Goaded by the recent work in progress performance of "The Three Matadors" by Every House Has a Door, I have taken up the poetry of Jay Wright. As practice for my Performance Philosophy Poetry class that I'll be teaching in the Fall, I want to work through some of Wright's poetic expressions here in this blog.
In the next few months, I'd like to explore the three short performance texts embedded in The Presentable Art of Reading Absence (one of which is the micro-play that Every House calls "The Three Matadors") as well as a phenomenon that I'm currently calling Wright's slip. This "slip" is an expression of temporality that I find in Wright's poetry, one that is bound to the act of writing poetry itself. The word slip carries several meanings and histories within it, some of which are relevant to my invocation of the term. Here are a few:
The first stanza of Reading Absence, which is also the last stanza, provides me with a moment of Wright's slip (in all of that word's permutations):
Here begins the revelation of a kiosk
beside the road: the white eggs
nestled there in straw
turn blue in the amber light.
Make of that what you will,
say, what you desire,
a secular mourning,
a morning given over to meditation.
This is the place set aside
for creating the body,
a source of fluctuations, unmarked
Call this wandering along this road
Notice, first, how the experience that Wright describes—ambiguous as it is, perhaps a revelation sparked by a specific place (a kiosk), or maybe a hallucination of that same space—entwines with the experience of writing the poem itself. "Here" begins: here at the kiosk, here at this word that marks the beginning of a long poem. And then a few lines later, "This is the place set aside:" this place beside the road, this place here in this poem. The temporality that Wright names for us is dual (more on this later).
Next—and, again, this is a place holder for longer reflections in the coming weeks—Wright references the act of meditation. Indeed, the entirety of this poem may be an opportunity of naming the slip of thought that occurs during meditation. What precisely escapes when one meditates? The present moment simultaneously recedes as the blitz of the mind presses in on one's consciousness and "distracts" the meditator from the primary task while also showing itself negatively through the act of absconding beneath that same blitz of images. To meditate means to lose one's footing in this double movement, to let slip one's certainty of self.
I'll return to these thoughts soon.
Will Daddario is a historiographer, philosopher, and teacher. He currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina.