of Linda V. Russo’s |
(Curricle Patterns, 2000)
by Arielle Greenberg
“boundless on all sides” ends this recent publication by a fellow How2 contributor, and it is boundlessness—an arching, ambitious and fluid attention to all sorts of projects at once—that marks secret silent plan. I first heard Linda present excerpts from this book at the NEMLA conference in April 2000 in Buffalo, and then as now, was taken with her investigation of important ideas around the myths and problems of marginalization and of poetic production and poetic identity; public space and poetic identity; feminism and women’s work and poetic identity; graduate student life…and poetic identity. Not only does Linda manage to nail down specific and, to my mind, groundbreaking theories around all of these divergent and convergent issues, but she is able to do it in an utterly new and readable form, one cast specifically for this particular set of problems. I am tempted to call the book a hybrid, to use a fashionable term, but the very lack of any adherence to genre transcends even that categorization. I didn’t know Linda when I saw her read from it last year, but I thought she was sharp and funny and bold (and she had great pants); I took copious notes and ran up to talk to her afterwards. I am therefore very grateful to have her often complicated but always crystal-clear thoughts printed up in secret silent plan. The book is so confidently its own thing, so useful. I admire it—and her—greatly.
And I assume anyone who is part of the How2 community would feel the same way. Linda dedicates the book to her “imagined community” and I think that How2 comes as close to an imagined community for this writing as anything. Linda may well disagree (and that could be an interesting Postcard!), but consider the following evidence. For one thing, Linda’s writing feels, to me, out of a Neidecker/Fraser tradition (and our fearless founder is epigraphed) of observational, direct writing which slurs, honeyed, into vernacular and the deeply felt. In one series, if you can claim sequence here,  she addresses obscured meanings by writing in and through distorted speech: “fell as though there’er something / else swanted to say—why / don’t say that thing?” By the following page, most of the lines are crossed out, leaving only three lines intact (though all legible) which consider intactness—“as fell and fell, went, slicing, away / cutting clean off the part that / had grown so with misuse of”—and then regain their blurry composure on the next page, darkly and beautifully: “And so whatever passed / then and whatever insurgencies the dream / encouraged were equally inconsequential / little legs dangling from little things, teeth / laid out, quaking in a row.”
Also of particular interest to our community here are the provocative sections on Hettie Jones and the other places where Linda asks what it means to be a Poet while at the same time a woman, a worker, a person. “She can do three things at once so I suspect she’s not really a very good poet,” a “volunteer” states about Hettie, but Linda is also questioning her own position as academic/scholar/workforce, and in one section, creates a “plan…suitable for a group determined to silently withdraw their services from a dubious and unappreciative institution.” This blend of politics and humor, personal and universal, are what make secret silent plan such a vital document, and I strongly recommend it.
 ) I will claim sequence, or attempt to give you a sense of it. The book begins with a confession of a plan to “withdraw,” suggests the end of an intimacy, brackets itself, mourns what is lost, gives “poetic figures e through l,” takes on the sequence discussed above which begins with a poem called “Fell,” stops to contemplate poetics more directly, goes on to a series of surrealistic Western NY landscapes, reveals the covert anti-institutional operation, begins a separate (?) project entitled “Tired Machines and the Problem of Seeing ‘Margin’” which is first about Hettie Jones in third person, then in more historical terms, then in an imagined one-on-one interview, then being discussed in third person in a play script, then charts the number of steps in takes to walk around the Buffalo campus, then ends with a lovely and elliptical footnote (marginalia) on margins.
Bio: Arielle Greenberg’s poems and reviews appear in the current issues of Chain, Rain Taxi, untitled, Crayon, ixnay, Outlet and other journals; her first book, Given, will be published by Verse Press in the fall of 2002. She teaches at Bentley College.