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Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé on Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé.

January 30, 2011 \pm\31 12:30 pm

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé reviews a story by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
from [C:] an mlp stamp stories anthology

The author is like the “different kind of wanderer” his Stamp Story speaks of, less “Huaisu’s paintbrush” and more an erratic, idiosyncratic presence, whose voice is peppered with disconnected utterances, threaded only by a prospective reader patient enough to complete one clean read. Thanks to Andrew Borgstrom and J. A Tyler of Mudluscious Press, the author has this Stamp Story to keep in his wallet for posterity like a relic. It reminds him of small, happy things. And the many kindnesses he experienced in America.

The Stamp Story is a condensed version of Vignette 003 of the larger sequence titled “In Memoriam to a Marionette: Caudate Sonnet of the Year Ad Interim”, which comprises 24 installments. On the fictive planet of Utopia 11, there are 113 sentient residents, all of whom seem completely facile and faceless and devoid of any real personality, except for Resident 97 who wishes for “a simpler life”. “Of eider duck down, and not these technical feats,” as Vignette 023 describes. Below is one of Resident 97’s favorite books, a used copy of Plato’s works. What’s scattered on its cover are old flea market finds from the Equivalocution Territories, all having something to do with the chariot, which Resident 97 constantly dreamed of. To take him beyond the dying star to the “updrafts, rain, downwinds, then falling flowers and the snow again”.

Very little of Utopia 11’s terrain is provided for. There is The Observatory in the deep south of The Weatherlies. There is a huge vat, within which is stored light that can be scooped up in nanopolystyrene foam cups. Perhaps time and space collapse in this bizarre universe, and the almond greens become battleship greys become beaver browns become cinnamon reds become another poet’s random hue of choice. Then there are the moving fractals, and something of a Cubist objet d’art trapped in an elliptical loop. There are extraterrestrial creatures mentioned – the teleodontia and the perantulipus, but only briefly – as well as an overarching sense of the metaphysical. And a lot of talk of light, and what it’s for. Even a love story that never achieves any narrative development except for cursory glances in its awkward direction, which always inches north but never quite gets there.

The resounding question of this project seems to be: “Where will these texts wander to, and is this straying différance – or paradox of it – a journey we desire to accompany as kindred, spirited wanderers?” To this question, the author drew a blank gaze, as if he had teleported into his own literary alcove on Utopia 11, alternating between the kneeling and half-lotus position on the proscenium stage, where there was much light, even after midnight.

The author once shared that in retrospect, a lot of the aesthetic that infused this caudate sonnet of vignettes came from a paragraph in Giorgio Agamben’s book, The End of the Poem: “Awareness of the importance of the opposition between metrical segmentation and semantic segmentation has led some scholars to state the thesis (which I share) according to which the possibility of enjambment constitutes the only criterion for distinguishing poetry from prose. For what is enjambment, if not the opposition of a metrical limit to a syntactical limit, of a prosodic pause to a semantic pause? ‘Poetry’ will then be the name given to the discourse in which this opposition is, at least virtually, possible; ‘prose’ will be the name for the discourse in which this opposition cannot take place.”

Indeed, this Stamp Story signaled a return to some semblance of literary normalcy, after the author gave up trying to study language to wield it, instead yielding to its capacity for making nonsense, a being of non-meaning that the author believes undergirds all existing language, this scaffolding a toothpick infrastructure that caves in just as easily as it constructs, orders and unifies. The journal The Bend eventually published it, to the author’s surprise and delight.

3 haiku and 3 iambs: a non-planar triangle


His expedition into language’s unknown territory, and indeed all its unknown causes too, percolated this next poem, which has yet to find a home with any journal.

when the lyric poet said no to the thumb piano

sujdhubco guwe lcuibbindict eutyhueroe reipjguy
ohm toto utoip notredineic soi
joyur mafeifre hweiteh cougbareg sou
scubjeveg ut tinoue rigeoure leihit

situoerti saide ninit nonot nameo nouvales quei
oompaho nuiti oosohae nonot ninit
nonot nunit sjdfbaoco lesti
nonot nunit figihac cynaboi monticoques

It has been said that a lot of deliberation and no-bake cheesecakes went into the making of these two quatrains, which is an amalgamation of secret codes and ciphers. The author wanted to submit it to Pismire, admiring the journal’s project to collect poems as recitations to reach their telos, but found his tongue tied, challenged by the unutterable phonemes, which was really the point anyway. The author astonished himself with how phonetics suddenly disappointed him when it was most necessary. Where would he pause to breathe, and for effect, he thought to himself. Indeed, that’s how much the author loves the inscrutable caesura and its timeless pause, beside it a platter of assorted nonya sweets like kueh dadar, kueh bingka, kueh koci, and kueh jongkong, all their colorful shapes and sizes.

There are no concrete plans to have these vignettes ever collect in a single work, or so is widely believed by the bluebirds and honeybees, because the author is still wrestling with authorship as a phenomenological construct, thanks to the inimitable Roland Barthes. He likes his poems to exist as separate entities, as if in discrete ontological units, because he has lived in too many chicken coops, and moved too many times. Packing isn’t fun; only unpacking is, as with this prosaic drivel. The author likes to think of each of his poems as fleeting, as inexhaustible as the blank page with no edge, yet reducible to the line as if any of his poems’ miasmic lines could represent it. It’s a vanity project of no stock and tender solutions. It’s a non-reversing mirror that reflects nothing but the acoustic of the work, at the same time refracting its layered textuality into a million other mirrors, especially corner reflectors just when you need them.

“Need is everything. Or is it desire? What of possession, and by extent, dispossession?” Faced with this question, the author again drew a blank stare, and maybe blinked once very quickly when his eyes started to water. He blinked again, for repetition’s sake, a teary rejoinder.

The author loves Deleuze and Lyotard and Derrida, and doesn’t know if they were ever more than philosopher friends, but secretly wishes they went past a discursive tumble, like Foucault’s immodest and pert “enouncement”. The author completely adores Frank O’Hara’s poem “Mayakovsky” and its opening lines: “My heart’s aflutter! / I am standing in the bath tub / crying. Mother, mother / who am I?” The author does not own a hairshirt and he only wears black shoes to match his black-rimmed glasses to ornament his black tote to amplify his black tee to underscore his black hanky to pair his black-faced watch to echo his first black rook, the “rukh /rath” meaning “chariot” in Persian and Sanskrit respectively, which is ever what he ever thinks about these days, the journey and nature of its carriage being so essential to daily living. The author loves the languor of reading Mark Strand’s Man and Camel over gulab jamun served with homemade vanilla ice cream, a teapot of masala chai next to it. The author loves the quiet, purposeless day, when everything turns to white noise, as spectral, no more distraction. The author loves the four times he ever flew a paper kite, and felt the halting tug of the wind.

The author knows the author enough to review the author to say “I don’t know myself at all, the way I’ll never know how the singular harmonic oscillator factored the external field of force to paint a new picture of Brownian motion of a free particle now suspended, rope and chain”. To cite The One True Free Particle, the author takes a leaf from the staggeringly beautiful O’Hara who knew it best when he wrote, in yet another opening line to a specific notion: “I love you. I love you, / but I’m turning to my verses / and my heart is closing / like a fist.”


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