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Infusing with J H Prynne.

I'm writing this from the world's first undeveloping country in which bigotry and intolerance has just been adopted as the cultural norm and economic failure is about to ensue. The trigger for this is our decision to leave the EU. I happen to be in favour of the EU project because I recognise that notions of national sovereignty are Bad Things. At the other end of the single market there is Greece which, until last Friday, remained the major threat to collective solidarity.

This is a brief bit of framing to announce that I think I've come across a Grexit poem in Prynne's Al - Dente collection of 2014 and intend here to attend to what it might have to say. I think it's reasonable to propose that this collection makes, for me at least, a welcome return to the glorious aridity of Streak~Willing~Entourage~Artesian. This is Infusion:.


This mercy will replace to them near first
exactly, as taken from clear at new payment
tacit doesn't reduce the few. Natural as due
not meaning to align song even reverted by
fixity, grant is yours.

                       Is description as
assert this brand get into advancement offer
agree to credit, must agree even so offset
along the close margin, is yours.

                                    Watching
is the site when agreed to break outward pass
claimed in front by either filter, in promise
adept cede a pledged condition willing to
give prominence flat-long fall. Walk over
quickly is yours.

                    However and so far, as or
will accept without presume limit, or foremost
latitude, will discover to steady if brilliant
sky gets easily by admit from iron former melted
intermit. Will line for, is yours.

                                         Does this
scrape or grate whenever veering to harbour
a fusion incline yet to feel redress faction,
in link acceptance, grant is yours.

                                         Be given
is yours, grant for this, is so quickly to be
is too and for, is yours.

Prynne has spoken about the presence of 'sense corridors' in his work and a quite radical (extreme) ambiguity has been a feature of all his work. Here the corridor seems to relate to things economic. I'll start here with the first verse:

This mercy will replace to them near first / exactly...

The Eurozone crisis was triggered by the economic problems of Portugal, Ireland and Greece. The first two fairly quickly agreed to a 'bailout' package tied to much reduced public spending and structural reforms- a cover term for robbing the lower paid of their already diminished rights. Greece however was different because of the scale of its debt. The powers that be were keen in this instance to demand fiscal and labour 'reforms' in return for some help with the national debt. The Greeks have responded by electing a Marxian government who stood on a platform of rejection. The deal' has now been reached and the next crisis delayed until these reforms turn out to have an entirely negative effect on the national economy.

So, starting with 'mercy', this implies forgiveness and in this context might refer to the foregivness of debtor whereby creditors agree a reduced payment rather than pushing a country towards defaulting on the whole amount. However, there's also being in mercy which refers to the state of 'being liable to a fine', and, as a verb, to impose a fine. For the moment, we'll glide elegantly over 'will' to attend to 'replace' which might also refer to several things at once.

The obvious meaning is to either to put a substitute in the place of an object, usually to perform the same function. This usually, but not always, refers to an object that is either past its best or no longer doing the thing for which it was designed. For example, I'd replace a broken light bulb as I would a worn tyre, a head of government may replace a minister who is not up to the job. There's also the possibility that this is some thing regarding place (re-place) or shorthand for a replacement object.

In this particular game of central banks and those judged to have been fatally profligate, there are those entities which are deemed to be 'too big to fail' and thus need to be propped up by the state. In the case of the three countries heading for default, the main worry was not so much about economics per se but the very real fear that failure to reach agreement would force these countries out of the Eurozone which, in turn, would threaten its existence and the crisis would spread to Italy and Spain.

Perceived bad behaviour however could not be seen to be rewarded, so the conditions had to be stringent / punitive in each case.

I would thus suggest, tentatively and provisionally, that this has to do with the conditions attached to bailing out these three, all of which would seem to fit with the various definitions referred to above.

I'm taking 'near' to refer, mainly to both Ireland and Portugal who were subjugated quite quickly. As well as being geographically closer than Greece, both countries were in much less debt and thus closer to balancing their books. The OED also tells me that the adjective denotes a " commodity future or option contract: that matures in the near future", as I recall one of the many problems with the Greek economy related to looming interest payments and the like that the government couldn't pay. If we're taking 'near' to refer to the left side of something, then both Dublin and Lisbon are to the left of Brussels map-wise.

