evolved a jargon”
• “A:4” - Louis Zukofsky
“We had a Speech, our children have
evolved a jargon”
• “A:4” - Louis Zukofsky
Social Media, if it can be said to be a veil, ruthlessly hides poverty from friends and family.
When having to interact with the world, a useful piece of knowledge:
Descriptive vs Prescriptive
Language is authoritarian. It is always delivered in the affirmative. This is undeniable. Even the apophatic is an affirmation of.
This affirmation is always present like air. It is a sickness, not a symptom.
Awareness of such resides in the substrata of experience, with every action walking upon it.
It is no wonder so many texts have been misidentified as prescriptive, instead of descriptive.
Take, for instance, Aristotle's Poetics.
At first I register chapters of rules, catalogues of structures of knowledge, melodies of logic.
Inside the text, the how of poetry, tragedy, comedy. Catharsis emerges. History makes it law because language is affirmative.
But what if we are to take the text generously, accept it as description versus prescription.
A prescription relies on language's oppression. It is closed.
A description on the other hand can be centrifugal, indirect, phenomenological (i.e. singular), poetic.
It exists to provoke prescription, which is at once desired and repulses the human. Yet description also provokes art.
This is what Poetics does. It describes what has been, not what shall always be.
The Poetics history, however, provides an object lesson.
Humans will always first assume a description to be an attack, of which then will then call a law.
This morning I was reminded of a poetic statement I wrote about doubt and poetic thinking over at The Poetry Society of America.
What was then relevant remains so for me today.
Lately, I feel I'm writing toward my own version of a Protestant book; that I've been writing with a language that lives in protest to a performance of determinations, yet chained to the idea that that performance is necessary and determinations inevitable. This contradiction, which is a tradition, both breaks and is my heart.
I write intoxicated by doubt; the doubt that we've already been written by those things we run into the world with or that the world reeks upon us; that our language is born inadequate and only perseveres a release after a bright scrutiny's been made of it; that we should feel the ambience of shame without knowing the responsibility of what causes it.
Doubt is the grammar of progress. I consider it a common language, the language coded in the American Experiment that persists flagrantly plain and profitable even today. The subject of being wrong, of amending, of shifts, creates a path bought with the labor of doubt. This path is what the poem essentially is – movement - both toward and away from, the subject of the I, and the shame of it.
We live in an age that says change. How we are to get there and what it looks is a question whose answer is homeless. I believe it lives in a language we do not yet know. A poem is an event where we may engage the shame of not knowing. It is a place unlike any other.
A man in California sees splices. Images in dreams. A bridge. A tower. A black lake. They are not dreams. They are signals. He has a feeling and follows it.
Midway through his Massachusetts journey, Peter Proud visits Springfield (established in 1636) and wanders into the shadow of a statue. The statue is "The Puritan" by Augustus St Gaudens. The gaze of the deacon looms. Peter squints before the splice and sun. We forget that the U.S. was colonized as a way to practice one of the history's most conservative and supernatural religions. Our relationship with our roots has grown so distant, we fear acknowledging its trauma will only bring it back. This fear is the reason The Witch struck with so many. We have othered what we came from. Peter Proud revisits these origins as signals by considering trauma, which is another way to say "past lives".
(full review at Letterboxd)
“He has to climb two flights of stairs. And all that just to throw a head in a fish tank.”
I’m from Boston. This film is one of the better examples to predominantly feature the city. It doesn’t pander to the predetermined zones, landmarks, etc that, while beautiful, lean toward condescension or worse, tourism. Night School instead allows the landscape to speak for itself.
And it literally does that, as the film puts aside musicial accompaniment for a soundtrack of pedestrian ambiance. Instead of musical cues to focus and capture our ear we are instead surrounded by the normal world with its sounds of normalized space. The distinction is not at first noticeable; gradually I realize I am slowly being betrayed the safety of the fictional world with the familarity of what’s waiting for me after the film ends. The only other unmusical film i can think of at the moment to feature, not silence, but a focused ambience as it’s primary, distinctive quality is Jeff Lieberman’s Just Before Dawn.
