Prynne’s Streak~Willing~Entourage~Artesian revisited.

Because I’m revising the Prynne pages as part of the arduity makeover, I’ve realised that there might be a need to look again at the work I wrote about a few years ago to see if either my view or understanding have changed. Looking back, I did spend a lot of time with the above and felt that I’d only started to scratch the surface. I also recall my indignation when Robert Potts in the TLS categorised Streak~Willing as ‘impentrable”.

I have now to report that I’ve spent the last few hours with the sequence and a pen to see if I can identify a wider ‘sense corridor’ in which to situate this material. In describing difficult poetry and the readerly challenge, Prynne has written:

But in certain types of “difficult” poetry this corridor of sense is much wider and more open, more like a network across the whole expanse of the text, with many loops and cross-links of semantic and referring activity which extend the boundaries of relevance, and of control by context, in many directions at once. If these many directions are developed so as to produce strong contradiction and self-dispute then the method may become a dialectic practice, in which poetic form and expression are brought into internal contest with themselves and with each other.

For the moment I’m ignoring the ‘d’ word and internal contests because I need to identify further elements in the ‘network’ that may or may not thread its way through the sequence. Readers with very long memories may recall that I managed to extract a ‘Troubles’ thread and then harried one of the twelve poems into a more pliable state. On this occasion I’m trying to look at all the poems as part of the whole and to see if I can identify any more of the elements that Prynne refers to.

The initial plan was to read all 12 poems carefully foour or five times and then to try and identify what seem to be Troubles related cross-links. This was fine for the first five poems but then came the sixth which starts with:

    When did when nor soon rebate the pinch altior stood
    for the narrow annexe would you they partake, in this
    hardly by defeats. Near gale allay force slam opportune
    drive forward parenthood, prink get on lie unborrowed

    Fuming to the brow, so tumult...........

I couldn’t resist digging a bit deeper see if this might be a ‘node’. This delving started with discovering that ‘altior’ can mean either higher or deeper. I then proceeded to look at the 18 definitions of ‘pinch’ in the OED. I thing I could have unearthed most of the relevant ones under my own steam but the OED is much (much) quicker and effort-free. These seemed to be a bit networkish:

  • a point at which a mineral vein is narrowed or compressed by the walls of rock; a similar narrowing of a stratum;
  • an instance, occasion, or time of special difficulty; a critical juncture; a crisis, an emergency;
  • emotional pain, esp. as caused by remorse, conscience, or sorrow; an instance of this, a pang;
  • stress or suffering caused by cold, hunger, poverty, etc.; hardship;
  • The critical (highest or lowest) point of the tide; the turn of the tide;
  • the critical or crucial point of an argument, theory, etc.; a crux;
  • a steep or difficult part of a road:
  • An arrest, a charge; (occas.) imprisonment.

There are other definitions that I could make a case for but most of these would seem to gesture in the general direction of the 10 Republican hunger strikers who starved themselves to death in the Maze prison in 1981. There are several other hunger strike nodes running through the sequence (see below) but this multi-directional use of ‘pinch’ is one of the more complex.

Before we get any further in, it might be important to know that Prynne has referred to the Troubles as a full-scale civil war. I think he’s correct on this and I think politicians and the pliant media use the euphemism because the fact of a civil war in our country would undermine the institutions that rule us.

The other element that is insufficiently acknowledged is that the rest of the UK has never cared that much about the various Irish Problems since the 13th century – British policies towards Ireland have ranged from the genocidal to the worst kinds of venal incompetence.

To return to the definitions, the geological term could relate to the power of the British state in crushing the protest or by forcing both sides into more and more extreme positions. The rest are fairly self-evident except perhaps the turn of the tide- according to some commentators, it was the failure of the hunger strike that led to the IRA moving towards a ‘political’ solution.

As can be seen, I’ve allowed my quest for the whole network(s) to be sidetracked by these few words, Which is a gentle reminder to me how easy it is for me to fall b ack into obsessive / completist mode with this work and how involving and satisfying this delving can be- and this is before I’ve spent much time with ‘rebate’ as a verb although I now know that it can mean to “lessen in force or intensity” and “To parry or turn aside an unwelcome question; to give a curt or evasive reply. Also: to refuse to accept something, to rebel”.

In the interests of me showing off, here’s the other points that I’ve identified:

Poem one

“inside the tight closed box”

“maybe open to one side glaze”

“To maul the out-sign / More at blanket turn, prior the blanket”

“tipping exclusion”

“oh disposal profligtate buck more in and ready.”

“who will meet who would, as to camber / one side slipped over”

Poem two.

“Approaching passion freak intact”

“second charge you let off stop surrender for / disarm”

“now less green took life by the tongue lit / In low pale extradite.

“More flute ignite nul wants”

“crab / out over the foreland, the annexe”

Poem three.

“Still eyes please are they found / Catchment plaster grand rubble up ask again”

“either way countenance / rebel gate, gate far over”

Poem four.

“Same terrace same fuse at delinquent if mass / coherent”

“They so full starved still / Flee graven no other”

“Live shined in mercy / how is.”

“fly other to fall / out of some world shall from hunger substitute.”

Poem five.

“further down gullet / hoisted put worse, same to find.”

per invention / per lingual ticket”

A network in progress- on to poems 6 – 12.


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