Friday, February 09, 2007
the NYC release of Oh One Arrrow
Saturday, February 10th
308 Bowery @ Bleecker, NYC
(readings will start promptly @ 2:00)
Lori Anderson Moseman
Oh One Arrow will be for sale, $18
admission is free
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Since as long as the publication of Cary Nelson’s *Repression and Recovery* (1989), and the scholar’s establishment of the Modern American Poetry Syllabus website (MAPS), there has been a necessary reframing of American literary modernism through the recovery and reconsideration of writers critically neglected from the period, if not all but lost to the cares of literary scholarship and publication. The process of “recovering” culturally important yet neglected writers from modernism’s “first wave” is no uncomplicated matter as it entails a concomitant revamping of cultural modes of production and fields of reception across which texts continue to have value and a potential existence for a readership. To “recover,” as Nelson is at pains to point out in his book, is not merely to “save” or “redeem” a text lost to a society’s attentions, but also to assert the importance of texts within a larger evaluation of institutions and other locuses of interpretative (and thus permittive and trasmittive) authority. As Nelson himself writes eloquently of said dilemmas:
*Literary history is never an innocent process of recovery. We recover what we are culturally and psychologically prepared to recover and what we “recover” we necessarily rewrite, giving it meanings that are inescapably contemporary, giving it a new discursive life in the present, a life it cannot have had before. A text can gain that new life in part through an effort to understand what cultural work it may have been able to do in an earlier time, but that understanding again is located in our own time. If the effort to understand past cultural projects can only become authentic when we demonstrate that we have transcended our own historical entanglements, then such efforts will never be authentic. Though one cannot ever stand outside this hermeneutic circle or even decisively identify its components, one can nevertheless begin to accept the existence of its constraints and thus, at least intermittently, to recognize their pertinence.* (Nelson 11)
The reissue of Lola Ridge’s *The Ghetto* by Joel Kuszai’s & Bill Marsh’s Factory School is a movement both within the time of a cultural present and outside that present insofar as the act of republication—the reframing of our attention as poets and scholars—intends a remnant neither of historicity alone (“back then”) or our present (“now”). Walter Benjamin has put this idea more eloquently in his “Theses on the Philosophy of History” where he relates the objects of history (texts and other facts) as those existents vanishing just as they appear, which flit and flicker as such: *The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again. […] For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably. (The good tidings which the historian of the past brings with throbbing heart may be lost in a void the very moment he opens his mouth.)* (my brackets) In his recent works revisiting Messianic conceptions of time after Benjamin, Hegel, Marx, Bataille, St. Paul and others Giorgio Agabem has pointed to such a time as a time that *remains*: between “now” and “then,” before an imagination of an “end” and an end “in itself,” “past” and “future,” “here” and “there”; that is, somewhere between redeemability and an unaccountable, yet salvageable, *potentia*: “But in the time of the now, the only real time, there is nothing other than the remnant. This does not properly belong either to an eschatology of ruin or salvation, but rather, to use Benjamin’s words, it belongs to an unredeemable, the perception of which allows us to reach salvation. […] The messianic remnant exceeds the eschatological all, and irredeemably so; it is the unredeemable that makes salvation possible.” (Agamben 57) This remaining concerns Kuszai’s & Marsh’s efforts as well as a movement of scholars and poets nowadays as they attempt to renew texts for our present, allowing them to exist in a time contingent and undecided towards futures (plural). In our era when (Left) public intellectuals are increasingly attacked, when the march of global capitalism appears unabated if not self-assured, when the academy battens the hatches once again and basic human rights for all but a few are guaranteed, I can think of few more important endeavors within the rings of literary scholarship, publication, production and reception than to reconsider the works Kuszai & Marsh have put “on the table” and into the hands of their readers. The effort for recovering & undoing repression, and to ensure remnant, starts with republishing and circulating—maintaining works in print that redistribute and radicalize debate about cultural-historical knowledge: that reevaluate & reaccess for the continual creation of a contingent present. So Lola Ridge’s *The Ghetto* is yet another text that should call to, if not demand, our attention for what it offers present and past as they bifurcate future.
