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PROSE ESSAYS
ON NOISE, PORNOGRAPHY, .
THE CODEX, MELANCHOLY,

LUCRETIUS, FOLDS, CITIES

AND RELATED APORIAS •


BOOKTHUG
MMXII



• •
• •

Untitled Essay








a discovery that speech is never simply single
- Clark Coolidge, Tke Crystal Text




(!





'
'







..




lectlve and individual rights or those rights' withdrawal. This linguistic
tracing of subjects fleetingly coheres in vernacular speech as that speech .
configures itselfat any livingjuncture with another speaker. Language, the
historical mode of collective relationship, is also the aptitude by which
humans innovate one another as subjects: The ego is the one who linguis­
tically addresses another, and it is only through this address that each, in
a reciprocal entwining, may fashion herself as "1." In this co-movement of
significance between individual and society, each person comes into an
awareness of herself as a speaking being within the society of language.
No binary is implicated. Neither individual nor instrumental, the ling-uis­
tic aptitude accompanies the beginning of humans as a collective nature
. h b0 0 ~ ''I ,, " " " " . d
through wh ch eac s ~ ~ e c t , uttermg , you, we, emerges an sur­
1
vives or perishes. Any subject is supported, spoken, and carried or disal­
lowed and f.Oreclosed by others, in a matrix of reciprocity, empathy and
that conditions the very possibility of embodiment. As soon as she
and names, the political subject emerges. Her agency is a verbal


73


· -
one; architecture and governance can only interpret, fix or abstract the
fluency ofthe linguistic given.
Because of the shared primacy of this linguistic beginning, and because
political space is an effect and an historical accretion oflinguistic circula­
tion, I'll propose a prosody of the citizen, where the tertn "prosody" de­
scribes the historical and bodily movement oflanguage a1nongst subjects.
This movement of the discourse ofprosody away from the technical con­

ventions of measure, towards the movements ofa generative i
ity, contributes to an interpretation of the domestic sphere that's aligned
with the shifting vectors and intensities ofembodiment. A prosodic
ing ofpolitics will carry Hannah Arendt's statetnent concerning the polis
into the domestic sphere also: "The only indispensable tnaterial factor in
the generation ofpower is the living together ofpeople. Only where men
live so close together that the potentialities ofaction are always present can

power remain with them ...." In The Human Condition, Arendt, following
Aristotle, argues that polis is the exchange ofspeech, and arises an ere
· and each time this free exchange takes place. In Arendt's thinking, it is
·the beginner who is the guarantor ofpolitical freedom: the beginner, hom
into speech, speaking in the world, to other beginners. The human social
beginnings - of birth, of speech - define the shared condition - natality,
in Arendt's coinage- and ensure that action reveals the improbable ye
always renewing freedom inherent in collective life. Without speech, sh
argues, action would lose its subjects and become violence. The
of beginners always, is antithetical to violence, because the
OOUI'SC that inflects subjects also dismandes the tenure ofauthority. 'IRis
.,..... ofspeech and action in the subject ensures that
Jpeech cannot be subordinated to a simplis ·
.. role, a means to an end or a violence,
innovatory and
acts and freedom articulates its
co.-movement ofspeech. Natality
necessary vitality ofthis ove
ecJ
thituc,
Polis
r ~

