by Johannes Goransson on Mar.26, 2013
I posted that quote about Lovecraft earlier today and since then I’ve been thinking about his work and what it means by going “overboard.” In Lovecraft it most certainly has to do with the monsters. The fact that they actually come along. They are too much there. In the classic “The Call of Cthulhu” for example, there is all of this frame-narrative build-up, but then the actual Cthulhu actually shows up, floats out of his under-sea sleep.
This is the essence of bad taste, of going overboard, in a modernist paradigm based on absence. Perhaps the paradigmatic work of modernism in this regard is Waiting for Godot, in which obviously Godot never comes. I read so many poems about absence, what never shows up, poems as build up. These poems know that it would be crass to actually have Godot show up the way Cthulhu shows up.
(When I said this to Joyelle, she pointed out that while Godot doesn’t show up, those other two figures show up with the dog-and-pony show, and I think that’s why Beckets’ play is awesome. Perhaps also the way Godot is so absent his presence becomes overwhelming. Maybe Godot is a bad example, but it’s all I can think of right now.)
I remember in a workshop I was in more than 10 years ago, one student turned in a poem in which there were a lot of boxes – or something like it – opened and there was finally nothing inside. I objected saying I thought life wasn’t like that; there’s always something that wrecks things, gets in the way, blots things up. The class had no idea what I was talking about. So maybe that’s why I am still thinking about this, why I am playing around with this notion in my new book Haute Surveillance, which is about a scary black man that may or may not show up, about soldiers that explode into obscenity seemingly out of his absence, about a “Father Voice-Over” who has to be pinned to a corpse, an expresident who speaks through a throat-machine etc.
This tasteless “too-much-ness” is certainly at work in Rauan Klassnik’s work, in his new book Moon’s Jaw even more than his first book Holy Land. The poem on the back of the book is well chosen because it seems to be about this issue of too-much-ness vs transcendence and absence:
I am no one. I am nothing. But I start to glow: & to thrum. I am blown up w/light. I am draped in every tree. All the shores are dead w/me.
I love how this poem seems a struggle, a tension between the tasteles too-much-ness and the tasteful transcendence, imagined, absence: At first he’s absence but then he is drawn into the poem (beginning to glow); then he moves toward absence, though in the crassly violent way (blown up – but with the “light” of tasteful poetry), and the result is not absence but too much presence: pieces everywhere, “draped” like cloth, “dead” with art.