JOHN BLOOMBERG-RISSMAN Reviews
“Three Sets of Teeth” in When You Bit … by Adam Fieled
(Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia, 2008)
I chose this poem for three reasons:
1) First poem in the book;
2) Since the title of the book is When you bit …, a poem with teeth in the title seemed appropriate;
3) I used to know a guy with two sets of teeth. So the title resonated.
The poem’s a sonnet; this is a book of sonnets. It’s a very musical sonnet. There are end-rhymes, rhymes mid-line, near/off rhymes, and other kinds of musics, too. So it’s quite possible to read this poem on a sonic level, which smoothes out the “argument”, so to speak. I’m at the end before you know it. Without realizing I’ve just passed thru a series of complexities …
Tho that’s not quite true. At one point, the music is quite harshly consonantal, which stops me dead in my tracks: “that cuts. We are sluts.” That initial c … those following t’s … not to mention the guttural rhyme … Something is going on here. I should pause over it. So let’s go back, a little more slowly this time.
“Three Sets of Teeth. / / Three sets of teeth: who / can check for cavities?” As noted above, when I read this title I thought of the guy with two sets of teeth and wondered whether someone had three. There’s nothing in these first two lines to suggest otherwise. In fact, “who / can check for cavities?” had me picturing an incredibly crowded mouth and a really tripped-out dentist. The next two-three lines (remember, this is my 2nd time thru …) disabuse me that we’re talking about one mouth here. Which leaves me puzzling over “who / can check for cavities?” Once I realize that three mouths are involved, the crazed dentist image disappears. Which leaves me with the possibility that we’re dealing with a pun on “cavities”, and perhaps the first thoughts of the love-fest to come.
“A three-way circuit: who / will start the striptease?” Erotic tension, with a decision to act upon it. But it is a little nerve-wracking to get these things going. Someone has to unbutton the first button.
“Three lovers in three ways: / how merrily the dance / begins. We spin, we spin,” Apparently the first (and last) buttons are undone and the loving begins. With great joy and pleasure, apparently. “Three lovers in three ways” is an interesting locution; it could indicate any number of things, e.g., the relationships between the three differ; each lover has hir own kinks; the positions (and “cavities”) vary; or it could simply mean that this is a three-way. Or any number of other things, none of which are specified.
“we forget our instincts, / anima, the part of teeth / that cuts.” Uh, oh, trouble in Paradise. I’m not sure exactly what has gone wrong. Has jealousy arisen (is it considered here as an instinct?) Or, if not jealousy, some other problem?
(I google “anima sex” and google gives me “animal sex”, and “anime sex” which I’m sure – which I have no doubt – are interesting, but they don’t seem particularly apposite here …).
In Jungian psychology, the anima is the feminine within the male (that little yin dot within the yang). According to Wikipedia,
Jung believed anima development has four distinct levels, which he named Eve, Helen, Mary and Sophia. In broad terms, the entire process of anima development in a male is about the male subject opening up to emotionality, and in that way a broader spirituality, by creating a new conscious paradigm that includes intuitive processes, creativity and imagination, and psychic sensitivity towards himself and others where it might not have existed previously.
It seems possible that insufficient development of the anima has rendered some aspect of this three-way problematic. But it’s impossible to tell what has gone wrong, exactly. All we know is that, however wonderful the dance, at a certain point it ends up with
“We are sluts.” I don’t quite know how instinct, anima, and “the part of teeth / that cuts” has led to this conclusion. After all, feeling like a slut is an internalization of culture, not of instinct, etc.
Unless. Unless. Unless there is NO trouble in paradise, and the forgetting of instinct, anima, etc somehow leads one to triumph in one’s sluttishness. Tho I have to admit that I don’t know how that happens, either.
“There is an “I” here that / stands for all of us, but / its eyes are shut. Sleep / lulls it to rest, not think. Or speak.” Is the “I” that stands for all of us the Jungian unconscious? I don’t know, I don’t want to read too much into the single word “anima”. “[A]ll of us” could simply mean the three participants, who have been satisfied into unconsciousness. Unconsciousness that is utterly silent, utterly without need for self-expression, dead to the world, inside and out. That’s one hell of a fine satisfaction.
The depth of the sleep leads me to favor the interpretation of the sluts bit given two paragraphs above. But somehow the fact that the “shut” eyes have to do with “cuts” and “sluts” still troubles me, since I don’t have a solid reading of that bit. Perhaps it’s not an either/or; it could be a both/and.
[Editor’s Note: This is one of 50 reviews written, mas o menos, in 50 days. While each engagement can be read on a stand-alone basis, there’s a layer of watching the critic’s subjectivity arise in a fulsome manner if the reviews are read one after another. So if you have insomnia and/or are curious about this layer, I suggest you read the 50 reviews right after each other and, to facilitate this type of reading, I will put at the bottom of each review a “NEXT” button that will take you to the next review. To wit: NEXT. And an Afterword on John's reading process is also available HERE!]
John Bloomberg-Rissman is somewhere towards middle of In the House of the Hangman, the third section of his maybe life project called Zeitgeist Spam (picture Hannah Hoch painting over the Sistine Chapel) The first two volumes have been published: No Sounds of My Own Making, and Flux, Clot & Froth. In addition to his Zeitgeist Spam project, he has edited or co-edited two anthologies, 1000 Views of 'Girl Singing' and The Chained Hay(na)ku Project, and is at work on a third, which he is editing with Jerome Rothenberg. He is also deep into two important collaborations, one with Richard Lopez, one with Anne Gorrick. By important he means "important to him". Anyone else want to collaborate? He blogs at Zeitgeist Spam.