Friday, March 07, 2003

One thing about the Internet: when you get it wrong, you can be corrected from a great distance almost instantly. From Capetown, South Africa, Robert Berold & Paul Wessels, the publishers of Deep South, whose books include Seitlhamo Motsapi’s earthstepper/the ocean is very shallow, identify a thread I missed entirely in my reading of one of Motsapi’s poems in Tripwire 6:

dear ron silliman
we think you are making too much of the obscurity of seitlhamo motsapi's poem. how about simply
moni = money
culculatahs = calculators (with pretensions)
conputers = computers (with the con of capitalism)

robert berold+ paul wessels
Moni being money brings the stanza I was most confused by into much greater focus:

their kisses bite
like the deep bellies of conputers
the gravy of their songs
smells like the slow piss of culculatahs

But I wasn’t arguing for the obscurity of Motsapi’s poem, only my own difficulty at knowing how “to grasp some portion of the references & allusions without importing too many.” While I thought conputers  was clear enough, the initial “cul” of culculatahs threw me – I still don’t hear it, although the reference back now to moni pulls the chain of elements into a single overarching scheme of references tightly enough. The problem, if it is one, is that I personally lack the context – literally – for hearing moni as money, there simply isn’t enough diversity among the speakers in my social milieu for that to strike me as a probable variant. My own ignorance here simply underscores the question I was raising. Happily, though, my conclusion that “I don’t need to know this in order to recognize that ‘moni’ is an unquestionably wonderful poem” still stands. Motsapi strikes me as a poet absolutely worth reading, regardless of how much cultural baggage I need to shed in order to do so.