Cover for Noise Event
Heidi Lynn Staples author photo
  • Series: New Series 55
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-934103-41-8
  • ISBN-10: 1-934103-41-1
  • Pages: 88
  • Size: 0.325 x 6.5 x 8.0 in
  • Price: $18.00

Noise Event

Heidi Lynn Staples

The state of mind here is Florida, its flora and fauna and beaches and high schools, and Heidi Lynn Staples is hearing it all, from birdsong (“shrill killy killy” to “harsh kak kak”) to boyfriends (“a really wonderful time in 7th period Stay unique! Maybe you won’t want to marry me anymore”). A masterful listener and music-maker, Staples’ homophonic translations echo throughout the poems with a noise more joyful than any poet’s made of language in recent memory. “Of the language-powered poets on the poetic landscape, Heidi Lynn Staples is one of the only ones whose heart powers the machine.” —Mary Karr

 

“I’m first in line to read anything Heidi Lynn Staples writes, and Noise Event both reaffirms and increases my ardor. Here, the poetic ‘I’ is overtaken by the Floridic ‘I,’ and memoir as it is written today is shown to be irreconcilable with the contemporary biography of place. But it is the tension between the two that compels the reader forward; it is the music of the lines themselves—and Staples is among the most musical of poets—as they build upon, and call back to, one another, that makes the radical newness Staples achieves, especially in the section titled ‘Barking at Clouds,’ welcoming and engrossing.” —Shane McCrae

 

“At least since John Donne described the naked body of his lover as ‘O, my America, my Newfoundland, / My kingdom, safest when with one man mann’d,’ America has had a troubled relationship to sex, geography, imperialism and metaphors. Bringing a wide range of formal and stylistic approaches (from google-y dada exercises to Steinian nonsense to letters to Elizabethan conceits), Heidi Lynn Staples writes about or rather in that wound. The most fundamental technique here is the use of an unsutured collage that bares the wound but does not offer us a way out or through. A letter to a boyfriend is brought together with colonial descriptions of the murder of Native Americans, the description of a romantic experience is brought together with factual descriptions of the land (America, Florida) but it is unsutured, the art of a trauma that can’t be healed.” —Johannes Göransson

 

Boy, those days we’ve talked about are here!

 

Boy, those days we’ve talked about are here!

pamper yourself with daily maid service

 

(This is very messy and I’m sorry.)

 

 

canopied two-story galleria

 

We went to Hardees and ordered one coke.

 

This is just a little something to tell

you I still think of you from time to time

 

pollution run-off

 

growing corn, squash, beans, tobacco

 

Dives from sky              15 two storied balconied buildings

 

I would like to get to know you better

“more than a feeling”

 

shrill killy killy

 

I was so depressed.

 

Listen to Heidi Lynn Staples read at the Indian Springs School Visiting Writers Series.

 

Staples’ third book of poetry is structured less like a collection of poems than a lexical event steeped in history, an exercise in sonic juxtaposition. Staples arranges homophonic nonsense syllables to create acoustic soundscapes, like jazzy scat or background noise. But the book’s seemingly endless, spirited experimentation finds geographic rooting in the southeastern U.S. One section includes acrostics composed from the names of Floridian flora and fauna, like MOON JELLYFISH, EASTERN OYSTER, and BALD CYPRESS. In “Florida Native,” Staples cobbles together yearbook inscriptions, diary excerpts, and passages from a seventeenth-century Spanish missionary’s guide to converting Timucuan natives, but she replaces nouns and verbs with the phrase “Florida native.” The result is a very strange speech act that manages somehow still to sound like a narrative. Throughout, Staples frustrates and entertains readers who insist on constructing meaning from the experience of reading her work. But she rewards stalwart attempts with interesting references (Staples takes the phrase “epiphytic orchids” from English naturalist A. R. Wallace’s Australasia) and familiar sightings of sandpipers and sunbathers in the shade of bright hibiscus. — Diego Báez in Booklist

Heidi Lynn Staples author photoMy grandparents were dying, so after a decade of school and travel, I came home to the panhandle of Florida. The tourist economy had altered thousands of acres of previously undisturbed coastal ecology, within the wilds of which I had come of age—spent wandering hours on horseback, had fallen in first-love, lay naked under the stars, journeyed through time with family Loblolly Pine, Grea­­t White Egret, Wild Boar, Coastal Mouse, Cotton Mouth and Sand Flea, with waves light water and croak rustle chirrup. But upon my return in 1999, I stood among Second Home with Parking Garage. Silences crashed in synch with the hammers of construction workers. Witnessing this transformation added to my grief and began the process that became Noise Event.

