“Nothing new except language, the ever found,” writes Susan Sontag in a later essay, “Where the Stress Falls,” and goes on, “Cauterizing the torment of personal relations with hot lexical choices, jumpy punctuation, mercurial sentence rhythms. Devising more subtle, more engorged ways of knowing, of sympathizing, of keeping at bay. It’s a matter of adjectives. It’s where the stress falls.” This matter of adjectives, this engorged way of knowing, is exactly what Carrie Lorig is up to in her masterful poem, “To Lie Down / in an Attempt.” I would revise Sontag for Lorig’s purposes though, and say it’s a matter of nouns and not adjectives that concern Lorig. The hybrid of nouns articulates the body and the anti-body of Lorig’s realm. Ground, body, cuff, posture, grindburies (???), ???, mounds—such things begin her scream-anthem. I wrote in my notebook PRESENCE ESSAY, after constructing a logic formula from her use of concepts like “compression,” “implosion,” and “confession.” (In case you’re interested, <implosion (compression) + impression/compression = presence x assay>.) (I am not a mathematician.) I like this idea that Lorig is in the midst of a presence essay, which is to say, an impossible exercise of current[cy]. The first two pages of this poem function in all caps, a shouting, a knowledge seeking and sought: “IS THERE AN ACCIDENT IS THERE / A FIRST TIME I WANTED TO EXPLAIN CLEARLY // IS THERE ANOTHER PART OF THE TEXT / OF TALKING / AS CLOSE AS IT CAN COME.” Ground and body are the germinating loci for her presence; in the former, we experience the impact of the latter. For example, “DOES THE WORLD FORGET A BODY.” aligns itself quite nicely to Lorig writing soon after, “THE GARDEN IS ON THE GROUND AND ALSO LIFTING AWAY FROM IT / BLOOMING AWAY FROM IT.”
Lorig’s poem is not only impressive for its ground- and body-channels, but its shifting registers of abstract and specific autobiographical pantomimes. Academia and its falsehood versus the poets and their indigo resistances. The infrared voices of Ashbery, Bhanu Kapil, Aase Berg, Michael Earl Craig, Kim Hye Soon, Dana Ward, and others alarm and unshackle the pith of Lorig’s vast emotional and analytic intelligence to form a brethren. Consider this brilliant passage, as Lorig negotiates the body of Ashbery’s Two Poems with the body of her mind with the body of the immaterial between:
I thought I didn’t remember any of the book, / just the feeling of reading it / out loud / out loud against / my apartment’s wood floor just the feeling of it, / a copper thread / a departure gallery. But when I re-read the page where the word “flood” is underlined, where “[an] ill-conceived repose on edge of the flood” is underlined, I realize I’ve been practicing thinking of the book / its insides / all along in my writing / in my life. To hold the text / with my insides To remember / with my body. What does that mean? This is the most important kind of reading I’ve only just learned how to do. The reading I do away from the book. The reading I do while feeling or looking at the text elsewhere and beyond. The reading I do / how prone I am to dog / and cake / and compulsion / and a mosaic or bristling / nudeness Am I poet Aren’t I mere / mutilations?
Aren’t I mere mutilations? Lorig continues this idea by declaring she would die for poetry. And I believe her in a wild way I never believe anyone in the face of hyperbole. I believer her mind is lethally espoused to the mutilation and bristling voices of others, that she, as Rolando Barthes writes in The Lover’s Discourse, lacerates herself to a “voice at once beloved and exhausted: a broken, rarefied, bloodless voice, ... a voice from the end of the world.”
With voice comes a face, sometimes. And for Lorig, the face is the threshold between ground and body: “I want to write about lying down as some kind of rejection of the face, / of the face alone, a proportioned reflection” and “When I lie down, I no longer / catch the reflection of my face. / I see the massive sky. I Still / hear the water see // what my body remembers.” And if the face is the threshold, the body is the drifting, negations that express presence, the umwelt. Of Lorig’s morphologies in this poem, the arrival of umwelt carries major significance, sprung from “a wet perch / A welt A porch / Umwelt / Unwelt / Umwelt / Umwelt / Umwelt.” I didn’t know this German word, but that its meaning roughly translates as the self-centered world only bolsters the mind-body reading. The body is sole estate, an icky demesne of the brain’s territory, and when Lorig writes, “Does it understand resistance / or is it a moving hole / of / bones and ambition / lying so Still / or absorbent?,” I find myself leaning on that lone preposition, a spore in her terroir, sensing somehow that an answer exists only through her spectacular extrapolations.
The last three pages of this poem are the grand finale; all of the Carrie Lorigs rush through the unstoppered screenshot of her Self disrupting herself via text. What follows is a dazzling melange, her nuanced fit of umwelt in which so much of the above language recycles into a fully formed collective, her “underwater bees.” We get the blood-whirs, the grief, Floridian rain, Alice Notley recited over the phone, crying to cry. Lorig, who earlier comprehended her book of lives as a book of others, becomes fully alive in the ambit of her influences: “U read something until it is there in U.” I see the U functioning as the valence of “you” and “university,” two factors of stress and resistance. I see the body and the ground, both absorbing, resisting. Enter Lorig’s dirge, horrendous and visceral, remarkable in its grace of removal and circulation. This is hybrid’s philosophy, that in order to contain a thing we must combine it, that in order to combine a thing we must spill its contents and let its knowledge wriggle in exposed light. And so to be a body in the canyon is to engorge its processes against voices of the landscape. Lorig is enraptured toward manifesto. She bleeds its essence as she writes near the end of this world-building, “Take out the ‘as’ / to get rid of any metaphor I cry / I cry because it has been A Dedicated Rain / ... / I lie down in flesh chalk I wanted to study / in language / My Devastation my love of Men and rain and Jewelry.” Her presence is fixed in anthem, in durational examination. Continues Barthes, “Fatigue is infinity: what never manages to end.” Lorig arrives and arrives and arrives to boundaries which know no bounds and are fit to worship. All hail her magnificence.
Natalie Eilbert's first book of poems, Swan Feast, is forthcoming from Coconut Books in April 2015. She is the author of two chapbooks, Conversation with the Stone Wife (Bloof Books, '14) and And I Shall Again Be Virtuous (Big Lucks Books, '14). She is the founding editor of The Atlas Review.