Question beneath the Questioning?

I am working through my own odd reasoning here, but I was also thinking along with Mary-Kate about the concept of questioning in The Cosmopolitan along with Donna Stonecipher’s claims about “(mostly) autonomous inlays” and just wondering what I could say about the general direction of the project. I attach to much of what Donna Stonecipher writes without understanding the “why.” I expect this has a lot to do with the questioning and incomplete response so that when I start to feel grounded I am suddenly in another place, the motion of traveling. This works structurally with the concept of place and “the cosmopolitan.” I see many turns in each Inlay. The more I think about questions the more I feel Donna Stonecipher’s structure is beneath the questioning, or perhaps the turn is beneath the questioning. Inlay 2 opens with “If only our troubles were” which introduces the “what if” questioning. The questioning and half-statements continue into the fourth section. Each sections links into the next as “tenacity” turns to “You keep doing it” and Cleopatra’s boat links to aristocratic scenes which in turn develops the idea of a profligate sky. After the fourth section, Stonecipher introduces “the voluntary exile:”

“The voluntary exile dreamed of the clouds that form over her native city.”

without the “if only” preface the other characters received. I feel now that the shift/turn occurs in the question we ask off the page. What if our problems were those of the voluntary exile?
The concept of a voluntary exile complicates the idea of “the cosmopolitan” and home, the “native city.” I don’t want to go too far off from the question of the turn, but this thread of location is challenging. The turn I see in the introduction of the “voluntary exile” is a complication of her overarching proposals of place—building, occupation, towns, class. Stonecipher seems to question the concept of home being multiple places with the narrative of the voluntary exile’s adopted city where she has no desire to know all the kinds of birds. That is how the poem concludes.

The direction of the poem after section five (the voluntary exile) focuses more on citizenship and volition. “I’d look like a Spaniard, fuck like a Serb, and make money hand over fist like an American” said the cosmopolitan sitting in Hong Kong drinking a caipirinha.” Develops the idea of choosing nationality or not choosing, do we have a choice? After this turn, stanzas are linked through the ideas of limitations necessities. Things we cannot accomplish: “the fact of more pleasure in the body cannot.” Things we need: “the citizens need the architect? Yes.” Donna Steoncipher continues this questioning on limitations to the end where the final image presents the “lost.” “The voluntary exile never learned the names of the birds in her adopted city. Each bird was a foreigner, flitting through the trees and singing a beautiful mysterious song she hadn’t the remotest desire to comprehend.”

The complication I see as her method is a great tool especially because there is an element of defiance that works well for extended arguments/discussions. The transformation of the line of questioning brings the poem to a different place, but is not a negation. I don’t know if I could use this tactic. I don’t think I understand the tool with enough clarity right now. I do like the idea of posing a shift as a question the reader is forced to ask, but not necessarily posed in print. I suppose I see it as a way to take something like a questioning structure or turn and push it one step further. I would like to use that method of digging/pushing beyond if not Stonecipher’s actual progression.

One Response to “Question beneath the Questioning?”

  1. I definitely think the questioning Stonecipher utilizes is a means of her shifting and turning the poem in various directions. For me, the questioning whether answered or not guides the reader through Stonecipher’s natural thought process. At first, the questioning seems very demanding and the shifts are really confusing. At the same time, I really like the demand this puts on the reader. I feel like Stonecipher really wants the reader to work to try and understand why two things go together and what connection they have between each other. That too helps to bridge beyond simply throwing random questions into the mix. And I find myself enjoying the feeling more and more of being “grounded” and then shifting to “another place” as you mentioned.

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