By Claudia Siefen
Right eye. Left Eye:
Some rhythmic thoughts on some cinematic poems by Ken Jacobs (1989/97).
So we can see this: a typewriter (please choose your own worthy favourite, but how about an Underwood?), some white A4 paper A4 (do you hear the careful hammering of the keys, the squeaking noise as the sheet of paper is pulled?), and of course some light, reflected by the white of the paper and the tarnished keypad. And as every language naturally has its own speed and colours, typing in a certain language gives you the rhythm, speed and pauses while writing and reading. Reading instructions, if you like. Reading aloud? Oh, you seem a little pushy, please wait and first rest your eyes on these lines. Your right eye. Your left eye.
NEW YORK AUDIENCE
The author Jacobs refers to the actress Louise Brooks and her book “Lulu in Hollywood”. And as you can compare my little copy above of one verse to the complete original we are already playing the game of “sound changes”, just because of cutting the number of columns in half. Jacobs wrote one column for each of your eyes. So, please double it on the right side, and, speaking of doubling: keep an eye on the doubled spaces between the single words, the accurate setting of the next line, and how single letters get together one above the other. Just like the two “L”s: IMPOSSIBLE and LOVE. How your eyes have to turn almost fitfully to the left, have to
jump to the next line, dealing with the doubled spaces and the permanent capitals. But then immediately this magical sound of AGAIN
And you don’t even have to read out loud. So this complete poem talks about the first experience of cinema, and also the pain that always lies in beauty. There is no difference when it comes to cinema. And Jacobs and Brooks are qualified to tell us.
But with the next “optical poem” Jacobs is already leaving the path of capitals, taking us to a much more edgy and uncomfortable topic. The single characters threaten to go to pieces. They are much smaller and this time the two columns are placed too close to each other, so they produce difficulties and discomfort to read them:
Soon the rabbi
will signal them
shake out clothing
take the kids in hand
But here the “and” is used as glue between “kids” and “in”, also the “step” between “in” and “hand”. And ending with this drippy “out”, demanding to be read from the right to the left. Full stop. Dripping. Swinging. (Can you still hear the sound of the typewriter?)
Boo Boo springs up:
“You musn’t leave
handed! “ ,
is another story.
Boo Boo springs, and shescreams (sic). But again, as he changes the lines, Jacobs continues as a conductor of every single character, conducting the reader but also the words. It would be all so different if he used them correctly. And it would be all so different, falling into another rhythm than intended. Full stop. Shescreamed. (You can rip out the sheet of paper now.)