Bob Marcacci

Review of Maria Damon and mIEKAL aND's Literature Nation (Bedford, MA: Potes & Poets Press, 2003)

Literature Nation, "online interwriting January 1998-March 1999," by Maria Damon and mIEKAL aND, which can be viewed in an electronic version here, immediately posited a question in my mind: where is it? I want to go there. I want to be a part of it. I'm online! I'm a writer. I read Literature with a capital L. Without naming it, I've been looking unsuccessfully for the "Literature Nation" for years. Is there such a thing? Perhaps, with the Internet, the closet writers among us and the serious literature junkies have found a way to bond together, to find each other, to redefine our culture or just get even more lost in it.
The form of nearly the entirety of the book, composed of seven different parts or travels, unfolds in a series of paragraphs or nodes, as the opening segment demonstrates:
[Diamond stuttered], dress of moonrays. Glim stars, shark leaves.
Harsh, not feeling too well, awestricken of beauty. Forest of light,
[dress made of light], she wonders where it begins and she ends,
she begins and it ends, [she turns into forest, into light].
Is it really the beginning? Is "she" our muse? What stuttered facets are these? As the poem continues, its arrangement feels almost traditional in its insistence on shape, almost prosaic. Some lines even approach the sentence. Perhaps, the restrictions of a print version. And shape or form is important. It's the way we've come to look at it. Looking deeper, the strongly imagistic and playful use of language, with its abrupt and brief phrasing (both within and out of brackets), suggests looking in a new way, suggests the worn ends of something as the starting point for our rediscovery:
[dress made of light]
The decision toward light, now for the wake of, iconoclasts, of
liberation of the mindless, minutes after & not before trees reveal a
suction forecast, a hasty core deigned [fringe & tatters], the dress
worn thin to seeds, germination delayed.
As a printed work, the form is not traditional. This section begins or is linked to with a bracketed, embedded phrase from the previous construct. But why brackets? Is it simply a textual recreation of a hyperlink?
The bracketed phrases, which reoccur in each succeeding paragraph, though not as systematically as they appear in the two sections excerpted above, seem to act as hyperlinks would, linking to the following sections or other sections on other pages or pages not found, that would more naturally be handled now on the internet. Initially, I resisted the infusion of this effect, which I saw as a print manifestation of an electronic process, clumsily recreated. I didn't know how to handle it. Until I discovered myself looking for links, rearranging the order, following-through, turning pages. I wanted to "click" and go there. From "the second travel: Whether Nation:"
[the dying Shakespearean]
Not remembered for his scholarship, but the care & logos of his
garden, the flowers organized like sonnets around the rockscape.
In this literature nation his epoch is [footnoted discreetly] between
season & the coming of the storm.
We're not to rely on our traditional sense of text. It is in between or somewhere else. Somewhere new. The old ways of reading, the old ways of arriving at meaning, the old ways of understanding language fall away. They are not important or they are only important as a natural progression. Or some kind of progression. The nature of things and language as shaped by what. Another section from "the second travel:"
[language proceeds breakneck]
Lethal punning, are-we-not in the thicket of danger, dragged in the
monster of demonstratum est. His snarling teeth and fiery [maw,
world-mauling] words to melt the barriers of reference. One
misplaced nuance and the booby trap collapses on you, you hurtle
to the other end of the birth canal, along with [Dante in the
depths], into the unmade new.
Is this a new concept, re-evaluating the dangerous detritus of language in its regurgitations? I don't think so. Is it worth writing a book about and then reading? Yes. Can it be controlled? We try to do it.
At the end of the book, do we find the "Literature Nation?" If it was not clear before, the final section, "the seventh travel: Hyperpoesy," shows us:
[Not to be confused] with spurious or mindless, not to be confused
with the processes of nature, not to be confused with the [odds of
winning], but rather the simplicity of one thing replacing another,
seamlessly, seemingly without reason & conspiration. The
randomness of time arranging the juxtaposition of language
It's not nature, but many references to nature and its imagery abound in the work. Itıs a kind of list. "Literature Nation" is a constant, but continually growing idea. It's not a place or we simply haven't arrived there yet. The society, without their knowing, changes with it. We try to control it by speaking to one another, teaching, writing books about it, making things.
[words are so dear]
When the petulant old poet spoke, there was much rejoicing in the
land of emptiness and fullness. Now he has died and his face has
become a landscape of disentanglements and half-understood
promises. Was he wise or foolish, Literature Nation welcomes her
native son.
We know the old poet. We reside among the disentanglements and promises. The palimpsest continues in our welcome. We can only make use of what came before us, even if we don't understand or see it or know how. We don't reject the old ways. We simply look at them in another light. Perhaps, the multifarious light of the computer monitor.

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