Saturday, September 29, 2007

I'm like Fredric Jameson with bling on (I'm complex).

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fred Moten, from In the Break

So another big part of what drives these fragments is interest in what is given in or emanates from the movement from the harmony of thinking and being, thought and reality (formations from the musics of Parmenides and Wittgenstein), to that harmony's figuration in signs. We could think this also as the movement from "logical structure" to iconicity and beyond. Think about logical structure or its variations, "pictorial internal relation" and/or "internal simularity": these formulations of the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus have an almost Peircean ring, coming as close as they do to Peirce's notion of iconicity. In Wittgenstein "logical structure" is shared between two objects (one a proposition about the other) in much the same way that for Peirce a "diagrammatic sign or icon . . . exhibits a similarity or analogy to the subject of discourse." We must keep in mind two things: (1) this similarity occurs in the context of a struggle between sight and sound or, more precisely, in an insistence of music in Wittgenstein's visual/spatial metaphorics; (2) Wittgenstein became increasingly dissatisfied with the nature and implications of this notion of logical structure perhaps in part because of a certain restrictiveness embedded in the philosophical conceptualization of the phenomenon of likeness. Indeed, phenomenon is probably a misleading word since the strictures of likeness are bound to the insistence of its noumenality, a noumenality marked by the resistance of likeness to explanation or to, more precisely, employment in the task of explanation. Something slips through the cracks or cuts of iconicity, likeness, metaphor, such that thinking operates in the absence of any real correspondent and translational manipulation of the concept of internal similarity or pictorial internal relation. In that absence or cut, in the space between expression and meaning or between meaning and reference, remains an experience of meaning that Peircean or what I'll call first iconicity doesn't get to and to which Wittgenstein would get.

The question, then, is how to describe that experience, and bound up in this question is the assumption (pointed to above, bitten off Wittgenstein) that description, rather than explanation, is the task with which we must now be concerned. More precisely, we must attempt a description of an experience whose provenance or emergence is not reducible to logical structure, pictorial internal relation or internal similarity; it is an experience of the passage or cut that cannot be explained because those formulations upon which our explanations must be grounded--spooky actions at a distance; communication between space-time separated entities; rigid, naturalized, but anti-phenomenal sameness--are themselves so profoundly without ground. Like the strange correspondence between distant particles, like the mysteries of communication with the dead (or with tradition), the paradoxically elective and imperative affinities of and within ensemble are to be described within a radical improvisation of the very idea of description (in and through its relation to explanation), one that would move us from hidden and ontologically fixed likeness to the anarchization of variation, variation not (on) but of--and thus with(out[-from-the-outside])--a theme. At the constellation of meaning, understanding, music, phrase, feeling, variation, and imagination, we might speak again of iconicity, a second iconicity, not as the signification of shared logical structure but as a kind of noticing of an aspect, one that allows a temporal as well as ontological sense, a sense outside the temporal and the ontological, where we see--both factually and conceptually, statically and transitionally--entity and variation, each without theme. Perhaps this second iconicity, this semioticity or fullness of the sign, is the mechanism through which ensemble is made available to us as phenomena. Perhaps it is the supplement of description that allows description; for description of the phenomenon or experience of ensemble is only adequate if it is also itself the phenomenon or experience of ensemble.

(pp. 91-2)


I'm hoping in the next week or so to take this above passage as an opportunity for unpacking a variety of notions filtering through me right now . . .

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Every few years I indulge in a book buying spree: 100 - 150 bucks on gaps in our library. U of California Press' big sale is the occasion this time; about half the purchases will allow me to return some heavyweight books to the Duke library system, and allow me to scribble in their margins. The other half will be first time reads. Some great deals, the whole package, with shipping, is about $130.

Ever feel like we're in the middle of a great poetry Renaissance? Me too. The deeper I (quite happily) descend into the entrails of academia, the greater my love for the worlds of poetry, and the healthier the energies, imaginations and struggles of the poetry world seem.

I'd like to suggest an immediate detour to this piece by Jasper Bernes in the new Action, Yes.

6.2 While the list-servs and blogs, low overhead internet magazines, desktop publishing and the falling cost of print publications have done much to vent some of the excessive energy among poets, and to create multiple, overlapping models of distribution in which work that otherwise might never have been seen finds readers, and in some cases, finds many, many readers, although this has been a fortuitous and powerful occurrence, two things must be kept in mind: 1) it will not last 2) no-one but poets care or know.

I've been finding Anne, Laura, and Thomas' blogs the most stimulating reading of my last few weeks, and was very happy to read this terrific poem in the newest House Organ.

