Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Dark Twin & Snakeskins

I've been reading Hacker's Presentation Piece again. Once I noticed her process and technique, my original awe at her skill evolved into a different, fuller appreciation.

The Dark Twin is one of the opening pieces and has this intriguing deliberateness to it. Hacker recreates the obverse of life (biological) by showing the shadow self (the dark twin). Or I could as easily say that Hacker demonstrates how the symbiosis between shadow and body, content and structure occurs. She does it with repetition and juxtaposition (and isn't this patterning one of the motifs of poetry, after all?).

There are 25 lines and 156 words in The Dark Twin. Of these words, 40 are repetitions, some exact ("dark" and "dark"), others with slight derivations ("spine," "spined" and "spining"). Almost a full one-quarter of the word count is this duplication Odd here in the sense that a true mirror image would have equally accounted for the parts rather than partially. But Hacker compensates for that shortfall by itemizing the elements of the mirror image (the dark twin).

Thus what is received singly in the poem are body parts. She gives the dark twin its body: brain, eyes, joints, fingers, tongue, chest, spine, air (as in oxygen flow), fingernails, palms, cheek, skin, ribs, pectorals, lips, buttocks, shoulderblades and blood.

When I was a kid, I'd go to the family River House, stuck on the banks of the Suwannee River. Woods all around. My cousins & I tromped around in those woods, Florida wilderness when it existed, and one of great delights was coming upon a snakeskin. Snakes will shed whole pieces of their bodies, leaving behind the sheath, the replica of their form with all its indentations and undulations. Hacker's dark twin reminds me of those snakeskins. Except that her twin creates a new entity, enlivened and sparkling with life.

She develops this new life with a lexicon of words that lead to a new birth, that are alive in themselves: crackling, gagging, glinting, tapping, gurgling, curved, dried, splashed, circuited, changed, coughs, cries, doubles, swallows, snaps, slaps, batters, tears, grind, fly, and finally "born."

25 lines, 156 words and a new being emerges.

I don't know if I'd dissect every one of Hacker's poems in this way. But The Dark Twin is made for this peeling away.

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