I sat down to the page filled with sorrow and urgency. Yet, each time I tried to write an expressive first-person narrative poem about the place and loss, confident expression seemed false. This is a difficult experience to relate—but my deepest resonance with the place resisted how the words narrowed the experience into a nostalgia, memorialized my experience, and elevated my individual perspective. Then, five years later, I returned as a tourist for my honeymoon. As we pedaled rented bikes around Watercolor--a new luxury resort carved from 499 acres of intact forest--and marveled at the freshly painted 6 bedroom 3 story houses and looming high-rise apartments, I heard frogs, voluble song. “Let’s find them!” I declared, sure of woods athrum with throng. Speeding down the roads and sidewalks, through the brush, toward the chorus, we arrived at a terrifying angel. A concrete figurine held an urn-shaped vase spurting water into a small fishless manmade pond, and concrete frog statues sat atop a small black plastic speaker piping in still more silence.

Again, grief visited me, and I approached writing about my experience of “Florida.” But the very beginning point of “Florida” brought me to Ponce de Leon, Spanish colonization, Christian expansion—the separation of indigenous people from their lands in the name of Empire, the subjugation of peoples, animals, lands. Each set of associations I made seemed lifted from the map of perception that had led to this particular historical moment in which I now lived--the “anthropocene,” this age when the earth’s geology is shaped most by humans—also the age of the earth’s fifth mass extinction, that silence. When I sat down to write a lyric poem about “Florida,” my words and life, my consciousness emerged as part of the larger collective that was cheerfully decimating billions of years of evolutionary creativity. Words and phonemes, classic rhetorical modes like description and narration, all manner of constructing the stable lyric “I” seemed suspect, as well as and most particularly the roles of subject and author.

Many texts I was reading at the time suggested this complicated understanding of the compositional moment, as well as strategies through which I might resist the internalized imperialist force Alice Notley dubs “The Tyrant.” I was auditing a course on the Modernist avant-garde and re-reading Modernist manifestos, viewing collages and ready-mades—all of which highlighted language awareness as central to social change. I looked back at Lyn Hejinian’s Language of Inquiry, particularly her description of Victor Shklovsky’s “defamiliarization”—making language strange in order to heighten perception. I was also reading John Cage’s Silence and re-reading Marjorie Perloff’s The Poetics of Indeterminacy, which together helped me connect how poetic structure reflects theories of the physical universe; while Roland Barthes “Death of the Author” helped me recognize how traditional Western authorship often retells the myth of monotheism. Alice Notley’s Descent of Alette provoked a defiance of transcendence and remains close to my art. Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day and Lee Ann Brown’s Polyverse gave example of ecstatic engagement with the radical ordinary, while Sam Truitt’s Vertical Elegies and Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s Drafts provided further formal example. Through taking the stance toward language and living these various texts cultivated, I found a way to compose that felt write.

These compositions took various approaches, all of which emphasized the materiality of language and consciousness and which introduced a great deal of semantic noise into the conventional representations of memories, species, places. I pulled cut-ups from paper-bags. I created a numerical procedural restraint and transmuted cut-ups from paper bags. I spelled out acrostics from a list of Gulf Coast flora and fauna. I researched the creatures online. I echoed biblical psalms with words in research articles. I lineated an historical document recording Timucuan persecution and with it, excerpts from my year-book. I constructed metaphors from stem-sentences in field guides. I included phonetic bird calls. And during these experiments, I began to detach from my sense of individual authority. Appropriation, research, collage, aleatory procedure, and homophonic transliteration helped me chart a metaphysics away from a theist universe toward teeming chance-driven multiverses. Within my awareness, the illusion of and drive for control fell away. Chance as the creative principle rose.

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“I” as transient event

 

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. . . ecologically like a pond surface or a forest soil, not a shell so much as a delicate interpenetration —Paul Shepard

 

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engaging and’s other way of knowing, beyond the civilizing process

 

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resist word without particularity of encounter; to be other wise

 

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searching for an ethics of the I/Thou —Michael Palmer

 

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beyond that there there that authors the rising silence

 

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everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense –Gertrude Stein

 

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dialogue with our unconscious, where speaks a common sense

 

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to become, guardians of our own permeability

 

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the materiality of language & “I”

 

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constitutive, material, emplaced nature of “I”

 

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I am part and particle of God —Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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the cosmos a wake: ands

 

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awareness of the mind’s embodiment: transformative power

 

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ecologic

 

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conceptual poetics sings with a lyric lisp

 

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a joyful noise:

 

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action toward justice

 

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action toward possibility

 

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“we” as transient event

 

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each &

 

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each as creative agency within each, each each the way the truth the light each

 

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that we do not know the first nor will we have the last word

 

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to sing the tune without the words and never stop at all