(SPAM Cuts) ‘THE GENESIS OF THE WORLD IS RETOLD THROUGH THE MOVING IMAGE’ by Loll Junggeburth

In this SPAM Cut, Maria Sledmere explores the mineral dramas of Loll Junggeburth’s ‘THE GENESIS OF THE WORLD IS RETOLD THROUGH THE MOVING IMAGE’, a poem which you can read for free in the latest issue of DATABLEED.

> With a mordant, seductive twinge, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen begins his chapter ‘Geophilia’ in Stone (2015) with the line: ‘The love of stone is often unrequited’. Whatever form of longing we extend to stone, we are met with ‘lithic indifference’. Rock will always outlast that which it lures, magnetises, embraces; that which builds with it, makes with it, breaks with it; that which learns to live intimately with it. Loll Junggeburth’s poem ‘THE GENESIS OF THE WORLD IS RETOLD THROUGH THE MOVING IMAGE’ is a testament to the human impulse towards telling stone’s story. Yet perhaps we cannot tell a mineral story; perhaps, as Cohen notes, it is stone that ‘discloses’. We have to learn to think with stone, not just into it or around it. For Junggeburth, this thinking-with is not a technocapitalist piercing and probing, but instead a scrolling: a filmic duration which admits of expansive time lapses, held in the white spaced tug of epochal shift.


> Not unlike the tenor of Cohen’s book, Junggburth’s poem works by way of fractal wit, of perspectives which dislodge and reorientate across six numbered acts of geological drama. She riffs off a Radiohead song, ‘everythinging in its right place’, extending the gluttonous tactility of the thing with this extra suffixing. She chases the fragmentary skit of atoms with assonant charm: twitch/little/limbs/fit/oscillating/bits, picking out a pizzicato performance of falling apart and back again, transforming. I think of close-up shots of breaking rocks in geology documentaries, cut to the scene of a human heartache. Her use of italics implies several voices are at work in this poem, oscillating between softly inviting, auto-expression (‘I’m sorry, little bits’) and something suavely critical (‘Matisse knew a thing or two / about little bits’). Language at points is materialised sound cast out, the spondee of stones skimmed twice upon water: ‘beat-beat / beat-beat’. There is a shimmering quality to intimacy here. I’m reminded of Jane Bennett’s defence of anthropomorphism as a strategy for identifying points of affective continuum between the human and nonhuman (see Vibrant Matter). It is tricky to tell if Junggeburth’s ‘I’ is that of a human or stone: is it the speaker or the stone that is ‘unbecoming’ in the space of this poem?

> Indeed, the impulse to question is integral to ‘THE GENESIS OF THE WORLD IS RETOLD THROUGH THE MOVING IMAGE’. This is not a fixed genesis, but a birth into shuddering drama and uncertainty that quests for the future as much as it does the story of origins: ‘what happens when the sun goes out?’. In this sense Junggeburth stages a kind of speculative genesis, making full use of the field of the page to explore the sedimenting of knowledge upon ‘tabula rasa—’, each line break implying vertical and horizontal shafts between place and time. Its temporality is not so much the Anthropocene’s typical future anterior (looking back at now from some point in the future) but the simultaneity of ‘meanwhile’. Junggeburth asks: what goes on at different scales in the space of a shifting present, which, as Timothy Morton argues, is not really a ‘present’ realm at all, but rather a quantum mess of temporal collisions and relative motions emitting from myriad objects: ‘geological time […] is an abyss whose reality becomes increasingly uncanny’. The poem stages this ‘nowness’ in which, as Morton puts it, ‘something is still happening’, through its dialogue of presence and absence, its cascade of questions and objects, arranged in sliding columns:

am i irrelevant                                                   asks calypso wrapper am i irrelevant                                                   asks the baby born®                                                  in eco-guilt am i irrelevant?                                                   asks the half scarpered & scraped club night                                                   sticker from its cold lamppost am i irrelevant?                                                  asks the manager suffering                                                  from eco miseria at a desk at 3pm on a Tuesday am i irrelevant?                                                  asks the container ship rising                                                  in the immediate fall-out, or fill-up,                                                  of the melted container-ship-sized                                                  ice cap          {on whose head?}                                                  crashing into the sea—

In this point of the poem, its structural crescendo, reality itself becomes the shifting signifier of the trademark, subject to all refraction in a constant ocean of churning enmeshment. The brand of the object broken to microplastic, swirling with the pressures of silt and stone, ‘old water’. What we are left with is ‘volume, volume’: this desire for measurement, dialogue, for getting into the ‘dead ice’; a sense for a commodious poetics that would invite all the world inside us, every process and every object. ‘THE GENESIS OF THE WORLD IS RETOLD THROUGH THE MOVING IMAGE’ is a playful poem in several geological voices, visually grazing the anthropogenic junkyard of a hurting planet. It asks stone to speak back, a kind of affective echo that demands recitation in a grandiose cave. But it is also a lyric lament for some kind of epistemological hunger, a need to know rocks, to define by negative our presence among the mineral forces that make our environment, and thus make us.


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Text & Image: Maria Sledmere

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