Monday, March 04, 2024

Klara du Plessis, I’mpossible collab


“There isn’t a full stop anywhere,” [Dionne] Brand writes in “Verso 14” of The Blue Clerk. “But what do you need a full stop for? You have the end of the line. The full stop is irrelevant. A full stop is really not even a point to discuss. Why discuss a full stop when you have a line? A line ends, and that is what that is.” In contrast to narrative, which Brand feels needs a full stop to hedge in its inherent linearity and determinism, poetry embodies openness. Lineated poetry is structured in such a way that there is always open space on the page where a line breaks off, so that a line doesn’t need to be marked by a period. The end of a line fulfills the function of a full stop without its conclusion closure. As Brand summarizes, a line “ends yes as you say, but it doesn’t conclude.” (“CENTERING THE FULL STOP”)

It is such a delight to read the thoughtful, thinking prose of Montreal-based poet, writer and critic Klara du Plessis, made more possible through the ten essays collected in her I’mpossible collab (Kentville NS: Gaspereau Press, 2023), an expansion upon the chapbook-length unfurl: Four Essays (Gaspereau Press, 2019) [see my review of such here]. As the back cover of I’mpossible collab offers, the collection “asserts the collaborative nature of literary criticism […],” and is made up of “ten essays discussing works by contemporary Canadian poets such as Jordan Abel, Oana Avasilichioaei, Dionne Brand, Anne Carson, Kaie Kellough, Annick MacAskill, Erín Moure, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Lisa Robertson, [as] scholar and poet Klara du Plessis explores the critic’s interpretive agency and the valuable playfulness of pursing our own insights, proposing a more fluid, organic, and open-ended approach to how we think and write about poetry.” The prose and thinking in these pieces absolutely sparkle, and I’m fascinated in how these pieces might not have originally been composed toward a collection but emerged as and into one, able to catch the ongoing threads of concerns and conversations on writing, thinking and form (and honestly, her piece on Dionne Brand alone is worth the price of admission). Her pieces are simultaneously expansive and precise, offering such a level of glorious detail across a wide array of reading. In “BLUE INK & THE DEFERRAL OF SILENCE,” an essay on the reissue of M. NourbeSe Philip’s Looking for Livingstone. An Odyssey of Silence (The Center for Expanded Poetics, 2018), du Plessis writes: “Silence and language coexist and interrelate. The word for silence is a breaking of silence, and silence persists in the word for word. The narrative now adopts a theoretical edge, apt for thinking that happens at least partially in poetry.”

This is a remarkable collection, and there is something I very much appreciate in du Plessis’ approach, the notion of collaboration between reading and writing, text and reader, offering an experience she brings to any material that can’t help but interact with her own individual approaches to writing. She offers her pieces in conversation, which seems almost the opposite of the John Metcalf critical declarative, offering a critical engagement as both reader and practitioner that informs her responses but refuses to automatically direct those same responses. These essays, as well, provide an argument for how every writer should attempt to explore or examine their reading in critical prose, whether as a review or an essay. Such a process forces a deeper kind of reading habit, one I know full well: there are plenty of poetry titles I didn’t fully comprehend or appreciate until attempting my way through composing a review. “When poetry faces its public,” she offers, as part of her introduction, “ESSAYS, AS SAY—,” “the welcoming gesture is implicit.” As she continues, further on:

            When I write essays, it is a collaboration. Poetry uncollars itself from the illusion of essentializing definition, and I bring myself not only into interpretation but also into openness as an author and thinker in relation to texts. What I write about is poetry. how I write about it is as a poet myself, but also from my positionality as a person. Reciprocal generosity overlays and merges literature and literature. There is a minimalism to this conceptualizing of collaboration, one which does not invite poets to produce new work with me or on my behalf, but which assumes that when art exists in the world, it renews itself through dialogue. If another were to write essays about the same sequence of poetries, it would result in an altogether different book.

No comments: