Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (The Force of What’s Possible—Issue 47, November 2014)

Marthe Reed
Versions, versions: politics, the imagination, and the avant-garde, a poetics

An aesthetics of disturbance—collage, cut-up, juxtaposition, juncture—renders the latent, the unsaid, apprehensible by means the gap. Leslie Scalapino, refusing to isolate the personal and the social as dichotomous experiences (Golston), recognized these phenomena as valances of a single apprehension: “What I’m really interested in is contemplation, or observation or apprehension, in terms of the interior, and action, and to make these things come into the same space, so that they’re going on in the same time.” Scalapino’s reconfiguration speaks to disturbance, also, unsettling the settled. Via the contemplative space of the poem, juxtaposition and juncture generate a space of encounter in which the isolate recombine in intimate proximity, affording new awareness: “something that is possible to occur in people’s understanding of what they’re reading, what they’re experiencing, something that is neither social nor private, that enters some other relam [sic], that becomes itself, and gets past any of those kinds of categories.” (Goldston, both) Cut up, or away. Collaged. An other realm.

The poet tears, scatters and reassembles paragraphs, pages, texts, enjoins repetition, recursion, extension, improvisation to her ends. She upends established categories—personal, social, political, environmental, cultural—following upon Dada’s thrown glove or upended wagon: “To seize the being before it gives in to compatibility; to attain it in its incoherence, or even better, in its primitive coherence…to build itself,” (Riviere qtd in Castriota). Adopts erasure, absence as a means of recognition, re-arrangement, scissoring open authorities. Stated, authorized. Taken. As if.

As if there were only one. Voice. As if. Permission to speak has or must be/been given. As if. Speech has no history. As if. Language is not relentlessly malleable: language’s paradox. Against “We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail” (Bush) stand the unattended scrolling of fatalities, an estimated 20,000 Afghani civilian deaths since the start of the U.S.-led invasion. As if. We do not willingly turn away, reading from the transcripts of Gitmo testimony. As if. The national abandonment of (predominantly black and poor) New Orleans in the devastation of Katrina weren’t possible. Probable. Already determined. As if. The Macondo Blowout was not the inevitable result of unrestrained capital maximizing profit at any/all cost. As if. The poor do not need hospitals or healthcare. As if. Rape is caused by what victims do. Or wear. Or where they have the temerity to be. As if. As if chemical plants, sewage plants, and the contaminants and particulates they produce/“spill” are not reliably situated within poor neighborhoods, often of color. Driving rates of childhood asthma through the roof. Or miscarriages. Or cancer. As if. We do not inhabit a living world within which we are integrally situated. And violently active. As if. As if. –My trash is your trash. Honey.

Against the conflation of poet/voice/authenticity/‘truth’, the practice of collage, erasure, juxtaposition. The many possibles. The re-perception gaps afford, reordering and reclaiming discourses, “poetic” and “not.” Not poetic. The rendering of “my” “own” multiplicity. Neither one nor the other. Both. Many. None. The lifting of the veil and glimpses from beneath its occlusions.

Posing the questions. What is the proper relation between the wedding veil, the nun’s habit, the hijab, and the keffiyeh, the curtain separating Judaism’s outer temple and its holy of holies, or the curtain separating men and women in a mosque? Or their metaphorical cousins dividing ‘East’ from ‘West,’ Israel from Palestine? What is made isolate and to what ends? Who says, or gets to say?

The layering of multiple texts, or images with texts, a means of asserting the pressures of complexity. Perform the trace of the Mississippi River’s course from north of Baton Rouge to New Orleans with a list of the chemical spills and accidents as a gradient of subsurface flows, “chemical corridor” as a looking glass. Overlay the coastline of Louisiana of 1900 and 2012 with the names of the bodies of water and communities vanished into the wet. Read: global warming, ice melt, coastal erosion, oil and gas extraction – another kind of mirror.

