On Robert Mittenthal's "Diseconomy of Scale"..
Laynie Browne

Imagine a film in which you are a character, only you are not sure which one.  And then you "drove two cars back to the station."  In Mittenthal's "Diseconomy of Scale" you exist in many locations, filmic and otherwise, and you are called upon to interact with the text in order to avoid, "an image disease where one cannot recognize oneself." I'm compelled here to mention Charlie Kaufman's wonderful film, The Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, which explores memory as a means of natural transit,  place to hide, or a painful accumulation which must be deleted.  Diseconomy of Scale considers the absurd juxtapositions of "the clown of time turned black" and contemplates the results of perpetual forgetfulness, or memory as object for sale. 

     Hejinian writes in The Fatalist, ". . .institution is a form of obedience/ and contradicts what you say."  A rebel with too many causes will give one a headache, but the fluid maneuvering here loses the sort of mind which aches audibly, and replaces it with a mind running, and therefore warm to the ingredients of the moment, tinged with mourning but also stimulated by the motion of pondering such a baffling existence.

    The text proceeds associatively leaping in conversation with a voice unlocatable, yet absolutely authentic. Perhaps this is because the modern workplace is too much of sameness in terms of problems facing "Grotesques, the new irresistible - itself."  One project for the reader is to locate a position within the labyrinth of images constantly bombarding the conscious citizen, as if one were walking through a crowded city street.  The work is, along the same lines of thought, also quite interested in the question of waking.  Is one awake?  By whose definition?   Finding dark comedy where we are not is a means of locomotion.  Constantly plying, bargaining, and renaming are a means of ambulation through such questionable positions as one in power, one helpless.  You've entered a new maze of daily life, so listen "without satisfying our curiosity is the little boat/ in which we reached uncertainty."

    This work comments aptly upon signs of cultural decay, or lack of substance in what often stands in for wakefulness.  Details such as numbered articles of clothing: "(#26) parasitic white w/an adjunct collar" are juxtaposed with mocking reflective statements: "It's like. . . a designer village; or we're idiots at night."  Also well articulated are illustrations of lamentation, how systems separate, mishearings between ideation and application.  The daily news is a landscape useful in drawing a cutting image of what I'll call the current work predicament, where the poem begins, "A minor in money," and "Like any successful new technology, each poem must justify its existence."

Early on in the poem, just after an "Intermission" in which three raccoons cross the road- and you, the reader, are asked to insert your own joke, is the mention of Doug Nufer's novel, Never Again, in which, "we continuously say good-bye to words, now unusable."  In the novel, no word is used more than once.  This formal restraint seems a good metaphor for a disposable sense of purpose, or a project by project lifestyle.  In other words, we are asked not to invest in any act beyond the realm of its duration.  "Translation: you do what you don't want for so long you finally want it."  As consumers we throw away the immediate remains, upgrade, discontinue the past.  In part III Mittenthal writes, "History is this.  Not the same.  Which lesson undoes again.  So, forget you, forget everything you know.  In a minute, given that pause, never slept."

    I'm reminded of some striking statements in Beverly Dahlen's new chapbook A - READING SPICER & eighteen sonnets, in which she writes:

as if the world were not perfect at every moment if only
it weren't so stupid


the collapse of the necessary enemy mirrors our fate in

sofar as our squandered fortune deprives the future and

consigns the planet to "the dustbin of history."  the un

forseen final question, then, was the question of garb

age, and no one thought to phrase it so indelicately as

"where does shit go?"  it is a question of the real, of

the rational