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POUNDIAN POETRIES

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AGNES LEHOCZKY

 

 

agi summer 3

 

 

What are the Poundian principles of a poem for me? In other words what are the Poundian poem composites? One, perhaps, most crucial, is that the poem’s parameters embrace an entire cultural odyssey, the discourse on history, the dialectic of cultural thought. The other is that the poem therefore, and so consequently, is always a katabasis: into the subconscious of private and public, singular or collective selves? And thirdly, because of all principle 1 and 2: the language of the poem is always heteroglossic. 

“Poems in Pool Epitaphs and Other Love Letters” (first published by Boiler House, 2018, then in Swimming Pool, Shearsman, 2018) are polyphonic texts posing a movement of thought through the exploration of art, history and culture, following a dialectic of feeling and thinking in the form of dialogic letters, essay poems, to-and-froing between author and reader, lover and loather, critic and posthumous poet in a retrospective motion yet in the texts’ contra movement/resistance/always already being at present/motioning towards its own desired posthumous-ness; some kind lehoczy poolof canto-esque katabasis into a critical discourse on artworks which, in various ways, explore the phenomenology of “pool”: The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490-1510) by Bosch, Helen Chadwick’s The Oval Court (1984-86) and Karine Laval’s Poolscapes and The Pool (2009-2010); also her State of Flux (2013-2014) with minor references to La Piscine. Each art work in a sense portrays “pool” as a place as metaphor, of inevitable polarity paralleling the nature of the phenomenological place of the poem fused into absence or erasure, axioms or premises/promises inseparable from doubt, both poem and pool as pars pro toto, these premises always as palimpsestic, almost always layered into a bricolage and storage of risk, danger and peril: place, pool and poem as multifunctional and as transformation trope always in motion and/or metamorphing, and/or dialectic of feeling, memory, hermeneutics and human error.

 
 
 
 

[Pool Epitaph i; letter I:13]  ‘…And so on a hot August day’ 

 

…And so on a hot August day, on a feeling, 

thinking day, on a sublime swimming day, on

 the chance day, the brave day, when the swimmer

 knows that on such a day anything could 

happen, after much anxious anticipation we 

arrived at the swimming pool and saw that it

wasn’t there. More precisely we did not see that it 

was there. In other words, the local pool in the 

heart of the XI district normally perched on one 

of the gentle slopes of the Buda Hills was gone, 

the pool was misplaced. The sign, hardly 

comprehensible, said: pool isn’t here– yet, my 

sympathetic swimmer, how can a swimmer 

swim sans swimming pool? O poolpresent, pool 

past. And misplaced too searching for our 

missing pool, my patient concierge and I drifted 

into the middle of Hieronymus’ garden of 

earthly disgust and delights. Imagine this

pathological pool within that pathologicalpool. 

Pathological because right beneath our living 

swimmer a drowned swimmer is swimming too. 

So let’s take a risk and imagine this image 

without doubt. It’s our local swimming pool at 

dusk. The pool, this pool, another pool, the 

same pool. The playful pool. The absent pool 

present for now. The pondering pool, the pond 

full of various magic and mirage. And we 

entered with a body we both loathed and loved 

while we were alive. We entered with a body 

that both loathed and loved us before it 

drowned. Then in the blue tiled dressing room 

we undressed quietly. And leaving the body 

behind us we dived into Jerome’s triptych. Both 

present and absent, as apparition there and 

elsewhere, we disappeared in dusk and appeared 

in the middle of another pool, at its focal point 

the musical fountain of your childhood on 

Margaret Island in Budapest with your small 

sun-tanned body wandering in water with other 

tiny swimmers drifting through a cryptic century 

at a time when time was not yet timed. The 

century was empty as a tomb. And we were 

there at the edge of the pool and we saw that 

the page in front of us was always already the 

only page, the same page, the same composite of 

blue sky and pool. And this was the heroic 

Hieronymus moment when one’s phantom foot 

slips on the tiles and our silhouettes took off…

 

 


[PE ii; letter II:13‘… Dear silent swimmer sans silhouette’ 

 

…Dear silent swimmer sans silhouette, sans

soul, bon courage. These are letters from a 

pool long morphed into a landscape 

somewhere else. Let us move in the triptych

playfully in order. Contours of the poem inside 

and outside concealed in dusk. Next to the 

pool the largest zoo in the world, as large as 

the world; in the large zoo the saddest animals, 

as sad as sky. The sky, blue tiled, as rectangular 

as a regular swimming pool. In this ordinary 

pool the drawings of exotic animals, some 

somewhat irregular, carefully copied from mid-

15th century humanist scholar Cyriac of 

Ancona’s travelogues. And we were there at 

the edge of the pool and we saw that the page 

in front of us was always already the only page, 

the same page, the same composite of blue sky 

and pool. On the surface of the water floating 

artlessly on its back, the Dodo read a book. 

