Saturday, July 17, 2004

Two Days and Three Pieces of Mail

Yesterday’s Mail

Yesterday, I allowed the mail (a single postcard) to accumulate, so now I have to review two days of mail.

First, Roy sends me a found pun, a stenciled sign that once probably said “Curb Dog” but which now identifies a sycamore’s trunk as an urb dog. This photocard (Arenellanism # 302, 14 July) includes a stylized wolf-like beast rubberstamped in deep blue within the pseudo-cancellation mark and two stamps (an “F” rate stamp and a 20-center that shows us a beagle and a Boston terrier). Dogs are the subject here. Roy also explains this about his dog: “But here in the city, Dash is definitely an “urb dog”—on a tight leash, & me too—on the other end.”

Roy Arenella, "Urb Dog" (20 Jun 1998)

I received two postcards today:


Scott McDonald has been busy creating mathemaku, which is weird because mathemaku (a weird gene-splice of long division, haiku, and visual poetry) is the signature form of Bob Grumman. Yet Scott’s style is different from Bob’s, and Scott is in the middle of a lot of experimentation right now. This mathemaku, which is printed as a very faint grayscale image, incorporates the pwoermdlike title of a recent visual poem of mine (“tripl3ts”). Scott has covered the image entirely in plastic on one side (and I’ve no idea how he did this) and the obverse of the card is grey duct tape—yet it all came through at this end just fine.

Scott McDonald, "atypical volume" mathemaku

Allusions to Grandeur

Roy Arenella’s card of the day opens with an image of “The Bridge from which RAY JOHNSON…” [heaved himself to his death]. The bridge is a low-slung affair and seems to rise just barely high enough to miss the water. Roy has photographed it so that the bridge is merely a thin line dividing the undulating water from the stiff grey sky.

On the reverse, Roy offers a review of “lakeeast,” noting that he found this a superior piece of mailart (compared to my other fidgetglyphed cards) because of the way the fidgetglyph integrated with the postcard. (The reason for this quasi-maximaphilist convergence was simple enough: I had none of my normal equipment with me, so I had to buy postcards and create a fidgetglyph all from scratch. The postcard, weak as its image is, inspired the fidgetglyph.) He says,

In and around the waters of this lake [as illustrated on the postcard] I find not only very much ease (many “e”s) but also trees & geese, the lake itself & the joys of seeing. As well as an allusion to the larger waters (seas ease) of [Ian Hamilton] Finlay’s “Fisherman’s Cross.” Your fo(u)r “e”s are the keystone in the cross bar of a stable “H.”

And God forgive the immodesty of this presumption: But is that me there, at far left, wearing only my lower case initials? (Waving I hope & not drowning!)

Roy Arenella, "Sag Harbor" (19 Apr 1997)

I’m amazed at the number of allusions in this photocard. I have to know about the great bunnyheaded mailartist Ray Johnson (one of the most famous) and the details of his well known suicide. (Although outside of the world of mailart, Ray’s is not quite a household name. Try not to confuse Ray with Roy, even though the two once met.) I need to be familiar with one of the greatest concretists of all time, the cranky Ian Hamilton Finlay, and one of his works in particular (the thought of which could not have been far from my mind while I created my “lakeeast”). I have to be familiar with Stevie Smith’s most famous poem, “Not Waving but Drowning.” And I had to’ve thought of making a reference to Roy Arenella in my little visual poem.

I failed only in the last part, alas.

un violon d’ingres

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