Admittedly I had never read Lola Ridge before Andrew Levy’s offering me a review copy of *The Ghetto*. My own grounding tends more to be in poets after Pound, and especially Ridge’s Objectivist contemporaries: Louis Zukofsky, George Oppen, Charles Reznikoff, Lorine Niedecker and Muriel Rukeyser. In such a test of poetry—a placing beside her most valuable contemporaries— Ridge succeeds in countless ways, however she may fail in some others. It has long seemed a problem to me when we talk about “recovery” or “recuperation” to what extent we would like to recover a work for its technical or formal radicality, and to what extent for a work’s rhetorical/artifactual value within a particular situation or context. The works of Objectivists, and Rukeyser (who was not an Objectivist of course by Oppen’s, Reznikoff’s and Zukofsky’s discrepant definitions of “the objective”) matter to me because they straddle a crucial threshold between political and ethical contents conveyed by rhetorical utterance and formal (language) values that transcend rhetorical effectiveness alone—that may arguably be said to be transcendent of rhetorical value. Mark Scroggins has a wonderful example of this problem in his book *Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge* when he considers Zukofsky’s different versions of a poem for New Masses and the poet’s revision of that same poem for inclusion in *“A”*. Here Scroggins demonstrates that Zukofsky’s poem has been “conceded,” if not compromised, in its formal innovation by the politically radical editors of New Masses (see Scroggins 156-158). In the end, of course, we know form and content to be inextricable; and, what’s more (to paraphrase Alan Gilbert’s timely twisting of Robert Creeley’s original words to Charles Olson), form to be never be more than an extension of *Culture*. So perhaps it is culture itself we must seek in reading Lola Ridge’s poem, “The Ghetto,” and the other poems accompanying Ridge's volume by the same title.
This culture “The Ghetto” refers to is that of New York’s Lower East Side in the Nineteen teens, a culture Louis Zukofsky was also well-acquainted with as a childhood native of the neighborhood. Ridge, born December 12th, 1873 in Dublin, Ireland, eventually moved to New York City after living in Australia and New Zealand with her mother. As Donna M. Allego tells us about Ridge (at MAPS), to support herself Ridge worked as a model, illustrator, factory worker and labor organizer. The experience that Ridge sings in her poem, “The Ghetto,” is that of the immigrant (and the Jewish immigrant in particular) situated in the city during the early 20th century.
In the critic F. Hackett’s review of Ridge’s *The Ghetto* (also at MAPS) I find interesting the critic’s insistence that Ridge negotiates “the game of rhetoric” with “self-expression”/”emotion”. This distinction is useful for our present, where rhetoric remains necessary—tactically exigent—but emotion—a “sincerity” of the formal object in Zukofsky’s sense of the term—saves rhetoric from merely being an act of communication, pushing it instead towards ecstatic and heightened sensibilities: that wonderful sense of language as a thing beyond its mere operation so necessary for *poesis*.
In the title poem to Ridge’s volume she sings the Jewish immigrant experience of Hester Street in NYC in the teens, conveying such an experience in a multi-faceted, poly-vocal way—not unlike Langston Hughes does later for Black-American urban experience in *Montage of a Dream Deferred*. Here to lay a politics on one’s sleeve, as I believe Ridge does, does not mean to resort to easy caricatures of marginalized ethnic identities or social standing/class position. Likewise, for Ridge, it is not to suture identity categories easily, where “to suture” means to smooth over difference, eliminating conflict for a general cause, ideal, belief or social goal. A commitment to class antagonism—radical indeed for a (presumably) Catholic Irish immigrant (which is to say, an "outsider")—does not mean the subsuming or synthesizing of other identity categories. Neither gender or the particularity of “the other” are forsaken, as Ridge puts identities into mobile relation. This radicalization of identity may be felt in the following lines where gender, ethnicity and class partake equally in the unique potentialities of two fellow workers, women, friends and Jews(?)—Sarah and Anna. The fact that the womens' intellectual and physical labor-power involve the same substance, are metaphorized as such, and that their power is also conveyed through their sexualities is a moving occurrence within Ridge’s expressive text:
*Sarah and Anna live on the floor above.
