ON THE SHRIMP IN EVERY (AND ALL IN A) STATE by Francis Ponge

On the Shrimp Poems

ON THE SHRIMP IN EVERY (AND ALL IN A) STATE

You mustn’t take notes on Ponge. I have tried and failed. Notes on Ponge are like notes of notes. It is already in front of you, these notes.

It is on the page and ordered. It is a list-like sentence that flows the way that your own notes flow.

By flow, I mean: tour.

Just as this sentence:

“Arched like a refined little finger, vial, translucent knick-knack, capricious vessel not unlike the capricorn beetle, vitreous chassis equipped with hypersensitive overanxious antennae, banquet hall, hall of mirrors, sanatorium, elevator–arched, cowering, glass-bellied, robed with a train ending in hairy paddles or coattails–he moves by jumps.” – THE SHRIMP IN EVERY (AND ALL IN A) STATE

This is the “monster of circumspection.” Yes it is purdent. Yes Ponge is pointing at a thing and is going into that thing and then, he is acting inside that vessel like the vessel itself. Of course it moves by jumps.

Ponge encompasses the shrimp. But without using himself as a vehicle for encompassing. No he uses something else, perhaps the action of encompassing, in order to know and reveal a thing.

As for his sensibilities, there’s plenty. For instance he privileges the shrimp over the fish. Why? Because the fish is too smooth, like the water is smooth, and slides into its home (water) without getting caught in the net.

Ponge’s repetition is not about reinforcement. The “refined little finger” becomes “softer than a fingernail.” These are two entirely different functions of the same thing (finger). Ponge is much more interested inincluding things. (Note: Neruda the Collector of Fine Things)

Said better, a thing retains thingness while being a multiplicity.

When a shrimp is compared to a knight:

  • story emerges (skepticism) and almost immediately degenerates into knightly accoutrements
  • this becomes a segway into another metaphor (a chandelier), which is metamymic of the knightly accoutrements,
  • as a way of improving on the idea of knight, not shrimp

Then the charting Ponge creates for the shrimp. A kind of spreadsheat of characteristics. But these characteristics are not ‘as is.’ Like the line:

“Second: quality. It is translucent” – THE SHRIMP IN EVERY (AND ALL IN A) STATE

Because this is a physical attribute of the shrimp, of the spreadsheet being writting, and recalls the writers utmost desire to relatetransparently (as opposed to apparently).

The thing under Ponge’s watch is also doomed because of it’s own careful watch. For the shrimp, the “organs of circumspection lead to its doom.” The shrimp is the knight, but only insofar as we know the limitations to which it is or is not anything.

Ponge Joke (!):

“The sprimp looks like certain harmless optical illusions in the form of dashes, commas, other equally simple signs–and jumps around not dissimilarly.”

As you can see (read), My Friend is not without humor. The humor is inimately connected to the work–the fillamentsof description. Laughter is the air that sounds like a fart through those fleshy fillaments.

The question of whether the shrimp is happier than other crustaceans requires a thorough redo of the entire description (with slight variation) in order to get to the jumping (this time on a three-dimensional (game) chessboard). The little nuainces of description change ever so slightly, suggesting an unwillingness to escapse the original (albeit correct) formulations of a shrimp. Ponge here, is reveals what makes the shrimp a “monster of circumspection:” because:

“it’s escapes are not very far; its habits condemn it rigidly to this or that rock hollow” – THE SHRIMP IN EVERY (AND ALL IN A) STATE

It is picky and soft. It is finally thrown away in an emotional plea:

“What vague impulse makes you lease these shores, carried off by the sea amid waves that ceaselessly and pitilessly contradict each other?” – THE SHRIMP IN EVERY (AND ALL IN A) STATE

Happy? asked Mon Ponge. Happy?

In the veiw of who, perhaps, is something happy? The name Don Quixote says this.

And Ponge is the man looking, not looked at. He is describing what it is to see. What it is to interact. What is it to see shrimp

“related to the kind of harmless optical illusions that are caused in man by fever, hunger, and simply fatigue.” – THE SHRIMP IN EVERY (AND ALL IN A) STATE

To end an epic description with an epic song:

“Nothing more expert, nothing more discreet.

A hunted god entered the seas.
A sunken galley evolved.

From the meeting of these two disasters
A beast was born, forever circumspect;

The shrimp is that monster
of circumspection.”
– THE SHRIMP IN EVERY (AND ALL IN A) STATE

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