Friday, May 13, 2011

The Errancy

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Jorie Graham’s invention of her distinct literary style makes it possible to assume the complicated glamour of her poems is an examination of a deeper importance. In her more recent book, The Errancy, Graham explicitly rests upon the reader a sense of uneasiness as she explores the course of consciousness through its various guises spiritual, sexual, ethical, and epistemological. This quest for truth is rooted in her theme of desire. The world through her eyes is rendered into her poems of desire. By breaking down and reforming boundaries in her poetic structure, The Errancy has emerged as an outlet of her interminable epistemological and metaphysical quest to seek meaning and wholeness. Through the investigation of “The Errancy ”, “Studies in Secrecy,” and “Le Manteau de Pascal,” the unraveling of the truth will shed light into the philosophical search Graham is concerned about.

The choice of “The Errancy” to be the title of Graham’s collection of poems as Linda Gregerson defined “errancy” to be from errare (to wander) is appropriate as the titled poem itself is the experience of writing for Graham. The poem includes many action sequences including everything audible and perceived that surrounds an individual such as the “cicadas,” “foghorn,” shrieks of gulls,” “pasturings,” “handwritings,” and etc. The focal point is centered on the individual since Graham is speaking directly to the reader about human ideals and utopia, “…remember the sensation of direction we loved, how it tunneled forwardly for us,” It seems as though Graham is making a statement about our inability to realize the potentials of our imaginations. The hindrance of societal construction has thwarted our own growth to seek what the mind asks, “And how we would comply, some day. How we were built to fit and comply.” The allusion of human beings are stationary is when Graham discusses the occurrences that surround us, yet we stand still in the midst of it, “we stand in our hysteria with our hands in our pockets, quiet, at the end of day,” and “marionette-like.” Both statements reinforce the notion of the atrophied state of human beings. The poem in deeper analysis is a desire for direction in her writing as her search for renewed terms of utopia, “The struck match of some utopia we no longer remember the terms of Graham includes a barrage of interrogative statements towards the latter part of the poem to provoke the exhaustive imagination each individual withholds, and such imagination she is trying to unfetter through lyrical cadence of words to induce the idea of growth. Her quest fittingly commences with the direction of her writing and proceeds to end with the statement of the plentitude of imagination, “which holds the papers in their cocoon of possibility.” The structure of this poem is almost in a letter format with one or two words disjoined from the paragraphs to signify the cessation of a particular section such as an ending of a letter would justify its completion. But the poem oddly ends in an abrupt manner going against the letter format. Graham ends it against traditional literary conventions to further reinforce her manner of presenting the direction of thought as continuous.

In “Studies in Secrecy” the certainty of sexual intimacy embodies this poem as Graham searches for love through intimacy. At the start, Graham introduces an “unseen thing” which the secret inevitably is. The sentence, “we are looking for it everywhere” invites the reader to connect on a personal level. The outline of love described through the contours of the human body from external parts is fused with the internal emotions of love. Graham describes the motions of the physical being through its senses of sight, touch, and taste along with the tripartite progression of the physical to the binding legal justifications of love. She intricately describes the simple touch of “twisty and windy in the architecture” of her neck, as well as the “mouths,” “oxygen we eat,” “we stare,” to the sexual union between the two, “we fell time glide through the room, between our legs,” and finally to the marriage, “church bells ring.” This interesting successive perspective of love makes the reader question what love really is. It is interesting to note how Graham inserted “the secret-the place where the words twist-“It is as though she is not a wholly believer of love itself if she is referring to “the secret” as love. The succession of the degrees of intimacy does not seem to show that each level of love is the same, “we start the matter up again, we cry….we lick it, we nibble aimlessly, not so much tired as increasingly ignorant.” The “matter” in which Graham is talking about now is sex, but more blunt and unromantic as in her previous description of sex. The fact that she writes after the marriage in the poem signifies the possible wading feelings of love sex can degenerate to or even more critical, the marriage itself can fall out of love. In another perspective the concept of love is objectified and seen as a creation of human invention along with happiness, “”I love you I say poor secret, did you need us?” Her feeling of love through the exploration of human sexuality concludes with the thought of it being merely a human invention. The quick tonal change from the ending of the poem gave many references to Graham’s negative value of love. In stark contrast from the smooth, rhythmic episodes of human interaction to the quick, emotionless transitions from sex, to “cigarette” being lit and a couple of lines down, “churchbells ring” prompts the reader to see love to be nothing more than a transaction between couples. Graham’s own search for the meaning of love ends up with a morbid, but comforting conclusion as she closes the poem with a “blink” perhaps symbolizing a vision of love through her eyes and only reopening will she discern another meaning for love.

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