I was going to leave it there but the big dictionary tells me that the adjective also means niggardly, stingy and mean which just about sums up the attitude of the German government, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary fund (aka The Prefects). To further ambiguate matters, there is the 'near thing' At the various heights of the crisis media pundits were falling over themselves to spell out the dangers of a Greek default, its exit from the Eurozone, the EU and 'contagion' to Spain and Italy which would break up the EU. Each hurdle that was scraped over was portrayed as a very 'near thing' indeed.

I'm also bearing in mind the verb which might indicate, as might the title, the view that there needs to be closer political ties for the Eurozone to stand any chance of working as intended.

Exactly is precisely, describes something that is absolutely correct, in conversation it's also an affirmation of what someone has said is accurate. Looking out for an economic angle, there is the description of those people or individuals that " requires or is disposed to require too great advantages, exertions, or sacrifices" or or which demands excessive payment, is extortionate etc. I'd also suggest that it gestures towards 'exacting' as in describing a command or requirement to do something which is difficult or arduous to undertake.

In terms of the Greek kerfuffle, it was and is suggested that the Greek government had told fibs about the state of its finances when it submitted figures to support its application to join the Eurozone.

The petard upon which everyone seemed to be hoist resolved around this idea of a punitive, exacting rescue that was very popular with the German population but so antagonised the Greeks that they elected a fledgling Marxian party on a platform of anti-austerity and an outright rejection of the terms offered.

...as taken from clear at new payment / tacit doesn't reduce the few....

Payment is fairly straightforward if we ignore all the permutations provided by 'pay'. A payment is an act of giving something, usually money, in return for goods or services. It also refers to the sealing or caulking of a ship to prevent the ingress of water. The pay variations add these possibilities, it can be to:

I'm not going to make a choice from these but the idea of giving money, of getting revenge, reneging on a debt and loosening tethers may well need to be borne in mind as we progress.

This is by way of a brief digression on two different ways, amongst many, of thinking about ambiguity in The Poem. The first way is the one that seems to be deployed by Paul Celan who explained the extreme ambiguity of some of his work as reflecting the many different aspects of the same thing(s) in the world that he saw and experienced around him. Being someone who is naturally suspicious of definite statements, I'm inclined to go along with this because it does seem that what we think of as reality is actually quite indistinct and mobile. On the other hand, what Prynne seems to be doing her is setting up a number of inherent contradictions as a way of coming to a definitive conclusion. For example, there's an inherent contradiction in the respective views of the Greek and German populations which need to be reconciled and this notion of a punitive rescue. I'm not so keen on this because to my small brain you can pick out any two elements from a situation and set up a contradiction in their relationship with each other.

We now go back a step to 'as taken from clear' which may indicate that clear is being used as a noun. The obvious sense here is as being 'in the clear' ie being free from suspicion, out of reach or otherwise unencumbered. There's also the idea of something being transparent, readily visible to the observer. Financial markets are especially fond of transparency because it gives them a much clearer idea of where to place their bets, a lack of clarity tends to raise suspicions and deter investors. The sky can be said to be clear and this may presage the 'steady if brilliant sky' which appears later on. To take from clarity is to reduce its transparency, to make things harder to see. It can be argued that both sides tried to play down their own electoral difficulties with a view to retaining the confidence of the markets and to arriving at a mutually bearable deal. Equally, in the natural world clear is a very positive quality signifying good health and vitality.

The OED lets me down on 'tacit', giving implied, inferred, not openly said, mute and silent. None of these give the additional element of the oblique and underhand that I want tacit to include along with 'implied'. I'm still going to claim it for no other reason than it deepens my reading and I can. Economics at the macro level and the business of very high finance is increasingly a game of smoke and mirrors where confidence is everything. It's also a global casino where punters can 'talk' a currency up or down. In part, the crisis had come about because the Greek economy was being talked down at the card table and this was making it more and more expensive for the Greek government to raise money in the 'open' market. So, I'd like 'oblique' alongside inferred especially with the multiple meanings of payment outlined above.

