Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Liberating Linguistics by Alison Ross (Book Review of Hinge Trio)

Ever since I can remember, I have been enamored of language. More specifically, I am drawn to innovative idioms. It's one reason why I love teaching ESOL - mistakes made by non-native speakers are often endearingly inventive. I also marvel at the notion of colloquial language as well as those maze-like mish-mashes known as dialects. Slang and regional vernacular are linguistic porn to me. 

Language surrounds us, permeates us, defines us. Whether we speak with orthodox grammar or not, we communicate via a shared set of symbols. And that is all language really is - creative codes that we forge in our minds, then form on our tongues or with our fingers. Spoken and written language is simply symbology made tangible. 

Noam Chomsky is one of the most influential linguists of our time. It is he who elaborated on the idea that the human brain possesses linguistic templates, if you will, that enable us to learn any idiom in the world, no matter how esoteric. Our brains are pre-wired to acquire Cherokee, Mandarin, Norwegian, Ewe....the only caveat is that this capacity declines over time, which is why children often absorb new languages more readily than their elders. Chomsky's ideas are soundly bolstered by copiously documented evidence; many people the world over have fluently acquired multiple languages. 

Heller Levinson's Hinge Theory, however, posits a language that might challenge Chomsky's concepts, because the every-evolving language that generates from Hinge Theory would elude facile acquisition. Of course, you could say that the nature of any idiomatic construction is constant regeneration. But in the vein of Hinge Theory, language is not merely growing and changing, but it's persistently inventing multifoliate planets of sub-languages along the way. Hinge Theory language would be antithetical to acquisition because it is organically mutating constantly; it is created intuitively from a sort of primitive pre-womb place, where we erase all that we know and stare into the blank abyss that we then fill with explosive experiential language. 

So it seems that true happiness and love, according to Levinson's theory, hinge on LIVING language rather than just speaking or writing it. If we get inside the skin of language, then it will stretch our experience and create transcendent ebullience. Our previous constricting paradigms will self-destruct upon encountering this wholly liberating linguistics. 

Felino Soriano, Heller Levinson, and Linda Lynch have collaborated on a collection entitled Hinge Trio. The result is a glorious labyrinth of language and imagery -  not a labyrinth that entraps, however, but one that expands. In this collection, we see clearly how language is indeed a left-brain activity. I have often wrongly thought that language had a creative source, but it's only true you can be malleable WITH language. Language itself finds its genesis in the same part of the brain as math. At the same time, you must infinitely experiment with math and language to generate perpetual possibilities. This is where the creativity comes in. 
In Clockwise Cat, I have referred to Felino Soriano's poetry as Escher-like, for its cold asymmetry and abstract meanderings that always somehow end up where they began, in the most nuanced of ways. Or at least that's my reading of his poetics, which marry logos and pathos very deliberately. 

In Hinge Trio, Soriano's and Levinson's takes on Hinge Theory interweave with chaotically coiling and blotchy ink-art by Linda Lynch. Each artist proffers his or her interpretation of how the Hinge Universe looks on the page, and the result is a book that pulsates with zealous vitality. Not only do these pieces blast open the door of possibilities for endless experimentation technically speaking, but they also remind us of our own self-imposed constraints and fear-induced conformity. As Levinson says in his centerpiece poem, "pathos in deliberative disdain (Titular Alternate: Fuck (to be read at inauguration address", 

fuck stability fuck instability
fuck the principled fuck the unprincipled
fuck rapture & fuck grief
fuck birth fuck death

In other words, fuck it all...we pay a higher price for actually caring than we do when we just euphorically forego our phobias and allow ourselves to dynamically evolve instead of stagnating in a rigidly rules-based society. 

Elsewhere, such as in "with (for Linda Lynch line(s)...." Levison toys intrepidly with the infinite incarnations of words: 

in circulation...

sway sweep
sweep seepage
seepage sweeping

and these lines from "lines like parlous adumbrate" display more word-games in the same spirit, creating a paradoxical lexicon of tension and whimsy: 

lines scratch out
scratching into the wall scratches a figure out
(scratch ://: strike strike out strikeout

and later in the same poem: 

shapely underlining
underlining ://: underlying > the outline



omens swarming. 

As for Felino Soriano's Hinge Linguistics, here he is showcasing his more audaciously experimental works. Punctuation and typographical marks have started to play a crucial role in his pieces, embellishing them like tiny fragments of art. These marks are evolving into a lexicon unto itself in Soriano's work. Marks like parentheses, brackets, ellipses, arrows and and forward and backslashes interface unexpectedly with words, though their unpredictable interaction is clearly by conscious design rather than wholly surrealistic. Such marks lend feral dimensions to the poem, | a jazz in _____ reinterpretation-gradated lugubriousness | , whose format cannot be faithfully replicated here: 

systematic anvil aim maneuver \thrust/ 
home a function design designated tog of morning's finest hserf: mirrored invert read-wrong (societal modus operandi)

philosophic diameter thought thinking rough's edgeless hope and skeletal 
certainty ---
[physiological unskeleton]
rapture ruptured

Elsewhere, such as in the poem, | in the _____ of pathos |, he plays with space, sculpting it around words and using it to create the illusion of movement, such as how he orders the word "deco" to look like it's bouncing, or how "elongation" is spaced between letters to give it a visual sensation of breathing.

Dashes and italicized and capitalized words also give the feeling of motion, as in the lines,  

-- of rhythm's pedaling inertia MUSCULAR 

Indeed, all of Felino's poems in this collection vacillate between evoking frantic feelings and eliciting zen-like serenity. 

But as frustratingly abstruse as his poetry can be, one gets the sense that it's all so organically created, using equal parts consciousness/subconsciousness, that we are the ones missing out when we try too hard to grasp meaning. As the singer Rodriguez says, there is "substance in shadows." 

As for Linda Lynch, her ebony swirls, curls, coils and blots sometimes resemble smudged mascara or squished splayed spiders, but also resemble feverishly raveling and unraveling cyclones. Her art not only quaintly complements the poems of Levinson and Soriano, but it composes a visual vernacular all its own; it's as though Lynch lazily spilled her ink bottle on the page and then took a quill to frantically tease out twirls and tornadoes from the blotchy blackness. And it's the furiously snarling, devouring energy of cyclones that Hinge theory seems to be predicated on. Life is to be lived innately and anarchistically, or not at all. 

Levinson, Soriano, and Lynch have created a masterwork of linguistic liberation, generating a lexicon unshackled from the freakish fetters of an overly orthodox academic prison. It's a language of love rather than of corroding conformism, which is the antithesis of humanity. Viva Hinge Trio! 

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