Anniversary (Nothing Morbid, Merely a Weird Coincidence)

The September issue of Poetry magazine includes a poem by one Dan Beachy-Quick entitled “Anniversary.” It’s a thick issue, and, beyond flipping to the poems by Atsuro Riley, whose work I always crave, I had given it only a cursory glance. Today I skimmed Beachy-Quick’s poem and sort of wrote it off as something sentimental I wasn’t much interested in investing much of myself in. But I gave it another chance, and though I’m not sure I’ve given it enough of a chance yet, a few weird things started to jump out at me. I’ll quote the poem in full, hoping that qualifies as fair use:


You are for me as you cannot be
For yourself, chaos without demand
To speak, the amethyst nothing
Hidden inside the trinket shop’s stone,
Dark eyes dark asterisks where light
Footnotes a margin left blank. You
Don’t look up to look up at the sky.
Your ears parenthesize nothing
That occurs, that I keep from occurring,
In the poem, on the page, as you are
For me, not a shadow, but a shade
Whose darkness drops from no object
But is itself yourself, a form of time
Spanning nothing, never is your name.

Let me first qualify what follows by saying that I don’t present it as any sort of theory or close reading. It’s just a set of associations that I couldn’t help noticing. Of course, what you take from a thing you read is largely a product of what you bring to it, and I’ve got Wallace and Infinite Jest very much on the brain these days.

So the title. Anniversary. September 12 marks the anniversary of Wallace’s death, and this is the September issue of Poetry. Of course, it often takes months for submissions to be accepted or rejected, much less published, so synchronicity here is either lucky or orchestrated (probably lucky).

Chaos without demand to speak calls to mind Hal’s aphonia.

Wallace was born in February, and the amethyst is the birth stone for February.

The trinket shop makes me think of the Antitoi brothers’ shop.

Asterisks and footnotes: ’nuff said.

There’s lots of sky imagery in Infinite Jest (though to be fair, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a book that didn’t have lots of sky imagery).

The notion of occurring makes me think of a certain rant of Schtitt’s.

The mention of darkness makes me think of The Darkness. The association of that darkness with objects makes me think of The Darkness’s relationship with objects.

I could probably tease out more, but this is a quick brain dump. For the moment, I’m resisting the temptation to look for some kind of annagrammatic acrostic in the poem’s first lines’ first letters (the initials DFW do appear, but not in uninterrupted sequence). I don’t fully grok even the basic thing the poem is saying and need to do a different sort of reading of it than I’ve done so far. Just thought I’d put this free-association out there in the mean time.

Update: I wrote the poem’s author, and he kindly wrote me back and said that he hadn’t read Wallace, so the things that jumped out at me are in fact weird coincidences and/or the product of my overactive imagination.

3 thoughts on “Anniversary (Nothing Morbid, Merely a Weird Coincidence)

  1. itzadrag September 12, 2009 / 2:59 pm

    We read what we bring. This reads to me as an anniversary of absence, perhaps of death:

    You are for me as you cannot be
    For yourself, chaos…

    …a shade
    Whose darkness drops from no object
    But is itself yourself, a form of time
    Spanning nothing, never is your name.

    Amethyst is the traditional stone of “non-drunken-ness,” (greek, latin, old french). Purple, a traditional death color. Quartz, a hard refracting crystal.

    Thank you for this poem today. I wonder if the poet shared any reading with you.

  2. Aaron September 15, 2009 / 3:32 pm

    Isn’t it fun, though, to jump out on a signifier’s limb? I mean, if it evokes the connection for you, it isn’t *wrong*. Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a writer, just the reader, as alone with the book as the so-called writer was, projecting his/her own images onto those words.

  3. itzadrag September 15, 2009 / 3:57 pm

    Schtitt speaks of limits to the game:

    as a Cantorian continuum of infinities of possible move and response, Cantorian and beautiful because infoliating, contained, this diagnate infinity of infinities of choice and execution, mathematically uncontrolled but humanly contained, bounded by the talent and imagination of self and opponent, bent in on itself by the containing boundaries of skill and imagination that brought one player finally down, that kept both from winning, that made it, finally, a game, these boundaries of self. (82) ”

    Cantor’s Diagonal Proof (same name as the tennis game) demonstrates that the infinitude of real numbers (rational & irrational) between zero and one is in fact greater than the infinitude of all natural numbers (integers). The number set between zero and one is continually increasing, both infinite and uncountable. DFW discusses this in “Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity”. Teddy Wayne, in his thesis “ADDICTION TO ITSELF:SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS IN DAVID FOSTER WALLACE’S INFINITE JEST,” uses this paradigm to examine the relative infinities of author/character relationship and the total objects of the created world of fiction. I thank Wayne (no relation) for my application of this set theory to authors & readers.

    I am finding that the infinity of possible meanings between author and readers (or between the (n) intentional symbolic marks on the page, if you will, and their ever-expanding imaginative products/resonances in the total world of potential readings in the minds of (x) number of readers) is greater than the natural number infinitude of meanings between any one bookform and one reader on one occasion. Maybe.

    It is fun.

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