This multifaceted payment by stealth doesn't 'reduce' the 'few'. If we take the latter as 'not very many' then some candidates spring to mind. First we have the IMF, ECB, the French and German governments who were making joint and individual demands on the Greek government. Secondly we have the failure to reduce the amount of interest Greece was having and continues to pay for its debt. I readily accept that both of these are even more tenuous than usual but I'll leave them there for the moment.

Incidentally, I've just looked at some EU documents dealing with the crisis, what I hadn't realised was just how much micro-management was and is going on by these third parties. Obviously this adds to the entirely justifiable ire felt by the Greek people.

Natural as due / not meaning to align song.

The next sentence appears to be equally full of potential money words (due, align, reverted fixity) but it starts with 'Natural' which is loaded in a different direction. It therefore might make sense to think about 'due at the same time. In everyday speech something that is natural is something that is innate, organic, fundamental and thus might also indicate something that is flawed. It also transpires that, as a noun, a natural can be, theologically speaking, a person who is " spiritually unenlightened; unregenerate; having a belief system or world view uninformed by revelation" and, philosophically speaking, a belief that is "derived entirely from experience of the natural world; arrived at by reason and observation rather than through revelation or enlightenment".

In these beleaguered times, ecologists across the planet promote the general idea that the natural is good and the synthetic or fabricated is bad, the debates about the best way to generate power spring to mind. I think we also might need to take into account the tendency of supermarket chains and food producers in the developed world to use the 'n' adjective far too broadly in order to improve sales.

There now follows a brief digression on the national character subtext. By this account, the German character is efficient, humourless, technically adept, anally retentive and arrogant whereas the Greek equivalent is inefficient, passionate, dramatic, technically inept and feckless. I think that we also need to throw into the mix the very real and entirely justifiable resentment felt by the Greeks stemming from the German invasion and occupation during the Second World War.

In terms of recent history, post-war Greece has seen a fierce and bloody civil war and a hardline (murderous) military junta whereas the stereotypical view Germany has been relatively stable, managing to reunite East and West whilst continuing to prosper.

Going back to things natural, the theological definition would seem to fit with rescuers having become enlightened by their embrace of neoliberal economics, the withering away of the state and rising inequality whereas these feckless Greeks are stubbornly clinging on to a much more humane model which protects rights and frowns upon the ravages of Capital.

With regard to 'due', there appear to be at least two readings. The first indicates the time a payment is to be made as in my next credit card payment is due on July 18th. However there's also 'dues' which is the charge for belonging to a group or club. As a lapsed leftie, I have been responsible for collecting these on behalf of a trade union and a political party. So, provisionally, it would seem that this can refer to the various deadlines for Greek bonds to be repaid and/or the financial constraints that need to be endured in order to retain Greece's membership of the Eurozone.

I'm now going to leap over the Gaping Chasm that may well be 'meaning' and land at this alignment malarkey. At first glance 'song' appeared to be incongruous in the extreme until I worked out with next to no help that we might be referring here to either song as a small amount, e.g. an item sold at a low price can be referred to as 'going for a song' or song as in a well worn and ongoing attitude or set of behaviours, it can be said that some politicians have been singing/playing the same old song for many years.

I'm taking 'alignment' as bringing something or someone into line with other things or bringing yourself into line. This can have negative, punitive connotations as well as neutral ones.

The two big but tired old songs here are a national economy that has a certain amount of state involvement and intervention, usually by means of nationalisation or having an equity stake in key companies and one where the state's main economic role is to enable the untrammelled workings of Capital with the minimal amount of oversight and regulation.

A song as a small amount of money might as well (this is a long shot) relate to the Greek need for cash relative to the resources of the ECB and IMF was (is) small. I'm not at all confident of this stab in the dark but will hold on to it until I've completed this initial reconnaissance.

The 'm' word carries more than a bagful of meanings (deliberate but weak) and many of these seem to appear relevant here. Most obviously we have:

I'm ignoring, mostly, aesthetics, theology and the murky meanderings of philosophy because I have a small brain and the above is more than enough to be going on with.

