03 August 2006

The age of shocks and struts

I’ve thought that if I was to name my car after a Ron Silliman book, it would be ‘What,’ with ‘Manifest,’ ‘Sitting Up, Standing, Taking Steps,’ ‘Mohawk,’ and ‘Xing’ as other possibilities.

But I was framing yesterday in the heat and was treated to a similarly heated argument over architecture, which culminated with the exclamation ‘Do you want Windows or What?!!’ ..followed by ‘OK, well I’d rather have Windows than What!!’ which I thought could also be a last minute Creeley-or-Silliman argument in a book store or a syllabus controversy in a faculty lounge.

‘Nox’ would be the name I wouldn’t use for my car.


Jessica Smith said...

Xing. Definitely.

david raphael israel said...
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Ian Keenan said...

Xing would seem to be the opposite of Desultory Days, perhaps for folks with a global positioning system.

david raphael israel said...

Regrettedly I'm not familiar with the Silliman work so named (and wot not the origins of the title). But I can remark that Xing (if using the pin-yin system of transliteration current in PRC; else, in the old Wade-Giles system, it would be Hsing) presents a Chinese syllable with a range of possible meanings (depending on the tone of pronounciation, and finally on what specific word is intended). An online search of "xing" here brings 34 possibilities, including:
tranquil; star; ape; fishy [smelly]; flourish; dragonfly; punishment (etc.)

Ian Keenan said...

Actually I had thought of Xing to be transporting to an pre-prescribed point, as in a treasure map, X-ing. Hence my speculation that it would be the opposite of Desultory Days. Silliman first references it in the sense of ‘crossing’on page 17 (p12 of the pdf file) where Ron says

who does the reader think

I mean? Cattle xing.

But he throws a wrench into things (as he tends to do) on p31 after a ref to Chinese culture:

As if the nominal

would be xong.

Actually I have no idea if that’s a ref to the Chinese language.

Then on p39

is less decorous than

parking garage elevator?
Xinghai: human skeleton,
the body.

And 43-44

how the baby breathes

as he sleeps. Xingtai:
form, shape, pattern. Xingti:
shape of a person’s body.


The lights flicker,

the dissent beckons.
In Russia, to rhyme
true nouns is a sign

either of irony or
stupidity. Xingyu,
sexual desire. Good

fortune, rejoice, I hope.

This goes into a really stunning ending, where the use of the phrase ‘Xmas tree’ within death-winter imagery resonates with the body-related usages of ‘Xing,’ (a recurring tension of the poem) and refs to old nemeses of his: Stevens, Eliot (“Teaspoon of meds/ for the young guy”) and rhyme.

The book is free on pdf:


andy gricevich said...


Or, I mean, ENGINES, if that isn't too obvious.

XING is a beautiful book. The sense of form developed in his earlier stuff based on number systems is now so controlled (without even needing those systems) that a sentence length alone can have a powerful emotional effect. I remember getting misty-eyed reading that book.

Jessica Smith said...

i also like Xing (the book). I think Ron intends the Chinese undertones. He gave a long lecture about Xing at Buffalo. I'll see if I can dig up my notes. It was fascinating.