Hamlet famously found himself ill at the numbers of poetry. These poems are no less ill at ease with the metrical or geometrical principles which constrain their movements, though freedom from maths is hard won. While Milne’s earlier poems have a reputation for opacity, the aphoristic prose poems which make up ‘Aftermaths’, the book’s concluding afterword, offer a blisteringly explicit account of the book’s arguments. Part of the resulting excitement of this new poetic book-form is the tension between the parts that make up the whole. Go Figure’s internal resonances thus combine extraordinary levels of refracted or playful poetic detail with direct challenges to the way life, art and society are currently constituted. Through the rubble of capitalism’s wars, fetishes and interior decorations, the book seeks figures for what comes after maths. Out of the poetics of everyday life, maths are found wanting, while fragments of a different, more speculative approach are put forward. A variety of mathematical masks, formulae and mysteries are exposed, but the biological tyranny of number-crunching is also found poisoning art and philosophy, from Pythagoras to Heisenberg, and from Achilles to the Beach Boys. Modern art, especially modern poetry, is haunted by the figure of Field Marshal Sir General Reader, the media’s universal strategist for inflicting war, viewing figures and sundry axes of nonsense upon the poetics of political dissonance. This figure is here banished along with the soldiers of the Holy Trinity. The stage is set for new figures to go forth and do something other than multiply.
‘How does anyone choose a utility supplier? Web-based mathematical engines will calculate the optimal payment plan, but their recommendations will not tally. So in day-to-day decisions we shut our eyes and play our pet systems, roulette-wheel mystics, finely adjusting and shrugging or invoking. Statistically I am sure to lose. Go Figure disarrays this contemporary order of being.
Because Drew Milne loves dialectics he can write a long poem sequence which keeps moving at every level. His poems can be both pretty and vehement, playful while exacting. How is this possible? Go Figure, Donald Rumsfeld might say. But Drew Milne’s poetry says, Come, we shall discover, and reanimates the contradictions whose mathematical expression has encased them in plastic or depleted uranium shells; reanimates them in the human beings provoked by this remarkable work. Surely that counts you?’ —John Wilkinson
‘Lyrical social critique becomes a plausible art in Drew Milne’s Go Figure, which gives us radical-informed iconoclastic arrays that are not so bitter as they are bittersweet. With regard ‘to the cut of the blundering currents / spelt out so each one speaks out of the wrong,’ Milne’s rhetoric displays a subtle, internalized argument that draws one to its cause.’ —Marjorie Welish
‘Original writing must always reinvent its own form if it is not to be part of a genre. Language is used against the grain, words allowed once again to do what they have to do in the circumstances. Milne sometimes summons up a diction from early English, rather as Helen Macdonald does, and the effect is an energising one which echoes the excitement of experimentation from an age when the language was new and wild and felt more malleable. Milne’s poems shut nothing down and in this they are truly written for the reader and the world, “spangle-toed and smoke akimbo”. Beyond mathematics and geometric form in art lies “the spirit of recognition. Wisdom sees that justice is more than the sum of sentences and compensation packages: judgment is an art, not mathematical juggling.” That art, a political art, an intuitive poetry, is what we find between the covers of ‘Go Figure’.’ —Edmund Hardy
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