If, as I'm suggesting, 'not' indicates the negative aspect of one or more of the above then there appears to more of a fit with the Greek Problem. One of the panics on the part of this rescuing / punishing troika was that the Greek government would agree to the terms of the bailout(s) with no intention of fulfilling the associated conditions. As indicated above there was a determination to punish Greece so that other, larger, countries would be deterred to follow suit. There some justification for this anxiety, at the time Argentina appeared to be getting away with repeated use of the same ploy.

The second obvious possibility is something that is meaningless, without an underlying idea and/or essentially superficial. Since it achieved hegemony in the eighties, I've been of the view that neo-liberal economics are intellectually vacuous, especially the Greenspan view that free markets are the most efficient way of promoting economic growth and stability. Our politicians seem to have failed to grasp that the financial disaster of the late noughties disproved this particular idiocy in a Very Big Way. The result of this perpetuated meaninglessness is that inequality continues to grow, any notion of social justice is discarded and bankers continue to play dice with our lives.

End of short rant.

It is with some probably misguided self-satisfaction that I suggest that both of these have more than a little relevance to the alignment of song. A longer shot is un-meaning as in something unintentional or as an unforeseen outcome or accident. The intention underlying the formation of the Eurozone was to move the eu towards closer political ties and eventually towards some kind of federal entity. What wasn't intended was that there would be national financial crises that could threaten the existence of the EU, indeed it was assumed that a common currency would much reduce the risk of such crises occurring.

even reverted by / fixity, grant is yours.

Somewhere in the back of my brain there was this dim and flickering hunch that 'revert' might, as well as a turning back, might indicate something relating to do with money and that this may have entered my collation of ephemera via Dickens or Trollope. This may or may not have been the case but the OED gives me more than a few definitions that may be of some use here:

This boggling set of possibilities are by no means all of those definitions of the verb that might fit. I haven't included revert as a noun or adjective either and am stopping myself from glancing at 'reversion'.

Copying these out has given me another aspect of the crisis that I hadn't thought of before. This is the way in which the 'quality' media framed this stand off as a parent / child incident with Angela Merkel as the despairing but firm mum and the Greek leaders as stubborn and stroppy adolescents with Christine Lagarde as the slightly more benevolent aunt. As can be seen from the list, the verb can be applied to both parties, denoting the threat of a Greek return to a sovereignty outside of the EU. There's also the EU's desire for Greece to fall in line but also to pay for its past and current sins.

If 'even' relates to the verb then we could be thinking about the desire to resolve the crisis as smoothly and evenly as possible because the financial markets are not keen on things lurching from crisis to missed deadline and back again. It could also be in the more colloquial sense as in "Even though Greece had broken the rules, the EU still needed it inside the Eurozone". The verb can mean to balance a set of accounts and this was essentially what the troika wanted Greece to do- to reduce expenditure and raise taxes- regardless of the entirely negative effects on growth and employment.

The crisis continues to be aggravated by a degree of fixity on both sides. Those with the cash needing to see rapid 'reforms' in return for the cash so as to be seen to get the best possible deal whilst the Greeks wishing to be more gradual so as to avoid public unrest. There's also a proximity to a fixed or stable interest rate which might, tenuously and provisionally, be a further relevant ambiguity.

Finally we come to "grant is yours", I'm going to ignore the last two words as much as possible because that is the way that all the verses end and I'll need to attend to those before making any kind of guess. To grant is to give something, to agree to something or acknowledging something. All of these may be applicable to the reversion in most of its senses and the stand-off in general.

As ever with Prynne, this is subjective and provisional. I want this to be about the Greek crisis but previous experience has told me that the most apparent isn't always what might be going on. There are other possibilities, human biology being the most apparent at the moment, but I'll get back to that when I've finished with the Euro.

Most of Prynne's later work is said to be almost impenetrable, I like to think that I've shown that it isn't. It's tricky but, as with Sir G Hill, it rewards whatever attention you give it.