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A NOTE ON ABIGAIL CHILD'S Climate/Plus by Lori Chamberlain


A Note on Anne-Marie Albiach's Writing

If we were words, we would have this much space between us, and this. Geometry marries us.

We, "appointed to that wound" ("assigné à cette blessure")*, "come to" in this work outside assumptions of meaning and syntax.

There or here is initiated a syntactical inquiry, a questioning of body, its parts, its others, their parts,

their words, their charge, circuits forming and reforming.

However fluid and motile, the conversation is, at each point, specific, precise.

Bibliography: Anne-Marie Albiach, born in France, 1937

Flammigère Siècle à mains, 1967
Etat Mercure de France, 1971
"H II," linéaires Le Collet de Buffle, 1974
Mezza Voce Textes/Flammarion, 1984
Anawratha Spectres familiers, 1984
"Figure vocative" Lettres de Casse, 1985
"Le chemin de l'hermitage" Première Saline, Pointe-à-Pitre, 1986
Albiach's translation of the first section of Louis Zukofsky's A9 appeared in Vingt poètes américains, Gallimard, 1980.

Work available in English translation, or shortly to become available:

Etat translated by Keith Waldrop, to be published in1988 by Awede.
"H II" linear translated by Anthony Barnett & Joseph Simas is in Temblor 5.

Mezza Voce
translated by Joseph Simas, to be published in 1988 by the Post-Apollo Press.

Theater, a section of Mezza Voce, has already been published in ACTS 4.

Vocative Figure translated by Anthony Barnett & Joseph Simas, Moving Letters Press, 1986.

Supreme Love translated by Merle Ruberg. An essay on the poet Danielle Collobert, it first appeared in Anawratha. The translation was published in ACTS 7.

Along with Theater, ACTS 4 published Simas' interview with Albiach, and his notes written subsequent to the interview. In the same issue of ACTS is Benjamin Hollander's essay, "Some Statements for ACTS on Albiach's Theater," the first critical work written in America about Albiach's writing. Also not to be missed: Simas' "Some Notes on Translating (and) the Poetry of Anne-Marie Albiach," in Temblor 5.

--Norma Cole

A Note on Abigail Child's Climate/Plus

One of the things Abigail Child shows us in Climate/Plus (Coincidence Press: Second Season, 1986) is "How slippage is a property of aim." Slippage is part of the climate (from the Greek klima, a sloping surface of the earth), and thus the work has a tendency to lean, to slide. We can see this slippage at the phonic level, the way sounds lead to other sounds:

Or not at all
To omit it.
Not to say

My pet,
The world resembles writing.

And while sounds re-incorporate sounds, signs modulate among signs: we "demote" to "omit" to "not to say," in a movement down or slippage between words. Of course, the movement involves syntactic leaps and ambiguities as well: is "Demote" imperative or declarative; do we "omit it" or not; does the world resemble writing? Such ambiguities lead us off center to what Child calls
An uncertainty diagram
A kind of speech to frame

There is an inherent paradox to this attempt to "frame / Impermanence;" slippage, it seems, is part of the business of aiming at a moveable universe.

Child frames the present book nicely with a series of "frames" from one of her films, reminding us that her interests span the worlds of writing and film-making. In this series, we see an outdoors scene juxtaposing something natural (weeds? bare limbs of trees?) against an urban setting (buildings, a wall), with the letter "A" in the lower right corner. From one frame to the next, the camera seems to move ever so slightly to the left--"Slippage is a property of aim"--exposing what might be the letter "N" or "M" next to the letter "A." It is important, however, that we see evidence not just of this scene but of the film itself, with its sprocket holes and frame dividers, evidence of the way images are produced and situations are framed.

