Internautica for the week of November
– Invasive species. I’m fascinating with the whole idea, the whole military reference, naturalized. My next novel concerns a poet who is the heir to a pest control fortune, made partially by the use of a patented toxin that is efficient in eliminating the Formosan termite, one of the great invasive species in the Southeast U.S. Usually, in the U.S., we just hear of invasive species coming from Europe or Asia: the gypsy moth, kudzu, the starling. But U.S. animals have also invaded other eco-systems. This article about the American mink in the British isles is fascinating – it revolves around the author, Bethan Wood’s, experience with a neighborhood mink wreaking havoc on frogs and birds in his Scottish environs. Minks, apparently, have driven the water vole almost to extinction in Britain. Luckily, the otter is making a comeback, and it is driving the mink population down. This information is given to us as Wood observes a neighborhood mink eating frogs from a stream near his house. And then this bit of violence happens, obliquely:
I am fairly convinced that we have water voles on our land in southern Scotland. I have found a few latrines over the years and found evidence of the cropped grass around a burrow. The presence of this mink was therefore of concern. Mink cannot be released back into the wild if caught because they are a non-native, invasive species; our animal was humanely killed by a single shot as it sat feeding on yet another frog. As the body slowly cooled I took the opportunity to examine this compact, evolutionary-superb animal.
That moment which is normal in such essays – the moment when the hunter assumes the responsibility for the kill – is avoided. The mink is put down with the same offhandedness as the exterminator dealing with the Formosan termite. I don’t know if this makes the essay better or worse. In any case, read the whole thing in Zoomorphic magazine.
— This is or was meant to be Apollinaire week at Willett’s Magazine. Apollinaire’s Calligramme poems were neglected for a long time, according to our faithful guide to Apollinairia, Willard Bohn. In the age of language poetry and the hyper-diapered text, the children of those poems are everywhere. Look at this beautiful sequence by Rachel Blau duPlessis, The Fates of Books, at Poetics Research. Apollinaire once said that typography had to compete with cinema: the merger of the graphic and the lexic is one of the strange fruits of their mutual strangulation, if a strangulation can bear fruit.
— In contemporary French writing, Pierre Michon is considered by many critics to be one of the great prose writer working today. I was pleased that Le Monde published his essay about Louise de Coligny-Châtillon, the famous Lou of Apollinaire’s letters. Lou’s letters have recently been published, it seems. The two of them have this cinematic moment, and Jules et Jim crossed with Henry and June, that seems almost fictional. Underneath the review, I think Michon has doubts about Apollinaire – about his sentimentality, certainly about his celebration of war. There is a poem in Calligrammes in which Apollinaire describes taking a daytrip in an automobile to Fontainbleau on the day war was declared, and coming back to Paris as though to an entirely different epoch. I think that Apollinaire saw the war a bit as the futurists saw it,and as the fascists aestheticized it. And then, Apollinaire’s love poems are often dopey – which I respect. Apollinaire did not want to make his love poems too… sophisticated. Or I suppose a better way of saying it is: he wanted to receiver to receive the poem utterly and completely. They are intentionally written on the level of a gift, an economic order that evokes spirits and mana. They are love poems, with love being immediate, right up front, untangled, uncaptured by perspectival play. Although my analysis is itself a bit naïve, perhaps. After all, in a letter to Lou, Apollinaire wrote this excellent line: L’artillerie est l’art de mesurer les angles. Poetry and technodeath and love – a modernist threesome. Here’s the review.