Paradoxism in the poetical fugue.
Dr. Florentin Smarandache
I was living off of free day-old bred at the Salvation Army, hadn't showered or changed my clothes in three months, and hadn't had a date in three years. Most of my day was spent looking for cigarette butts with enough left in them for a few more drags and I had a small plastic bag that I put them in. Soon, I would attempt a very free yet very constricted form of writing, a poetical fugue, and afterwards, not only its notation, but an essay on it linking it to paradoxism, however at the start of the fugue's story, it's creation, is a previous life, one created and operated by an inept architect: Me. My hair was dingy, my eyes bloodshot, and my very soul had become unmotivated to do anything beyond performing confusion. I was operating on premise in my life, nothing more, and had become sedentary. This was the state in which I was found in my emptiest parts by a woman, a theory, and a fugue.
For reasons unknown to me, Maisy thought me interest. The usual pursed lips of women I had come to expect, even had she been naive about men, which she wasn't. She bought my cigarettes, coffee, paper and pens. She let me stay with her. I showered. I adjusted my hair at will. I moved in completely and was soon employed. We married a year later and the books were sputtering from my pen staccato. I endeavored to write something more, a tribute, certainly, but also something newer, something not yet done. This period of unrest in my work spurred me to begin a long process of study, something I've never been fond of. I began reading up on poetical devices, haiku, pantoum, metrical use, the many shades of rhyme. It occurred to me that to use rhythm and meter exclusively, I wanted to design a new system of it, and soon thereafter began jotting down theories.
In the summer of 2002, a bass-player friend of mine mentioned a book he'd read on J.S. Bach, a book which dealt heavily with Bach's use of the fugue form. It sounded interesting, and so I began looking into Bach, were he lived, what he did, how he did it, where he was buried ... I found every mention of the fugue more and more intriguing. It seemed a precise, technical, mathematical, and constricting manner in which to bracket a song in formality, yet it also seemed to involve such a creative and open expression of voice and melody. The idea that one could bury a piece of art in such heavy, critical rules and laws and still create it freely was new to me, and fascinating. I turned many pages. Bach was a genius, some said, a bastard, said others. But I kept waiting for mere pages on the technicality of it, despite I had no knowledge or understanding of musical theory. This urge to discover more of the technical side of Bach's fugues quickly steered me into a study of a fugue's basic construction.
A fugue, musically, is "a composition, or compositional technique, in which a theme (or themes) is extended and developed mainly by imitative counterpoint" (Grove Concise Dictionary of Music). As a musical form, a fugue is constructed by utilizing a "Polyphonic procedure involving a specified number of voices in which a motive (subject) is exposed, in each voice, in an initial tonic/dominant relationship, then developed by contrapuntal means" (Timothy Smith, 1996). This creates a firm sense of layering and gives the fugue an inter-tandem divulging of meaning in that it seems to criss-cross its voices and relationships throughout itself. One of the foremost users of the fugue form was J.S. Bach, tough it was also used by Bartok, Shostakovich, Ravel, and Rachmaninov, as well as a vast number of other composers.
In that same summer of 2002, I was working on a book of poetry involving the county in which I lived, and found myself working elements of fugue/construction into my poetry. I started using "voices" in my work, as well. In these pieces of writing a "voice" was equivalent to a particular rhythm. It was this initial work that fed my appetite for metrical newness, and I was swimming in it. Everything I wrote began to appear mechanical, yet I was highly aware of the openness it let me create in each poem. How odd that a strict rule, one that imposes such difficult limitation on a poem could also somehow open the poem to higher and alternate meanings. It was the MATH. I'd been terrible with mathematics my entire life, having never passed high school algebra. But this was entirely new form of math, a mathematic of word. Every syllable meant something more than the chunk of word it seemed. There was a kind of civilization behind each line, an undercurrent of importance, of system, logic, code. It was inspiring, tedious, and caused a great many head and eye-aches. It was paradoxical and seemed to have a connection to both classicist formula and OUTER-ART. Florentin Smarandache, in his A Manifesto and Anti-Manifesto for OUTER-ART, states in a list describing attributes of OUTER-ART, one should "deform and disturb the arts; but do an exact deformation". This was what struck me as ringing loudest in my idea of the poetical fugue. I could bludgeon a flowing, emotional poem into a technical death so strict as to be nearly undiscernable without the notation (or tablature, in the musical form), with that itself being an outcropping of art or non-art.
