Saturday, December 01, 2007
The following I read at the tribute to Hannah Weiner this past Weds. at St. Mark's Poetry Project along with selections from Weiner's *Spoke*, a book of 'transferences' as Weiner herself recognized it:
"The mind obeys unconsciously giving strict orders that are agreed upon by someone who twice dying explains without giving clear motives like once clairvoyant journal explained."
~ Hannah Weiner, from a letter to Charles Bernstein, 5/25/1989
I first read Hannah Weiner in the Fall of 1997. One of the things that made her writing stand out to me—among other writers linked to LANGUAGE—was Weiner’s sense of empathy, if not her tendency to identify. Identification has been a “no no” for a while now, after various critical theories, and after alterities more celebrated. My readings of Weiner in the past few years have helped me to attribute and recognize the otherwise in Weiner, whose mind-person were continually turned towards an outside of information, other people, discourse—language itself as that 'ultimate' other.
A particular identification or transference that has long drawn me back to Weiner is that with “the oppressed”. In this category I would lump the AIM activists with whom Weiner had longstanding friendships, African-Americans whose economic struggles are dramatized in Weiner’s book *sileNt teachers/remeMbered sequel*, the earth as it continues to be ecologically ravished, and women as Weiner often pokes fun at gender politics, and especially those within her most immediate communities.
Beyond these particular commitments one of Weiner’s ultimate concerns is with power itself, and most of all the status of her own powers in relation to others ("clairvoyance," "silent teaching" etc.). In this concern I believe she attained a kind of innocence. Not an innocence of reversion or regression, but to a place where her will could be involved with everything she felt, and came into contact with, and not least of all with the page on which she composed and gave aesthetic fact to her intentions. Only here—in the seat of the will—could Weiner not only claim the name of AIM leader Leonard Peltier as “I,” but conversely that of the neo-conservative American president, Ronald Reagan.
Not having had the opportunity to know Weiner, from the stories I’ve heard about her from others over the past decade, and thru her texts, she would seem emotionally privileged. Through this privilege she conveyed the person as an entity utterly singular through which events are named as powers, singularities among an open multiple.