. _J:ty from the point ofview ofthe recogni( f
oaeJJP • Ion o embod· d .
. cipiently ethical, and prosody from the . . Ie subjectivity
as Jll • point of VIew of .
Arendt's refusal to define the shared c d . .
on Itlon of the
Imp ICit criti ue of . .
a
0
ogy o the Ch
. . Ign po I tical thin · . . ·
oglca en -thinkin .
. Ion o state-s ons
..
al.
.
guises. rendt's defense f
form oflife inflects current disc . . o nat Ity as the
I uss1ons around hio · · ..
. . e onging. The Citizen's bod · ·
charged relationships to other h d. . h y, In Its
. . . o Ies, Is t e temporal matrix and ·radi­
cal mechator ofpohtics. Each bodv each birth h . .
' ' ' eac coming Into speech .
' . e
.
l ~ t ~ n o n t y conceptually opposed to a social outside. This mediating con­
di tion will be inflected temporally, rather than spatially, since its limit is
less structurally architectural than flexibly transformative: the taking in
and preparation of food, of erotic encounter, of various modes of work,
of reproductive labour, of the production of an affective surplus and the
constant re-initiation into a freshened verbal motility - the domus is the
place of rhythmic protection of the vulnerable body, while sleeping, in
illness, age, and childhood, often while eating and washing, while resting,
·while talking and working. So the domestic sphere isn't private just as the
body and its modes ofconviviality, reproduction and care aren't private­
it expresses a complex temporality that includes coded information from
the past as it moves always in the light ofthe polyvalent and self-inventing
1!11.-t. In tertns of subjectivity and temporality, the domestic sphere
t:I'!Mfgcs as an embodied vector that breaks open, floods the habitual
75
.



containment of the public-private binary. In this shift away &om a
tial metaphor of the domestic, a displacement ofpower occurs. The ·
of the body is generative, cotnmingled, gestural, enacted; in a f'An....
interpretation ofthe domestic, power innovates itself as an improvised
embodiment. In this sense, ecology rather than economics might
the circulatory model of a mutually embodied and temporally
power-in-relationship, as long as one considers ecology in tertns of,.-·
plex processes ofdisequilibrium and emergence instead ofa
closure. Systems ofintegration, mutuality, rejection, dispersion and syo
chronous transformation, rather than a structural semiotics of bordcre
exchange, characterize domestic activities and interactions. Across these
constantly shifting melodic thresholds, the flow ofspoken language, &om
birth-cry to digital transmission, evades spatial containment, and myth·
mically innovates the time ofour collectivity. 'l'his collectivelyspokentime
is the sole incubator ofsubjectivity.
- In De Vulgare Eloquentia, Dante developed a poetics of the
the collectively accessible speech ofthe household and the street,
uted unilaterally rather than intentionally acquired via a disciplined
gogy ofgrammar, and transfornted in open bodily
. ofsocial position, gender or rank. "The vernacular," Dante says, "'[.
language which children gather from those around them when >h·:
· to articulate words; or more briefly, that which we learn ·
rules at all by imitatingour nurses." Avernacular is not
ing to a valuing hierarchy or an adtninistration ofhistory; it is ·
~ - - . . with the rhythmic needs and movements ofa
body altlong other bodies, each s c..

it is intrinsi grammarles.s. V4:......
ean never achieve closure. Refusing
In Dante's definition, it ia
it is the first, and
,



. lation concept or singularity of _ · t
circu . 1 moves eve .
tinuously, so an excess or an Innovation ma . ry-whlch-way
con . . . . . Yerupt at an . . . .
. arious kinds and Intensities ofpolitical co . Y P
0
lnt, 1n1bat­
1ng v . nsequences that .
be predeternuned. can never

D
nte reversed the values of the vernacular and th I
a e angua f · .
. a1 tradition - governmental, economic and . . ge
0
lUstitu­
uon . .
1
re 1g1ous. This
ned to a recognition of the politically tran £ . reversal
ope s ormattve agenc f
l
ar speech. He called grammar "seconda l y o ver­
nacu . . " . . . ry anguage" and the ve ­
ul
ar ''Illustrious, cla1nung for It the aesth t. d . . r
nac e Ic an pohttcal · ·
· ll d £ L · . pos1t1on
convenuona y reserve or atin, the hierarchically structu d .
· fh· b · · re grammar
f authonty. Part o IS su stantiation for this reversal f al
o . o v ue was aesthet­
. . be observed that poets sang in th .
1c, . . e vernacu 1ar
10
royal
courts and that lyr1c songs, canzone, are the most widel . d .
' Ycop1e , transmit­
ted and reproduced. Another part ofhis revalorization w
1
. ·
1
.
as po 1t1ca 1n the
P
opular sense; all people, ofany class or gender speak and s· . d ·
' 1ng an se1ze
a vernacular; at any point in history, a received potentiality ofliving lan­
guage has situated us as human. For Dante, the vernacular oflyric, whose
"sweet new style" was turned from the incipiently wandering language
ofwomen and of exile
1
by the Stil Nova poets, was a matrix of potential

