Sounding response: "Concordance," "Collective Memory," and "Splay Anthem"
Mann, Erin Rose
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This thesis explores sounding, response, and collectivity as the stakes of lyric practice in Mei-mei Berssenbrugge and Kiki Smith's Concordance , Norma Cole's Collective Memory , and Nathaniel Mackey's Splay Anthem . These texts weigh conditions for communality, making incommensurability in the human condition (the struggle between an individual and the collective) palpable. Examining sound and response in Concordance , Collective Memory , and Splay Anthem forefronts considerations for collectivity. To frame the discussion, the introduction "Grounding Sounds: Stakes of Lyric Practice and the Making of Collectivity" turns to three texts: Michael Palmer's essay "Lyric Practice (Analytic Lyric?)," Edmond Jabès' theory for poetic silence, and Robert Duncan's introduction to Bending the Bow . Palmer argues for lyric practice to negotiate a crisis of significations for an individual, using silence in Jabès' work to articulate his point. Duncan furthers multiplicity in lyric practice with polysemy (the contribution of multiple voices). Section I, "Resonating Waves to Cultivate Relationships," examines the collaborative project Concordance by poet Berssenbrugge and sculptor Smith. Concordance challenges the conditions of proximity necessary to link community together. Discussions on the effects of hearing, listening, and intimacy make sounding and relationships possible. Section II, "Curating (Un)communal Language," investigates Cole's Collective Memory projects: exhibit, book, and text. Collective Memory challenges distinctions for language and how sounds, translated into language, come to contain meaning. Public and private spaces merge, offering a potential for collective response. Section III, "Reverberating Echoes In Exile," traces the struggling Andoumboulou (the main characters of Mackey's serial poem Splay Anthem ) as they travel on an interminable journey in "Mu." Echoes and songs resound throughout Splay Anthem , gesturing toward multiplicity and incomplete articulations—exemplified by a hypothetical phantom limb. The conclusion "Hearing 'Our Equilibrations'" uses Duncan's term "equilibration" to describe how lyric practice negotiates incommensurability. Through sounding response, equilibrations in Concordance , Collective Memory , and Splay Anthem allow potentials for noise, disruption, and incongruity to emerge within collectivity.