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Kenneth Warren - Between Language and Ta'Wil

Kenneth Warren - Between Language and Ta'Wil

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Published by Tom Cheetham

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Published by: Tom Cheetham on Apr 03, 2011
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Between Language and
: Robert Creeley, Jack Clarke and Poetics in Buffaloafter Olson
The car of mercury, enabling us, for themoment to leave the sole of the road – whatever speed or combination gets back toyou with your wing.David Tirrell, “II,” from:
A Curriculum of the Soul: “
Alchemy”2. A certain set of elements that stimulatesyou as to what you have to do that day, thatwould be your mercury.David Tirrell, “Notes to the Plates,” from:
A Curriculum of the Soul:
“The soul / is an onslaught” (379,
Collected Poems
) concludes Charles Olson in themajestic poem “The chain of memory is resurrection . . .” The mythological underworld,which provides Olson with amplitude for soul, “begins with the perspective of death” (5),as James Hillman suggests in
The Dream and the Underworld 
(1979). Accordingly “theshape of the soul / to the person involved” contains an animating necro-script written into“the genetic flow of each life which has given life” (373,
Collected Poems
), a spiritualhermeneutics for the interior living dead zone. In Olson’s underworld poetics, soul is thephylogenetic lynchpin to the dying self-reflective neuronal witness rooted eternally in“the brain-case of Cro-Magnon man” (372,
Collected Poems
). Hermes to Hades. “Blakeunderground” (47,
Collected Poems).
Soul in Buffalo. Mushroom network. High wirechurch.For Olson intuition is the psychological function which leads to the “onslaught”of soul. In
Psychological Types
, published in 1921, C.G. Jung describes intuition “asperception by way of the unconscious, or perception of unconscious events” (518). Atanother point in the book, Jung relates intuition to “a definite state of psychic ‘alertness’of whose origin the subject is unconscious” (413). Clearly intuition, with its sympatheticattraction to “perception by way of the unconscious,” generates an intensity of connective, collective vision that drives Olson’s cult of the soul.“The anatomy of intuition,” writes Daniel Cappon in
Intuition and Management – Research and Application
(1994), “is the genetically structured and stored capacity or innate ability for intuitive intelligence” (15). Olson’s insight into “the genetic flow of each life which has given life” is amplified through Cappon’s clinical observations andpsychological research on intuition and its negentropic potentials:
In entropic terms, its potential (negative energy) is stored in the batteriesof the collective memory and discharged (positive energy) through words,drawings and actions. The individual inherits various amounts of thispotential, builds it up and stores its personally unconscious memory vault.
(15)Intuition is the innately negentropic psychological function which unites theliving and the dead in transcendent perceptions of being and presence. In Jung’s model of 1
typology, the intermediating power of intuition is connective, expansive and unitive.Similarly cognitions that hinge on the capacity of the brain’s upper right cortex aretermed “conceptual, synthesizing, metaphoric, visual, integrative” (415) by NedHerrmann in
The Creative Brain
(1994) and John Giannini in
Compass of the Soul:Archetypal Guides to a Fuller Life
(2004), pp. 319 – 362). These cognitions arecorrelated with the function of intuition. By way of the upper right cortex of the brainperceptions of the self and the environment are rendered cosmic, cross-modal, fourfold,holistic, mythic, present, other-worldly and trans-local - in principal, perceptionscharacteristic of intuition (Charles Hampden-Turner,
Maps of the Mind: Charts and Concepts of the Mind and it Labyrinths
, 1982, pp. 86-89; Harry T. Hunt,
On the Natureof Consciousness: Cognitive, Phenomenological, and Transpersonal Perspectives,
1995,pp. 142-160;
Francisco Varela, "Not One, Not Two,"
The CoEvolution Quarterly
, Fall1976, pp. 62-67; John Giannini’s
Compass of the Soul: Archetypal Guides to a Fuller Life
, 2004, pp. 136-153).Olson’s cosmic claims about the soul are fed from the right brain and shapedthrough the specific psychic function of intuition. In other words, the complex structureof Olson’s psyche mediates embodied and disembodied states; his intuition generatesmythological consciousness and underworld poetics. A self-referential symbolic capacityfor death, depth and divinity specific to the “onslaught” of Olson’s soul initiates Jack Clarke and Albert Glover into the intuitive knowledge and thunder-bolt noetics of anomnivorous
. For Clarke and Glover the structural force of Olson’s intuitive complexnets not only “a definite state of psychic "alertness" of whose origin the subject isunconscious” (413) but also a deep concentration on the totality of imaginal powers andnegentropic potentials necessary to enact a particular manifestation of the “onslaught”through
A Curriculum of the Soul 
, a series of poetic essays published as fascicles by theInstitute of Further Studies.
A Curriculum of the Soul 
