Michael Rowland’s Infinity in Bits joins Equus Press’ formidable list of books that pose the question, HOW DOES ONE READ THIS?
As 272 pages of fragments upon fragments? As a vast textual collage of more and less incoherent micro-narratives? As 78 ekphrases on the paintings/drawings included therein? As 78 illustrations competing with the texts containing them?
Additionally, the other set of questions Infinity in Bits poses have to do with genre: are these poems in prose or prosaic poems? Is the infinity these bits create larger than the sum of its parts, or is it to be found contained in them? Also, how is this a book of the tarot if its very motto claims that “to write a book about the tarot is like trying to empty the sea with a fork” (quoth Marianne Costa on p. 6)?
As always, the question of reading harks back to etymology. And it seems appropriate that in English “to read” comes from the Germanic root “rede” meaning “to advise” and “to interpret”, or un-“riddle” if you will. We read—whether this book, the tarot, or the world around us—in order to unriddle, demystify, to create meaning and attempt an understanding.
It also seems appropriate that in the Prague lingo so often evoked in this text–just as in many other Slavic languages–the verb for reading “číst“ is related to “(po)čítat,“ i.e. to “count”, to add one letter to the next, one word to another. To read in Czech is to traverse an infinity of a text in the little bits it comes to us.
Just as Beckett, Eliot & Joyce—the three modernist masters it constantly evokes—Infinity in Bits invites the reader to take its bits and to build their own creative infinities on their basis. Whether as a prosaic whole or a loose series of poetic fragments, whether as descriptions of visual or illustrations of the textual, whether as intellectual diary of its author or mystic divination of the future: the choice, dear reader, is all yours. As the finale states, “put your faith in eternal doubt and scissors and fresh fruits and dentists” (p. 270).
Prague, 18 Nov, 2021
You got me mixed up with someone who thinks he knows who he is.
So oh no you don’t, you hold on there, MissMister! You got hands where your knees should be and ears where your feet are, and your words are all sun–blistered. And I’m not in love, I’m not in anything.
Betty Page kicked us out of her yard party and so here you find me slowing down to pick up my pace and lunge. Lunged.
Your soft laugh won’t make me grow none. I am one, and I am alone, which negates the one and leaves me none until your teeth fall out with age and the light you light on them’s done gone.
You got him mixed up with me and her mixed up with him.
You oughta be more careful where you shake that stick, my friend.
The answer is you. You are more the fool. Always. Don’t even doubt it.
Betty’s was a blast, but she expected too much from this gadfly and his blue–faced pet.
“Who you calling pet, kimosabe?”
“You, you fool.”
We are both being followed. Still. By my Thunderbird. By my broad– winged eagle spirit.
It is I, up there and down here, and that is why we are leaving, my friend.
“Mat, man, sister, babe, brother! I don’t know what you are talking about half the time.”
“I apologise. You, you are my better half. Never stop talking to me. I need you now more than ever before. And there have been many befores before this. So where do we go?”
April 30th, Čarodějnice, Holešovice, Prague – for example.
Where we can all see in the dark.
The universal superpower revealed.
The ‘Nothing’ destroyed the instant it was created.
And the only explanation we can find?
And it’s as daft as a bleach enema.
2020 visionaries plagiarising nature’s cryptic algorithms.
One by one,
Get one free.
The sun–dried lectures and Caiparhinas on me!
That should keep us going till 3033.
“Excuse me, miss, do you feel patriotic?”
Do I feel what?!
What do I even look like to you? You painted, plaited, forty–coated, hominid.
– We act not for ourselves but for all mankind.
– Life isn’t about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself.
– I took all the money I had and paid for everything out of my own pocket.
– I didn’t get where I am today…
Nobody’s got anything to say on the matter of saying things that matter if they’s depending on the presumption that words matter!
A fucking patriot!! I’ll give you patriot!
Hey! I’m a big man and I know what I want.
I’ve got a big guitar and I know what I want.
I’ve written this thing for our country. A new national anthem.
The crescendo of the song is a masturbating Mobius Strip that murders all the snowflakes who don’t sing along. The genre? Rapey jazz. The Purpose?
Unite and divide.
The wide blue laptop screens and hard naked totems
reminiscent of Walpurgis Nacht and the stygian witches’ promise to make the infinite visible.
It’s a myth that the government looks out for you.
It’s a myth that art has meaning.
It’s a myth that eating carrots helps you see in the dark.
And it’s a myth that joy has a ceiling.
I’m proud to have all my own teeth and I’m proud to be able to live on my own without fearing the on–come of inevitable insanity, and proud also to be welcoming blackness with a squirrel’s strong arms.
Can a rabbit look in a squirrel’s eyes and say, “I forgive you all of your differences. I respect your culture and your burrowing and the speed with which you cover incredible long grassy distances”?
You know it’s called ‘Having a squirrel’ when you have a monkey on your back? Everyone should wear a mask. The truth comes out when you know you can hiiiiide from the rodent insiiiiide.
Kinoscope collages. Tyko’s special knowledge of the underworld and Louis’ penchants and Jaromír’s trenches and Marko’s bulbs watered like a circus.
Pete Seeger pulled his pants on and stared at the TV.
Who’s this fella they’s all talkin about? Seems he’s got all kindsa people riled.
And I’m dead and my songs meant nuthin’ and the world is unsavable?!
But I have 20–20 vision and I am looking at Future Pete. And Future Pete is only three minutes into his story, and he doesn’t know where he got this clear sight from…
Whether it’s from World War 2, Vitamin A,
Or his openness to considering that he might be gay,
Or his freedom to plan how he’d do himself in,
Or his spread–legged gait from all that folksy, witchy sin.
Two more bottles might not be enough
And we really should consider our weight
But the comfort food is comforting
And the beer’s an anaesthetic
And the fear is magnetic
And everything is irrelevant in the face of what we’re dealing with on a day-to-day Ginsberg.
A young skinny Ginsberg.
Got his eyes on the prize Ginsberg.
Fuck all that old poetry and Ginsberg.
Ginsberg was never skinny,
Not even when he was born
Which was daily,
Reading the Kaddish to a bingo room full of oldies and curtained, plaid vaginas.
Maybe we will see you once–again–forever.
And the takeaway from all this?
I don’t want it ever to end.
Long live the never ending.
Long live the infinite.
Long live the all-seeing