Saturday, July 17, 2004

Ravi Shankar "Instrumentality"

Recently published is Instrumentality, by Ravi Shankar. Shankar is the twenty something editor of the great electronic journal Drunken Boat It includes poetry, prose, photography, video, sound, cybertext and web art. There have been six issues so far and the other editors are Michael K. Mills, Aaron Hawn, kari edwards and John Joynt. It ranks with Jacket, Arras, Ubuweb and others as among the most colorful and most intelligent electronic places. Shankar writes like an artist would.
He creates scenes, landscapes, mindscapes which he explores with an acute precision and mania for words. There is a huge interest in natural things and in the empire of science and of course in the interaction between human consciousness and the natural (or even spirit) world. His poems seem to enact the actual procedure of ideation, as in his poem “Shapes in the Wilderness”: “Say you and I are flashlights that shining/Out from a clearing into the forest/Shape the forest, providing trees leaves,/Mulch moisture, vivifying what world/Would fit the light of our partial rounds. This is of course, Stevens, but Stevens taken underground in some dark, elemental way. The poem ends:

“The fact of the flashlight, battery and bulb,
Are the only a priories in existence,
Though we cannot know their consitutency,
Being their constituency.

This was probably an early poem, and the care and workmanship of the poet have increased dramatically, as poems such as “Spangling the Sea,” “Blotched in Transmission,” and “Fabricating Astrology,” demonstrate, all of which appear in the latest (no. 169) issue of the Paris Review. Here is the second stanza of “Botched in Transmission:”

“Even the breaths heaving in my chest do not belong to me,
These wires of muscles tapping the hand's opposable thumb
Upon the spacebar, and the precise machinery of two pupils
Taking it in are not mine, though convenient to think so.
In the second stanza, I shall feel like an outsider in my body.”

P.S.: All the biographical statements about him end with "He does not play the sitar."


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