143.1: Marthe Reed:: After Swann 48-50 143

The word "experiment" derives from Latin. It might refer to an event that involved some kind of action. It also might refer to any gesture that signifies effort, a big toe thrust into freezing water. The word can be a noun or a verb: a thing born of action or action itself. Experimental poetry could be said to be both event and action, at once a registry and call for new experiences. In this week's issue, The Offending Adam offers its readers selections from Marthe Reed, Daniel Bosch, Travis Macdonald, and j/j hastain. Each day, a different experiment will be published for our readers to review. Or, perhaps it's better to say that each selection will be published for our readers to try. Today's selections from Marthe Reed's "After Swann" project remind me that the word "experiment" always implies "to try." These poems attempt. They essay. Their beauty stems from a gestural quality, the poetic equivalent of flecked paint or sound swatches. These poems demand that we read them as abstract and concrete entities simultaneously. They never quite cohere into the definite shape of narrative or argument; however, these lyrics still sing with self-conscious physicality. Their sound, their gestural power remains present precisely in the absence of coherent meaning.

Reed organizes each of these selections into tercets, building little frames around her Proustian gestures. I imagine each tercet as a window, providing readers with glimpses into a charged, lyrical world. As readers, we are positioned at a distance from Henry James' house of fiction: instead of peering into one window, our field of vision takes in several at once. The effect is wonderful and bizarre. In "48," for instance, readers encounter the following lyrical scene: "melancholy / a series of trapezes / the pendulum of." This interplay of romantic emotion, circus imagery, and gravity anticipates the concluding tercet of the selection: "almost horizontally / a hollow sound / limiting her field of vision." Two windows, two lyrical gestures. Yet the reversal of trapezes and the pendulum in the first tercet seems to anticipate, even inform, the synesthetic reversal from hollow sounds to limited vision in the concluding tercet. Proust's entire cosmos lurks behind Reed's white space. I am grateful she has done us the favor of carving out these windows. Ryan Winet


as though tendering
the spectacle of
aesthetic co-ordinates

a shell-splinter
pearl-grey gloves
his crush hat

a specimen
in the polished disk

of sensual bliss
an accidental

his horizon

bounded by two
fans or
two adjacent chairs

glad of a companion
she preferred
an obscure

a series of trapezes
the pendulum of

her constantly accelerated

almost horizontally
a hollow sound
limiting her field of vision


her due
a pattern in the carpet

the act of politeness

she moved
in order to

her fan
a tender smile
taught in her girlhood

sinuous creatures
somewhere beyond
a more premeditated reaction

she had
a sudden

slender young
free from the scrutiny of

memories and sensations
a woman
reduced to

an echo
a token
romantically compressed


to modify this
she seemed

to appear
by an invitation
a moment dreamed

in the plays of
social engagements
the expression of her anxiety

a pretence
in which she might find herself
a lump of sugar

a thousand signs

might one day emerge
into a laugh
such lovely things

it was only
the emotion of
her gratitude

so delightful
an uneasiness

within reach of
the moment
an impression

isolating the word
a regular little peach
half wishing to oblige