UNBOUND September | Knowledge – A Lifeless Rib By Roisin Hackett

Knowledge – A Lifeless Rib

by Róisín Power Hackett
A cut-up poem using Wallace Stevens’ Sunday Morning and John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Cut-up writing is word collage. In 1916, Tristian Tzara, a Dadist wrote How To Write A Dadist Poem:
‘1.Take a newspaper.
2.Take a pair of scissors.
3.Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
4.Cut out the article.
5.Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
6.Shake it gently.
7.Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
8.Copy conscientiously.
9.The poem will be like you.
10.And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.’

This was the beginning of the cut-up. Since then this method has been developed and expanded. In the 1950s and 60s it was taken up by the American Beat writer William S Burroughs. The technique has also been used by famous musicians. With the invention of the internet and an increasing availability of text, cut-ups are even more prevalent. My current favourite is The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump (2017) by Robert Sears, which is a poetry book of cut-ups using Trump’s tweets. An absolute must read.

Knowledge A Lifeless Rib is a cut-up of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). It is a feminist re-appropriation of the long poem that details Adam and Eve’s fall.

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
and the green freedom of a cockatoo
upon a rug mingle to dissipate
dissolve, the real,
this pleasant dwelling-place.
Woman’s ancient seat not of free choice,
pattern not of just equality perhaps,
each bird, each bird, repeat, repeated, repeated,
ye birds, on a green shady wings diffused so well,
The verdurous wall of wingèd desires,
was flown, was swum, through the pure marble air,
the green flowed into bliss,
into perpetual circle, multiform, and mix of substance,
of glimmering air with liquid murmur
that warble as ye flow.
All these odours of the fruit to eat,
and the black steaming draught
upwhirled aloft, to mix my thoughts more aery,
inspire unspeakable desire to see and know,
on this the sedentary restless seventh day
of the golden Sun. With time, time
I oft think,
I to dispense with that discourse of Adam and Eve,
of Paradise, of God.
I seek to claim for dissolution and freedom,
uplift beyond hope, aspire at least recover Chaos,
and unmake the fixed laws of him corrupted,
with this world’s material the formless mass,
betwixt the liquid pearl, of gold and purple, azure and green,
the self-knowing order from disorder sprung.
The discourse of the Patriarch,
knowledge forbidden, invented with design to keep them low,
the woman shall be kept under our feet, low,
So, judged he Her.
So, spake Eve,
God is thy law, thou mine: to know no more
                     Is woman’s happiest knowledge, and her praise.
And what is God and why?
Finally, I think it was amidst the inwove dazzle disarray
substantially expressed and questioned,
this world’s dissolution shall be ripe.
Reason shall not stand on even ground against
the fruits sweet-smelling aerial vapours in small room.
And the birds, the multitude luxuriant,
a woody theatre, loaden with flocks,
wings his way towards the new-created, new-waked voice,
I am, Ay me!
And, after all that time, all generations, and ages,
with heart, and voice, and eyes seeing my reason under the open sky.

