Sunday, January 07, 2007
Peace On A presents Paolo Javier & Eléna Rivera
Peace On A
Paolo Javier & Eléna Rivera
Friday, December 8th 2006 8PM sharp
BYOB & suggested donation: $5
hosted by Thom Donovan at:
166 Avenue A, Apartment #2
New York, NY 10009
about the readers:
Paolo Javier is the author of *60 lv bo(e)mbs* (O Books), & *the time at the end of this writing* (Ahadada). He recently completed a full-length play, *Lunatic*, & has presented his short dramatic works at Poet's Theater Jamboree in San Francisco. He edits 2nd Ave Poetry (http://www.2ndavepoetry.com/), & lives in New York.
Eléna Rivera is the author of *Mistakes, Accidents and a Want of Liberty* (Barque Press, 2006), *Suggestions at Every Turn* (Seeing Eye Books, 2005), and *Unknowne Land* (Kelsey St. Press, 2000), and a recent pamphlet entitled *Disturbances in the Ocean of Air* (Phylum Press, 2005). She won first prize in the 1998 Stand Magazine International Poetry Competition and the 1999 Frances Jaffer Book Award.
Peace On A is an events series devoted to emergent work by writers, artists, performers and scholars. Past presenters at Peace on A include Alan Gilbert, E. Tracy Grinnell, Cathy Park Hong and Andrew Levy. Scroll down Wild Horses of Fire weblog (whof.blogspot.com) for back advertisements, introductions and reading selections.
“to the united states of america on the other side of this page”—Hannah Weiner
Introductions to Paolo Javier and Eléna Rivera
Teaching Kamau Braithwaite with a class at NYU last night, I was struck by a coincidence between Braithwaite’s “Letter Sycorax” from his book *Middle Passages*, and the work of the two poets reading tonight: Paolo Javier & Eléna Rivera. Of course many of the problems Javier and Rivera share with Braithwaite immediately become apparent reading the three poets together: how to posit a linguistic-poetic subject without legitimating it through a mythology of fundamental community? How to posit such a subject in language where language itself bears all the baggage of neglectful and malicious histories? These are just two of the problems that seem readily available to me confronted by the triangulation: Braithwaite, Javier, Rivera. However, a deeper problem that emerges in all three writers is one we may pose as a problem of allegory, or, more accurately, as my friend Gregg Biglieri termed it on the phone last night: *allegoresis*. Where allegory alone implies a static set of symbolic-dramatic properties, *allegoresis* may point to a more active process whereby these properties are made, and re-made: invented, renewed, enacted. In Braithwaite’s “Letter Sycorax” an allegoresis takes place where the poet evokes the figure Sycorax—the mother of Caliban from Shakespeare’s *The Tempest*—through the customized electronic word processing format he uses to write and publish (also called “Letter Sycorax”). Through the ways he employs this type format, Braithwaite cleverly draws out many of the antinomies pervading what the poet calls *Aur-iture* and *Nation Language* (the language of “the folk,” subaltern, enslaved). Here, through (mis-) or (dis-)spelling, words open up to their doubleness at phonetic, morphemic, and syllabic registers between written and spoken language; technologies of mechanical reproduction and standardization are themselves always Janus-faced insofar as they reveal both “a storm of progress” sweeping up the past, and the “straight gate of the messiah”—to use Walter Benjamin’s famous phrasings concerning “Historical materialism”. To write a “letter Sycorax” than seems to channel all of the immanent forces of culture at one’s disposal in order to overcome, to curse by curser, to spell and dispel, to exist in exile, to sound letters at a constant point of bifurcation where literal words become their own mythology: a mytho-praxis; a "making allegory" of letters as actors, as en-actors "symbolic" only insofar as they effect.
Shakespeare’s writing argues with no one: only in itself. It says: *Love’s reason’s without reason […]; flaming in the . . . sight . . . Love hath reason, Reason none.* The writing exists as its own tempest…
~ Louis Zukofksy
Heavenly nuptials, Multiplicities of multiplicities...
~ Deleuze & Guattari
Allegory is mentioned on the first page of Paolo Javier’s book *60 lv bo(e)mbs* where he writes, “I rode above allegory. / I see a situation where Leda pleads for the absurd.” Here, to ride above allegory may mean to not condescend to it, or perhaps to ride it out like a wave. Where Leda would normally give birth to an egg, she instead “pleads for the absurb”. Pleading for and producing the absurb, Javier also proceeds; his book abounds with linguistic play, neologism, transliteration, detournment, and other signage of the absurb, contradictory, and trickstering. The (in-)formal structure that sustains the book is a self-involved interlocution (or “call and response”) evocative as much of a KRS 1 or P. Diddy as the three Steins (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gertrude Stein, and Charles Bernstein).
When Javier repeatedly refers to a “Trysteaser” throughout his text I believe that he may be alluding to such a dialogic coupling or interlocution. There are any number of couples who couple with the proper name “Paolo” in the text. There is Frederick Nietzcshe, who seems to act as a kind of foil to “Paolo” and others; there are Paolo’s “parents” "Prim" and "Rose" Javier, “Cam 1” and “Cam 2”; there is the Phillipino poet Jose Garcia Villa, who in the last poem, “A Play A Play,” is triangulated with “Nietzche,” “Paolo,” and “Love”.