Unicorns grew fins. Small fish emerged from

the depth with wings. Pre-semantic girlboy pre-

thinking, pre-feeling always already outside the 

sentence, picked at a giant strawberry. A 

porcupine, looking lost, rushed across the 

page. A tiny black reptile, unborn at this stage, 

will have gone missing on the next. Bosch’s

triptych, the art historian claims, is meant to be 

deciphered chronologically, linearly, from left 

to right. From dawn to dusk. From delight to 

disgust. By the time we left the pool it was 

winter outside. The speaking fountain within

the fountain from childhood snowed-up. On 

the ice rink there was a gull skating and carving 

hieroglyphs the fish underneath could not 

read. Then our quiet concierge shut the 

altarpiece’s shutters and the book became a

crystal ball orbiting around itself in amniotic 

fluid. A baby seal crawled out on the margin. 

This water universe with the baby seal much

later in 1986 turned into an installation artist’s 

Oval Court composed in a Victorian terraced

house on Beck Road in Hackney, with the 

baby seal morphing into the artist’s manifold 

bodies whose original was lost among the 

replicas; around the photocopied self-portraits 

swimming up and down in an imaginary blue 

universe corroding fish, dead embryos 

preserved inside glass bottles, decomposing

vegetables were floating in some repulsive jelly 

stuff. When you zoom in on the artist’s crying 

faces you can see her many bodies, twisting, 

twitching, are in pain too. But don’t you think, 

my scribbling, drooling navigator, that reading 

must take place simultaneously from left to

right and right to back. Bosch’s triptych pool is 

one and only pool, from pool the ephemeral 

past to pool a retro-future, from pool fearful

logos to pool frightful lexis, from pool Eros to 

pool Thanatos, pool psychophobia, poolsans

sense, sansphilia to pool emptiful.

 
 

[PE xii; letter XII:13‘…Last Sunday you sent me’ 

 

Last Sunday you sent me a segment of your 

essay you were in the middle of writing. In the 

passage you explain that in a letter to his friend 

John Reynolds of the 3rdof May 1818, the 

poet-physicist, our composer of fear, fearer of 

decomposition, pre mortem, writes that he hopes 

that post mortem, like the gull, or a good-sized 

fish, he may dip crosswise across the page, 

and, post scriptum, he will not vanish out of sight 

– (Letters 1: 280). O private alphas and public 

omegas. O Lethe. Personally, posthumously, 

from where I stand, instead of falling across 

the page, I’ll prefer to make my way towards 

the margin. O the pondering childhood parks, 

evaporating, in them the private dancing, the 

speaking fountains. In them the small amphora 

body which we loved and loathed while we 

were alive, now, look, a solid metaphora. But 

dear decipherer of composition. Thisbook is 

now semi-lit, semi-closed. From where I stand 

the conclusion won’t make any difference. The 

debate, as to which direction the body falls 

finally, from where you stand will always be 

indifferent. O apathetic lover sanssoul, sans

silhouette, sanspassion. The swimming pool is 

semi-lit, semi-light. Odi et amo [quare id faciam?].

Salute and farewell. And so, look, stoic other, 

the posthumous poet continues in her 

notebook  found in her Buda apartment, 

today’s swimming day is the last day, the 

appearing day, the becoming day, the 

composing, to do it sensibly on the page. To 

navigate the body home through language with 

compassion as if our (eternal) life were not 

ours but belonged to someone else. The 

expiring day, the disappearing, when 

swimming pool forgives swimmer and 

swimmer adapts to pool. You might call it the 

swimmer’s transubstantiation. The swimmer 

who exits the pool is the same swimmer who 

entered pre mortem, even if, post-swimming,

no outward changes are apparent to the eye.

The body look, unchanged, unaltered, wears 

the same pre-swimming face. And yet the 

manner in which the change occurs is a 

mystery. When we use the wordchange, we by 

no means think it explains the mode by which 

the body of the swimmer is converted into the 

ideal body of the post-swimming swimmer the 

swimmer has been searching for all her life, for 

this is altogether incomprehensible. But we 

mean this change not figuratively, 

metaphorically or symbolically, nor by any 

extraordinary grace attached to it and yet we 

mean that the body during its regular and 

everyday swim, becomes verily and indeed 

essentially the very true and same body it 

appeared before it disappeared. And so in the 

half-lit, half-illuminated neon-light we enter 

the local pool and we undress quietly. And 

leaving the body behind us we dive into the

pool, the familiar pool, the same pool, the only 

pool. Nothing much has changed since we 

were gone. Objects are in their right place, in 

their right time; simple, safe paraphernalia. On 

the surface of the water, look, the book bores 

Dodo still floating artlessly on its back. Small 

fish clipped of wings vanishes underwater. 

Girlboy diseased from strawberry in dark 

corner. At the edge of the pool lion in neon 

light (with small black reptile caught in its 

jaws), elephant and giraffe stare away. 

Porcupine, somewhat panicking, rushes off the 

page.