Exquisite Garble: Acousmatic Sound and Binocular Vision in Ronald Johnson's ARK

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Abstract

This article examines the compositional methods of the twentieth-century American poet Ronald Johnson by focusing specifically on two poems from his late-modernist poem ARK: "ARK 37: Spire Called Prospero's Song to Aerial (Constructed in the Form of a Quilt from Roger Tory Peterson's A Field Guide to Western Birds)" and the radiophonic recording, and accompanying text, "ARK 38: Ariel's Songs to Prospero." These two Spires are compared to, and explicated in light of, the contextual practices that underpin Peterson's field guides (the "Peterson system") and the "reduced listening" and acousmatic sound of musique concréte. By reading "ARK 37" and "ARK 38" in these contexts it is possible to recast the contentious ocularcentricism ("binocular vision") of the modern bird field guide as a synesthetic epistemology that revises the status of the Poundian Image in Johnson's poetics and its aspirations to achieve the condition of music through the direct treatment of the word.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-160
JournalContemporary Literature
Volume 59
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2018

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