What moved me the most about the Mandrake Vehicles was the way that, physically, the poems were created in front of our eyes, distilled from blocks of text that made some dubious sense. Poems themselves, as I have understood it, differ from prose in that there should be no excess, no unnecessary words, only the few that are needed to create whatever sense it is you’re going for. But of course those words end up filled to the brim with all sorts of import.

And so the Mandrake Vehicles are boiled and distilled, all while we watch. A few students posted about the inscrutable nature of the poems themselves. I don’t suffer this problem; no, I have long known that any poem written after Walt Whitman will, with any likelihood, best my brain. I am not a poetry person. So I certainly do not “understand” the poems in the Mandrake Vehicles, but this thickness gives me a great vantage point for looking solely at the physicality of the installations.

Looking at the note on the Mandrake Form, on the homepage of the installations, Buchanan mentions that to find the “hidden” poems in each vehicle, the “‘lighter’ letters float away, leaving the ‘heavier’ letters behind to form new words.” This fits very nicely into my thought that the Mandrake Vehicles are an exercise in distillation. Distillation is getting rid of the superfluous to find the important, the heavy. Cheers, Oni, cheers. I like this work.


~ by Brendan Sullivan on January 24, 2011.

One Response to “Distillation”

  1. Come on, Brendan, this is some surface level shit. It’s one thing to say you aren’t a poetry person, but it’s another to use that fact to excuse yourself from trying to explicate those poems. So what you should’ve been doing was twice what you did: you have notes of the physicality of the work, but you should have also explicated to poems and then worked how or why the poem related to the form.

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