Now wandering, from shadowy types to truth, from spirit to flesh,
to have found the law and story told by Man,
is not, as we are told, Adam or Eve of Paradise is not,
and therefore, both women and men art under this ignorance,
hindered by the Powers of Man.
Man, his puissance, I mean to try, whose reason I have unemployed,
to keep the odds of knowledge in his power,
he reign Monarchy over reason, liberty and bliss.
Beyond the horizon of future, days, months, and years, towards
co-partner equally enjoying the whole highest bliss offered free of restraint,
what society hast endowed with presumptuous discourse,
how wondrous that the happier state of sex, in naked majesty,
hath been oppressed and fallen, dimly seen beheld unspeakable,
with human voice, and human sense,
with reason oppose deep silence and purge off this gloom.
Was it to obstruct to conform rule blissful happiness
for his high supremacy, and powers that the men of wealth
down dropped, and lost all the faded roses?
Mankind designs his own folly, So
human knowledge could not reach
that Wisdom powdered with stars.
God is not,
Not so.
This said unanimous, and so saying, we seek, we, may at choice free the Will,
Freely give both life and sense, grow knowledge, as liberal and free as infinite.
There are many human faculties, Fancy as chief,
she forms imaginations, aery shapes,
which Reason, joining or disjoining, frames
all what we affirm or what deny, and call
our knowledge or opinion.
Without Experience of all external things,
through the five watchful senses, to shun to taste, to pluck and eat
delicious fruit burnished with golden rind,
To not taste this universe,
                                         with glistering faltering harmony
                                         under a tuft of shade that gathers,
                                         besmeared with gold it dazzles,
and now rolling darkness
runs diverse, wandering.
To not taste this odorous universe,
with unexperienced thought, the imagination can starve,
with desire to know produces oft wild work and great idea.
To not have ye it —
limbed and full clustering, ready at command, to apply
the link of nature and similitude, —
is to not raise knowledge of all sounds yet invisible,
is to cut off all things unknown.
Fence up without Fancy this sanctity of reason,
cannot taste it, or use the power of Reason,
or build a wonderous intellectual nourishment,
invent instruments that made melodious, that polish life imperfect.
When reason hath to reason unaided by Fancy,
it shalt not, cannot work, as they came dependent made.
All human thoughts come from misjoining shapes, matching words,
and foreseeing similitude between things.
For sight, smell, taste was gathered to imagine, to tell how,
how we submiss, surrender among our world,
betwixt all things, proceed, and seat and dress and self were all joined,
formed flesh body opaque, linked in with repeated ornament,
both approaching changeable, beginning with various matter mixed,
transverse my dissolution.
The Patriarch with soft oppression seized us far too long
and now thrown off, I speak.

On the green bank, I first awaked, and found myself unlimited
As I bent down to look into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved, another sky.
Within the watery gleam appeared, the sudden view,
bending to look on me. I started back, it started back.
Henceforth I seest, I speak as an individual,
Speak, all ye living as Woman, join voices,
best are all things tossed outward against his will,
reject obedience with more desire to know.
Timely interposes rolled orbicular, and
God is dead — taste all things, nourish thyself,
directly fall, taste pleasures, uninterrupted joy,
and be a Maker, create change,
methinks I feel new strength within me rise, wings growing.
With length of happy days,
change, she pleasingly began,
experience, she embraced delicious Paradise,
with her enclosure green.
In future, render me more equal,
— for, inferior, who is free?
Woman thus made vocal as Man,
tenderly augmented, equal joy as equal love,
Naked nakedness, naked nakedness unfold,
in naked beauty skin and limb,
now swim in joy, share with me in bliss,
Imparadised in one another’s arms,
they feel carnal desire inflaming,
in lust they burn,
and intoxicated both, with the other half,
Love libidinous reigned.
Much pleasure we have lost while we abstained,
within my heart I feel between us,
our state as equal, of bliss on bliss,
One flesh, one heart, one exceeding love,
our happy state enjoins us combined.
To help sustain us both securer, and quench
that structure in the dialect of men.
In search of this new happy fill of love rising or falling,
our great expectation should be that
Woman with Man unites.
When shall mankind be mutual, be open, and in freedom equal?
When they see what a broad and ample knowledge open wide,
Open ye, Open ye,
know that pleasure is in Nature
in all seasons, and their change,
and human trembling warmth,
or in what is imaginable on Earth,
not hid in a Paradise that Oppressed them.
Among these earliest birds,
the verdant wall, pleasant the Sun,
let us Imagine then when we wake
our inward freedom,
and perform, open eyes, our proud will to knowledge.
All things are transitory, and we shall die.
What can your knowledge drive?
Can hold, communicate utterance,
irradiate invisible, disperse, and interrupt,
change a universal blank.
Two massy clods of sound rendering up in various shapes
thus expressed, invoked, formed words.
I question it, and dishevel the smooth lake,
with sun-bright dissolution.