More spare and, in some senses, more "lyrical" than her earlier work From Solids (Segue, 1983), this work calls attention to its constructedness, its formal regularity. Written entirely in quatrains (with one important exception), Climate/Plus consists of the two title poems, "Climate," composed of seventy-seven stanzas, and "Plus," composed of seven stanzas. The book's structure, then, belies an interest in symmetry, in formal--if arbitrary--boundaries giving the illusion of unity. At the same time, however, Child breaks that frame, marring the formal symmetry with one stanza of only 2 lines fairly near the beginning of "Climate:"
To keep track with the object we are up to

It seems important that there be this "error" in the formal structure; like the sprocket holes, it reminds us of the making of the object, the aim and its slippage. In the same way, "Plus" serves formally as a coda to the book, yet it resists providing that formal closure:
A figure strong incomplete
And unfinished

"A good thought is a series of resonances," she says in a piece co-authored with Sally Silvers ("Rewire // Speak in Disagreement," Poetics Journal 4 , p. 71). Where a narrative structure urges toward causality, coherence, and completion, Child's work seems to challenge these concepts, to expose the arbitrary, the contradictory, the incomplete. Climate/Plus is a series of resonances, partial soundings of "The world people modify."

--Lori Chamberlain

Lori Chamberlain writes about topics in feminism and postmodern writing. Her article "Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation," appears in the spring issue of Signs.

Double Exposure
Identity and Image: Jean Rhys, Michelle Cliff, and Jane Eyre

"The accurate record lies behind the smiles."

Looking at the pictures she cannot recall when this one might have been taken or why. She cannot determine the correct sequence. The meaning is unrevealed, opaque. There is a phenomenon called double exposure: the film is not advanced enough to prevent a subsequent image from being superimposed. The two images merge in casual juxtaposition.

"I went into the hall again with the tall candle in my hand. It was then that I saw her--the ghost. The woman with streaming hair. She was surrounded by a gilt frame but I knew her."

When there is no center of meaning because the record has been distorted or hidden, the bits and pieces bleed through forming a montage. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette Cosway's struggle to define herself is pushed and shaped by the pressure of the precognitive vision in Jane Eyre. Antoinette's future is known before she can grasp her present. She is closed off from her self because the only acceptable pictures are the ones which will isolate her from her island and her former slave, Christophine. The black woman and the voluptuous fecund land are her only ways out of the cold dreams and the fear. She is forced to look into mirrors that show only "child," "wife," or "insane." The mirrors are held so that she cannot see inward or forward, she can only see her past.

"In this album there are no pictures of my broken wrist or my mouth cut open by the top of an orange juice can. There are no pictures of her split chin or her smashed front teeth. These pictures show only tense joy. This is not an accurate record at all."

The negative is the prerequisite for the print.

Wide Sargasso Sea revisions and foreshadows. The tale of Bertha Mason is transformed and superimposed on the older version. The vague and inexplicable hints about Bertha/Antoinette are given context and value. Jane and Antoinette and Michelle are women from whom the truth is kept. Jane accepts the identity prepared for her. Antoinette loses her identity in madness. Michelle pushes aside the kind and quiet lies and claims herself.

"I saw a robed and veiled figure so unlike my usual self that it seemed almost the image of a stranger."

Photographs can repeat the same image endlessly. A movement backwards or forwards. In or out. The surface of film: a semi-permeable membrane.

"There was something austere, sad, lost, all these things. I wanted to identify myself with it, to lose myself in it. But it turned its head away, indifferent, and that broke my heart."

Rhys' paratactic structure, disjunctive and coordinate, is in direct contrast to Brontë's ordered hierarchy of experience. Similarly, Michelle Cliff, in Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise, uses parataxis to remain on the periphery as Rhys does. Choosing the margins, they both reject the hierarchic "Word." They choose marginal or indirect, non-authoritative expression, thereby allowing for a greater range of choices and of potential meanings than the logocentric choices Brontë makes. Rhys and Cliff embrace the complex image, the image moving backwards and forwards in time, the image that can change.

A movement from daguerreotype to film. The girl. The garden. The girl. The flower. The others. In rhythm. Discord. Dissonance. Montage. To see. And see again. To claim what was hidden. To demand her whole self.

"It is like trying to remember a dream in which the images slip and slide. The words connect and disconnect and you wake feeling senseless."

--Evangeline Brown

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Michelle Cliff, Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise, Persephone Press, Watertown, Massachusetts,1980.
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York and London, 1966.

--Evangeline Brown is currently working on an M.A. in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, while also working as a criminal defense lawyer.

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