I just finished reading Srikanth Reddy’s astonishing erasure Voyager. I’d love to teach this book, and possibly I will this summer in a course on artistic appropriation. Because I think this is the best example of an erasure-text I’ve seen. It’s so wholly controlled, there’s no question that the work of the poem is inseparable from the poetic intent of the erasure work. Still, it’s clearly engaged with its source text, constrained without being limited. A commentary not just on its source text, but using the source text deftly to engage with the political-poetic discourse in a language not reliant on irony and angst and disaffection to address the legacy of violence left to us by the mechanized-warfare of the 20th century.
broken by war
emerged in frightful shape—
more than human
but also less,
they were quite aware,
the soverign dead,
that time is like a window
opening up the sad patterns of never.
We emerge from this book, from the last century, both more and less than we were, more and less human.
Frightful in what we’re able to accomplish, frightful in our sad patterns. The patterns we couldn’t (and possibly never will) escape, that make us frightful to ourselves.
This embodies how appropriative, experimental, formalist techniques invite (perhaps inescapably) a political and social context. The process is part of the poetry. The selection of the text, the construction of three voices that repeat in places, but ultimately emerge as distinct, in addition to the actual meaning of the words.