Art Play

The Manual

par Godefroy Dronsart

Let us ponder how different words are than they were even a short time past.

Let’s travel 29 years into the past.

The mail, when it came after three or six weeks, was a drive away at the post office box. Sometimes accompanied by a small bribe if it was a parcel.

The fax machine bleated like a demented electronic sheep as it rendered writing into binary squares of black and white, pixellated squiggles on slick paper asking for interpretation.

In 1991 as war fractured Yugoslavia my parents nervously waited by our black rotary phone in Dar es Salaam at the appointed hour for the clattering dring of the call from their friends back home, their words bearing news on my brother’s whereabouts and circumstances. He had only finished his conscription a year or so before and had been called up into the territorial defence forces of Slovenia to face the Yugoslav People’s Army, widely considered the fifth most powerful army in Europe at the time.

The call came. Didn’t last five minutes. Expensive. International.

Words were different. Heavy, slow, and expensive. Each word shared was money.

Today is not like yesterdecade.

Yesterdecade I would not have known if a twittering imbecile was in charge of a nuclear power because their words would have been snipped and tucked, primped and pampered, for the public universal.

Ignorance was bliss’d?

But this post is not about that!

Yesterdecade I would not have read The Manual.

In a discord channel a pink and lavender avatar wrote, “yessss I’ve received the printed copies of my books from the publisher [heart emoji]
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if anyone here is looking for poetry/experimental book-forms to review [3 inverted smile emojis]”

I would not have understood the emojis. Language changes. But the words would have had no way to reach my eyes. Or the covers, because, let’s face it, we judge books by the digital photos of their covers.

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I read half of it before my morning coffee, the other half afterwards.

I confess, I’ve always had a soft spot for poetry. But, admitting that, well, once upon a time words were heavy and I couldn’t throw them very far, so who would I have even admitted that to once upon a time?

Novel damage (this table is to be filled in)

I love it.

It’s like a magical meta manual for playing games with one’s own life. As if the reader’s friend where a player in a game set up by the reader but dis-understood. It takes the structure of an appliance manual and cross-breeds it with a roleplaying manual and a self-help manual, looping back on itself and showing off the poetics of language as play. Then it swirls back, and brings to mind the constructivist poetry that bloomed a hundred years ago, after war and pandemic, reminding us that time is a leaky circle, that the hand is empty that tries to catch time, that we are here, now. Take notes. A child has written in your manual in green crayon. Who was that child? Was it the reader and their dreams of a life to live, but now forgotten by the reader? Do not listen to the child. Listen to the child. Children speak truths adults pretend not to hear.

It’s good to be reminded that the kind of poetry that was too arcane and too experimental to throw far when words were heavy, may now come arcing across half a globe to be read before and after a coffee while humid monsoon paints grey outside.

But also the poetry itself. Godefroy captures something of the mechanical world we seem to find ourselves in. Our world, of light-fast, fast-as-light words, built on the work of computer programmers, is encoded in a language that pretends to cold, hard, rationality. Ones and zeroes, hexadecimals abundant. But in translation into human grey matter it is as soft and weird and fuzzy* as human language always was.

So, merci Godefroy.

A lovely morning to read that, a time out of time.

Godefroy Dronsart participates in the social carousel as @OzoneGrass on twitter.

The Manual is published by and the nauseating amazon micropress pod link is hidden beneath these blue letters.

*I won’t say moist and mushy, because though the brain is that, the words moist and mushy just don’t sit well. Imagine playing a game of moisture and mushiness, it’d feel terrible.

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