Sarah is swarthy and ill-dressed.
Life for her has no ritual.
She would break an ideal like an egg for the winged thing at the
Her mind is hard and brilliant and cutting like an acetylene torch.
If any impurities drift there, they must be burnt up as in a clear
It is droll that she should work in a pants factory.
--Yet where else…tousled and collar awry at her olive throat.
Besides her hands are unkempt.
With English…and everything…there is so little time.
She reads without bias—
Psychology, plays, science, philosophies—
Those giant flowers that have bloomed and withered, scattering
--And out of this young forcing soil what growth may come
--what amazing blossomings.
Anna is different.
One is always aware of Anna, and the young men turn their heads
to look at her.
She has the appeal of a folk-song
And her cheap clothes are always in rhythm.
When the strike was on she gave half her pay.
She would give anything—save the praise that is hers
And the love of her lyric body.
But Sarah’s desire covets nothing apart.
She would share all things…
Even her lover.* (Ridge 19-20)
One of the beauties of this passage lies in its abutting of two personalities. Like Whitman before her, and the poems of 30’s Objectivism, Ridge is both the social ethnographer and nuanced cultural analyst. But a beyond of both ethnographic-documentary and analysis lies in the language itself, that will not be pinned down so easily in its effulgences of sound-image as they bear meaning, and as those meanings turn in the line and over us—the reader. What is “the winged thing at the core” for which “she would break an ideal like an egg” if not the vivid actuality of a poignantly renewed metaphor? What is in the parataxis of “She has the appeal of a folk-song / And her cheap clothes are always in rhythm” racing to “She would give anything—save the praise that is hers / And the love of her lyric body?" One cannot doubt the formal capacities, the innovation and clarity of Ridge’s poem in these lines just cited. And yet these lines, these telling overturnings of the poetic word, will ultimately serve to describe the difficult experience of a social “world,” the fact that cultures are messy and the personality—that singularity among multitudes, multiplicity—must also be sung in its exact proportions, proportions that only an attention to the particular values of individuated text can present to a readership.
So many other radiances and revelations occur in the full volume, *The Ghetto*, the title poem of which I have only begun to address. Mythological and "internal" realities, memories and ontological propositions are peppered about social relation (externalities) and observations of an "exterior" world—the world, as such, as it exists between inequal entities: “She gloats in a mirror/ Over her gaudy hat,/ With its flower/ God never thought of…” (Ridge 48) These occurrences draw us inward, if only to move us out again: to the language of the poem, the culture it must be a part of to continue being relevant—sincere. When Ridge does get rhetorical there is something brutal in the poem's address—a generative salvage of lyric poetry sentimentally, yet outwardly, directed:
What of the silence of the keys
And silvery hands? The iron sings…
Though bows lie broken on the strings,
The fly-wheels eternally…
Bring fuel—drive the fires high…
Throw all this artist-lumber in
And foolish dreams of making things…
(Ten million men are called to die.)
As for the common men apart,
Who sweat to keep their common breath,
And have no hours for books and art—
What dreams have these to hide from death! (Ridge 71)
Turning a lyrical tradition on its head towards the difficulties of her society, and taking up innovative tactics in an unpretentious, concise language of or after (Poundian) modernity (regardless whether Ridge was aware of Pound, or gave credence to his poetics) Factory School’s resissue of *The Ghetto* is another crucial step towards “recovery” and “remnant” as it replaces a text of cultural interest before the readers of our precarious present—a present both detached from Ridge’s own, and yet eerily contemporary. Ridge’s most insistent problems are ones of labor, and the incommensurability of identities coevally exploited by the brutal dictates of force unleashed at an alarming rate in the early 20th century. To understand the world Ridge lived in—the immigration experience of New Yorkers at that time, the class character and conditions of labor of the period, the position of poor, immigrant women—*The Ghetto* is an invaluable text. To reenvision our present, *The Ghetto* is yet another text ardently recovered by Factory School.
