Monday, August 20, 2007
Not that long ago I received a mailing envelope from England in which there was a small matchbox, the top of which reads, black boldface against a yellow background, one word per line, Scott / Thurston / Internal / Rhyme. Inside, postal authorities will be relieved to learn, were no matches, but rather many little slips of paper, plus, near the bottom, the negative of a single frame of film inside of some protective plastic. The “largest” sheet of paper (roughly three inches wide, one & one-eighth inches high) describes the project:
Originally seven poems of four stanzas each, arranged two by two, and readable both horizontally and vertically. In this presentation each stanzas is to be read individually and/or as part of a 28 stanza sequence, in new two by two patterns (recommended) or in entirely new combinations. See www.matchbox.org.uk for more.
A sample stanza (each is a quatrain) reads:
I can feel your
of relief at the end of
The website is particularly useful in its demonstration of possible combinations, which can be found through the link under Scott’s photo on the “Boxers” page of the site.
The result is a particularly simpatico example of poetry as ludic language. The implicit argument – that there is no “wrong” way to read these lines – is itself a claim about the truth value of poetry itself, that it lies beyond (or at the very least beside) any question of reference. My reaction on delving through the box, trying out different possibilities, is one of great pleasure.
The image on the negative appears to be an automobile photographed with a “fish-eye” lens, giving it that Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror look. There is an explanatory sheet for this as well, which reads
INTERNAL RHYME photographic responses by Simon Taylor
A single negative from a set of 150 responses by Simon Taylor to Scott Thurston’s Internal Rhyme. For details of how to develop your original print visit Simon’s page on the Matchbox site: www.matchbox.org.uk/simon.html
This in turn recommends
HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR
For pristine results you'll need a prolab, not a high street photo-shop. Acrom in
Some prolabs say they can't print from a single negative. Don't believe them. An A3 image will cost you about £20.
And suggests that you write to Simon to discuss your image.
Nor does the fun stop here. The bottom of the box contains a wee photo of Scott Thurston, along with two modes of poetry trivia, one a “Did you know” question & answer, the other a puzzle –
According to Frank Kuppner, how many Second Best Moments in Chinese History are there?
The answer to which can be found on the website.
In all, this is the 9th in the series – it’s the eighth one I’ve got (missing only number 6, Tim Atkins) – out of what appears to be a projected 12. Other authors include Ray DiPalma, Bill Griffiths, Lisa Jarnot, P. Inman, Allen Fisher & Craig Dworkin, definitely a first-rate roster of poets.
Matchbox, which is the brainchild of James Davies in
Arthur Winfield Knight
Henry David Thoreau
Ralph Waldo Emmerson
W. H. Auden
Diane di Prima
George W. Bush (APRIL FOOL)
In general, Matchbox focuses on post-avant writers from the past 30 years whereas Poems-for-All tends more toward a Beat & New American focus from the historical period immediately prior to that, which makes them generally poetic cousins. Perhaps their greatest area of divergence is their distribution strategy. Matchbox lists a total of five known distribution points other than subscription as a means of getting these boxed delights – three are in
scattered around town – on buses, trains, cabs, in restrooms, bars, left along with the tip; stuffed into a stranger's back pocket.
Both of these projects are in the tradition of Joyce Holland’s legendary Matchbook, published in
if you should see
walking down a crowded street
in the opposite direction
but run toward him
for he is a POET!
you have NOTHING to fear
from the poet
but the TRUTH
There was a time when I had a fairly good collection of issues of Matchbook, but that was 30 years ago & today I couldn’t tell you where a single copy was. I feel/fear that this may be the fate of these delightful little projects that I now have in hand, as it has been also for more than a few broadsides of mine over the years.¹ These literal ephemera make something like the Hanuman Press books, four by two & three-quarter inches & thick enough to warrant perfect binding, feel like Maximus or The Cantos in comparison, and they seem almost to flaunt their fragility. In so doing, they make the case for the presentness of poetry itself (this may be why these projects always pop up on the post-avant side of the continuum) as well as for the temporary nature of poetry, so like words melting into air.
¹ The worst situation being my copy of Robert Grenier’s Cambridge M’ass, a booklength epic on a huge single sheet, that was “liberated” from my office at San Francisco State back in 1982. I’ve never been able to obtain another and a search of the web’s rare books’ engines turns up not a single available copy.