little red leaves textile edition, 2014
Stitched Cloth Cover, 20 pages
When I read Carrie Hunter’s Scienza Nuova, I feel as though I am hearing the voice of the little girl from the footnotes of the Night Lessons episode of Finnegans Wake several decades later: she is older, and she knows about Facebook (according to “The Notorious Striking Clock”). She plays with language still but with less enthusiasm (or less babbling, depending on your perspective). And, as the title suggests, she has read Vico despite the claims in the Wake that she has no need of book learning because “…all is her inbourne.”
Hunter’s older Issy makes her own use of Vico’s ages of man. “Music in Parts” lays out her adaptations. The first age, theocratic in Vico, for Issy is childish and wise: “on tiptoes. Before we lost our language.” This language, as Hunter conceives it, resembles the language of Finnegans Wake in general: “meaningless / -ful conversation.” That this is further identified as “clitoral” allies it more closely with Issy’s speech. But the age of this language is followed by the heroic, “Borrowed giants,” and the human, “A contest between the prophesy and history.” Then, “After the age of the people. The chorus listens.” There is a falling to sleep, like Merlin, late, in the Arthurian saga. These altered ages suggest one reason this older Issy cannot be as free in her linguistic play: what she desires to convey has become more important to her. She has motives, in other words, beyond free play. These motives drive her through her own Viconian cycle, a fall that recycles itself. “What came before the beginning is continuing now,” “Another Genesis Trickery” begins.
Vico believed that humans created their own humanity and their words made the world. Poetry seeks to exemplify this idea. In this tight sequence, Hunter-in-Issy and Issy-in-Hunter have made new versions of both: a new world to match the new science of the title.