Ars Cogitanda. footnote to silence. ISBN-13: 978-0692352311. ISBN-10: 0692352317. gnOme. 2014. 62 pp. $7.00.
Cast as the footnotes to an invisible text, the beings identified as the “assembled footnoters” roil their way through the text chastising, exhorting, praising, fulminating, and otherwise reacting to that which cannot be perceived. Characters such as Gertrude, the sinoburius fossil and Stanley the long-dead Australopithecine anchor narrative components of the text, as limited as they may be. Silence, which erupts in various guises, variously represents the body, inarticulate spaces between letters, the unwanted, the unknowable. Drawing upon an large body of scientific work ranging from inter-kingdom bacterial signalling to the neurology of empathy, the manuscript explores what it means to think of ourselves as things in the world of posthuman systems theory. Referencing the powers and weaknesses of language and its more fundamental cousin somatic communication, the manuscript de-articulates standard conceptual frameworks that found themselves on passive notions of the material universe. Opening on a critique of “thing theory,” the text boils a stew of Western magical and philosophical thinking using the evidence and tropes of science as both pot and fire.
“The senses delicately collide in AR S’s work. The poet builds images with the precision touch of an author of haiku, choosing words as if they were toothpicks placed in an elaborate sculpture, yet allowing each image to expand beyond the constraints of the haiku form. Like all successful poetry, S’s work offers readers a glimpse into the poet’s perspective, a step into a synesthetic world.” – Ken Hunt (editor, Filling Station)
“In footnote to Silence, AR S luminously provides us with insight into the workings of the inner universe. While we all listen to the dramatic narrative of our lives, it is the footnotes, the asides, the glossed over insignificant events that hold reality together. By twisting our perspective to listen to the silence rather than the noise (with Silence as “the ephemeral text as an object”), we can inquire more deeply into the thoughts and experiences that compose us. In language sometimes lyrical, sometimes playful, sometimes coldly scientific, but always inventive, S leads us down the byways of the mind where limbic floods of perception await.” – John C. Goodman, author of Naked Beauty (Blue & Yellow Dog Press)
“This is a strange, wonderful book. The footnotes are alternately bewildering, deeply funny and strangely lyrical. They will persuade you, baffle you and send you off to cross-reference. They will remove the top of your head again and again.” – Jennifer Zilm, author of The Whole and Broken Yellows: Van Gogh Poems and Others (Frog Hollow Press)
“I was struck by the humour in the pages I read.” – E.W. of V
“Here at theNewerYork, one of our main guidelines for a piece of writing is that it be experimental without being obtuse. While creating an entire manuscript made up of footnotes is certainly experimental, the results, unfortunately, feel inaccessible for the most part. For this to be a more successful experiment (at least as far as we define success in such things), there would be more of a clear throughline, something more for the reader to latch onto that would compel them to continue reading. While there are snippets of intrigue to be found, such as in the discussion of the occult and tarot cards, as well as short passages with a more narrative style, like the one with Gertrude, the more compelling parts of the manuscript just do not outweigh what otherwise seems to be a very academic, dry paper in style and substance. The work doesn’t necessarily need clearer characters or more of a story, but it would benefit from more connections between ideas or more opportunities for emotional connection. It’s also possible that a strong editorial hand could cut this down to the most interesting footnotes and ideas, thus keeping the reader compelled throughout. At this length, however, the footnotes become wearisome. We won’t be accepting this manuscript. Thank you for your time and your submission.” – Daniel Bullard-Bates, theNewerYork Press
“What are you? A talking dog?” – S.G. of V.