The Dow that can be named is not the eternal Tao. This is the message of Susan Briante’s great and fun new work The Market Wonders. The economic market is a man made concoction, yet it behaves in an almost random manner that seems to follow rules of nature. In the beginning of the book she quotes, “Blake reminds us, ‘For everything that lives is Holy!’” and sure enough the market seems to be alive. This book associates a volatile reverence to money. The subject is about as transgressive as can be. Most people do not read poetry, half of us that read barely understand it, and certainly, nobody is making a living from it. That is to say, unless you’re Tao Lin or Ben Lerner who undoubtedly have other means of income. The rare Ted Kooser who can make a rock star’s living at poetry is once in a lifetime. But Briante builds a relationship between the flow of the market and the flow of words and poetry. The ticker at the bottom of the book is definitely the philosophical icing on the cake.
And thus begins
a prophecy a litany of calculations 40 and 2 months 2 witnesses 200 and 3score days
2 olive trees 2 candlesticks in a singe of data like a physicist scavenges for God 3.5 days,
4 and 20 elders, 12 stars, for the prophets to measure is to signify and separate . . .
The opening poem refers to the psychology behind dreaming of glass and eating it: undeniably imaginative. Yet it almost pales in comparison to the ticker running along the bottom. This isn’t to say she thought of it; you can see the artist’s inspiration laid bare with the insight she has received transmitted here. A spiritual analogy seems to be the only way to convey the “deep truths” and rules about the universe that lay within our economic system.
The punctuated section title ‘Meditation’ is a flight of imagination that I can really appreciate. It serves as a close to the day.
In the PartyStore/PierOne/Target/Kohl’s parking lot,
find a desert willow among the shopping carts,
walk around it sunwise repeating:
I am the avantgarde, I am the avantgarde, I am the avantgarde
This section finishes with:
Lo! The light from the desert tree
does not speak in numbers, costs us nothing.
Here, as in a butterfly garden, everyone crawls before flight
This reaction to observing the market seems to be right on par with a traditional thinker. The belief that the economy has been created by man and is therefore wrong or flawed is the more traditional path. This meditation doesn’t divert too much from that thought. If we compare ourselves with “the desert tree,” we do not need to speak in numbers or costs.
In the second section called “The Market is a Parasite That Looks Like a Nest,” The Market gets personified. This is the second delight that the book has to offer as many passages are hilarious. The personification of capitalism is so transgressive I am at a loss for words.
Capitalism is a big, evil and treacherous to all of us liberal poetry fans and yet, this fantastic passage:
Then the Market had kids and it was all profit
margin and technostructure
rollerblades for a few years,
There is nothing better than plain language and high, social commentary delivered in a meta and postmodern fashion. I give a great kudos to Briante’s taste and her ability to show the world we live, in a recognizable, yet new and engaging manner.
The meditation, which offers the same relief as real meditation, works in the same way.
The second mediation has so many points of reflection and mind blowing moments:
Something lands in the corner of your eye.
Instead of words, you white out
Let them burn like dirigibles in the sky.
Send the ash to the last person who lent you money.
to a sparrow in flight through the black walnut tree.
The sparrow clicks like a Geiger counter in the leaves,
your daughter’s hunger swells.
The market goes up and down endlessly. It will never tire. Susan Briante wonders about the market with the same reverence as a monk to their god, and how better fitting, for our capitalist society?