Another good example of this virgule can be found in the poem The Float when Scalapino writes:
—and the mother, being looked down upon by other family
members as child-like being infinitely optimistic thus immortal the
daughter/she’d been led to believe she herself was/is a pessimism
occurring her/to balance the other/the mother. (94)
In this very complicated section we see several layers. The first virgule initiates contact with the reader and draws focus to the daughter. The second (compound time) shows the reader this is not a first but a past to present ongoing misguidance. The third and fourth (compound noun) designate a more specific way of interpreting the mother: as what the daughter has grown up to become. Though there are many virgules here the most important is the phrase “was/is” which governs how the reader recognizes time and its role in The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom. In this case, time and its passing are to represent their effect on a daughter-mother relationship.
The last virgule use to discuss is the compound content virgule. Unlike its previous functions, this mark usage is far more abstract. Its primary function is to make the content more complex. Its secondary function is to further express Scalapino’s writing philosophy for this particular work:
The writing is not the idea of the whole frame work of occurrences
after without its existence ever being. In the accumulating stream of
events, hybrids repeating parts of an event in different
combinations, the parts rearranged by imagination begin to pierce
each other surpassing single outlines and boundaries, the sense of
infinite combinations are actions bliss. (129)
The compound noun virgule comprises all of the above lines and includes several others as well. One of which was discussed at the end of the previous example. That particular virgule, “immortal the daughter/she’d been led to believe,” initiates the reader’s focus as if to say pay attention, this is important (94). And, it is. It exposes the juvenility of the daughter and reminds the reader that even the immortal have growing up to do.
Another good example of this virgule can be found in the poem Limen:
The eye of passerby records the little girl running beside the black-
white-spotted dog or the girl from a different point of view (hers
and one’s) seeing and/or speaking/running—but being beside the
dog is no mere record, being/action. So action isn’t only
fundamental to being. It’s outside individuals while at once them.
In this section the reader can see Scalapino using the virgule to represent alternate ways of recording a beautiful moment. These two inserted lines have the ability to destabilize the reader during even the most basic of occurrences—this, of course, impeccable to maintaining the fluid and aerial space where all events in the text take place.
Scalapino, after confusing and dislodging the reader (now with their attention), makes a simple but powerful connection: being is inseparable from action—without one the other would not exist. Through bonding these words with a virgule she solidifies this relationship, opening the space for further analysis—which she does in the next six lines. If Scalapino had not demanded a punctual interaction with the reader, any ‘words of wisdom’ she had to offer would surely fall through empty ears.
Whatever the instant in which a virgule is used, one undeniable affect they have on the reader is to break up the expectations of how language is supposed to function. This disruption mimicked within other creative punctuation marks allows a text to open possible alternate interpretations. In a work as vast and imaginative as The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom, anything but fully open would fall short of its absolute potential.
Another mark Scalapino uses to engage the reader and add layers to the text is the parenthesis. When the dictionary is asked to define “parenthesis” it offers several definitions with different situational uses ranging from mathematics to politics, all of which funnel down to the same fundamental definition: A necessary interval. To better discuss the importance of this mark, I will quote Roi Tartakovsky from his essay “E.E Cummings’s Parenthesis: Punctuation as Poetic Device”:
The additions of parentheses in the poem act primarily to
physically realize the metaphor, as every part of what the speaker
says carries with it a parenthesized appendage. The poem is in fact
an on-going series of statements that are alternately outside and the
inside parenthesis. (221)
Although the writer in discussion is E.E Cummings, this same statement applies to Scalapino’s The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom. There are always physical sub layers in a text, “appendages,” that at different times require different attention and the parenthesis allows the writer to control what is immediate, secondary, or altogether omissible.
In The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom Scalapino takes advantage of the parenthesis to further open the space of experience in a single event. Each event, or “statement,” grows more layered and interconnected with other events occurring in previous poems, sometimes fifty or more pages prior. These intervening occurrences, or “appendages,” help Scalapino make connections throughout the text while also layering immediate images using the parenthesis similar to a comma, but not a comma because it inhabits an entire space of its own—where it is given the potential to write a new part of the story, or be omitted entirely—as if to say to the reader, you can skip this if you want, but if you do you will miss something important.
In The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom, Scalapino doesn’t give the reader a chance to escape the parenthesis. Every poem has at least one (usually several more) of such marks, and the information is not omissible. Scalapino takes advantage of the parenthesis, not only to layer her story, but to provide the reader clarity through giving small particular relations, definitions, or physical specifics. The reader need only read within the parenthesis a few times at the beginning of the work to understand they are not to be skipped over. This next section will discuss four ways the parenthesis interacts with the text to provide a clearer, more decipherable, meaning for the reader.
One way Scalapino uses the parenthesis is to cause a physical disturbance on the page. This is a call to follow the author’s train of thought as DeVere Brody writes, “by reading the punctuation marks as part of the sentence, to open up the meaning conveyed” (16). Punctuation marks are not separate from words: a period has the same potential as the word mother to affect the text and the reader’s interpretation. In The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom, Scalapino uses the rarely tapped resource of creative punctuation to jar the reader from reading too complacently, to fracture the space letting water in. A fracture to slowdown the reader and beg their focus.
In the first poem of the book, The Contester, we can see how Scalapino uses the parenthesis to slow the reader and prepare them for what is next:
The family ocker (redundant) doesn’t even remember—or doesn’t
remember at all (two entirely different events). But memory isn’t
the origin of events. Neither is. The eye is (not). Oar. The hand
thrust in. (1)
The first useful detail the reader is slowed down to notice is one of Scalapino’s mantras while writing this piece: “memory isn’t the origin of events.” As the reader begins to stumble and question what is within the parenthesis, Scalapino is given a window to say and offer something that needs to be understood. As the reader knows from her Author’s Note, the origins of the events in The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom are not from memory—they are discovered occurrences from leafing through the dictionary. Scalapino is aware that many readers use a few pages to warm up and enter a book. Instead of waiting for those few pages to pass, she initiates the relationship by demanding the reader to slow down. Once she has control of the reader’s full attention she can pick up the speed and flood the reader with any number of vivid details.
What follows this section is eight fast lines, loaded with imagery, describing the contester and his surroundings:
The red claw, the mitt reaching the poppies some red-centered, has
performed actions, though the action is the contester’s, already past
but appearing at once ‘allowing’ the single petal outside no
producing or attached in wind—outside isn’t either, the trees
fractionators future only, a forest 2 states a tree rushes 1000 trees
roiling divided are in that sense 2 frothing the appendages bats bat
the sky corners of the diamond [in which the base runner runs]
floats in the sky where a forest as single entity bats blows—the sky.
Yet petal exudes dawn there exactly. Not even gradually 4 there is
no memory. If there were not a contester the dark blue indigo-plum
black-purples-centered poppies are for nothing? (Scalapino 1)
Because Scalapino first slows down the reader, they will be much more apt to digest the mass of images that compose the contester, and by doing so she allows the reader to be hit more dramatically when told that without the contester all of these colours and images, and possibly her entire book, would be “for nothing.” If instead the complacent reader was given a straight forward syntactical text, there is a good chance they would move quickly unaffected onto the next poem, or even the next five.
Scalapino’s next, and possibly her most complex, usage of the parenthesis is the use to layer again and again, complicating images, events, philosophies and locations—to layer everything. With this particular usage, the reader is asked to consider why this is necessary to the text, and how this interval extension is important and connected to a fabric encompassing the entirety of occurrences composing this book.