The basic premise of the poetical fugue was similar to it musical counterpart. However with sound, you can overlay tones and melodies, instruments. You hear them all at once. On paper, with words, you can not. A line is read, and then another, but you can not read two lines at once unless you have intense concentration. However, you can disperse the fragments of the line, or even more sensical, the stanza. In the poetic fugue, the voices would play against each other by alternating their respective lines within the stanza. Then, you could have several themes and lines flowing past each other constantly, each tapering into the text, yet still retaining it's own melody and voice. This back and forth of voices became key in the fugue's construction, and it is precisely this facet of the fugue that makes it so paradoxical; numerous separate lines, some fresh and some the echoes of earlier lines coexisting symbiotically within one another yet entirely dissimilar, vying for the meaning in the stanza, both destroying and creating one another.
Dictionary.net defines a paradox as "An apparently sound argument leading to a contradiction." and goes on the state that "Most paradoxes stem from some kind of self-reference." Webster, 1913, states paradox as "A tenet or proposition contrary to received opinion; an assertion or sentiment seemingly contradictory, or opposed, to common sense; that which in appearance or terms is absurd, but yet may be true in fact." Both of these definitions describe the notion of a poetical fugue on many levels. The paradox within a poetical fugue is that of argument itself, between new and repeating (young and old) lines, and does stem from self-reference. The emotional vs. empirical manner of the fugue creates its contradiction, and vividly exhibits absurdity in its formal truth. By these definitions, the fugue is paradoxical, as well as self-contained.
The paradox of the fugue is a cousin to the popular chicken/egg conundrum. Which came first, the new egg line or the chicken line that creates it? This is especially intriguing in that the new line will, in successive stanzas, create it's own offshoot lines that will ultimately recurse. To create it, the poetic fugue must be written from the inside-out, jumping from stanza, back and forth as you trace each line and voice throughout the fugue, seeing where it will fall mathematically. Where it will repeat, how it will interact with it's neighbor lines, and what it will mean. You chart it in numbers and graphs, you equate, perform constant scansion, and work. It starts with a structure, then you add, and when ready, with the variables given values (metrically
focused syllables) fulfill the equation with voices and words that half-write themselves. This makes the fugue semi-autonomous and self-contained. Each stanza exists in the next and the previous, metrically. Each beginning rhythm is tethered exclusively to the ending rhythm, the snake with its tail in its mouth. Each voice exists in several places at once, while all stanzas metrically and paradoxically exist in a single space.
Moreso, the free form of poetry, a spiritual expression that draws from the mind, lays prone beneath the more logical machination of form in the fugue. The expression is not free, in this sense, yet strives to be, in a sense outrunning the metricality of the form, only to fade back into it through repetition. In this mode, the symmetry of the fugue itself is paradoxical, in that the fugue form and the intima, or poetic expression, are constantly updating their ideas equally, yet are as if an animal with a head at both ends, each barking alternating messages in succession, yet with each message, portions of each other's last message come trough, competing to be heard, to be expressed. They are each other's best and worst competition, as their messages are directly exposed to one another and dopplegang with each successive generation, becoming hybrids within hybrids, fractalysed. New lines are created, yet using platelets of other lines, and even after being "freed" of their wording, they still retain the same makeup, therefore there is a staunch layer of paradox in that newness is constantly created from oldness, while the oldness of repeating is for the sake of its newness. Each stanza expands, yet retracts for the sake of its newness. The new lines are intended, yet the old lines and format are crucial to them. It is as if each repetition is present solely to escape repetition. This is akin to a machine that creates fuel, yet requires the same amount of fuel it creates in order to run. And in this sense, the fugue is also self-contained, both in form as well as symmetry, however, its linear (metrical) functions would be empty of meaning were it not for the nonlinear (spiritual) outside data that we find stitched into its folds as words of lingual poetry. Mataphorically, this is similar to irregular verbs in that they require regular verbs to exists, yet express the more memorized aspect of linguistics; they are not based on a system of language, but are considered aberration, or semi-slang, yet they appear so inherent in our system of language, they beget their own systems and usage, conjoined to system, yet entirely systemless. Their manner breeds a separate system that begins operating within the original, yet is entirely offshoot from it, which causes languages in places to begin folding in on itself, paradoxically, a self-infection. The old and new lines within the fugue form operate in a similar means. Expanding and contracting in the same moment, self-infecting each other in a constant loop of meanings and formality. New lines create the existence of old ones, yet the old lines demand the creation of new ones. This system of spawn/respawn is like lingual cloning, each offshoot an aberration of the previous, yet paradoxically, each repeated unit is, in itself, the progenitor of its original.