Agamben, Giorgio. *The Time That Remains*. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.
Nelson, Cary. *Repression and Recovery*. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.
Ridge, Lola. *The Ghetto*. NY: Factory School, 2006.
Scroggins, Mark. *Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge*. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998.
*This is the draft of a review intended for Roberto Harrison's & Andrew Levy's *Crayon* journal.
Once I asked Lama Norlha Rinpoche, But what is the self? He immediately and suddenly jabbed his fingers towards my eyes, stopping an inch or so away. I blinked. That blink is the self, he said.
~ Robert Kelly, in Chicago Review's *Stan Brakhage: Correspondences* issue
~ Robert Kelly, in Chicago Review's *Stan Brakhage: Correspondences* issue
after Jayce Salloum
These petals open
Yet to this
The eyes dance
With the will
Now you see it
You see it
Like the body
Taking a photo of itself
To conceive the
Blink with me
Blink and blink
Where we were
Comes to mind
utive of (((of))
Blink and with
Where we are
And are again
Not among the
Barely covered by
Of that cut
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Monday, February 05, 2007
I am very honored to be in the latest edition of Dodie Bellamy's & Kevin Killian's MIRAGE with Rob Halpern and with kari edwards' "last poem". The edition also includes poems by Ann Stephenson, cover art by Otto Chan and Kevin Killian's report from visiting Christina Wong Yap's studio.
"how many times
must I die
I need not reach
to touch the sky"
~ from kari edwards' "Given the News"
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Peace On A presents
David Levi Strauss & Kyle Schlesinger
Friday, February 9th 2007 8PM
BYOB & recommended donation: $5
hosted by Thom Donovan at
166 Avenue A, Apartment #2 New York, NY 10009
about the readers:
Kyle Schlesinger is a book artist, poet, editor & founder of Cuneiform Press. Recent artists’ books include *A Book of Closings* and *Moonlighting*. His serial poem *Mantle* (with Thom Donovan) was published by Atticus Finch in 2005, and a forthcoming book of poems will be published by BlazeVox Books in 2007. He currently teaches poetry and typography at SUNY-Buffalo.
Meanwhile prolongs this observation.
Boarding trains this circular morn bet-
ween two points the sky – robin blue and
just for you. Declines night now. Waning
figures cast fishnet sentences. Lines dar-
ting here or there – sequence yourself.
~ from *Moonlighting*
David Levi Strauss is a writer and critic in New York, where his essays and reviews appear regularly in Artforum and Aperture. His collection of essays on photography and politics, *Between the Eyes*, with an introduction by John Berger, was published by Aperture in 2003, and has just been released in an Italian edition by Postmedia. *The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photography Books of the Twentieth Century*, with catalogue essays by Strauss, was published by P.P.P. Editions and D.A.P. in 2001. *Between Dog & Wolf: Essays on Art & Politics* was published in 1999 by Autonomedia, and *Broken Wings: The Legacy of Landmines* (with photographer Bobby Neel Adams) came out in 1998. His essays have appeared in a number of recent books and monographs on artists such as Leon Golub and Nancy Spero, Martin Puryear, Miguel Rio Branco, Francesca Woodman, Carolee Schneemann, and Alfredo Jaar. He was the founding editor of *ACTS: A Journal of New Writing*(1982-1990), and author of a book of poetry, *Manoeuvres*, before moving from San Francisco to New York in 1993. He has been awarded a Logan grant, three Artspace grants, a Visiting Scholar Research Fellowship from the Center for Creative Photography, a Guggenheim fellowship in 2003-04, and the Infinity Award for writing from the International Center of Photography in 2006. Strauss taught at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College from 2001-05, and is now on the faculties of both the Graduate School of the Arts and the undergraduate studio art program at Bard.
In his introduction to *Between the Eyes*, John Berger wrote, “Strauss, who is a poet and storyteller as well as being a renowned commentator on photography (I reject the designation critic) looks at images very hard . . . and comes face-to-face with the unexplained. Again and again. The unexplained that he encounters has only little to do with the mystery of art and everything to do with the mystery of countless lives being lived.” And Luc Sante wrote, “David Levi Strauss brings an eloquent and deep moral seriousness to his examination of photography. Again and again he makes the ringing point that trying to separate aesthetics and politics can only result in vacuity. He is photography’s troubled conscience.”
