Skip to main content

G. C. Waldrep

Larkin by Inflection: Primes & Fibonacci

As per Larkin’s introduction to Give Forest Its Next Portent (2014): “The ‘inflection point’ on a branch is where the direction of curve outwards changes to the direction of curve upwards.” And so, by Larkin’s logic, “‘inflection’ in these texts has a more speculative association, not so much with permanent deformation, as with the trails of brushwood matting which surround trees or edge out beyond their line….Now tree becomes the agent for which branch appears the source and brush is the locus.”

The text is a locus for divination—bibliomancy—is one of the oldest means of reading humans have devised, even if it has fallen into critical disrepute in recent centuries. But if the forest can be read as Larkin demonstrates, as a mediating field between pure mathematics and the apprehensive (human) eye, surely a text can too? And by “text” I mean the physical fact of the text, which Larkin continues to produce precisely in terms of paper, the object, the thing, the book as layerings of wood, as fissile, fossilized forest within and upon which language imbricates.

As in the forest, within the constraints of soil, light, water, and the interpenetration of media and species, the physical fact of the book dictates certain structural (as well as rhetorical) leaps and deferrals. To read a Larkin text, in book form, reading must take this physicality, this array of leaps and deferrals that evolve their inflection from structure, into account.

I chose to deploy a series of basic, if extended, counting exercises on the pagination and (within the page field) word order of Give Forest, using the prime and Fibonacci sequences as my guides, marking every page and word whose number corresponds to an entry in either sequence (red for primes, blue for Fibonacci). (See “phyllotaxis” for the Fibonacci sequence’s relation to the arrangement of plant leaves on a stem, the scales of pine cones, the spirals of sunflower kernels, etc.) One aspect of Larkin’s practice these operations immediately foregrounded is his use of prepositions: indeed, the prepositional aspect of his entire oeuvre, of apposition as lyric gesture. I began to work from prepositions within the marked fields of text (in green).

The appended document represents one way of “reading” the results of these investigations. Emending the text by isolating word number 144 on pages of prime or Fibonacci significance results in a new set of verbal inflection points: “the quandary funnel,” which is “outspread” and operates as a “giftway for itself”; the swallowing union (or the swallowing of union: conventophagy, as it were); the vertical community; “exposure creep”; the tree as a stasis of non-exile from “is,” that is, from the humano-centric as encased within its copula. Surely a giftway is warranted, even at this late date? “A / breach / leaves / to // prayer / latent / to.”

Fibonacci/prime array: 144:

11 Given brushwood isn’t for the perfectly meta-
13 Any exhausted root to slung, but of off
17 brushwood a new to horizon had outspread
19 No longer such, but of upon the
21 the random circulation, traumatic, same of quandary
23 prolong any switch, exposure as co-fisted funnel
29 overlay rootless when post-is flies gift
31 forest foreland requires brushwood, assartic in way
34 wastage subject to bandage of by for
37 For some months had outjut since exposed itself
41 sounding out the at shelf spenders swallowed
43 cavity implosive wills girdling, disclosed dissent union
47 tree core is elongation of logic well
53 to exposure by an, verticals the
55 ontological outage is at a presence exposure
61 How to stretch falling, layering, remit creep
67 The fit’s frame, not of, but
71 blowing scales over field as addition
73 slight embeddings put on in
79 membrane bought off as common we
83 Prelude: looming the under, stock arch tree
89 To be in, under empty pollen non-exile
97 Rootal curve: every aperture stretch hollow from
101 double leader drop as and of its is
103 [title page]
107 quarry extraction—pit scrape—may a off
109 What trees are is/similar/of with
113 But here is here, along but spine
127 Natural resources freed from immediate are is
131 A co-salience of hollow that done community
137 Any roundness of transmits, a but minimal vertical
139 [title page]
144 very resin of is bounce sublucence a
149 these extreme lintels surface, prolong roller breach
151 insular but leafed onto, as the leaves
157 the obstructive sower an, tested serries to
163 firs in faith angularity. Firs not
167 radial in its out, clean, handier
173 out of conifer, of across the
179 Poverty in the and tracery only prayer
181 Shade no denser, the have without latent
191 The huddle of is latitude (any) to
193 unshorn by any of, leanest