The classical rhythms in English poetry are enabled by the use of hard and soft accents. Emphasis is always on stressed syllables, with the unstressed being the necessary space between them, however there could be no metrical wording, nor rhythm of stressed syllables without the unstressed, or non-rhythmic syllables. No crime without law, no law without crime, but a feeding off each other's work, fed by the information that echoes off of each other's contexts. In metrical poetry, the information is portrayed in hard and soft accents, This symbiotic duality of strong vs. weak creates the ununiform world of sequences known as rhythm, which, in itself is a pattern, and a highly soluble one in that it can bend its form to fit material it is intended for. Creativity, however, is based on emotive expression, is highly open in scope, and can ascertain it's own chaotic revelation via pattern only, pattern such as memory, linguistics, regiment, form. This scrambled mess of irregularity is only understood through pattern, yet the pattern used can only be created and understood because of what it brackets: essentially, disorder, as in unaesthetical word choice, willed themes, emotive streams of thoughts on things.
We have repetition in the fugue, regiment, these percussive measures of language that seek to expunge the poem of its frivolity, while contrapuntally heightening it. The levels of meaning, by way of repetition, become recursive and call to mind familiarity (we've heard the lines before in the poem), while in the same space straying from the familiar, often drastically. With each new voice and line expanding a fugue's size, each previously used voice and line echo of it's smallness, until the eco becomes the majority of the fugue, and it falls in on itself, contracting until it's original stanzas form is division result. What's really being altered is context, emotionally and creatively, formally and mathematically. Context becomes the vehicle of the fugue poem's meaning, the dealer at the table. The very paradox between a line repeating and a fresh one is context, which, in the fugue form is both strict and informal, recreating itself endlessly. The new context and the original can not simultaneously exist in the same space, yet they do. This is the fugue's paradox both musically and poetically; several mechanism and emotive expression leaving a central point in opposing, linear directions, yet they still move paradoxically toward each other. In the summer of 2002, a bass-player friend of mine read a poem I'd written in a college-ruled Mead notebook. A poem which dealt heavily with my use of the fugue form. He found it of interest, and so I began sharpening it, how it lived, what it did, how it did it, where it was flawed. I went through a very intensive set of scansions. It seemed a precise, technical, mathematical, and constricting manner in which to bracket a poem in formality, yet it also seemed to involve such a creative and open expression of voice and meaning. The idea that one could bury a piece of art in such heavy, critical voice and laws and still create it freely was incredible to me, and inspiring. I covered many pages in notation, rhymes, long strings of O's and /'s (units used in notation to indicate soft and hard accents), columns of long-division like a family tree. I kept rummaging up more pages on the technicality of it, despite I had no knowledge or understanding of musical theory. This urge to explain the technical side of the poem quickly steered me into an explanation of a fugue's basic construction, which was posted online at several sites, all of them oriented in classical music interests, not poetry.
For reasons intimately known to me, Maisy was the plane behind and in front of my poetical fugue theory. The usual themes and subjects I had come to rely on were of no use to me with such an outside project. Smarandache, again in his OUTER-ART manifesto states that "the beautiful is hard to define. A Romanian proverb says that it is not beautiful what is beautiful, but it's beautiful what pleases me ..." and adds shortly thereafter that "if everybody could do it, why hasn't anybody done and theorized it yet?" I made my own wife the theme of my written fugue because no one else could have, and to place the hurry and building fullness of love into the fugue seemed one of the strongest means in which to compose its most non-empirical attribute: Emotion. I simply had to involve her in its deepest element, the subject, and more so than I had in other forms of poetry, even to the extent of the dedication, which was hers. She brought out a sense of life in me that was present in all directions, present in each cigarette, each cup of coffee, in all the paper, all the pens ... She kept near to me, just forward, an attractor, and I showered the fugue with her as well I could. I adjusted its mode and purpose. I moved into it entirely and it was soon completed, both in theory and in the writing of it's first example. We had married and the result was stuttering from my pen at most turns. Because of this sensation, this altercation in my path, I had endeavored to write something more, a tribute, certainly, but also something newer, something not yet old. The older period of unrest in my work had spun back on itself and left me to my new process of study, something I would thereafter grow to be fond of. I had read into poetical devices, haiku, pantoum, metrical use, the many tints of rhythm. I had attempted a piece of writing based on the things I had ascertained. I hadn't want to use rhythm and meter exclusively, I had wanted to design a new system of it, and so had jotted down theories and notions; confessing inspiration to a blank medium is one of the oldest notions of love there is, whether it be for a person, a system, a probability, or an impossibility.
Because of my life's shift, and because of learning, both I and the fugue were living past premise anymore, compelled outward, and hadn't a need to recurse into earlier notions and habits. Most of my new days were spent looking for very little. My hair was clean, my eyes sociable, and my very mind had become motivated to move beyond what previous thinking had performed in me. I was operating in promise in my life, all the more, and had become momentary. This was the fruition of what I found in my fullest parts, which I could only find when I, myself was found. There was a past life, one spiraling into randomness and singularity, and there was a present life, created by love, polarity, and regiment, and between these so two old and new lives, these lines of living, deep in as the pivot itself, fugality.
Ray SUCCRE (USA)