Half hope, half fear. Like when people who react against politically committed art say, on the one hand, that such art is pretentious, delusional, and dishonest, since art is powerless to cause real political change; and, on the other hand, that this kind of art is irresponsible and dangerous, since it inflames the passions of the already savage rabble. So which is it, dog or
~ from *Between Dog & Wolf*
Peace On A is 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, Paolo Javier, Andrew Levy & Eléna Rivera. Scroll down Wild Horses of Fire weblog (whof.blogspot.com) for back advertisements, introductions and reading selections.
Measure a million million
Measure a million to margin
~ Susan Howe
Kyle Schlesinger : *Insofar As* a Metapolitics of Sense
*To eat and to be eaten—this is the operational model of bodies, the type of their mixture in depth, their action and passion, and the way in which they coexist with one another. To speak, though, is the movement of the surface, and of ideational attitudes or incorporeal events. What is more serious: to speak of food or to eat words?* (Deleuze 23)
*In which the big wig. In which a new broom sweeps streets. In which from wench I came. In which rain on rain. In which Lucy Lippard’s slippers. In which nouns, calendars. In which the garter belt & the Bible Belt. In which that fine central intelligence (agency). In which major & minor anus. In which height, semaphores. In which loose can-cans. In which Irving & Lydia. In which immiseration. In which union jack-o-lanterns. In which the swans of Okefenokee. In which deer surge. In which youth & consequences.* (Kuenstler 9)
I have known Kyle Schlesinger since 2000 when we both enlisted at Bflo Poetics. In the meantime Kyle has been an incredible friend, colleague, collaborator & confidant. He is also a poet, a valuable scholar and “critic,” and the publisher of many books that have been important to me thru his Cuneiform Press. Some of these books include Gregg Biglieri’s *Sleepy With Democracy*, Craig Dworkin’s *Dure*, and most recently Bill Berkson’s *History and Truth*. Cuneiform is incontestably one of the most necessary “small presses” working in the United States today in its commitment to the printed word, and intellectual facts.
Over the years I have witnessed Schlesinger’s development, his progress if you will, as a poet. This started when he gave me his *Idioics*—a chapbook he put out while still a student at Godard College. His next major publication as a poet—in the meantime he had clocked a review of Raymond Federman’s *Voice in the Closet*, a transcription of a lecture given by Charles Olson at Godard and numerous other scholarly offerings—was the “serial poem” we collaborated on and that was published as a book in 2005 with Michael Cross’ aesthetically heroic Atticus/Finch Press: *Mantle—for George Oppen*. The making of this work, along with an essay on Chris Marker, with Schlesinger brought me into my own as a writer. I am ever grateful for this initiation.
Schlesinger’s contributions to *Mantle* are telling of his commitments as a word-smith, a word “cabinet maker” in the tradition of Charles Reznikoff (who the term is taken after). There are few people I’ve met whose intelligence is so led by a transliterative ear, an ear that hears so many meanings struck together as they are being written or spoken—exposited as such. This comes across in the following lines from *Mantle*:
The libretto is unfit to print
or so we have heard
your hymn in the gallop.
March is the month
of curtains if this must be
If this must
be a comment on atrocity
Pure loss is not imminence
imminence is not patience
Cities come quickly
marooned at low tide
Sanding room only
futurity ensures one
interruption per event. (Donovan/Schlesinger section 20)
In the time since *Mantle*, Kyle has completed numerous works of poetry at a deliberate, if not plodding pace. These works include his “Parallax Letters” (published with Sarah Campbell’s P-Queue journal in 2004), a work where he has worked-over & condensed a series of letters from a correspondence he maintained while traveling in Europe and Eastern Europe. He has also self-published an artists' book called *Moonlighting* whose pages recall the poetics of the critically neglected New York City-based poet, film-artist and punster, Frank Kuenstler—a writer no doubt a kindred spirit to Schlesinger. In *Moonlighting*, and the work after, Schlesinger’s poetics seem fully formed, thus embodied.
