mentions of NAFTA, Walmart, and the crude medicine of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the middle of Latin America (12th day of rainy season).
The second section of the book describes the pioneers of motion. In front of us march: the cartographer’s son, who appears lost in language until a definitive translation is found of what remains of a bygone reality, so Uxmal is (in) ruins and Xochimilco (was) floating gardens; the pornographer’s father, who (unknowingly?) created the fate of his son in a slowness of a road; the illustrator (1) who explodes into an “inner devastation”; the groom stripped bare and the following while the bride, together stereotypes (hero and rescued maid) yet worlds apart who become archetypes, with the
3rd Day of the Rainy Season
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