15 page chapbook written by Drew Milne in 2012. The first two thirds is composed of stanzas beginning “the cost of this text” – presumably in reference to the division of labour – then a long unpunctuated sentence slightly offset – which I thought of as an aphoristic equation fragment – that may become redundant. The last third is similarly structured, and each stanza, which has a slightly larger margin, begins “the weight of this line”. I suppose the poem begins with a Lewisian grimace that the cost of this text “is living beyond its means”. The first section seems to be composed around (varying) iambs, and reminds me a little of Milton in that respect. The second less so. It looks like Milne has spliced together various found phrases (the lead, repeated, line subtracts from that sense), and I would guess so that each phrase overlaps with the next. In the first part, this seems to go without comment, while in the second I think we’re invited to to guess what has been elided, rather than say guess the source material, which could be anything but is suggestive of reports, both scholarship and from newspapers. There is an early sense of domesticity, quiet anger and political questions; the author is antagonistic, and I originally wanted to read the sequence for the shimmer of his absence from an ode at the level of readerly engagement with the text.
The repeated phrases add torque, specifically the rhythm of those repeated phrases, rather than – as may be more standard – torquing the line with open field or narrative. Diction is flat but also excited. Any rare word is sneered at in a pedagogical way (I learnt the exact definition of ‘substantive’ in grammar: a word or phrase acting like a noun). I had an early sense of life clawing at itself for space.
I suppose that for me the most appealing sentiment was that no-one gets it, sentence, in the first part, that “does not look like a gift horse that is ready to be messsed with by the dentist of the imagination”, which ends with a fresh and allusive phrase quite unlike another “the rope of words” (with 100,000 google hits from various authors).
Song lyrics and art movements get a mention.
The first series ends, abruptly, with “went to bed to mend his head with sellotape and white paper”. It reminds me a little of the ending of atonal music, but I could never say quite why and what it has to do with Milne or his sweetness; the grimace is now a pin-prick.
The second part reads more self referential – both to poetry (O’Hara and Rupert Loydell seem especially relevant) and itself – and, while it all goes mostly without comment, more engaged; only the postponed politics is better than the movies. I read it as a lament for suffering and how all we can do is be a little political.
I think each part has equal power, rather than appeal. The second series is not prose, unlike the first, and suffers ever increasing line shortening. It ends with “the quango of an imagined / given still up for the taking”. A quango is a quasi autonomous body of the civil service; the given relates to Sellars, ‘myth’, anti-foundationalism, and – I suppose – Hellenistic skepticism, which Milne relates to the title and Epoché, or suspenion of judgment (I’m happy I know this). These ideas intuitively fit together, though I cannot really relate them meaningfully beyond that, but it works together to seem quite dear (perhaps in terms of how the two parts reflect each other’s opening lines), even if no-one is.