I intended to write this blog post as a way of talking about cable drama’s debt to opera, a subject covered in today’s Hazlitt:
“In The Rake’s Progress, by Stravinsky and W.H. Auden, Tom Rakewell finds a magic machine that will feed the masses by turning stones into bread. Only when he tries to sell his machine does he discover it’s all a sham. Give Tom a suit and a scotch and he’s Don Draper.”
But I got distracted by “In The Rake’s Progress,” which I didn’t know anything about until today. I am so intrigued by that bread/stone image. Lots of symbolic registers here but I especially like the idea of a bread-to-stone conversion because it’s a match cut, which is “a cut in film editing between either two different objects, two different spaces, or two different compositions in which an object in the two shots graphically match” (Wikipedia).
In undergrad I once wrote a paper about match cuts in the work of Myung Mi Kim. I don’t know if I did a shitty job or if my professor just wasn’t feeling it but that paper…did not go over well… I wonder if there is resistance in the established critical community to film theory terms? TL;DR I can’t stop thinking about match cuts. Here are a couple relevant excerpts from that paper:
Joseph Jeon argues that Kim’s poetry – Jeon refers primarily to Under Flag (1991) as well as Commons – is an ongoing project of translation and transliteration. According to Jeon, Kim’s poetry is a performance of second language:
[T]he mouth of the native Korean speaker, with all its awkwardness in speaking English, becomes the basis for the work of bridging the poem undertakes through its style. As a social project, the poem [“And Sing We,” in Under Flag] perhaps lacks distinctiveness; in many ways, it typifies the repeated theme of bridging and resolving conflicting identity in Asian American literature. What is more distinctive, however, is the poem’s expenditure of imaginative energy in its attempt to re-imagine English as if it were Hangul and Hangul as if it were English.
My interest is in the actual poetry-technologies by which Myung Mi Kim “re-imagine”s language in order to simulate the process of translation. Toward this end I will be looking specifically at the first image-complex in one of Kim’s untitled poems in Commons, found between poems 229 & 311 in the subsection “Lamenta”:
Give ear to the quarrels of the marketplace
When the wheel (A) was turned, the gate (B) was raised, thus allowing water to flow from (C) to (D), giving clearance for the ship to pass beneath
lever . girt
Kim also employs (mis)translation through a series of imagistic translations. By “imagistic translations” I mean to refer to objects in a poem that legibly morphologically warp. So for example, a cup turning into a bag of bones wouldn’t qualify, but a cup turning into a bucket or a tube – something geometrically or morphologically intimate to the original object, would. This is an inexact process, of course, and it isn’t my goal to find a definite point at which one object is only one or two degrees away morphologically from another. Still, this kind of translation hinges on some sort of evolution, much like the slight morphological progressions from ape to man.
Kim’s poem translates both intra- and inter-imagistically. For example, within a single image—say, the image of a ship passing beneath a gate in the second ‘stanza’ of the poem—a wheel (circle) becomes a gate (rectangle), two shapes which are not equivalent but easily morphologically linked. Their motions are also related, as a rising gate moves vertically while a wheel is turned by pushing vertically and horizontally: a translation in motion that is once again just slightly off. Kim encourages us to relate the two shapes through her grammar, in which both figures are the direct objects of passive past tense clauses, summarized by parenthetical letter-variables and causally joined. Similarly, a lever abstractly apes a turnt wheel by bobbing vertically. On the intra-imagistic level, one can imagine that each of the first three lines of the poem describes the same image from a different stance. Narritively, the wheel turning to open the gate is one of the quarrels of the marketplace seeking to regulate commerce. But the graphic register also exists: a wheel turns, the force is up and forward; a lever pushes up, a river pushes forward.
In other words: turning wheels are graphically matched to raised gates and bobbing levers. And this graphic match is a kind of imagistic (not verbal or phonetic) translation, the latter of which is an established project of Myung Mi Kim.
Match cuts in poetry: they are a thing! Why there are so many books talking about alliteration and assonance but nothing about match cuts is beyond me.