I’m working on a paper on how one can perform an object-oriented ontology on poetry. While I won’t say much more about it than that, I’ll share one of the poems I am analyzing through OOO and give you a little information on how I did that from the paper I am working on.
THE CRATE by Francis Ponge
Midway between cage and cachot, or cell, the French has cageot, a simple little open-slatted crate devoted to the transport of fruit that is sure to sicken at the slightest hint of suffocation. Devised in such a way that after use it can easily be broken down, it never serves twice. Thus its life-span is shorter even than that of the perishables it encloses.
So, at the corners of every street leading to the market, it gleams with the unassuming lustre of slivered pine. Still brand new and somewhat aghast at the awkward situation, dumped irretrievably on the public thoroughfare, this object is most appealing, on the whole — yet one whose fate doesn’t warrant our overlong attention.
In this object prose poem of Ponge’s, human perspective does not exist. Instead, the reader only knows the experience of the crate as a crate, which makes it open to an object oriented ontological reading. In this poem, the object laments how it is only used once, for the purpose of containing and transporting fruit. The crate in the poem can be read through OOO as Bogost writes that this type of reading, “illustrate[s] the perspective of objects” and the poem focuses solely on the perspective of the crate (Bogost 109). In other words, the reader of this poem never learns of any human perspective regarding the crate. In this poem, the crate carries its own perspective, which it shares within the poem.
The object is also related to its purposes and other objects around it, which is what invites an OOO reading of the poem. After all, much of Bogost’s descriptions of what OOO is relates to the experience of objects in regards to purposes and how that object relates to other objects around it. Part of the idea of flat ontology is that “all objects equally exist, but the do not exist equally” (Bogost 11). In Ponce’s poem, the crate and the fruit equally exist. Each is an object and so each exists in a similar way. But in the poem the crate laments the fact that it will not outlast the fruit it carries, which will eventually spoil. The lines “[d]evised in such a way that after use it can easily be broken down, it never serves twice. Thus its life-span is shorter even than that of the perishables it encloses” remind the reader that the crate is simply a secondary object in comparison to the fruit it holds. In this sense, the fruit seems more important than the crate. The crate is simply the mode of transport for the fruit and that is all that there is to it.
In this sense, the poem “The Crate” is a perfect example of how the universe is organized. While both the fruit and the crate exist, they do not exist equally. The fruit serves a greater purpose since humans rely on it for nourishment. The crate is simply the object the fruit arrives in. With this, object-oriented ontology demonstrates to readers how perspective is gained. If one examines the role of objects in comparison to other objects, one can better uncover preconceived notions, values and ideals that human beings hold. In other words, we order the world according to the objects around us and how we use and understand those objects and how those objects relate to other objects. But only through disseminating this information can we begin to articulate what Bogost means when he states, “all objects exist, but do not exist equally” (11).