to bind, to set bones, to name the unknown
as such —
to worship a sign;
metrein: to move, to measure
in the sand, to reason from your hands, to remember
the sign has come; to till
or to steer, to dowse, or to kill,
to count, to scar, to make mine,
or to find
something not myself. (Strickland 51)
Stephanie Strickland’s V has the qualities of a rhizome, the “book to come” that Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari describe in “Introduction: Rhizome.” V achieves this goal in its self-descriptive content and interactive form, but it fails to be the quintessential interactive book that Deleuze and Guattari predict.
The above excerpt parallels the definitions of the three types of books in “Introduction: Rhizome.” Section 2-3 describes the root-book. Al jabr is the Arabic root for the word “algebra,” pointing to the ancient origins of the book. The Bible, the archetypal root book, “names the unknown.” Its system uses universal signifiers to identify signs. When the Bible says “tree,” it wants you to think about an actual tree, even though you’re looking at a book and not a tree.
Section 4-5 describes the radicle-system. Geometrin, the Greek root for “geometry,” splits into two different lines. Now, both the sign and the reader have agency. Like James Joyce’s Ulysses, the radicle-system overthrows the traditional sign-signifier and writer-reader relationships. The sign can now “till, steer, dowse, or kill,” and the reader can “reason from [her] hands.”
Section 6, the final stanza of the poem, describes the rhizome. It is so intrinsically linked to its past that it can only remove from, not add to, previous literary works. It can “count” and “scar,” both actions that take from but do not add to the past. But when the author attempts to make her own unique work (“to make mine”), she finds that the work is “something not myself.” The author cannot make anything unique; she can only remove from the past.
In addition, the form of V mimics the Internet. In Losing L’una, Strickland numbers stanzas with a numbering system that both draws attention to the reader’s passage through the book and encourages nonlinear reading. Every other poem begins with 1, while the others have their own whole number (1 – 8), but connect to their predecessors with numbered lines (2.42, 3.43, etc.). It breaks its own system with “L’una Loses,” (45) which begins with 0.1. This break makes the numbering system appear limited. Still, this break in the system is numbered with increasing increments. The reader always knows how far she is through the poem and the entire book.
However, Strickland tells the reader to skip around in the text; she writes, “Skip anything. This text / is framed / fully for the purpose of skipping” (34). But unlike the Internet, a space that makes the reader forget that she’s looking at a plastic screen with a metal frame, the book draws attention to its materiality. After reading WaveSon.nets, the reader must flip the book over to read Losing Luna (or vice-versa), as if to say, “I’m a book” and to acknowledge its limitations.
V is like an incomplete rhizome. It removes from the root-books and radicle-systems that precede it, but its structure encourages linear reading, while its identity as a paper book limits its potential for interactivity. Although Strickland tells the reader to skip around in the text, she numbers stanzas in Losing L’una and flows sentences from one page to another in WaveSon.nets. Here, form contradicts content.