Margy Sloan

Barbara Guest

Postcard from Margy Sloan:

We shall distinguish the semiotic (drives and their articulations) from the realm of signification, which is always that of a proposition or judgment, in other words, a realm of positions.
--Julia Kristeva,
Revolution in Poetic Language

Relatively little is written by experimental women writers about writing. Perhaps such thinking finds a sufficient place in "critical poetry, an analytic lyric" (Rachel Blau DuPlessis, "Otherhow," Sulfur 14). I notice, however, the scarcity of writing about, rather than within.

If the discourse of a supposed speaker intercepts speech, cutting her off from a memory of the past and from an anticipation of the future, only attempts to regain the place where she can make herself heard remain for the subject. This fact underlines the importance of the local in the construction of women's language. Circumstances relating to place would determine for the most part the programming of the "discourse."

--Luce Irigaray,
"Is the Subject of Science Sexed?" Hypatia, fall 1987

Spatial preoccupations of Stein, Woolf, Dorothy Richardson.

Lyn Hejinian on Stein: The exactitude could be repeated over and over if she could get not only the object but its position and the condition of its being in position. --Two Stein Talks, Temblor #3

Position--as vocabulary, on the page, of recurrences--is a preoccupation of a number of women writing now, some of whom are Leslie Scalapino, Anne-Marie Albiach, Susan Howe.

To speak "intelligibly," sentences are normally used. To discuss ideas, to talk about writing, a position is normally taken.

Alone and in a Circumstance
Reluctant to be told
A spider on my reticence
Assiduously crawled

--Emily Dickinson (1167)

Does "Alone. . . " modify the spider or the subject? Which direction would we take?

Roast potatoes for.

--Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons

Is "roast" an adjective or a verb: Where are we in this sentence fragment?

Paradoxically the only way to position oneself outside of that hegemonic discourse is to displace oneself within it . . . .

--Teresa de Lauretis, Alice Doesn't: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema, Indiana University Press, 1984, p. 7

Displacement, a disturbance of position within the sentence, may become pronounced when words can be read as different parts of speech. The writing becomes polysyntactic, and the grammatic infrastructure becomes one of disorientation and instability. The locus of intelligibility is collapsed, assertion becomes provisional.

life is quantity through a language

substitute inventing music of a series

of changes very little understood

--Lyn Hejinian, Writing is an Aid to Memory

place of missing


--Norma Cole, Metamorphopsia

--Margy Sloan is a poet living in San Francisco.

Letter from Barbara Guest to Susan Gevirtz, excerpt

Bryher looked upon film as education and entertainment, primarily education. Unlike H.D., who did initiate film into her style, Bryher kept her distance thinking about film in a more or less scientific manner. Although I do believe that film may possibly have given her a sense of background, the necessity for background, and a shortening of the novel form, a physical movement, in her historical novels. I have been re-reading them and some are exceedingly good. I believe she relied on Mary Renault and Henty--for an extraordinary combination. The novels were very post-Borderline. 20 years.

Bryher wrote about montage in Russian film, and she was aware that for the Russians, even more than for the Germans, cutting. the film was far more important than actors or a director. And isn't that what you are talking about? Both Eisenstein and especially Pudovkin were intensely preoccupied with cutting Macpherson knew this when he was making Borderline, but the irony is that he dropped out of the film after shooting it and left Bryher and H.D. to cut it!

. . . And what video is doing to language-space is another exploration. I admire the elipses in Miami Vice and I wonder if that program has advanced (or is an advance) scientifically (and metaphorically) from film montage.

--Barbara Guest is author of Herself Defined: the Poet H.D. and Her World, Doubleday, 1984. Her new book, Musicality, a long poem in collaboration with painter June Felter, is just out from Kelsey St. Press, in a limited letterpress edition of 1,000 copies, $19 from Kelsey St., P.O. Box 9235, Berkeley, California 94709.

H. D.:

Margaret Anderson, editor of The Little Review, gave out a questionnaire, and in response to the question "What would you most like to do, to know, to be, in case you're not satisfied?" H. D. replied:

Just at the moment I am involved with pictures. We have almost finished a slight lyrical four reel little drama, done in and about the village here with some of the village people and English friends. The work has been enchanting, never anything such fun and I myself have learned to use the small projector and spend literally hours alone in my apartment making the mountains and village streets and my own acquaintances reel past me in the light and light and light. At the moment I want to go on in this medium working with and around pure types, pure artists, pure people, experimenting with faces and shadows and corners. All the light within the light fascinates me, "satisfies" me. I feel like a cat playing with webs and webs of silver. I should like for the moment to be what I am, to know a lot more about camera work, and to have a little more brawn for the lugging of things up hills. Yes, I should like more than anything to have some sort of workable little car that I could work myself and go off and on, on my own, more or less to Italy and wander in and about Italian and Swiss hills making light do what I want.

--The Little Review, May 1929


In his essay, "The Filmic Fourth Dimension," Eisenstein elaborates on his notion of montage:

The film-frame can never be an inflexible letter of the alphabet, but must always remain a multiple-meaning ideogram. And it can be read only in juxtaposition, just as an ideogram acquires its specific significance, meaning, and even pronunciation (occasionally in diametric opposition to one another) only when combined with a separately indicated reading or tiny meaning--an indicator for the exact reading--placed alongside the basic hieroglyph.

--Sergei Eisenstein, "The Filmic Fourth Dimension," Film Form, Harcourt Brace & World, New York, 1949.