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Name/This

by Alan Davies

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Alright, here's my 2nd attempt to review an Alan Davies bk. I think this review will fail even worse than the 1st one (of "Active 24 Hours"). At least I can comment on a few things ephemeral to the text: I looked in the database for "Name" & found "Name/This" - listed as published by Sun & Moon Press in 1987. Now, that's an Amazon listing & I've noticed before that their listings are sometimes inaccurate - I've seen them list the distributor as the publisher. Oddly, in their listing, there's an ISBN number - there's none on my copy of this bk. Sun & Moon is a poetry press but I don't associate them w/ Alan's writing. As such, it seems that the Amazon listing is incorrect but where did the ISBN number come from?

I remember THIS PRESS as being an archetypcal early "language writing" press. THIS & ROOF both - 2 of the presses that've published Alan. Both press names are, obviously, one word, one syllable - evocative for me of solidity. & I think of much "language writing" as having an intensified object presence. I think of Gertrude Stein & the way her words are like bricks to me - you can throw them around but they're still bricks, you can throw them thru a window but they're still bricks. The words have a particular type of presence.

I've given both of the bks by Alan that I've attempted to write about 3 star ratings. This isn't meant to say they don't deserve better. I feel like I walk on these bks, I walk on the middle star of the ratings, as if the writing's a wall & I cd fall off to the unchecked stars on the right or onto the checked stars on the left. But I don't fall, I balance on the language while I read it. It's that word-as-object solidity again.

Alan's "NAME" is very THIS. It's a small bk, it has a sparseness to it, it's very focused. Now I don't generally like attempts to overliteralize things - I don't necessarily like interpreting dreams or describing an abstract painting in terms of figuration. It seems that when I read Alan's writing I shd be commenting on it in terms of a higher purpose: Why does he use language the way he does? What does this opaqueness accomplish that transparency can't? I was thinking of Alan's writing (& the writing of some other "language writers") as monolithic - monolithic in the sense of the object in "2001" - a large mysterious object w/ no obvious purpose that one feels confronted by, a presence.

Oddly, though, when I read "NAME", I find it informed by business & sexual relations. Maybe that's too obvious. As I recall, Alan might've been an air-conditioning salesman for many yrs. Maybe he was when he wrote this. Maybe he never was. Nevertheless, I find this bk to be a sortof filtration of business & sex & intellect - all turned into a monolith. Alan's world processed thru his brain & reproduced as a bk object, as something that stands on its own to mystify the reader. We process the world, we make something of it, we recycle it & turn it into.. what? What has Alan turned his world into?

I can't resist: maybe Alan's shitting bricks. Usually, the expression "shitting bricks" means to be upset by something. But here the process seems more stoical. Don't misunderstand me, I'm sure that people who like poetry more than I do, other poets, will find my reading of this ridiculous & dense - I'M BEING THE BRICK, I'M BEING THE DENSE OBJECT. Alan writes on page 89:

Now Name there isn't
this much name for speech.
Name, there isn't this much
time, to've take, or spoke.
Now Name, there is no reason
and soon, no person
with the will to speech. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
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