Collaging of John Yoo’s language against that of Abu Zubayda. Juxtaposing Jay Bybee’s sophistry with the consolations of the Marquis de Sade and my own muddy way through complicity in the national policy of torture and imprisonment without charge or trial. Revisiting the scene, placing “my”/self there, which is to say, at a distance. A safe distance. The impossibility and certainty of proximity. And betrayal.

Composing via erasure. A long poem lifted from the voluptuous, voyeuristic excess of Swann’s Way, its predicaments of gender shifted from subtext to text: a duet in which the beloved articulates another version/vision, another set of memories of times past, or present. Erasure as palimpsest, writing/re-writing/revising the text.

A poetics of place and displacement, unsettled and unsettling. In “Des espace autres,” Michel Foucault argues space has been reduced to specialized sites of action: work, the home, the commute (the car), the shopping mall, &c., discontinuous and disconnected from places. The experience of place, attending more closely, more richly to where I am/we are, to how place informs actions and understandings. Unsettling the familiar, settling the not.

Gathering the materiality of place – finding a way into a place for which “I,” inveterate nomad, have no “ground.” Through Walker Percy’s New Orleans, or Kate Chopin’s Edna and her sojourn at Grand Isle. Through a systematic erasure of Florula Ludoviciana: “two / long leaves / or three / hidden in the wool of / August.”

A gathering of soundings, the echoes, ripples, tonal shifting of vowels, of consonants, of phrases and lines. A sounding of recurrence and improvisation, the language turning/tuning as it moves. Of images and their instability, shifting also, as moved by sound across a field of attention. What coheres, or moves. What sounds.

The list, the catalogue. The ceaseless gathering/immersion in being-in-the-world. “A pause, a rose, something on paper.” (Hejinian 7)

In the stuttering interruption, manifesting the complexity of inherited voices/speech/languages, a mode of endeavor and encounter: re-encountering language, self and reader alike. Action of disruption, eruption, erosion in which the instability of language, knowledge, and identity are at play in a negotiation with the material matter affording communication. What do you think you hear, here? Or see? – “near waters / with orange / and purple nectaries // creoles / the bite of venomous snakes.” – How? Though Badiou links evil and interruption via “the pressure of particular or individual interests” (Cox, Whalen, Badiou) – capitalism’s voracious, Shaivic creativity and destruction – an antidote may also be found in an aesthetics of the fragment, what Bachelard terms “a metaphysics of the moment,” (qtd in Kearney) in which its radical openness affords otherwise-occluded understandings: because, as Badiou also argues, “the good in artistic action is the invention of new forms that convey the meaning of the world.”(Cox, Whalen, Badiou)

Or this. Just. This. Multiple, manifold goods/meanings proliferating in the chaos of a disjunctive, collaborative, unstable poetics. A controlled chaos, a chaos poetry of “aperiodic, unpredictable dynamic systems” (“Chaos Theory”) in active, interfolded association, bringing into heightened awareness of the is-ness of forms and meanings, of the intersection of bodies in the world, of what “good” might be.

Works Cited

Bush, George. “Presidential Address to the Nation.” George W. Bush Archives (whitehouse.archives.gov). October 7, 2001. Web. April 25, 2013.

Castriota, Anthony F. “Dada: A New Collage of the Aesthetic Self,” Just A Theory of the Mind |CONSIDER ONLY [this] A Collection of Philosophical Investigations on Culture. Dec 31, 2011. Web. April 26, 2013.

Chaos Theory.” Reference.com. Web. April 25, 2013.

Cox, Christoph, Molly Whalen, and Alain Badiou. “On Evil: An Interview with Alain Badiou.” Cabinet Magazine. Winter, 2001/02. Web. April 25, 2013.

Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias.” Trans. Jay Miskowiec. MIT.edu. From Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité. October, 1984; Web. April 25, 2013.

Golston, Maggie. “An Interview With Leslie Scalapino.” Eoagh, Issue 8, Nov 10, 2011. Web. July 30, 2014.

Kearney, Richard. “Bachelard and the Epiphanic Instant.” Philosophy Today, Special Supplement, 2008: 38. Web. April 25, 2013.