More Ships: Moriarty and Mackey

"'Where there is paper,' Marty thinks hungrily, 'there is human passion and trouble.'"--from Ultravioleta.

Two poets who, like Bob Gluck, also write in prose. Moriarty and Mackey's prose is porous, permeable and yet viscous. Each sentence sounding the depths. Deeply pleasurable.

Who rides on ships anymore? Boats and ships are, simultaneously, common and ubiquitous, and yet completely strange.

Laura Moriarty

from "Maps and Plans" in Laura Moriarty's Ultravioleta

"Looking out from his workshop on Luna, Marty closes his eyes and pictures Ultravioleta fully formed. Marty approaches the great ships as both builder and sailor. He records his commentary as he works. Occasionally he stops fashioning thick sheets of paper into the massive craft and puts words on them.

'The paper ship dominates our age,' he notes. 'It is the nature of the ship to float and tear and turn like a page. A certain formality obtains on these vessels. Once elaborated, they are able to anticipate the dangers of the enhanced relaxation required in thought travel. The vicissitudes of associative movement through imagined space are survivable only as a result of the collaboration of beings who doubt each other's existence while depending on each other for their livelihoods. Group travel by this kind of consensus is so dangerous as to be considered impossible by some and by others not to be happening even while it is occurring.

'Brain cell meets paper airplane,' Marty mutters to himself. 'Ultravioleta,' he whispers in I as he applies himself to the mainmast. Marty's particular refinement is to include personal correspondence in the mix. The added distance available from such an innovation is as great as the corollary danger of foundering by sheer excess of emotional content.

'Where there is paper,' Marty thinks hungrily, 'there is human passion and trouble. There is thinking and travel. There is time.' Tiny thoughtful ships inundate Marty's revery but when he works he has only one ship in mind.

'Ultravioleta. Boat of being, Titanic of time,' he hums. 'Bigger and better. Thick with letters. Note of seeing. You are alive,' he sings, 'and you are mine' (83-84).

Nathaniel Mackey

Mackey has written four epistolary prose books–Bedouin Hornbook (1986), Djbot Baghostus’ Run (1993), Atet A.D. (2001), Bass Cathedral (2008)–that are all part of the ongoing series From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate.

The quote below is from Atet A.D. In this book, the members of N's jazz band have recently added a new drummer to the group, a woman. Now they are in search of a new name for the band.

"Aunt Nancy's idea was that we call ourselves the Maatet, or, simply Maatet, a name the Egyptians gave one of the boats in which the sun sails across the sky, the one it boards at dawn, the morning boat (the other being the one in which it completes its journey, Sektet, the evening boat) Maatet joins Atet, a more common name for the morning boat, with Maat, the name of the goddess of truth: Maat + Atet=Maatet. Aunt Nancy said she likes the suggestion of maternity, matriarchy, in the very sound of it, as well as what she calls its feminization of SunStick’s claim, ‘I play truth.’ (It was at SunStick's aborted audition, remember, that we made the decision to seek a woman drummer.) She'd gotten intimations of the name, she said, a few weeks back, when we played the clamp-lilac-eelpot rendition of "Sun Ship." The glass-bottom disposition it opened up seems to've been an avatar of see-thru truth, a truth whose translucent body she rode, not yet consciously equating its light touch with Maat's ostrich feather. 'Ever since then,' she said, 'I've had a feeling of namesake encasement, see-thru cartouche, a swift, boat-bodied lightness, light-bodied bigness we'd grow into. It's a name we'll have to fill in, occupy, but I don't have any doubts we can'(43).

Ultimately, the band ends up with the name Molimo m’Atet.

Mackey's poetry is full of ships too. Sadly, the limited possibilities of html formatting here on blogger make an accurate representation of Mackey's linebreaks impossible. So, I'll prod you to go take a look yourself. Here's a brief section of "Eye on the Scarecrow" from Splay Anthem: "Low ride among ruins/ notwithstanding we flew./ Swam, it often seemed,/underwater, oddly immersed/bodies/ long since bid goodbye,/ we/ lay in wait, remote muses/kept us afloat. Something/called pursuit had us by/the nose. Wafted ether/blown/low, tilted floor, splintered/ feet. Throated bone.../ Rickety boat we rode.../ As/ though what we wanted/ was to be everywhere at/ once,/ an altered life lived on an/ ideal/ coast we'd lay washed up/ on, instancy and elsewhere/ endlessly/ entwined" (27-28).

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