It’s interesting what’s created when a film gives up one of its most basic rights. You are forced to hear limits (and who exactly do they belong to?).
Theres something intimate and characteristically Boston about the footsteps, quarter-heard passings, and striking voices banally searching the depths of the rooms for interest; they all seem to take their cold lack with them.
Boston lives in winter half of the year. Like a winter sun bright with no heat, it’s like living in a movie without music.
(original review appears on Letterboxd )
Bergson…compares “our whole physical existence” to “ a single sentence, continued since the first awakening of consciousness, interspersed with commas, but never broken by full stops” (Mind Energy 70).
“as animals might dream the strangeness of human thinking”
the giant bear who
drips to red the leaves is me.
In Barthes on Barthes, Adam Phillips writes in an introduction: “the text is – in one of Barthes favorite images, kaleidoscopic – it is a new kind of book about novelty; novelty as myth, and novelty as object of desire. About how we might sustain our pleasure without losing interest, and about how we might sustain our interest without losing pleasure.”
True or untrue: another title for Barthes on Barthes is “What Kept Me Up”.
“Try, for a moment, to become interested in everything that is being said and done; act, in imagination, with those who act, and feel with those who feel; in a word, give your sympathy its widest expansion: as though at the touch of a fairy wand you will see the flimsiest of objects assume importance, and a gloomy hue spread over everything. Now step aside, look upon life as a disinterested spectator: many a drama will turn into a comedy. It is enough for us to stop our ears to the sound of music, in a room where dancing is going on, for the dancers at once to appear ridiculous. How many human actions would stand a similar test? Should we not see many of them suddenly pass from grave to gay, on isolating them from the accompanying music of sentiment? To produce the whole of its effect, then, the comic demands something like a momentary anesthesia of the heart. Its appeal is to intelligence, pure and simple.”
- Henri Bergson. “Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic.”
For Bergson, laughter is social and arises because a certain MECHANICAL INELASTICITY is the causation. While novelty teaches adaptation to attention to the mechanical aspects of selves that tend toward automatism.
i receive that X is like A mixed with B ‘on crack’; or, if A and B had a baby.
Dismal activities such as these must be called what they are in the pejorative - a parasitical activity.
Their major contribution is that they fail the grasping of a difference.
Trash makes an ethical claim on us, it reflects and beckons, asks us to come near, to search its secrets, to learn—by looking—not only about the past but about our future. Here is what has been rejected and thrown out (where there is no longer an “out”).
trash resides always at the edge of beauty, a kind of negative pleasure, the worthless comes back as valuable.
Trash is the image of the “clue,” as in a Detective Novel, where we have the perfect symbol of this return: a little nothing turned to something by attention. This attention allows us to think through
human existence not as a utopian or romantic condition existing prior to social inscription, but as something that always bears the trace of history, social position, region, and the uneven distribution of risk.
By bringing in what is typically DISPOSABLE, we see how flexible and arbitrary value is. By bring in what is typically disposable into scenes of love, we learn love’s way of turning attention to what would otherwise be ignored.
It is a love for attention itself, a call to a radical inclusivity and the falling of the usual orders, frameworks, and hierarchies. The same kind of attention you would ideally give to your loved on.
(NOTE: Many of these thoughts and language for them were stolen from elsewhere. I no longer remember where. Perhaps thats the point.)
I delivered this introduction for one of my favorite poets, Bernadette Mayer on February 2nd, 2017.
"Tonight I would like to begin by talking about pleasure and bliss.
Since its publication over forty years ago, the true meaning behind Roland Barthes’s ‘The Pleasure of the Text’ has been softly perverted, misapplied more often than not by the supposition used to sentimentally describe the reader’s soporific delight - their ‘pleasure’, like slipping into a warm tub, when integrating into a textual experience. While Barthes text doesn’t deny the actuality of such an experience, The Pleasure of the Text’s actual aim is to provoke a differentiation between ‘pleasure’ and ‘bliss’ and the types of textualities that arouse these different responses in the experiencing subject.