exists within the continuous tradition of Hermeticism, aspiritual path of exotic and free research connected to Hermes, the scribe of the gods andguide of souls in the realm of the dead. In celebrating
A Curriculum of the Soul 
within theunderworld poetics and quantum resurrection cycle of Olson’s right brain “onslaught,” Iwant to propose that Buffalo is an attractor site for the adversative moieties of a
coincidentia oppositorum
. I hope to demonstrate that with the Language movementbecoming more and more visible during the late seventies, SUNY Buffalo became amajor site for a clash of poetics. The archetypal forces that drove these moieties tocontest matters of language and soul, personality and power at SUNY Buffalo aredialectically structured; they can be imagined as two bicameral camps, each withcognitive biases, quantum effects and poetic moods. On one hand, there is the left brainprofane separatist particle Language clan of innies. This clan is indisposed toward thetranscendental entity of soul. On the other hand, there is the right brain sacredparticipatory wave Olsonian clan of outies, disposed toward the transcendental entity of soul.“Paradise is a person,” Olson proclaims in
The Maximus Poems
. “The soul is amagnificent angel” (240). Against Olson’s image of the essential self, the LanguageMovement assembled a critical arsenal from Roland Barthes'
Writing Degree Zero
(1967), Karl Marx's
, and Ferdinard de Saussure's
Course in General Linguistics
(1966), to name a few fundamental sources. The Language Movement attacked the2
descriptive, naturalistic, referential and transcendental mystifications of literature andaccentuated in the field of language the linguistic contradictions of commodity culture.As pivotal members of the Language Movement, Steve McCaffery, Ron Silliman andCharles Bernstein fashioned deconstructive death rays, so to speak. They aimed atOlson’s cult of the soul.“The demise of the transcendental ego, of the authentic self, of the poet as lonelygenius, of unique artistic style: these were taken as something of a given,” (169) notesMarjorie Perloff in
Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy
(2004), describing thecritical aims and claims of the Language Movement. From the whole brain typologicalperspective that Herrmann and Giannini supply, the left brain profane separatist particleLanguage clan of innies is cognitively pre-disposed to reject holistic and timelessconceits about authorship that strengthen the cult of the soul. The archetypal ingredient of presence, supported through right brain cognitive operations crucial to both intuition andHermeticism, is squeezed through left brain critical procedures by deconstructive deathray adepts. The right brain median line to “a magnificent angel” is suspect.
A Curriculum of the Soul 
is a right brain production in underground poetics andunder-directed thinking; it springs from the unconscious, the root of Olson’s “ProjectiveVerse.” In this psycho-dynamic sense, personally unconscious contents form “a complexof occasions” (
The Maximus Poems
, 185)
that situates the producers of 
A Curriculum of the Soul 
between Olson’s “magnificent angel” and deconstructive death ray adepts. Asdeconstructive death ray adepts take critical aim at the self-presence native to projectiveunderworld poetics, the producers of 
A Curriculum of the Soul 
work through the under-directed thinking of intuition to convert the base potential within “a person” into“Paradise (
The Maximus Poems¸
240). So again, form is an extension of complex.The clash of poetics over “the onslaught” of soul in Buffalo involves claims bythese opposing clans to earthly lineage and heavenly linkage. Accordingly Jung’sremarks on the Homeric chain bear meaningfully on the projection points for visionarytransmission which inspires the production of 
A Curriculum of the Soul 
. “The Homericchain in alchemy is the series of great wise men, beginning with Hermes Trismegistus,which links earth with heaven” (188), Jung writes in
(1974). To be sure, theHomeric chain marks also “the path of the dead” (167-203) in the Neoplatoniccosmology examined by Moshe Idel in
Ascensions on High in Jewish Mysticism: Pillars,Lines, Ladder 
(2005). Clearly Neoplatonic inspiration feeds the “onslaught” of soul inBuffalo with angelic forms, geometrical images and vectors to the dead. Such intuitivelystructured mental imagery, beamed through the brain’s right hemisphere, skewsprojective attention among the Olsonian clan of outies toward the Homeric chain.In this clash of poetics deconstructive death ray adepts trigger erasures inBuffalo’s right brain poetic lineage, which functions intuitively in service to Olson’somnivous
. However, these erasures constellate a necessary underground psychicforce fundamental not only to
A Curriculum of the Soul 
and but also to the alchemicaloperations through which Clarke and Glover will persist as ridiculed companions in thecult of the soul, intent on realizations of Olson’s “onslaught” in celestial realms. Againstthe wily self-promoting Language poets of this world, then, Clarke and Glover will makethe Hermetic journey to what Jung terms in
Memories, Dreams and Reflections
(1965)“the other pole of the world” (189).
A Curriculum of the Soul 
must therefore beconsidered “a link in the Aurea Catena which has existed from the beginnings of 3

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