The late Hannah Weiner's posthumously published Page(Roof Books, 2002) is a remarkable piece of writing. It seems to me to be less a matter of schizophrenia or clairvoyance, both of which “afflicted” Weiner. The book seems squarely in the tradition of the more experimental of the poets of the latter part of the century, particularly Bernadette Mayer and Ron Silliman. Each page of Page appears to be written in a day, over a day perhaps, or maybe in a minute. The book is made up of four serial poems, the first and longest and most perceptive, entitled Page, as its an analysis of what makes up a page. It is unclear exactly who is doing the talking in the poem, it could be heard voices, or seen words, but just as easily Hannah Weiner talking, or rather writing, to herself (“Hannah, youre stuck”), educating herself. It is an epistolary book, and probably is just as easily genealogical or biographical (the 'character” sis could easily be her aunt as addressed by her mother, or vice versa, or the aunt addressing Weiner). There are others in the book, a Douglas, a Richard, a Charles (Bernstein?) and quite a lot of ron Silliman (or ron or silliman). It is such an amazing book it doesn't really matter, all versions work, all versions of Hannah and her relatives and friends. Perhaps all of these people could be said to be results of schizophrenia, perhaps not. The book is about relatives and relationships. Altogether always.
The poems here are research, exploration (“in this even we study ourselves”) in the tradition of Mayer, MacLow and Cage. They rely on repetition, refularity, structure and a strange relationship with time: “one page a day remembers someone.” This is about completeness, integrity and control, therefore about becoming a being(s) and therefore freedom. There are addresses to 'sis,” who is herself (or others, as above), there are addresses to 'mother' who must certainly not be. There is the invention of words, there are combines (“OBNOXIOCAREFUL,” “illusionment”). There is concern for the sentence, for syntax and for ignoring the rules of such. There is concern for process and also for subject: ”have your subject,” “to be a subject.” She is also funny: “go wild stupid furniture green around.” There is underwear, once “ronsilliman underwear.” There are events, emotions and stories. But whose? she likes words (after all she has seen them on her forehead), she likes writing, she likes being a poet: “seen words finishes happy myself make yourself a poet.” This is a fun, luxuriously baroque book. Yes it is a little manic. Full of struggle, full of understanding. Hannah is Hannah backwords. Exhilarating.