Barthes writes, “Texts of Pleasure: they are texts that content, that pacify, that come from culture and do not break with it, and are thus linked to a comfortable practice of reading. Text of Bliss, on the other hand, are texts that imposes a state of loss, texts that discomfort (perhaps to the point of certain boredom), unsettle the readers historical, cultural, and psychological assumptions; they unsettle the consistency of her tastes, values, memories, and brings to a crisis a relation of language” (14). This bliss as crisis aims to break with all cultural and institutional meta-language, it destroys utterly its own discursive category or genre, and, if it wants, attacks canonical structures of the language itself.
More than just a post-structural attempt to gain a new meridian, Barthes advocates for an antinomian form – or better: formlessness - to destabilize monological authority for a new consciousness of possibility. And while he asserts such bliss will be found between paradigms, he brings to bear no example of how this bliss is actualized or where it lives in representation.
It has always been curious to me, strange even, that Barthes never included poetryas part of his thought or criticism. Had he done so, he would have been hard pressed to find a better perpetrator of the bliss he sought than in the work of our celebrated speaker tonight, Bernadette Mayer - for to read Bernadette Mayer is to understand this meaning of bliss.
For more than 50 years Bernadette has injected American poetry with a radical ethic of transgressive curiosity. One of the things I admire most about Bernadette, other than her laugh, is her flexible self-reflexivity, her interminable questioning. Whether it’s in her new collection, Works and Days, where she asks “is this shoelessness mine?”, or in her landmark, Midwinter’s Day, where a refrain of “can I say that?” anticipates the projected umbra of domesticated life and motherhood - her personal, perceptive catechization reminds the reader that the honest work of art is to provide peddles for the question, and not that of the answer.
Given her disobedient self-reflexivity, it may not surprise one then that Bernadette has sometimes been known to be an anarchist. How Americans have educated ourselves about anarchism is too often informed and distorted by an anachronistic, occidental anxiety. We must now understand it as it comes to us in these two words: no borders. Bernadtette’s poetic thinking is a no-border-thinking, a doubled consciousness prepared by a radicalized subjectivity in confrontation with the hegemony of language.
In this way Bernadette’s body of work inhabits something alongside what Gloria Anzaldua called “the mestiza”, the mixed body caught between cultural identities. Anzaldua writes “the future will belong to the mestiza. Because the future depends on the breaking down of paradigms, it depends on the straddling of two or more cultures. By creating a new – that is, a change in the way we perceive reality, the way we perceive ourselves, the ways we behave – la mestiza creates a new consciousness.”
It is here in this language where her perception becomes a state of perpetual transition, a shifting movement between meanings attached to codifications, and where we as readers experience the state of bliss in the work. She says “Private Property is criminal.” She says, "It would be great for all the people on earth, each to have what she or he needs to live, be healthy and do something as part or all of everything instead of some people's greed fitting in to old systems done when there was not any chance of knowing, everything now cheating, and doing worse to those who are not them."
No borders to take everything in. No borders to keep anything out. The importance of this point of view cannot be emphasized enough or underestimated. And tonight we continue to not underestimate the bliss of Bernadette."
The next night I met Emma and got to experience love again.
Gratifying to be in the presence of film that makes a challenge of being read. Frustrating, yet necessary, to be in the presence of others attempting out loud to read the film and fail.
Sledgehammer (1983, Intervision) cannot be called art, yet its slow-motions perform not unlike the video-instillations of Bill Viola. It cannot be called entertainment, because of its diffusion, diversions, and manic polarity. It cannot be taken in objectively, which simplifies into reference. Sledgehammer eschews reference. Every experience of it portends a singularity; it can only be understood phenomenologically.
In what way does incongruity come out of me, declare itself, and how does it return?
If I turn to it to appreciate its novelty and do not attempt to possess it, to repeat it into further works of articulation, and thus systems, I measure it against the baseline of normative (i.e. social) thought i've received and masquerade in; i adjust toward an attempted balance; a singularity of experience; a practice of phenomenology.
What has captured me over the last several years. It is Roland Barthes theory of The Neutral - his life-long, post-structuralist critique of structuralism's system of opposites, possessions, and binaries; how the neutral intends not pleasure, but bliss; a space where language avoids its authoritarianism by diffusion, rupture, and spectralization. In this theory precedes a way to live with culture, with words.
