Jono Schneider's In the Room


a reading by Andrew Felsinger


Jono Schneider's book of poems "In the Room," published July 2000 by a+bend press, takes as its project the items of a room, which include some of the following things (in no particular order): Screen, Sock, Hand, Sand, Pant, Cap, Ring, Rim, Key, Page, Pane... There are thirty three poems, thirty three things, each poem containing eight lines, as if stamped out repeatedly, as if stamp like. (One of the thirty-three poems is indeed titled "Stamp.") But what of the "worlds" surrounding such "things," and of the language used to interrogate the whole of the room? So much of "In the Room" revolves around the relationship between what is said and what is meant, what is done and what is created, and what creates what. Case in point-- "The Screen," p. 9

The Screen

Shut out the parts
which act. And did art?

In the stiff position of
significance, "The self

hater." Speech can dust,
sifts what's required of dust

covers the world with
an opinion's shift.

The transitions that occur throughout the poem, as if they are the very act itself thrust into/against the "screen," creates a density, a precision, an atomic bouncing between unstable locations of meaning. Locations that consist of statements, "Shut out the parts/ which act." questions, "And did art?" then almost jokes, "In the stiff position of / significance," as if drawing in the sexual while also, perhaps, commenting on the over determined readiness of the significant. "The self hater." issues forth like a quasi-philosophic comment containing both pathetic humor and poignant recognition. These sentiments could be drawn together to form a commentary on masculinity that is as precise as it is possible to be missed, (indeed I may have missed it?). (There are many such moments of recognition in this book of poems.) "The Screen" comes to rest on concepts rendered from the word screen. As if Screen were an apparatus of thinking and seeing, as in a mental skrim or veil, through which we look and see the world, "sifts what's required of dust/ cover the world with / an opinion's shift." As if the Screen of the poem were the room, and in this way we are privy to a kind of dislocation-- there is nor physical screen, no physical room, but out in the book of room, room as self, as world, as language, as project, a place we live in. Other associations-- "The Screen" sounds peculiarly like Edvard Munch's "The Scream." This poem, then, could be read as a curious post-modern comment on the nature of alienation, which is no longer a face reverberating in horror, but something far more familiar. The precision and almost collage like leaps of "The Screen" is indicative of the other poems throughout the book; much of which bristles against its eight line form, attempting, in its own way of broken telegramming, to get its all out.
"The Pant": p. 5

The Pant

Plural, but reduced.
Scope and scape a part

the leg "from a buried
origin,"--yet to breathe

could begin one there,
begging were perception

's precise: one equaling one,
two fitting into the s.

Notice where plurality investigated by first rendering Pants singular, as if trying to order language and "perception/s" into someplace where one could begin; as if such a beginning held capability of containing a whole new whole. A preciseness that perceives "from a buried origin." The quotation marks are interesting in the way they suggest either the spoken voice of the narrator, or a voice heard-- as if fashioned by an other. The opportunity also exists that the quote is just that, an except of other written material? In any case, it is an interruption, a collage like intrusion, that multiplies the voices of the poem, that places a duality into the singularity of "The Pant." This insistence on complicating the notion of the singular, and thereby the plural, the fact that one is not presented without the other, that the two exist interconnected, patently unstable, each reverting to the other as a matter of course, revels the manner of thought which echoes throughout Jono Schneider's book.

In the poems "The Ring" p. 3 and the "The Cap" p. 4 the order of sense, and the making of order are a part of how I read Jono's work :

The Ring

"...made the hand and man"
(or "was no more the bore.")

made him, window on
aged water, waiter. Again,

until a space rung and filled
(he's not the place), in meant

spring, hand without hand:
All wall, none tended--


In "The Ring" "...the hand and man" are made-- as if the ring lends a level of gravity which, in turn, makes them. The next line "made him, window on / aged water, waiter". The presence of "aged water" appears as a flash of deep lyric, while the use of the "waiter"works like a tag, lifting the context of the line-- thereby balancing out the almost mythic implications of "aged water"; while "water" and "waiter" suggest each other, are alliterative, functioning as a signal of the happy accidents involved in poetic construction.

The Cap

The cap stuck to feather;
sized boatside as in winter

lettered, "I've not seen
this" passes between, it'd

parked cars, clothing
eloped to thinking's hand

signal, sights entwined--
the head had made items.

This sense of what is being made, and what makes what, is further examined in "The Cap." The last line of "The Cap" states that, "the head had made items." This cap, is perhaps a thinking cap that is both the head and the cap, as if they are in some fashion refashioned, married, "sights entwined." This sense of each "thing" somehow evoking the other is evident in the first line of the poem as well when the "cap" is "stuck to feather" as opposed to the usual expression, "Stick a feather in your cap." This reversal is evocative of Nietzsche's "On Truth and Lies in an Nonmoral Sense" which posits that a rock is not hard, what is meant is we are soft. This inability to pronounce any sort objective state for the rock is the new sense of "truth" extended in the third line, "I've not seen this," and we, the readers, ask just what has been seen? And therein start our own journey through our own room.

A line from "The Box" p.32, "Brume flecked/ over, or, spilled, seals." The desire I register to somehow say "spealled" when I see "spilled, seals." exemplifies the joy "In the Room" evokes, compacting thought and response into short and sometimes deceptive poems, whose wittily collaged four two line dramas move through the body to produce a sort of discombobulated honesty, a "...scream's semantic act." "The Blinds" p. 12

And yet, the work seems shy, as if revealing its story only upon interrogation, seemingly bent on tip-toeing through the living room and out the door, trying to escape the very room the poems propose to examine. The poems' musicality enables the nearly immediate disappearance of sense, and we are left with an after effect in which we search for the moment just past. The Mallarme quote at the beginning of the book captures this: "Not to paint the thing itself, but the effect it produces." "In The Room" also proposes its opposite: means, "Not to paint the effect itself, but the thing it produces."


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