Poetry News

Created for the Listening: kathryn l. pringle's fault tree

By Harriet Staff


A review of kathryn l. pringle's "dizzying, suffocating, brilliant fault tree" (Omnidawn 2012) is over at The Volta. Christopher Schaeffer writes of reading Pringle's new collection that it was for him reminiscent of a bed-ridden, visceral experience he had with a couple of Philip K. Dick novels--"one which I didn’t really expect to experience again."

fault tree "is a narrative—kind of—about time—kind of—and about memory—kind of—and about forgetting—kind of—and about creation. Kind of. Its speaker fluctuates between identities (I think) and is unsure itself about where its subjectivity lands from one section to another. It restlessly constitutes its own audience, and tells us how we listen to it, and how we’re created for the listening." More:

If fault tree is almost a sci-fi novel in verse, it’s because its bad guys are too abstract, its struggles too implicated and implicating for continuity and the reassuring shape of prose blocks. pringle quotes from Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins:

“an ethics that permits no category of event, not even mortality, to be set apart for special treatment, and that considers there to be nothing more unethical that we are required to be mortal shall be called a crisis ethics.”

Dicks, like pringle, wants to write the story in which being is the antagonist—in which language’s immanence in speaking bodies is not only unethical but monstrous, not just monstrous but, well, creepy. But how to overthrow being in form? How to speak down bodies existing in space as a speaking body existing in space (“this act of breathing is a felony without aid)? Discontinuity, slippage, deferral can only defer so far.

In other words, per Heidegger, if language is the house we live in, what to do when that house becomes a jail?

From Dick’s VALIS: “The universe is information and we are stationary in it, not three-dimensional and not in space of time. The information fed to us we hypostatize into the phenomenal world.”


but we imagine

it is of words

if time is the position of hands

simultaneity’s body is wracked

an imperceptible equating of breah

an outside of words

the i entity so creates escape

artifacts between us make space

echo articulation / / reflection


–             refraction


when asked


the present writer speaks silence

Later, Schaeffer gets closer to pringle's affinities:

fault tree’s conception of time is one of performativity and provisionality, a time not only reckoned and quantified socially, but sustained through concentrated mimesis. In this case, her closest analogue is not necessarily Dick but Stacy Doris, whose masterpiece Kildare similarly constructs a world in which slapstick physics and jittery temporality are the vehicle for prolonged ontological terror, and whose final book, fledge, presents a lush but difficult-to-navigate world where the divisions between bodies and subjects are half-tormented, half-teased. The sort of simultaneity that pringle’s speaker struggled to render into a speech is a cousin of the experience of time described through the angelus novus by Benjamin—but even if this speaker approaches the descriptive and productive powers of a creating god, it lacks the phenomenological agility and endurance of an angel. All one can do is yield creatively, subversively. “if time bends/ then bend back// if it suits you.” Narrativity becomes a symptom—a side effect of an overwhelming, overpowering chronology, a sort of taxonomy or salvage effort.

Read the full review here.