Today I received a new perspective from Tiphane Samoyault's biography of Barthes:
"Thus it is that, throughout his life, Barthes brought Sartre back, without necessarily realizing it so without any degree of clarity: Sartre's 'An Analysis of The Stranger', which Barthes read in the Sanatorium, in the Cahiers du Sud, provided ample material for Barthes own reflections on Camus, containing as it did a discussion on the theme of silence and a formulation of the neutral, here called the 'absurd': 'His hero was neither good nor bad, neither moral nor immoral. These categories don't fit: he is the member of a very singular species, for which the author uses the name 'absurd'.'"
In examining the influence of Sartre on Barthes, Samoyault here provides an auspicious link. Up to now I'd sensed but not read an articulation putting the absurd in hereditary relation to 'The Neutral'. One can see now the Neutral has assimilated the absurd.
The absurd, like the neutral, cannot be categorized peacefully. It is not centrifugal, but confrontational. It is diffuse from the inside of the problem. Thus the absurd like the neutral exists as a social means to actively avoids description ('you will be described' - Dorn). And as long as the neutral articulates itself in language, it is inherently political.
What today requires a similar assimilation of theoretical, yet practicable, aversion?
Samoyault, at least, assists with this truth: "Thought, the scientific project, had truly taken refuge in the imaginary."
It is a conservative system that estimates spectatorship of the horror film as a non-redundant enjoyment of fear. Unable to experience redundancy, the spectator is determined to be less-than. However, like anyone, familiarity through repetition reveals breakdown; the sustained interest of the spectator reveals fear to be an unrenewable resourc. It is therefore discounted as motivation.
What drives the horror spectator to continue. As Mark Fisher says, it is ‘fascination’.
this fascination is nuanced, non-binary, and deciduous.
The horror film always provides a triangular positioning of spectatorship - between the film, the viewer, and society-as-present. It is always exercising this relationship, continually engaging the viewer. Thus so much of horror is read as sociological, a link even the most rudimentary viewer can often determine through text and subtext.
Last night I felt the shock of My Character being described to me.
What can be learned from others understanding of you as a system is both a desire of others and not always a welcome way to know thyself.
Reminds me the threat-refrain in Edward Dorn's "Gunslinger" - "You will be described"
Badiou on Plato’s banishment of the poet from the state:
“Plato does not hesitate to write that ‘the city whose principle we have organized is the best one, and especially, I think, because of the measures taken in the matter of poetry.’ All the same, this is an astounding sentence! The fate of the political depending on the fate of the poem! The poem here is recognized as having almost boundless power” (31)
This section, in tandem with what Badiou had been discussing, which is about the poem as a form of thought - not knowledge, but thought. Knowledge requires an object to orient it; thought does not. Badiou writes: “The thought of the poem does not begin until after a complete de-objectification of presence. This is why we can say that, at the farthest remove from knowledge, the poem is an exemplarily a thought that is obtained in the retreat, or the defection, of everything that supports the faculty to know.”
Badiou then states, this is why poetry has always troubled philosophy. I would extend this troubling to a particular, toward the political philosophy, or lack thereof, as it forms human imagination.
Say I desire the Unknown. Perhaps I contextualize this desire for the Unknown as a child desires the Unknown, as a movement through the world of objects. I think of discovering this unknown and exploring it as My Glory. In exploration, knowledge aware us, but to what? The limits of mimesis, the perjury of objects. We know desire cannot exist without an object. Yet I become aware that to objectify is domination. The Unknown, as a concept, becomes the the imagination of the dominant. What extends past the individual's curiosity for Glory as an active agent for the State is an unconscious desire to find an object to fix in ownership, as knowledge-possession.
This is how a poem, and the thought-wiring of poetic thinking, presents it's threat. The poet knows, through the de-objectification of presence, there is no such thing (pun intended) as undiscovery, only unacknowledged use, i.e. novelty. By refusing to name the object as presence he presents instead a defection from presence of the object, at the refusal to implicate an object to possess.
This is why the poet mourns. For against the unrelenting struggle against the rhetoric-world of the status quo, which he cares for, but ethically, cannot join.