Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reader's Diary #190- Peter Van Toorn (editor): Sounds New (up to Dwayne Perreault's "Acid Rain")

Transcendence. The word didn't strike fear in me, but I had assumed it would be too convoluted for me to ever understand.

Yet suddenly, the word is popping up everywhere. Mentioned in Franny and Zooey, in a recent wikipedia article I read, and now in Sounds New. Not one to go running from a word, I've tried to get a handle on it. From what I gather, it's about there being more than meets the eye and coming to terms with the fact that there are some things we might never be able to understand. I don't mind the term so much anymore (but it does make me think of New Age, and that ain't cool).

In the introduction to Sounds New, editor Peter Van Toorn discusses the idea of transcendence quite eloquently. He seems to suggest that we are at a golden age whereby artists and scientists have not only declared a truce, but have also become strange bedfellows. Artists, despite accusations of doing the opposite, seek truth. So do scientists. But now people are beginning to see that maybe their versions of the truth are not diametrically opposed. Mysticism? Maybe. I remember reading Stephen Hawking and looking back now, I think his theories fall into the category of scientific transcendence. In Sounds New, a bunch of poets from Quebec (circa late 80s) lead the trend.

My biggest challenge in reading this collection is in differentiating between the poets. It's not that they aren't different, but my initial bias sees them all as one voice: a late 80s, Montreal poet who focuses on transcendentalism. Van Toorn is as much to blame for this as I am, due to his introduction (however eloquent it might be) which tends to categorize the poets a little too narrowly. When I shake my head free of this skew, I can appreciate (or not) each poet for their individual styles and approaches.

One (unique) poet which has stood out for me so far is Ruth Taylor. Taylor had quite a large collection of her work represented here. I'm still a little undecided about her poems. Initially, I found her poems fun. Then they became whimsical. Then they became grating. More so than the other poets (in this book) I have read so far, she seemed to enjoy sounds, and lines like "O ominous oms of omniscience!" are not uncommon. Like Christian Bok, she experimented with the language. Before long though, her poems seem gimmicky and to me, seemed to sacrifice any point for the sake of a little alliteration. There's also smatterings of pop-culture references (ex. "Space. The Final Frontier.") and contemporary slang (ex. "Can you dig it?") that smacks of someone trying to be hip. It is only through occasional poems such as "Cabane Fever" in which Taylor seemed to actually think outside the turtleneck, and it is only then that her true talent showed through.


Anonymous said...

I see transcendence as a derivation of transcendental. Which came first I don't know. I do know that mathematicians owned it before the New Age hippies. Pi and e are transcendental numbers and represent two of the most significant numbers known to mankind. Some even believe in God's existence because of e!

Well John your post has inspired me to try and write my own post on transcendental numbers. You should never get me started on math, my absolute love in life. Mathematics transcends all.

p.s. My word verification is rurut I don't know why but I like that one.

John Mutford said...

Toccata, Those numbers are very interesting to put it mildly. Looking forward to reading your post.

I get some bizarre word verifications from time to time as well. They're funny at those times, but when they're illegible, they're so annoying.