Doris Cross - Maker


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Introduction to Kaldron 16

how many times has the equation "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" reached your eyes or ears? Cross' treatment of dictionary columns and her search within them for found words has added another factor to the equation/subtraction. in the purer minimal columns the spaces devoted totally to the science of meaning, to the repeatable act of definition, are negated in the pursuit of the unique, the unrepeatable act. this is only one of the many tensions complexly woven by this maker waving a wand tuned to a negative capability, of taking from an arena of so-called certainly, turning phrases, words, letters and their parts into clues, hints of the greater mysteries and uncertainties we all face. Cross has taken a book, which from various points of view can be looked upon as having nouned verbs to death, to object, and breathed new life into its dead leaves. Cross as life giver is related to the summerian and egyptian goddesses of writing who scribed the deeds of the dead upon the leaves of the tree of life.

these columns can be seen as merely a segment of the avant gardes' use of language as subject matter. each column but an art and/or literary object referring back in/on itself, a closed system. however, Cross is not interested in such selfserving endeavors. there exist too many intangibles, poetic and artistic gestures, implications, highly charged energies radiating from the language and its new contexts, all of which add up differently from each reader/viewer individual inferences as if her body of work were an oracle, each column an icon. moreover, when reading her columns become chants due to the small and large silences formed by either or by both addition and subtraction, immediate silences, word dictionary noise - auditory and visual - altered/erased.

for me the work vertically plunges to the first roots of visual poetry, which are also nourished by the some soil as poetry: magic and religion. generally, any discussion concerning the origins of visual poetry focuses on pictographs and hieroglyphs while failing to examine the myths featuring the invention of writing, particularly matriarchal origins. also ignored is that as poetry evolved from magical chants, visual poetry evolved from the patterning of spells on charms and amulets, which in turn were derived from knots tied with spells. in one sense, then, the visual poem has always been an object and its test has always been its power to invoke awe, wonder. indeed the columns by Cross invoke wonder and awe, which are the highly vibrating aspects of her verticle reach. the awe begins immediately while viewing, scanning with the eye, then by reading, listening with the ear, then the blending as one learns the language of site and sound, sound and silence, visual image and word image, language as a visually sensual pleasure in itself, the visual image becoming its word, object turned word turned thing come alive by sound.

this maker is not only freeing letters, words and phrases from confining scientific lexiconed rules, not only letting them out onto a playground to form new combinations and possibilities which spins the ball of old dictionary logic off like an electron jumping orbit to make light. oh no. she like other visual poets teaches new ways, of approaching our mother tongue; these are the new spells cast to destroy the patterns language shapes thought by/with. she breaks the old frozen webs begun in 18th century dictionaries, and though she hands these found words freedom it is not an absolute extremism not a nihilistic act, which could easily lead to a narcissistic abstraction, but a freedom with far fewer constraints enabling the visual poem to strike a universal chord that vibrates in each of us during and after the encounter with her making.

-karl kempton

Begin turning the cyber pages of Doris Cross's Books


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