ANNE BLONSTEIN: WORKED ON SCREEN
University of Salzburg
Dept. of English and American Studies
ISBN 3 901993 18 5
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|ANNE BLONSTEIN: WORKED ON SCREEN|
Screens, masks, language that conceals and reveals... the task of unmasking. ...With Anne Blonstein's WORKED ON SCREEN we are on a word hunt and a world hunt all at once.
Let's start with the words. Blonstein has an ongoing love affair with them. Look at these exhilarating creations, taken at random: enchancements, fleurtatiously, rawberries, exspellent, gasplillies, greycioulsy, nuttertongued.. I admit to a slight preference for the Anglo-Saxon compounds, they are thinner on the ground, alas, but for me they have more earth, more texture to them... it may feel easier to invent Latin ones, but if she can create zungfrau, I am sure she can stretch to greater Germanic inventions in English. (But am only being nitpictious.)
Then the collocations: reheated adjectives, noun garments, the earth's narratives, English ifs, Etruscan nouns, skin-shaded indulgences, melancholic alreadys
And now, a whole poem. Let's take Poem 21: (they are numbered 1 to 108).
Cracks of mauve pain ochre silence infolding the instruments of neverthemore...It has an immediate sensual appeal that takes us somewhere beyond synaesthesia. And one could very well leave it at that level of feel and wonderment. But Blonstein also wants to take us outside the poem and back in through another point of entry. At the bottom of the page we will notice the reference: 1914, 50/ /12.v./26.x.2002. The first date refers to a work by Paul Klee; the second, to the period in which the poet wrote her poem. The poem is therefore Blonstein's rendering? reaction? communication with? osmosis with? the artist's work.
But we need to delve further. Each poem is constructed in accordance with a Q/K/Cabbalistic system of interpretation known as Notoriqon (from Latin Notarius, a form of shorthand), which is similar to anagrams. Re-read the poem looking just at the first letter of each word and you obtain COMPOSITION, the title of Klee's painting. And we may go back and look at cracks, infolding, instruments in a different light.
Still you may say, So what? Well, take poem 59.
Geologically enunciated by inner rocks gold sedimented legacies and napped debris she chances her abundant floods transyllabically.The anagram reveals Gibirgslandschaft. (Mountain Landscape) This time, there is a much clearer interdependence of subject matter and anagram and the jagged shape of the poem. Not that this should prevent anyone not speaking German, for Kafka's titles are naturally in German, from fully enjoying the poem for the poem's sake.
And lastly, to the title and the composition of the volume. The poems were inspired by and the title provides a mirror to a Paul Klee exhibition that the author visited regularly over six month period in Basel in 2002. The title of the exhibition: Werk auf Papier...hence the original title of WORK ON SCREEN (as the poems were being written) and Worked on Screen for the final product. Paradoxically, the subject matter of the poems is not dependent upon the Klee exhibition. I don't feel a need to search for a catalogue of the exhibition. Each poem functions also quite independently of the sketches.
Anne Blonstein is above all a poet who inhabits and is inhabited by more than one language (one poem has three stanzas, one in English, one in French, one in German, each a reformulation of the others; it is interesting to see that French is the language most resistant to any syntactic deconstruction!). Like anyone who functions on a daily basis in more than one language, using more than one language in one's poems is never a wilful exclusion of a unilingual readership but rather the necessary and often desperate search of a person who feels encaged in any single linguistic system, which lops essential dimensions off his or her own being and in so doing reduces their capacity for expression. No doubt this multilingual background has also enabled Bronstein to embark more readily on the tremendous linguistic adventure with the English language which awaits the reader of WORKED ON SCREEN.
|reviewer: Jacqueline Karp.|