What occurs to me reading *Moonlighting* is the way the designed book coheres with the words—the text. Among the book’s pages are Photoshopped & Illustratored takes on cloud-scapes and other vistas in “psychedelic” color schemes. These colored-scapes form a background to the text as they also blend with it, throwing foreground and background out of whack, giving “depth of field” to depthlessness—no less “deep” surface. The psychedelic makes sense given Schlesinger’s ultimate problem as a poet, at least as I see it: to give experience in all of its details and difficulties over to a “logic of sense,” a problem the poet shares with any number of 60’s artists & counter-culturalists, but also more recently with poets Charles Bernstein, Gregg Biglieri, Louis Cabri, Craig Dworkin & Judith Goldman. Schlesinger’s logic of sense constitutes what I must term a “metapolitics” inasmuch as non-sense in relation to sense is what grounds language as an enterprise ever between the representational and presentative, both above “a politics” and before political realities.
If *Moonlighting* posits a metapolitics of sense, it is also a daybook of felt enjoyments, relations, percepts, thoughts, facts, emotions and other actualities engendered in linguistic grappling. These actualities are conveyed through a propositional syntax at the level of the sentence—telegraphic periods and caesuric dashes. In the end, Schlesinger’s *Moonlightning* may be most like earlier works by Ron Silliman, as Schlesinger would seem to renew the New Sentence for himself, recovering from it a lyric sensibility after LANGUAGE poetry’s unsentimental assaults on lyric poetry’s associations with literary romanticism and representationality.
Chum with a cheshire lining. Living
ink saunters through the couter-coun-
ter thickets in the trickle spot where
brambles never cease. Culture imp-
lied? Its engrained. The fact of your
feelings. To say nothing in as many
words as possible–you call that *poesis*? (from *Moonlighting*)
In the most recent (and unpublished) work, *Insofar as*, Schlesinger wears his metapolitics on his sleeve, taking up Frank Kuenstler’s punstering poetics towards the horrible events of our era: the second Iraq war; unprecedented American imperialisms—Gitmo, Abu-Ghraib; the reactionary from all sides. The words Schlesinger incants—“Insofar as”—as the initial words of each sentence of his poem, bear witness to language’s own complicity and simultaneous resistance to all forms of authoritative, invested address. As Schlesinger mentioned to me when he was starting to write the poem, he was searching Google and realized that politicians across party lines tended to use the phrase “insofar as” far more than almost anyone else on the internet. So to begin each of his own sentences with “Insofar as” is to indict language in its uses and abuses, and to infuse such deployments with a sincere sense of incoherence (non-sense or instability) utterly opposed to political deathtraps, blind alleys—diatribal tyranny & communicative stagnation. What anchors *Insofar as* at the level of language is the pun—what I consider to be Schlesinger’s greatest tool *towards* and *in* thinking. In punning is a logic of sense that evokes what Gilles Deleuze called “points of indiscernibility”—those linguistic, passional and existential thresholds most between what is *actual* and *virtual*, established as reality and potentialized towards new realities. The pun is that which sends a listener (for we of course do not only read language) and reader in as many linguistic directions as possible, that segments and cuts becoming as such like that archetypal cartoon animal torn at a crossroads—its figure literally elasticized. *Insofar as it*...
takes two to Google. Insofar as you're not going to de-
mocratically stop people from wanting. Insofar as “un”
is a salient prefix for the polis. Insofar as this claim is
warranted. Insofar as bipolar bears. Insofar as any psy-
chologically healthy person is able to ignore a
confluence of crossings (x-mas x-ing). Insofar as again
and again. Insofar as the old mannequin penguin pun.
