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Scrapbook: The Disappearing Mucho-ority

The net would seem to cast itself wide—after years at sea, tangents in recollection gather themselves to shake loose their structure and create something new. It's in this spirit of gathering that I thought it might be interesting to see where some disparate elements might have some viable crossover—thriving on surprise where momentum rolls—in a scrapbook of intertwined confluences.
I came across these posters of a deconstructed Chiquita banana label and Coke bottle, while doing research for my 'survival' job as a graphic designer. Design was my entry into poetry, discovering the typographic experiments of the Futurists led me to a treasure-trove of word manipulators and I got hooked on phonics! The poster's designer,
Steve Jones is a son of Jamaican immigrants. As the website mentions, "cultural transmission has many layers," and the Chiquita piece specifically had so many levels for me that I immediately set it aside for future revisiting, 'hearing' the exploded incompletions 'speak' to the text as plastic inevitable. Without covering the value and profound experiential qualities of Concrete Poetry, which would take much more space and duende than I have right now, I was moved to delve into the poster's expertly static unbalancing act…and went on a brief journey through identity and construction.What sort of balance and explosion might apply to language in a similar manner? Tackling the mashup is no blind journey—when is the made thing not beautiful—newly thing'ed? The label disappearing while in the natural rectangular form of the poster, as opposed to its graphically unnatural form of the banana…codifies a disappeared culture before a re-designed one—the information gone before being mixed. Does that mean it's easier to disappear than to confuse? Ask a boatload of immigrants if they'd rather disappear or confuse. Is that a fair trade?

“Lift up your face, my love, lift up your mouth

Kiss me and come to bed.” -- Muriel Rukseyser, 1944

A kiss disappears in a video piece of what isn't there. In a brilliant use of blue screen technology, the participant is isolated from the action…pointing out how awkwardly we surrender to what completes us. The "aloneness in intimacy," as described by the video text. However, to me, alone-ness implies a sad resolve…I see more a natural completion, the balance of the thing made not beautiful. It's what we do when we kiss, the world watching our rapture.

Jen Benka's work comes to mind allowing completion its place to fall apart—indeed, poetry should do that to language, right? Remove the speech particulars that obstruct while elevating the dimensions that don't? I think of Benka's book, "A Box Of Longing With 50 Drawers," of which much has been written. A poetic deconstruction of America through one of its key documents—a disappearing act for an unspoken nation. When does text explode in the process of its discovery? Can we catch that experiment before it dissolves? Is that a viable comparison to a nation, a poem?

The artist, Keith Donovan creates disappearing outlines like fractured storybooks with endings that want to be filled in, imagined—the eye completing the work that isn't there—the reader choosing which vowels belong where.

Caroline Bergvall's disappearing consonants….a language looking to renew, though it's clear that no intention is the driving force—the language doesn't set out for renewal but transmission. Transition between a happen and a not.

Bringing us back to the disappearing identity as "Identity." Ellison's "Invisible Man" still here, in the white house. Miguel Luciano's disappearing people—a transitioned culture of an exaggerated minority. An expanded disappearance exploding stereotype with its own bling of transformed transmissions. The non-identity of a reduced label, re-labeled as a disappearing act.

Here, a note to scrapbook gatherers and memoria seekers...where to thread? I have one running edge to consider: Identity—losing it, so as to get out of your way. The deepest, widest rift is in what you don't see. If poetry is a disappearing act, where does the poet emerge? The beast of the poem, remaining an unresolved outline.

Originally Published: April 18th, 2012

A self-proclaimed “lingualisualist” rooted in the languages of sight and sound, Edwin Torres was born in the Bronx and is a longtime resident of New York City. He is a poet whose highly acclaimed performances and live shows combine vocal and physical improvisation and theater. He is the author of...