ceteris paribus is a phrase commonly used by economists and means “assuming all other things are held constant.” With this phrase, a host of unintended results can be explained away as having been caused by changes in the real world, and the model itself is sustained. As the economy collapses around their ears, the bewildered theorists of the dismal science may claim that were ceteris paribus only possible, the predicted outcome would have obediently presented itself.
In Gale Nelson’s poetry, language misbehaves much like the economy. The multiplicity of factors at play on the page–and among pages–keeps the poem from settling anywhere near constancy. Each time order seems just around the corner, variances begin to seep in– and anything becomes possible.
The book’s companion text, stare decisis, was published by Burning Deck in 1991.
“…ceteris paribus slowly meanders through a landscape of structures and variables, carefully recording instances in which language enjambs to the point of crisis and consigns itself to an altered path. Nelson flashes in and out of poetic modes that he is able to rein in from the brink of cacophany and craft into an engaging series of poems.”
–David Harrison Horton, Syllogism
Gale Nelson has also published three chapbooks, Spectral Angel (Duration Press, 1999), The Mystic Cipher (Texture Press, 1993), and Little Brass Pump (Leave Books, 1992). Two of his plays, “Disciplining the Dimes” and “The Undiapered Filefish,” are included in The Joy of Phonetics and Accents by Louis Colaianni. He shares an apartment in Providence, RI with his wife, the fiction writer Lori Baker, and their cats, Carlotta and Clarissa.