Engaging Theseus by Wayne Clifford and bpNichol: Reader’s Questions

August 19, 2014

Reading Theseus is an intimate experience; the reader witnesses bpNichol and Wayne Clifford actively troubling the processes of myth making and word smithing. Nichol has declared his intention “of finding as many exits as possible from the self . . . in order to form as many entrances as possible for the other” (as quoted by Kathryn Grafton).

In my own search for entrances into the text, I formulated the following questions. My hope is that these can be used as points of entrance and exit in a readerly investigation of Theseus.

1. The “I” is such a captivating article/entity within this text. It is seemingly singular yet necessarily duplicitous in the fact that Theseus is a collaboration. How does this concept of “I” develop within the text?

2.  “I lack the coin to speak with” (21-22). What are the implications of language being viewed as a currency?

3.  In contrast to the singular “I”, “You” functions as a synecdoche for city… “The city in you” (32). This creative act of attribution is almost Deleuzian in deterritorialization. Can “you” ever escape the city? Or does an individual always carry the city within himself/herself?

4.  Theseus seems to balance intellectual engagement, formal experimentation, and emotional conveyance. Quite often, works fit solely into one category instead of balancing all three. On 32-33, the text reads: “Writing’s emotion if fingers / will balance the names.” Does Theseus indeed strike a balance in these areas? Is there a particular poem in which this is evident for you as the reader?

5.  Theseus clearly discusses ancient myth. Yet, to what degree does the writing of Theseus compose a new myth? At many points throughout the text, it feels as if I am reading a secret manifesto on myth-making: “Myth. What speaking comes down to is” (42). To what degree is this writing an attempt to construct a new myth?

6.  I was struck by this: “A mercy, to teach play” (69). If you were to attempt to teach/instruct play, what is one axiom/adage/thought you would share?

The view expressed in this BookThug blog entry is held by the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of BookThug.

Kristen Smith received her Bachelors of Arts in English at Mount Allison University (Sackville, New Brunswick). In 2006, she was awarded the Graham Atlantic Writing Prize for her collection of poetry, Voices. Additionally, Kristen was selected as one of six poets internationally to participate in the Writing With Style program at the Banff Centre, Banff, AB (2012). In both her creative and her academic writing, Kristen explores themes of absence, nostalgia, and belonging. She currently studies at Ryerson University where she is completing a Master of Arts in Literatures of Modernity. Kristen lives in Toronto with her husband.

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