Insofar as the required answer is denied. Insofar as what
we need now are more underproductive members. Inso-
far as they relate to Code Section 6213(a), eh? Insofar as
insofar as a form is necessary? Insofar as China is under-
stood fundamentally as the abstract Other. Insofar as it
elicits militant conviction. Insofar as sounds convincing,
perhaps even professorial, wouldn’t you agree? Insofar
as is caught up in a material transfer of invisible reifica-
tion. Insofar as visceral expectations of the next sentence
are circumscribed by the preposition erotica. Insofar as
the movement moves you. Insofar as my fidelity, twid-
dle-dee-dee. Insofar as I observe the same tensions in
Vertov. Insofar as is. Insofar as was. Insofar as can be. (*Insofar as* 3)
Schlesinger is of a singular intelligence as a writer in that he is someone who actually can not think before he thinks language’s indeterminacy, the infinite directions language takes the mind—that mind which may be made of language itself. Such an event is the beginning of proposition for him—transliteration, homophonics, neologism, paronomasia—as it parses our indiscernible points. What happens after this may be a matter for sense, but is never a matter for sense alone. It is what remains before sense as that which must become political and social, ethically committed, exterior as such in a world of common language experience—language’s being “the case” of anything whose existence could be told. So few people now are working diligently, arduously in fact, at the limit of such a linguistic-experiential mode in our world today with the pressures of “the day”. So few thinking in a language before what becomes expressed as “thought” or “meaning”. I find this tendency of Schlesinger’s mind, his person and will, both daunting, admirable and, most consequentially, generative. I hope this tendency will survive increasing cultural pressures for vulgar communicability, compromised efficacy, “direct-actions” so-called, and results as I value it more than almost any other.
Deleuze, Gilles. *The Logic of Sense*.
Donovan, Thom & Schlesinger, Kyle. *Mantle—for George Oppen*. Buffalo: Atticus/Finch Press, 2005.
Kuenstler, Frank. *In Which*. NY: Cairn Editions, 1994.
Schlesinger, Kyle. *Insofar as*. [unpublished].
____*Moonlighting*. Berlin, Germany: Cuneiform Press, 2005.
David Levi Strauss : A Poetics of Fact
*In the poem this very lighted room is dark, and the dark alight with love’s intentions. *It* is striving to come into existence in these things, or, all striving to come into existence as It—in this realm of men’s languages a poetry of all poetries, *grand collage*, I name It, having only the immediate event of words to speak for It. In the room we, aware or unaware, are the event of ourselves in It. The Gnostics and magicians claim to know or would know Its real nature, which they believe to be miswritten or cryptically written in the text of the actual world. But Williams is right in his *no ideas but in things*; for It has only the actual universe in which to realize Itself. We ourselves in our actuality, as the poem in its actuality, its thingness, are facts, factors, in which It makes Itself real. Having only these actual words, these actual imaginations that come to us as we work.* (Duncan vii)
*I studied in the Poetics Program from 1980 to 1983, and I realize now that everything I’ve written in the ten years since then has come out of that instruction in poetics: the study of how things are made. Though we concentrated in the Poetics Program on the poem, our investigations (certainly Duncan’s investigations) were not limited to that. As Duncan said, “the seriousness of the study of Poetics we intend is the seriousness of the study of creative events.” I’ve had no trouble extending these principles into the study of photography, film, television, sculpture, paintings, performance, propaganda, ethnography, tattooing and body modification, pranks, drugs, war, and virtual reality.* (Schelling/Waldman 448-449)
The statement just cited, from David Levi Strauss’ essay addressing Robert Duncan’s pedagogy—“The Poetics of Instruction: Robert Duncan Teaching”—pretty well sums up how I understand Strauss’ work: where he is coming from & what he does. Whatever subject he chooses to write about—tho most often art, culture & politics—revolves around a single axis: the axis of Poetics, from the Greek *poesis *meaning “to make”. As a reader of Duncan myself, and student of Poetics, I feel closer to David Levi Strauss than almost anyone “out there” writing about said subjects. Like Stan Brakhage, Hollis Frampton, Susan Howe, Charles Olson, Robert Smithson & Susan Sontag before him Strauss’ concerns are equally those of the artist & ethicist as they are of the “critic” so-called. In fact, in the face of Strauss’ work I propose the critical clarity Strauss brings to his work—like a microscope zooming in so closely that it breaks the glass holding the specimen it would otherwise like to examine, and know—is poetry, and, for that matter, some of the best and most useful poetry currently being produced.