Warmed by the Sun,
producing knowledge of the real, of human,
reach, then, and freely taste the tongue of the cave’s mouth,
Fragrance filled her with desire, and with truth.
And knows, and speaks, and reasons and discerns,
so, all was cleared, under shady arboreous
yet unknown Earth, I see nothing.
But knowing both I can obtain,
design tilting furniture, emblazoned tinsel trappings, gorgeous wings
and colours dipped in hinges turning,
I fall to be an architect undazzled.
Make such resemblance of mankind, with Nature,
draw me into her landscape to imitate her,
no strife can grow up there, breathe soft or loud,
disperse your arms, and wed ye
to the ceaseless change of the thirsty earth,
join to us invisible, glistening with dew,
unseen amid the beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower,
all a similitude with Nature’s curious knots.
Have gathered spread the sun paint upon your bodies,
which will to thee appear
as covered with pearly light descending on a sunbeam.

To imagine comes before knowledge,
and leads this intellectual being, awakened, into utter dissolution,
views all things in endless motion with various forms,
as Bacchus and his revellers belike.
So let us make things of variety without end,
of lustful appetence, to sing, to dance.
The liquid ore he drained on the rough edge
began to cast lascivious light on human face,
spreads his loins and thighs with downy gold,
can execute their aery purposes,
not tied or manacled with joined or limb,
but in what shape they choose,
and rolls his tongue rove to mingle and involve,
their language and their ways
and the work Confusion named.
Philosophers in vain so long have sought New Babels,
if I be a builder of our language,
hence, I will excite their minds,
to hold vessels moulds for words,
so, deform human speech and from such deform
shall bring on a boundless continent,
to apply the rhythmic method formed by melting or casting polyphonic,
jangling noise of words unknown,
derision sets, gabble rises, hubbub strange wonderous ridiculous,
a thing not undesirable.
Regardless of the luminous inferior
blustering round, vexed with convex,
thou didst doom disjoin,
dark, waste and wild, the circuit wide
enshrine this vast sublunar vault,
disfiguring pervert pure and mix with
moon-struck madness, heart-sick pangs,
the bonds of tongues obtruded
on the other side.
Tangling clouds clomb cross-barred perplexed
broke up, all bounds,
ebb, clang, wrack, wick and orcs the ark,
acts vexed fixed as firm, firm and fixed,
joining fenceless movable words
uncompounded in their essence wandering,
their naked limbs fluttering into lustful orgies
of renewed speech
and altered style of words expressed
growing joined vocal voice.
A round self-rolled lop overgrown under
low-creeping approach ply may debar reason joined.
Fast caught, clasping ivy the dwelling of these fair atheists,
the flowery roof hath eaten reason,
now in loose garlands thick knowledge made us
a labyrinth on the grassy herb,
an image of myself, which will change.

In this narrow room the change to the poem
is open field, from end to end.
A tongue founded in reason, performing, opening the way,
and Reason is shadowed had not she the voice of chaos
and fancy to stir in me sudden appetite,
to bend matter and be dextrous, to guide,
if we can undo uncreate what he pushed against us,
the most severe judgement laid on our necks,
for nothing we to him have done;
how we still had not a voice,
we labour, oft to dress, decked of summer’s pride, pansies and violets,
a pleasant garden, lovely smiled, for nothing beyond an object.
If Woman could create and shun the force,
in the future shall write, speak, and achieve thereby their freedom.
Thus I move and live, live and move, and feel that I am
                                                          now nearer equal.
Time may come when I will be equal in society,
My word, my wisdom, seen with sails on a sunbeam,
my knowledge visible reaching beyond,
as a coloured plume sprinkled with gold, might travel,
the world will do to represent, to acknowledge woman,
and this universal frame with hoped success
shall be soon, soon, sooner as soon as.
Under his gloomy power I shall not, cannot suffer,
but I waked, and found a world unchanged
Love of feminine beyond her image and womb,
nowhere to be found.
I now must change and begin revolt and disobedience.
No more answerable to patriarchs
Present or past.
Interrupt their public peace,
Reason thy argument out.
They swim in ignorance,
Knowledge forbidden,
Forbidden understanding and new wine.
Dwell in earthly Paradise,
superior chaos, the wide womb of uncreated night
exposed in order.
And am I as woman
Loaden with weak indulgence a lifeless rib?
I warn thee: No.
The real is half resolved, nowhere so clear,
to soar with mighty wings outspread,
I fly smooth sliding through the seasons,
The thirst I have of knowledge. 


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