Poetry News

Reading Nicole Brossard's White Piano at HTMLGiant

By Harriet Staff


Impossible Mike deftly writes about Nicole Brossard's White Piano in this post on HTMLGiant. Completely stunning, right-on analysis of performance writing and how it operates on the page. He first looks at those (broken? phantom?) promises of Modernism that Post-Modernism announced were over. Then moves on to look at Brossard's poems:

Part of Brossard’s poetic toolbox includes formal signifiers of performativity. She is not necessarily entirely aligned with what have been called the French ‘Neo-Formalists,’ but this tangential connection is what initially brought me to her work. While her page is not as topographic as, say, Anne-Marie Albiach, she does use tools to expand the performance of the text on the page itself. A textual performativity serves, in my reading, to heighten the experience of reading the text; this experience is different, for example, than hearing the text performed audibly–Brossard uses occasionally symbols, a light graying of words, varying capital letters, and blank space. This formal performativity adds an inherent musicality to the text that is not limited to common poetic techniques such as assonance, enjambment, etc. It creates a visual performativity, aligned with visual art.

This is not to say that the poetry Brossard writes is concrete–there is no shaping of the text to resemble its subject as in Apollinaire’s Calligrams, nor is there any literal visual representation achieved via the text. Brossard mentions John Cage’s prepared piano, a mode in which objects have been shoved into the piano to create new sounds, this is a tool to shape the text’s feeling, not its literal representation.

With all poetry I find great, I can never say I specifically understand what the text is telling me. Understanding implies that there is a solution, as if there’s a mystery to be solved. The text is open, so immediate semantic meaning is de-positioned into being less important than the experience of the text, and this experience is this ‘heavy feeling’ that I referred to above. And with this, the white piano plays on into a floating jouissance where words mete with emotion, ignorant of canned-language, a space of affect to be inhabited by the reader.

Head over to read all of it.

Originally Published: June 3rd, 2013