‘Something like words for | motion’: Ian Patterson’s Shell Vestige Disputed

Abstract

What should we make of this series of opaque observations and reflections, composed in what might strike an unfamiliar reader at first as a peculiarly rapid form of shorthand? Looked at again, these stanzas constitute two remarkably sustained syntactical performances, whose respective hypotaxis and parataxis are, however, hard to construe: a crisscrossing of a remembered past tense and second-order commentary that in each case leaves their speaker’s temporal location uncertain. This figure’s spatial movement in the first stanza, although similarly occluded, provides one route into the poem, while at the same time introducing its own form of hesitancy. I find myself liable to fall foul of ‘to step on’, with what might be sensed as its apparently incomplete preposition, and leaning into it conversely seems to risk trampling over the poem entire.

How to Cite

Burns, W., (2024) “‘Something like words for | motion’: Ian Patterson’s Shell Vestige Disputed”, Moveable Type 15(1), 111-116. doi: https://doi.org/10.14324/111.444.1755-4527.1779

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William Burns (University College London)

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