Monday, March 31, 2008



Novel Pictorial Noise by Noah Eli Gordon
(Harper-Collins, New York, 2007)

There are many ways to represent noise. In the Shannon-Weaver communication model(1), noise is an input signal -- isolable from, and transforming the transmitted message:

Or another way, pictorially (2), as Gaussian white noise, in its bell-like distribution across the frequency spectrum:

Then Wittgenstein:
“Do not forget that a poem, although it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language-game of giving information.”(3)

If I say that I am quoting this not from Zettel, but from Marjorie Perloff’s Wittgenstein’s Ladder(4), what difference does it make that I say so? Just how important is a putting into context?
Comes a night-light’s landing beacon leads me to pick villainy from a bouquet of the places I’d left to yesterday’s map of the future, rubber-necking unintentionally oblique articulation. Loosen a rivet from the lapsed mind and out pours the obvious like thick rain. A sterile neighbourhood, a standing ovation, centuries of labor congealing into the desk lamp that let’s me mold my own two cents from this paper-clip panopticon. I’m not pushing anything here. Power’s got a fulcrum that’s half self-portrait, part handicraft. The lever will pivot regardless of where it’s placed down. It’s the primacy of motion drafts sound. (page 1)

A rain of contexts, a thick rain moving from the L’s of light-landing-lead-villainy-places-unintentionally-oblique-articulation….. Centuries of labor giving us a desk lamp allowing the possibility of a miniaturized version of surveillance from a paper-clip panopticon….

Then Archimedes:
“Give me a place to stand, and with a lever I will move the world.”

Let’s revise the Shannon-Weaver communication model, into a model where noise is both input and message, transformed instead by syntax and a choice of form (transmitter).

The essence of pictorial fact aspires to describe itself as a panorama, an impossible cultivation of pictorial elements. I hold that thinking is an image of art. Therefore, in proposing the helicopter as the only subject retaining any seriousness, one is concurrently giving rise to the fundamental ineptness of abstraction. For example, suppose I see an aesthetic accident rather than the intension expounded in the translator’s preface. Might we then say that the architecture of the gallery space is an analogy for the plasticity of the figurative? The neutrality of such a proof is no more erroneous than the landing pad one might position on one’s roof. (page 15)

“Poetry, an alternate less linear logic” – Rosmarie Waldrop, On Lawn of Excluded Middle(5)

In this less linear logic, therefore, suppose, might, are extracted from their regular logical use and serve to mark the digressions as sharp turns, as unexpected swerves, as “reposition(ings)”:
The first option is to rattle the world in its frame. The second frames the world in its rattle. Between them, an amplifier without its instruments. This is not a metaphor. Each paragraph requires the participants to reposition themselves. From up here, I can make out the action as if it were taking space. Several ants beelining back to headquarters. Reportage lacks ideology as painting lacks performance. Some of these statements are false, including the present example. If one were to take transgression as one’s starting point, then it would be limitation that throws one satisfyingly out of joint. (page 83)

The output is neither message nor noise, but a kind of generative sampling of both. In one instance a flow of conditional clauses lacking their main clauses:
If the function of the camera is to explain itself to the operator. If the page on which the wall appears does not allow for the casting of a shadow. If the shadow is absent from the photograph (…) If this is a picture. (…) If the operation is contorted. (page 55)

*(omissions mine)

There are examples that are closer to the linear than most of the other prose blocks, but these lead only to a recognition of how much “defense” the senses put-up in such linearity:
Already the metaphors seem stale, having stalled in their attempt to carry us over, attention drawn to axle instead of wheel, hinge instead of door, to the slope of an animal’s vertebrae over the phylum under which it’s calcified, cracked into place, in essence, a privileging of anonymity, of unlikeness as a focal point, as though a bridge were to appear suddenly before us, crossing neither treacherous body of water nor maze of roadway, simply offering one another way of going on, an obligatory amazement with the plentitude of defenses guarding all our senses. (page 39)

Such that, when we are given statements of intent (there are quite a handful in Novel Pictorial Noise), there is a sense that these intentions are random rather than intended, generated by sound; by the prose blocks loose logic rather than regular logical sense:
(…)As a mechanical delivery system fails to account for the weight of another clause scratched onto its surface, so I attempt via the unknown to give grammar a purpose (…) (page 45)

(…)Two letters lie on the white table top: one personal, and one impersonal. The desire to create a space in which one might avoid both romantic posturing and ironic detachment(…) (page 43)

Yet to read the prose blocks, is to read only half of Novel Pictorial Noise. The other half (even pages) consists of white spaces punctuated at the beginning by fragments, here are the first three:
composition of noise A thought is music is
                  concept (page 2)

between What draws
equates of (page 4)

as through
definitive (page 6)

If the prose blocks clank with one digressing sentence chinking against the other, these fragments, though set on the small upper portion of the blank page, might seem silent, but are in fact noisier, lacking both regular syntax and an obvious form present in the prose blocks.(6)

One might be a bit clueless until the last fragment is read:
from a bouquet of place – articulation
and labor’s sound of primacy (p.100)

Going back to page 1, one observes that the words constituting the above fragment are extracted from the first prose block. The fragment in page 98 is extracted from page 3, page 96 from page 5, and so on. Reading it this way, I will not readily conclude that the prose blocks came before the fragments, or vice versa; or now, whether the fragments are indeed fragments, or wholes – serving either as germ for the prose blocks, or as extracted from the prose blocks like snatches from a conversation.
thought’s course again arranged
the same which with it’s surplus

But this was supposed to be a review, so did you like it?

“If you enjoyed it, you understood it, and lots of people have enjoyed it so lots of people have understood it” -- Gertrude Stein (7)

I’m not sure I understand it. How is it to understand.
Is the corollary.

Seeing As or Or from a Rorschach instead of House or Cows.

Perhaps the value is in perhaps.


1. A brief discussion of the Shannon-Weaver model is at
The picture of the Shannon-Weaver model was also had from this website

2. The string like markings on the title page of Novel Pictorial Noise are most probably graphs of noise in the time spectrum.

3. Zettel, ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright, trans. G.E.M Anscomber (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1967)

4. Wittgenstein’s Ladder, Marjorie Perloff (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press 1996)

5. Curves to the Apple, Rosmarie Waldrop (New York: New Directions 2006)

6. “The world is clanking: noun, noun, noun” from Elizabeth Willis’ The Similitude of this Great Flower and “so silence is pictorial/when silence is real” from Barbara Guest's An Emphasis Falls on Reality were used by Noah Eli Gordon as epigraphs for Novel Pictorial Noise. These two suggest/may have informed the structure of the prose block and fragment used in Novel Pictorial Noise

7. Excerpt from Interview 1934, from ubuweb:


Raymond John A. de Borja works as a technology consultant in an IT consulting company. He graduated with a BS in Electronics and Communications Engineering from the University of the Philippines Diliman. He was a Fellow for Poetry in the 6th UST and the 45TH UP National Writer’s Workshop, and has won in the poetry category of the Amelia Lapena Bonifacio Awards for Literature and the Manining Miclat Poetry Awards. He is a member of Pinoypoets.

1 comment:

EILEEN said...

Another view is offered by John Bloomberg-Rissman in GR #8 at