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The Defective Record

Cut the bank for the fill.
Dump sand
pumped out of the river
into the old swale

killing whatever was
there before--including
even the muskrats. Who did it?
There's the guy.

Him in the blue shirt and
turquoise skullcap.
Level it down
for him to build a house

on to build a
house on to build a house on
to build a house
on to build a house on to . . .


William Carlos Williams
from The Complete Collected Poems 1906-1938, 1938


Some interesting business. One of the first instances of self-reference I can place. It does not reference another poem; the poem itself refers to itself, to its title. It takes the action defined by the title; it skips, it is defective.

Is the poem then defective? No. The poem is deft and skilled.

What is the reason for this skip? It is to imitate an action which we who know the action of a record, of a turntable and a needle against physical disc, recognize. We understand this skip. Jump back and repeat repeat repeat.

In thirty years, who will know this sound? Who still will own a player or any vinyl? Yes, vinyl is now a trendy thing, a thing to collect, to compare. How long will it last? This is no longer the dominant media.

This is the sound. This is the speech in result.

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