Where William Carlos Wiliams calls the poem “a small (or large) machine made of words,” Javier’s text is a sprawling bachelor hydraulics of words and syllabics: a tryst machine generating the absurb not just to overcodify or deterritorialize, but to make actual virtual conditions of language-use where these virtualities may bring into being a new multiplicity or set of powers among a whole. This is an erotic activity for sure, an allegoresis of the double/couple trysteasing, producing, and reconstituting linguistic sense (like Deleuze’s Lewis Carol or the Zukofsky of *Catullus* and *80 Flowers*) at a point of indiscernibility where representation is both recaptured and released. There is no territory here because desire has no map, only a GPS called a critical erotics. Javier’s desiring language production persists to argue with itself, if not Culture in the largest sense.
Not any more Rene my corzine somber Tabasco cinema barcodes go
Arrival *coo where, po* allegory tubas sweltering dalaga
Marry poses more rain dulcinea deaf in ear native
Camel triangle yells the soul lamp of Paolo he’ll agree he’ll argue (68)
The navigator who makes use of the sea and the wind dominates these elements but does not thereby transform them into things. They retain the indetermination of elements despite the precision of the laws that govern them, which can be known and taught. The element has no forms containing it; it is content without form. Or rather it has but a side; the surface of the sea and of the field, the edge of the wind; the medium upon which this side takes form is not composed of things. It unfolds in its own dimension: depth, which is inconvertible into the breadth and length in which the side of the element extends. To be sure, a thing likewise presents itself but by one unique side: but we can circle round it, and the reverse is equivalent to the obverse; all the points of view are equivalent . The depth of the element prolongs it till it is lost in the earth and in the heavens. “Nothing ends, nothing begins.”
~ Emmanuel Levinas
The darkness of trees
Guards this life
Of the thin ground
That covers the rock ledge
Among the lanes and magic
Of the Eastern woods
The beauty of silence
And broken boughs
And the homes of small animals
The green leaves
Of young plants
Above the dark green moss
In the sweet smell of rot
~ George Oppen
I have already mentioned George Oppen in a number of my introductions for Peace on A so far, however the poet seems particularly close to Eléna Rivera’s book *Unknowne Land* and a possible allegory unfolding within its pages. It is the late-Oppen I particularly think of—*Seascape: Needle’s Eye*, *Myth of the Blaze* and *Primitive*—in regards to *Unknowne Land’s* own primitiveness.
The book is structured by the elements: Fire, Earth, Water and Air. There is an almost Medieval sensibility in this, a throw back to angelologies and aeons, an impossibly beautiful Scholastic imagination of number and essence. But the language is not Medieval or Scholastic; and if it is alchemical at all it may only be so in effect, where the language is transformative if not transcendent.
Rivera reminds me that the elements themselves are ethical. And that an ethics of the person, the lyrical subject if you will, is redoubled in language forms as they mimic elemental quality. In “Fire” a certain radiance is achieved by a beautiful line that zips across the text, exterior and sudden not in verticality but in horizontality. I read this formal maneuver as a wonderful inversion of the traditional analogy: the horizontal (line) is to the social as the vertical (spacing/line-break) is to the Divine:
In Earth I am struck by the feeling that the language is a literal sediment being sifted, alluvial as such. The text visually resembles a sieve or net, where it catches voices and images, and sifts impressions in time. In the spaces between words, phrases and sentences one feels the breaking of the earth itself as a breaking of the subject of poetry, a going down in tectonic and mantled shifts of language.
In Water, Rivera has used a series of tercets to mimic a flowing quality of water itself. Here the sonic, rhythmic and intellective values of the poem are not unlike Lorine Niedecker’s wonderful longer poem “Wintergreen Ridge”.
In the penultimate section, Air, the language provokes a sense of weightlessness or grace as, like in Fire, a horizontal row of words cuts through the middle of the poem. In these word rows (with much space left between individual words) one’s vision adjusts to the space of the page, and the fact that the words seem to not be in their proper sequence, or a linearally readable sequence for that matter. The words are light in this sense, having drifted from sequentiality.
In the last section, The Sphere, the fact that the poem is ordered by couplets belies the tension, and drift, within the couplet form as the poem attempts to reorder itself by a grammar and syntax within the couplets, perforating its own map (a perforation Rivera alludes to in the last page of her book).
If *Unknowne Land* is fundamental, I think it is fundamental in an ethical sense that the element is a ground or dwelling for encounter with otherness, if not "the" Other itself. When George Oppen repeatedly speaks of fire and stone, islands, the waterways he traveled by with Mary Oppen in their boats, the elemental is that which brings the personality, the ego, out of its self-enclosure. In Rivera and Oppen both, this encounter with the element is as affirmative as it is melancholy insofar as the self only becomes the self through the struggles against it presented by the world outside, beside, near: an otherness both presupposing and antedating "I", society, others. This limit-work of estrangement calls to mind Hegel’s prescription to “feel against your self”; but also Emmanuel Levinas’s insistence that in the encounter with the other is a necessary *inter-ruption* or *unworking* of being itself. The writing of the poem constitutes the activity of this primitive ethics, this ethics of the fundament. Land “unknowne,” mis-understood, un-theorized or grasped in aspect. Land un-intended. Dis-extended.
*top-most image: Anton Van Dalen in his "living room".