Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (The Force of What’s Possible—Issue 46, October 2014)

J. Michael Martinez
Our Humanity Is Not Prior to What it creates
A PROLEGAMENA in chrestomathies

[T]o insist on the hybridity and fluidness of x or y is the mantra of transnational capital—whose normative state is the constant reconstitution of value

—Jeffrey Nealon

Money is a kind of poetry

—Wallace Stevens

To heed Helene Cixous’ demand: in writing poetries, to die to my “self,” dismantling the lies constructing my life narrative. As I bear myself to a deeper honesty toward the beloved. As the word dismantles purity into a thing more complex, more raw.

1.Literary historians, in conceiving of their field of study, self-represent their conceptions as to make them appear impartial and determined; however, historical processes exceed the vanities of any singular narrative.

a.The political, the economic, the aesthetic, etc., in any given society, weave through each other, complicating ingenuous narrative conceptions of any individual account.

To learn to “unlie” is a method of dying—not physically, but spiritually, emotionally, ideologically—through to a space of availability, open to plenitude. To write: to learn dying, to accept that which exceeds me. To step into, not selflessness, but an awareness worldfull, exceeding the “individual” into inexhaustible individuation.

2.Language does not exist in a vacuum withdrawn from the lived socioeconomic world.

a.Structuralism and Post-Structuralism were introduced to the U.S. at a symposium called “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man” held at John Hopkins University in 1966. These proceeding were published four years later as The Structuralist Controversy.

b.Jacque Derrida presented “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” at the conference. This was published a year later as the much-read chapter in his Writing and Difference.

i.The late 60’s and early 70’s saw the publication of a language centered poetics reliant upon post-structural theory: in gross simplification, value is differential and the signifier’s relative worth is contextual and relational, not to any fixed signified.

c.During the 1960’s, the 1944 Bretton Woods accords, established to stabilize the collapsed post-WWII international monetary system, began to unravel (the Bretton Woods gave precedence to the U.S. Dollar in order to determine international exchange-rates; the dollar’s value was determined in terms of gold [which the U.S. had never really abolished]). By 1971, the accords had succeeded too well: some European countries held more dollars than the U.S. had gold. In August 1971, President Nixon suspended the gold standard to avoid radical devaluation of the dollar. Currencies were allowed to float freely: fiat money.

i.“Economically, the most convenient break on the otherside of the 60’s is probably 1971’s Smithsonian Agreement, which officially took the U.S. dollar off the gold standard, allowing worldwide currency value to float, their value determined by markets of supply and demand rather than by reference…” (Nealon, Jeffrey. “Periodizing the 80s: The Cultural Logic of Economic Privatization in the United States.” A Leftist Ontology, ED. Carsten Strathausen. University of Minnesota Press, MN, 2009, pp. 61).

d.The 1970’s saw the emergence of unfettered neoliberal capitalism; that is, the post-Fordist credit economy as speculative financial capital in a global market. This lead, by most economist’s accounts, to the 80’s and 90’s boom and, subsequently, the 2008 economic crisis i.e. the creation of Wall Street’s stocks and investments whose speculative value was so arcane and fictitious even “experts” could not unravel its fabricated complexities (until that fiction collapsed upon itself).

e.A LANGUAGE poetics, claiming civil liberation through the signifier’s free play, may be the unconscious cultural extension of an unfettered conservative neoliberal speculative market. Certain Conceptual poetics may be comparable to subprime mortgage dealers auctioning stock to investors: a stock whose value exists only as the investors’ faith in its value; not blind faith mind you—it is, in and of itself, a self-acknowledged and vain fiction (no gold to back it up).

i.“Oddly enough, though, the artistic, or cultural forms of the privatization of value are seldom discussed as further lamentable symptoms of neoliberal economics, but rather as bulwarks against that very logic” (Nealon, Jeffrey. “Periodizing the 80s: The Cultural Logic of Economic Privatization in the United States.” A Leftist Ontology, ED. Carsten Strathausen. University of Minnesota Press, MN, 2009, pp. 75).

a.“Hegemony is like a pillow: it absorbs blows and so sooner or later the would-be assailant will find it comfortable to rest upon” (Cox, Robert. Approaches to World Order. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996).

To enter into intimacy with negating plenitude. In Chican@ theory, a sense of this is known as mestizaje, a relinquishing of any identity founded in any singular absolute; rather, one’s subjectivities are conceived as a becoming grounded in/through historical actualities.

3.Our humanity is not prior to what it creates.

a.I write what I write now for I see the historical as a pro(j/d)ect in endless revision; that is, historical accounts demand variegated readings whose end is not to “fix” or “arbitrate” the temporal, but to unleash the latent eternities within all accounts of experience.

i.The failure of certain literary accounts is in recognizing the “worth” of peripheral poetics. The conception of a particular avant-garde and its chosen opposition depends upon a historical narrative, a narrative peripheral poetics complicate.

1.Why is Asco, the early 1970’s U.S. Latin@ poetry/theater/conceptual/art collective, not taught alongside other post-WWII/late 20th century literatures?

ii.The historical literary avant-garde, as it is generally accounted for, has become, for better or worse, a participant in the dominant narrative of literary historical accounts.

1.Marjorie Perloff is a conservative critic
(as much as one as Harold Bloom).

b.For “identity” poetics (and its all “identity” poetics folks), whether employing strategies from the historical avant-garde or its supposed opposite, the “relative” worth of literary narratives demand critical inquiry so as too see that vital collaborators to historical processes are not excluded.

i.How does the inclusion of Asco renovate/contribute to/revise the dominant accounts of post-WWII/late 20th century literatures?

c.“The fact that its contexts all the way down does not annul the validity of our beliefs in everyday life…For how could a belief about which I feel passionately about and for which I am willing to engage others—how could such a belief be ‘relative’ or ‘equal’ to others in my view? It cannot—at least not on the visceral level of my own physical existence as a human being” (Strathausen, Carsten. “Introduction.” A Leftist Ontology, ED. Carsten Strathausen. University of Minnesota Press, MN, 2009, pp. xxii).

i.If a poetics is to align itself with the political left, if that’s what being “innovative” or “avant” means, it must account for its deep ties to and creation of historical processes (the complex of politics, economics, aesthetics, and transnational influences) in relation to our physical existences as human beings in the actual world.

For me, this intimate “dying” is that which exceeds me i.e. that most knowable unknown I must reconcile with. In reconciliation, my writing then dialogues with what is most alive in/as creation. To write poetries: to gather my dying as my intimate. To possess the lesson of positive negation & beg its song from the earth I live upon.