On Repetition and Opacity
Playlist by Jos Charles
A popular mode stories have taken, in both poetry and other narratives, is the anecdote: a stable “I” communicates something that “happened,” in this time and world, or perhaps in a speculative adjacent world, to this “I.” This communication often happens, supposedly, horizontally—where the proposed “I” of the work is in an equally shared or estranged relationship with the reader (poems where a shared nostalgia, exception, surprise, occurs), but can also happen vertically across power, culture, or presumed social groups.

When articulated vertically, say from a position of power to one below, the relationship will inevitably hyper-realize certain narratives to the exclusion of others. We have here the discussions of representation, diversity, self-empowerment. One may, through hard work or circumstance, find herself speaking vice versa, from a position of marginalization to an audience that profits off that marginalization. From the perspective of the marginalized, this can take many forms, ranging from exploitation (the demand for an account, tokenization, exploitation of labor) to justice or empowerment. We have here questions of self-determination, (white, cis, et al) anxiety, redistribution of resources. Yet when the making of profit is supreme goal (and it rarely isn’t), this can position the readership, or is marketed to position the readership, into a position of objectivity, understanding, determination. Once they have sufficiently read, felt bad, felt inspired, consumed, they are awarded a broader world view, empathy, liberality.

This is a reduction. Likely, we all to varying degrees occupy multiple stations of readership, both through power and exclusion, and navigate our way accordingly. Hopefully, when entering that position of “liberal reader” we listen, learn, yes, but redistribute often, speak up when we are able, and act when opportunities present themselves to be acted upon. But what of when we occupy the position of the one looking up, feeling the words, already not ours, transform our audience into that body of liberal readership? We can let it happen, certainly. This often is all that’s available, better than most alternatives, and often brings payment, the promise of payment, or circulation. After all, we all need to eat. We could, equally and alternately, at the level of writing form resistances, or forms of barring or keeping at bay, the reader—leaving them just at the door of the text.

While repetition often establishes emphases, expectation, and carries within it, now, the implication of lyricism, it can also be used to decontextualize, pushing the reader into a critical space of imagining their involvement within the poem. These poems defy unintelligibility though, rather they create an opacity that demands interrogation, questioning who is or becomes legible through the poem. The following work features multiple uses of such repetitions: embodying the recurring boredoms of marginalization, recontextualizing words or phrases, upsetting implied patterns, forcing, again and again, grammatical structure as an imposition onto its subjects, or merely echoing a sound, passing as it has through a landscape, with its deformities and valleys and ruins, distorted and opaque, back to the speaker, who discovers there a voice, new, and not quite her own.

I learned this technique from the authors included here, and while I don't intend to project kinship or lineage, two poems from my collection feeld are included alongside them. I hope my work uses these techniques to similar effect.
1. Blackberries
Hoa Nguyen
2. Zong!#18
M. NourbeSe Philip
3. Inminencia
Alejandra Pizarnik
4. Imminence
Alejandra Pizarnik
5. I dwell in Possibility —
Emily Dickinson
6. Homecoming
Paul Celan
7. Untitled (Gesture)
manuel arturo abreu
8. from ‘nights & days’
Robert Lax
9. Sonnet 73: That time of year thou mayst in me behold
William Shakespeare
10. XIX
Jos Charles
11. XLV
Jos Charles
Blackberries          deep black            from the farm stand
little seeds to grind         dead & alive & ripe

Spirits taught me to write
Countless spirits                       writing this

Red juice        I threw the book down
Furious!
Poetry          you’re a ripening disease

Grind                    write the dead
means
truth

means overboard

                                means
sufficient

means support

                                means
foul

means                     three
butts

                                means
necessity

means provisions

                                means
perils

means evidence

                                means
mortality

means policy

                                means
voyage

means market

                                means
slaves

means more

                                means
dead

means want

water

means water
Alejandra Pizarnik • trans. Yvette Siegert
And the grey pier and the red houses And it is not yet solitude And
the eyes see a black square with a circle of lilac music at its core And
the garden of earthly delights exists only outside the gardens And sol-
itude is not being able to say it And the grey pier and the red houses.
I dwell in Possibility —
A fairer House than Prose —
More numerous of Windows —
Superior — for Doors —

Of Chambers as the Cedars —
Impregnable of Eye —
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky —

Of Visitors — the fairest —
For Occupation — This —
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise —
self-loathing is called feeling male

my younger sister always felt like my older sister

apologies are about social control

i apologized to my mom for djing devil music

this tattoo says “i’ve been outside myself for so long i’m not allowed back in”

this feeling is shot entirely with natural light

i feel sad and ancient for seeing a thousand years in every gesture and i get anxious

i’m living in a place where the door is mostly a big glass pane

not that you could erase a colonial gesture
one
star

for
each
po
em
                        one
                          po
one em
po
e                         m
one
                        star
for
each
star

one
star

one
star
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

befor the hemorage / the folde / befor the folde / the
wharing / befor the wharing / the hiv / befor the hiv /
the boye / befor the boye / the scrypt / off the mothe
the grothe the 1 abot fat / befor the scrypt / off the
mothe the grothe the 1 abot fat / the byrn / befor the
byrn / the breasthes glome / befor the breasthes
glome / the wite pryeng off the lindene / befor the
wite pryes / the wite / befor the wite / the manie
brayks inn the wite / but who wil hart the
lindene / mye preshus harted & wisterlie lindene
but wen i was a chylde / i was so olde / inn my dreems
/ a grl / ther bieng no pardon / from the reel / its form
a dreem / a grl / the feeld is an æffekt yes / but wut
mattres more / than its fakt / faktual the folde / inn its
fallow / & bent daye / mattrynge / how wee call a
thynge / & wut / did wee make then / bieng so tall /
the daye bieng olde / sum fakts / stunnynge the aire
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