Thursday, June 12, 2008

Power comes...

to those who (don’t)
wait--language an in
equality what you l

end and what I actu
ally take--privilege
and what I discard I

abandon in principle
and yet know--that I
do this complicity p

okes out the old su
n’s eyes--makes some
verbs from what nou

ns controlled--pinpo
inting the voice li
ke an arrow rhetoric

silver-tongued pois
on-tipped angel--bin
ging on dominion so

ul saver and sovere
ign--must I speak to
an object appreciat

es shit--zealous cont
agion, zealous anti
thesis the undead,

unmourned, unliberat
ed, disavowed as a
kind of third sex--

seducing us back from
that bad fantasy of
ways we have chosen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Poem for Social Practice

Distillation a matter
of feeling *against
one’s self* to make a
mark don’t connect

the dots stars didn’t
make us we made them
when we read their
pretensions of wisdom

a kind of seduction
the phatic validates
the rest is rent and
money for gas so sings

complicity always the
place the emotion
of being among so many
makes one get over

themself the things
we are not for their own
sake this room large
and ever ambivalent

I was with her deixis
a tale of survival
the survival of her
milk is memory wood

darkening that shade
no longer human with
witness you begin to
cry something will eat

the cancer that idea
must not get cut-out
you are here I don’t want
to be anything if

it takes that much
loss to be I don’t want
to have to participate
with a voice

the cracks public
makes in social space
filled by greedy
imperative spreads

cancer to what we
would otherwise
communicate be with
me make a sign to

change their signs
true leveler *an in
equality* information
like a corpse went

forth dragging its
body in the aether
where to put the
body Modernity while

we were gone value
labored *Bodies: can’t
live with them, can’t
live without them*

Monday, June 09, 2008

Rob Halpern's *Imaginary Politics*

Attending the George Oppen Centennial Symposium this past April at SUNY-Buffalo with Rob, I was reminded of many affinities between Rob and the figure of poet George Oppen. While the affinities between these two exemplary poets are too many to think about adequately here, one way to think their works in relation is through the terms “guilt” (Oppen) and “shame” (Halpern) as the recognition of guilt and shame may be constitutive of a certain form of responsible (i.e. ethical) subjectivity, and not merely a shibboleth for bad forms of liberalism and religious morality.

For there to be “shame in simply being here” I do not read negatively, that is I don’t read it in terms of a damaged or pathetic subjectivity (a figure of trauma per se), but as one of the most fundamental propositions of ethical subjectivity. Not unlike Emmanuel Levinas, who in his '61 work *Totality and Infinity* recognized “I” not to begin in Being (capital B), but in an inexhaustible and unpayable debt to other beings, nearly every sentence and line of Rob’s work articulates a subjectivity completely related by others, and committed to an acknowledgement of complicity with violences major, minor and in between. So that to “simply be here”—that is to simply exist in relation to other beings and objects—is to be hailed by power itself, whether, and however inadvertently, we heed that call or not.

Rob’s newest chapbook, *Imaginary Politics*, clause after clause responds to the calls of this hailing through critical investigation, emotional interjections and addresses, and autobiographical modes too allegorical to ever be called confessional, that don’t resort to narcissism as such. And yet *Imaginary Politics*, like much of Rob’s work and as the work’s title suggests, not only concerns things as they are, but things as we imagine them and would like them to be. Whereas the goal of Lacanian psychoanalysis specifically is to bring the subject from an imaginary position wherein a navigation of the real (small “r”) is tenable, to one in which the illusory subject breaks upon the rocks of the Real (capital “R”) and can thusly be transformed thru psychic disillusionment, Rob’s work enacts thinking towards a place that is possible inasmuch as it is unthinkable—a non-place (i.e., utopia), or place of the imaginary unidentifiable with the psychoanalytical type.

The place of this imaginary I identify principally with thinking as an action in itself, as thinking may begin in using and being used by language. I believe Leslie Scalapino may articulate such a notion of thinking where she writes: "Movement (or shape in writing) is a knowledge that isn’t one’s thinking per se. One’s thinking by itself is movement that is knowledge." When I think of Rob’s work in general, beyond any concrete detail, thematic concern, or subject it is this essential movement of thinking that I recall, and which makes me want to return to the work. While certain terms from Rob’s poetics may point at this movement of thought—“event”, “situation”, “withdrawal," “disaster”—the one I think most of is “blank,” a term that recurs again and again.

Never knowing quite how to take this term, it would seem to indicate a limit of sorts in substance which provides for new psychic configurations and interpellative circumstances: “you no longer being, my abundance, a blank the world keeps repeating, such pure situation.” Insofar as “blank” evidences the sublime, it also challenges one to act before a real too large to be encompassed by the understanding: “—yr role in something boundless makes me impotent, a blank the war keeps repeating, a bad infinity gone sublime” and “such clean subordination. broken subjects, surface areas and coastlines now contiguous with the vastness of that blank, repeating what won’t go down.”

I bring up Rob’s *blank* because I think blank is meant, in some way, to indicate a space of potentia, if only in negative, and it is such spaces that Rob’s work is principally concerned with. By taking the high-road of the negational, abstract, erased, absent, and occulted Rob constantly brings us back to our senses. To an actual commons, a common sense, where one might gather again, feel, touch, commune and coappear. Somehow through distance we have closeness, sense thru nonsense, sound through inarticulation, silence. “Now undo this habit. It won’t take long, and then we’ll emerge, together, in a hole blast thru the audio feed, our ears, at last prepared to hear, discovered in the mud…”