I hope House Organ's Kenneth Warren and Mr. Sanders don't mind my posting up of the poem.

[ click to enlarge ]
My present thought about immediacy: that it exists only in representation, and that that is its reality: as an indexical sign of a possible state of affairs around which systems may be assembled. I suppose it all, right now, comes down to a certain stance, and what can be done with that stance. For whatever reason, my first jump in this is to think about history, or historicizing, and how it can be assembled around the sign of immediacy. Which makes me think of histories that are produced through narratives, images, and gestural rhetorics, which points t/w Pound and Olson's strategies, but also Eliot's objective correlative, which I think of as a verbal object that, outside a certain creative text, may exist as an understood symbol, but inside the creative text, operates as an indexical sign of a certain state of affairs. Which actually makes me think of how often I know things before I know them, because this is really what I was trying to gesture to in one of the pieces in Invisible Bride, which ends:

But I think they wouldn't mind the lack of sound if they understood the visual language: open curtains means the heroine has second thoughts, ducks on the pond and we know the hero is still alive, and so on. A lover gives the other a cross-eyed look, which means: "I can't believe you are afraid to die."

A good reminder for me to do what I tell myself I do, which is write just on the other side of my understanding.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Megan Matthews, author of the most consistently interesting and illuminating and intelligent posts over at Moistworks, has died at the age of 36. She was in the middle of writing a book.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

from Publisher's Weekly

Complex Sleep
Tony Tost. Univ. of Iowa Press, $16 (106p) ISBN 978-1-58729-621-5

The eight sequences of Tost's sophomore effort are brimming with ambition and, with unusual maturity for an emerging poet, they grapple with looming questions of form, perception and the role of poetry. Whitman Award–winner Tost (Invisible Bride) shares with Charles Olson (whose work casts a formidable shadow over this collection) the desire to use the poem as a place of experiment, as a place to enact rather than describe. Whether this is done through investigations into representing an authentic self (“By over-quoting my sources I have revealed only myself.”) or through similarly reflexive aphoristic quips (“A dying form knows/ that not everything translucent/ is transcendent.”), Tost's work synthesizes 20th-century avant-garde strategies, from objectivist and Black Mountain poetics through language writing and conceptual poetry, with nods to Emerson and deconstruction. Lines and sentences comment on their own creation (“The problem with syntax, the problem with giving, she stood on one foot, and imagined a future.”). The standout pieces here are the musically infused “World Jelly” and the 35-page title poem, which is an abecedarian orchestration of sentences by turns humorous, poignant and cerebral. This challenging book won't be for everyone, but it is likely to take the tops of more than a few heads off. (Oct.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Addendum to "the poetic."

I'm basically trying to see if I can suggest a use for the term poetic that can have some use for me, critically. It seems that if someone says "oh, it's a poetic film," it usually means: meandering, flowery, self-indulgent. Of course, this seems to be playing off of popular conceptions about what poetry is like, or (maybe more accurately right now, as poems themselves have less cultural traction) how poets are.

I'd like to see if I can utilize poetic as a way to describe aspects that I find to be insistent in the poetry that originally seduced me into obsession; not just an ecstatic or even transcendent impulse, but also the sense that an ecstatic or transcendent state could be approached by technical means. The title of Jerome Rothenberg's anthology, Technicians of the Sacred, encapsulates this pretty well, I think.

So the poetic would be something that goes beyond the play of signifiers, or that would utilize the play of signifiers to get at something that seems beyond representation.

I think of montage as a potentially poetic technique: something that one can improve one's technical chops at, and also something that, when successful, makes a kind of whole unit that can't be reduced to either its parts or the relation of the parts, or at least has an effect that couldn't have been predicted beforehand by looking at the involved parts.

I'm really interested in Brent's idea of language-as-such as a crucial element of a triad (see his comment to my last post), and have been wanting to address that, and also your reservations about evocations of the noumenal; I haven't thought it through enough, but my initial reaction is to claim that the promise (or at least illusion) of a glimpse beyond itself is a feature of language-as-such and can't be separated from it.

Or, at the very least, I can see myself coming this close to a pure textualist stance: the textual effects that I label as poetic are most readily generated by the belief that they are not simply textual effects. That is, the cumulative textual effects of the works of figures such as Blake, Swedenborg or Emerson could likely only be constructed by a lifetime of simulating certain beliefs about language (and, at that point, what would be the difference). Maybe this last sentence gets the closest to the m.o. of my writing life.