by Joyelle McSweeney on Aug.09, 2011
I am currently swooned and infused by the contemporary Turkish poet Seyhan Erözçelik’s Rosestrikes and Coffee Grounds (Talisman, 2010), translated from Gül ve Telve(1997) by Murat Nemet-Nejat. In this dazzling double volume, a reading of fate via coffeegrounds makes up the first portion of the book, and the resultant mystical vision or ‘Rosestrikes’ makes up the second. A mindbending series poem, ‘Rosestrikes’ rides mysticism to the limit, a limit marked, classically and tautologically enough, by the Rose. The Rose is both the emblem of the mystical motion and its destination, so the series itself has an infinite yet twisting motion that is constantly saturating, arresting, and sinking back into itself, riding the weirdness of Art’s broken Moebius strip:
My eyes caught a rose the whole night
round mindnight, a needle on a rose,
to my eyes stuck, a potent liquid
is flowing from my eyes, as if roseblood…
The town is
burning with the fire
in the rose.
O thou art
A house fire
and a rose fire
are so different.
But my heart’s
inside the house.
I am sick.
With my invisible
In your crime
These two poems (I am so tempted to type in the entire sequence here) show the way the whole poem moves towards the rose, becomes suffused and oversaturated with it, doubles back on itself, the rose oozes out its eyes, burns up its heart, rips the burning heart from the body and makes it a somewhere else, but then burns and suffuses and floods and rapes that orifice, too… Forcing itself lovingly through these holes, the rose always makes more of itself—Roseblood, Rosecrime. The Rose is mediumicity itself, pure mediumicity, that is, mysticism, the motion towards itself, saturating and supersaturating itself. From ‘Jamrose’:
My blood sugar’s up
My mouth frothy
I’m in a coma and
…I don’t remember
In a coma I saw mom
The role of translator Murat Nemet-Nejat in all this is similarly sticky and jammed and seductive and deceptive. Notes at the end reveal that he split the poems into this sequence in order to capture as much of its concentric and ramifying sound as possible, so that his English ‘Rosestrikes’ has 47 sections, versus the 23 of Gül. In addition to splitting open the dense fruit of these poems to let its scent double , he footnotes the poems in shifting and wonderful ways, building in a whole new dense unstable quavering accretion which sometimes pushes the poem nearly off the page. To read this book then is to be suffused and split and jammed and glamoured by it, the way Nemet-Nejat appears to have been. In Dreamrose,
Rose petals passing
round my belly,
I freeze into its
Aching nu cle ar pain!
I had a similar thoughts about mysticism and media while watching Herzog’s Nosferatu (1979). Like all incarnations of the Dracula story, this one is organized around the singular figure of the vampire, here embodied by Klaus Kinski. But this would-be singularity is undone by the replicability of the genre itself—the title, Kinski’s makeup, and several sequences re-embody or reincarnate that sublime piece of German Expressionism, Murnau’s Nosferatu. The singularity of the vampire is of course also undone within the genre itself, given its pressure of proliferation—the vampire bites humans, makes more vampires. It’s unclear in most vampire films (including this one) whether the human will be drained of ichor or somehow contaminated with that of the vampire and turned into a vampire. Being utterly drained and utterly remade as a replicant are almost simultaneous outcomes, till at last they arbitrarily split. The contaminant of vampirism is total—it spreads through the blood and takes it over wholly. It’s superblood.
Herzog’s movie is infused with another plot—the vampire not only brings the plague of vampirism to the little Dutch town, but he brings a plague of black coffins full ofTransylvanian dirt (can he sleep in all of them? Does this foreshadow the vampire armies he will create or does it suggest a proliferation already simultaneous to his singular self?), a plague of rats, and, by Artaudian logic, the actual plague, which spreads from his very presence in town, it seems. However, while the viewer sees ever proliferating coffins carried around to signify the accruing plague plot, she sees no actual plague victims. The plague, through an Artaudian dream machinery, creates not dead bodies but coffins. Meanwhile the rats proliferate on every surface. The rats are not the medium of the plague—the vampire is. So the rats are excessive to the plot but resemble its tendencies (another kind of Artaudian logic), and their excess piles up everywhere in squirming, swarming, furred and pink-tailed piles. They are mediumicity itself, communicating itself again and again.
Conclusion: In this way the Rat is always multiple, (the Rat is the Rats, just as in Hitchcock Birds is the Birds), the Rat is like the Rose—communicating itself, that, is, communicating its communicability. While the Rose is always singular, as it is made and remade in Art, a kind of florid proliferation ensues, with the Rose making copies of itself and suffusing every would-be site or surface with its mystical fluids, fluids which refuse to perform like mundane sufaces, but surfeit and redouble themselves, are sick and spread their ill-communication.