Last week I attended a memorial event for Susan Sontag at the 92nd St. Y where I currently work as an archivist. One of the common ideas running through all of the presenters’ works was that Sontag was ultimately an aphorist. As I consider Srauss to be one of the major figures filling the void that *is* the loss of Sontag—for both our moral consciousness and aesthetic conscience—this got me thinking about a crucial difference between Strauss and Sontag: Strauss does not seem the least bit invested in aphorism. Why is this? My guess is that aphorism—in the lineages of a Nietzcshe, Emily Dickinson or an Emerson—is an aristocratic discourse, an effort, as one of the Sontag presenters put it, to have the last word in a discourse. Strauss eschews the excesses and adventuring of the aphorist for something else: for an unaffected lyricism of fact, citation, proposition & hyper-clear description. Against an aristocratism of the aphorist-essayer Stauss presents a populist, common sense driven project in the most difficult and least vulgar senses of these terms: a gathering around an object, an image, percept or event that in its fidelity to addressing these facts lead a reader outward to common concerns and struggles—the exigencies of social, ethical, political, & moral relation.
Perhaps Strauss is part of a new movement of criticism, a critical poetics that is finally overtaking theory (the need to see, grasp, com-*prehend*, reflect inactively) as well as the tendency in the academy to wax bibliographical (the bread & butter of academic conferences) and the tendency in popular journalism and other culture industries to merely make fashionable— and often turn a buck. I look for this movement in a lot of the “poet-scholars” that have come out of Buffalo Poetics—that latter Poetics program; I also look to it in the scholarship of an Ammiel Alcalay, Craig Dworkin, Alphonso Lingis, Martha Rosler & Jalal Toufic among others. Poets & artists consistently need to take back thinking both from theory, academic frivolities and complacent commerce, and this is exactly what Strauss is doing. What this amounts to is both an ethics and an ecstasis of the factual (and actual) worlds as they are felt, perceived, and inquired after.
Duncan, Robert. *Bending the Bow*. New York: New Directions, 1968.
ed. Schelling, Andrew & Waldman, Anne. *Disembodied Poetics: annals of the Jack Kerouac school*. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994.
David Levi Strauss:
But we must take care: this vision is given not to the eyesight (it does not even reside in the material "data" of the past) but to the vision of the heart: what the heart sees is pure Light...
~ Henry Corbin
...as if a diremption had begun but had not made itself complete.
~ William James
Preposition now/& bombs again/Unsteadied/
The site before before began/The site/Before
the eyelids sight/Was lost/ Now was then the
dead/On our eyes//An afterimage/Thought
was when/Intestines floated/Stray organs in
actual eyes/Astral/Simple vantage of this body
here/In it not simply interior/Insider outsider
outside inside says/What it sees to again/Where
we're gone is not lidded seer/Click on on off
off thought fluttering//Shudders to think this is
not/Simple division/Mind the simple/Imponder-
ables and moving move/Or march no simple
others feet/Soldiers totalled in the forgone/
Eyes nights forthcoming//Night says the news
page oil that actual night/Say this no simple im-
ponderable real/Fray far away near a way in/
To gods reportable contact men//Inside this
real cage the mind came and went/Inclement
when "we" is not virtuous/Say no border coevals
/Separate division from division/Insider exit
strategy//From/To these disasters/Cross hybrid
double crosser gnomic/Stray crops syncopate/
Global "ghoulish propriety" fee/Foolish wizardry's
wisened progency/Legendary//Buildings develop
everywhere/But here in my eyes oil says/No sim-
ply delayed/Angel demonstrate a way in situ/
People no heaven but also here/Is there in second
reflection/Spoons bend minds then//Nihilists a-
foot wlll chop/Off "our" heads suture doom to
truth & capital/Oil the way we/Roll Rome not bar-
baric/Enough/For the autonomous/we were/
Never here so/Let's trade these con-/Ditions/For
a body monadic diction/If only to be the Real