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Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Irreducible Uncertainty of Poetics in Hedge Fund Certainty: Thomas Fink

Thomas Fink. Hedge Fund Certainty. Meritage Press and I.E. Press. 2019.  ISBN: 978-1-934299-14-2

The beauty of poetics is its irreducible uncertainty.  The meanings are unmoored, allowing the reader to do what she / he would like. They can attempt to lash meanings to a limited number of options which may prove satisfying for some (especially those who consider the interpretive enterprise as a kind of exegesis). 

However, the real joy of discovery engaging in a sense of play.  The process involves observing the words, the structure, the syntax, and arrangement on the page and then embracing all the possibilities as they come to mind. 

A hedge fund is probably as far from certainty as one could imagine, so Fink’s play on the idea of certainty gives rise to ideas of gaming the system to have a positive outcome. The collection begins with “Yinglish Strophes.” All are in English, but with Yiddish syntax and arrangement, line breaks, and subjects that create an intense sense of place and of character. The words trigger a deep sense of nostalgia and loss: .. “Never later / was I back Russia the same once” (Yinglish Strophes 25). 

It is delightful to see the long poem, “Subprime Mortgage Bargain Lot” series. The title alone is amusing, because most readers will see that this has everything to do with rolling the dice and losing, seeing something you thought you possessed, whether it be the meaning of numbers on a page, or your ability to agree on a value with other readers. 

Hedge Fund Certainty evokes Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés Jamais n’abolira le hasard (1897). Translated to “A throw of the dice will never abolish hazards (or risk)” Mallarmé created a concrete / visual poetry notable for the aleatory aspects of the word choice, and the open arrangement on the page. 

Likewise “Subprime Mortgage Bargain Lot” is seemingly aleatory, and it gives you the choice to read the words in clusters or straight across the page.  Further, the words break in unusual places and words interject themselves.  The result is a vertiginous race to the bottom of each page. It is a thoroughgoing condemnation of greed and the brutalization of humanity as wholesale wealth redistribution occurs: “Out with / your ragid / daydreaming / that costs / & costs / the hard / working” (from “Subprime Mortgage Bargain Lot 16). 

The collection ends with “Prohibitionism,” which proclaims a message of hope: a telethon for poetry, that would suggestion unity, but the arrangement on the page denotes separation into opposing clusters of words (or camps), although the last line suggests a coming together: “walls / curve  toward  one  another.”  

-- Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

susan smith nash, ph.d.

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