V: The Incomplete Rhizome

                      Al jabr:

3

to bind, to set bones, to name the unknown

as such —

to worship a sign;

4

geo-

           metrein: to move, to measure

in the sand, to reason from your hands, to remember

5

the route

the sign has come; to till

or to steer, to dowse, or to kill,

6

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.

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One Response to V: The Incomplete Rhizome

  1. mjp99 says:

    You state “the author cannot make anything unique; she can only remove from the past,” which seems an apt way of describing Deleuze and Guattari’s “n-1” poetics at work in Strickland’s poetry. While “V” cannot be unique in that it doesn’t emerge from some unique creative plane, or fundamental unity, it instead seems more interested in subtracting from the book as a concept as an object. Instead of contradicting, it seems to be tracing what D&G (withheld snickering) call “bulbs,” or seemingly the nodes of the web. I think it would be impossible, whether physical or digital, to encompass or the rhizome. Instead “V” is creating rhizomatic lines, relationships (what I interpret as her “bridges,” the “serious work”) that deterritorialize (in the relative sense and thus) then deterritorialize as “V” creates new lines.

    In a way it incorporates the mode of the physical object, and plays with it, not as a failure or as an attempt to overcome it, but to incorporate it and place it on the same plateau as the network, the author (dead as auteur but leveling in that she is only conveying herself and her own territory and those connected nodes she is in relation to), the reader (as another node now deterritorialized through allusions and other devices, but reterritorialized in the physicality of the text, the blurred agency, etc) and all the denotations and connotations present in her poetry.

    I also think “geo- metrein” needs further unpacking – I think there is more to it than simply alluding to geometry. The break could indicate poetic measurement (in that it is lineated, the measure -metre – of poetry) and with geo – earth or world – the measure of the world present in poetry and language, or rather its description or attempted communication.

    “Al Jabr,” also, specifically referred to the transposition of terms through subtraction from one side of the equation to the other. It means literally the “reunion of broken parts,” and perhaps this speaks to Strickland, or the human, reconciling a reunion of the ideological, and abstract (seperate) self, finally, with a rhizome model, reuniting with its nature as simple matter in relationships with other matter.

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