Poetry. TRACE ELEMENTS is a trio of serial poems—"Double Vision," "Four in One," and "Transient Graphs"—that make up the second movement of a work called "Analog Dreams," written over the past decade. If the tone of these poems is dark, and it is, as befits our place and time, there are nonetheless glints of light throughout. What must be stressed is that these traces of hope derive from unabashed verbal invention. The mental geography these poems traverse is that of an improvisor at full song. "Imagine channeling actual bliss." As if the last best hope for a viable future were a thorough re-imagining of life in the present.
"Double Vision" features sixty-four paired couplets in iambic pentameter. As the epigraph from Jacques Lacan asserts: "the function of Language is not to inform, but to evoke." What is evoked here is the liberatory potential of a relentlessly negative critique. In the gap that defines each pair of abstractions there's a mis-registration of visions. "History stockpiles these emanations / Whose half-lives measure successive events." Binaries caught in these liminal spaces are split into shards of other logics—including that which syncretizes the aesthetic and the political. Iambics, of course, are for satire; hence, they're a provocation.
"Four in One" is a four-part partita in sixty-four quatrains. Its epigraph, from Jackson Mac Low, invokes "death, winter, and so on"—a dry if knowing reminder of spring's eventual return. The breaking of binaries in "Double Vision" gives way to "a utopian premise" that uses every trick in its rhetorical playbook to evade a dystopic conclusion. Whose "days consist entirely of mornings / On the spooky shoals of consciousness" details a life without thought of redemption but with undaunted hope for a habitable future, beyond the "epistemic grief" of past practices. Having established a setting and a discourse, the trio concludes with "Transient Graphs," forty-eight brief prose poems which chart the relationship between an aging poet and the stowaway who lands on his doorstep. It is not impossible that these two figures exist only in each other's imagination. As the epigraph from Spicer affirms: "The wires in the rose are beautiful." A secular reading might render this as saying that beauty resides in the structure of things or that the forms that beauty takes are structurally necessary. "This is called aesthetic distance. An exercise in mental geography."
TRACE ELEMENTS is an exercise in mapping one such "mental geography." And the grail is the trail of rarely occurring elements that warrant and sustain, beyond all reason, our hopes for a habitable future. "More than once, having lost our way, we survived on grammar and duct tape."
Ted Pearson was born and raised in Palo Alto, California. He began writing poetry in 1964 and subsequently attended Vandercook College of Music, Foothill College, and San Francisco State. His first book, The Grit, appeared in 1976. He has since published twenty-six books of poetry, including EXTANT GLYPHS: 1964-1980 (Singing Horse Press, 2014), AN INTERMITTENT MUSIC (Chax Press, 2016) and his most recent, Set Pieces (2021). He also co-authored The Grand Piano (2006-2010), a ten-volume experiment in collective autobiography. He now lives in Houston, Texas.
Author City: OAKLAND, CA USA