.; 1 In Shards ofLove: and tlte Origins oftlte Lyric, Maria Rosa Menocal discusses the
origin of troubadour lyric in pre-1492 Anadalusia, where for eight centuries Christians,
Jews and Moslems lived an intensely hybrid peace. The popular song-form ofearly
n1edievaJ aJ Andalus ·was called the 1nuwasltsltashat. These n1ulti-lingual songs enacted
lovers' dialogues, using rhyrne, a device never before used in Arabic, Hebrew or Latin.
Each song included a kharja, or refrain, con1posed in a vernacular that, until recently was
not recognized as such, but was asstuned to be a nonsensical and n1usical gibberish, not
asemantic contribution to the verbal n1eaning of the poem. This kharja has now been
recognized, according to Menocal, as a transcription of the oral dialect spoken commonly
by women, Mozarabic. So the muwashsltahat is a diglossic, highflow, bastard, and
. d b h th ofTroubadour and
sexed song forn1, and is now hypothesize to e t e tno er .
Pro • • 1 ture and presentation
lyric song, with its rhyn1ing motifs, conversationa struc
ofthe Jo · · gular state to be
ve c as an otal exchange between sexes, not a stn
77

resistance, radical mobility, and h u ~ dignity. Written during Dante's
own exile from Florence, De Vulgare Eloquentia seeks to consolidate a vi­
sion ofa unified national language by claiming an exilic vernacular as the
exemplary speech of the citizen. In this sense, it is a deeply conservative
text, a precursor to the imposition ofstandardized national languages car­
ried out much later by European colonial regimes throughout the world,
through control of education, print media, health and healing practices
and other quotidian know-how. At the same time, De Vulgare Eloquentia's
textual radicality unties its own political will, revealing in its an1bivalence
how vernacular counter-language is at the core ofcollective resistance and
political self-invention.


Now language and money circulate using the same medium, a grannnar
which is digital, horizontal and magnetic, and politically determined.
Maybe all language will be eventually administrated as an institutional
money: a contained and centrally monitored instrumental value. On the
other hand, the digitization of value could mean that language in its ver­
nacular expression can infiltrate and defom1 capital's production and lim­
itation of social power. If it is to be the latter, then vernacular language's
magnetism will reorient the polis.


represented in a unified language. In contrast to the extremely rich translation culture
surrounding medieval Arabic and Hebrew philosophical, scientific and other high­
culture textual fonns, muwaskshakat were not translated; there is little material evidence
to prove the routes oftransmission from the Iberian peninsula, across the Pyrenees
· through the I .anguedoc region, the centre of the great heretical counter-
Ofdie Albige111ians and Cathars, and from there, into Provence. But the ·
sung in the common speech, so their fonual traits were
posits, foundational to the vernacular lyric tradition of
'I'his moving vernacular tradition was also the generator
and has become the contemporary western lyric
In his 1969 book Indo-European Language and Society, French linguist
Emile Benveniste studied, as he explains in his introduction, "the forma-
tion and organization of the vocabulary of institutions,'' where '"institution
is here understood in a wider sense: it includes not only the institutions
proper, such as justice, government, religion, but also less obvious ones
which are found in various techniques, ways of life, social relationships
and the processes of speech and thought." His method was to meticulous-
ly reconstruct a shifting social context around a chosen word and its his-
torical variations. Turning to the very earliest textual instances of a given
term, he traced the minute irregularities and transformations in recorded
usage, in this way revealing obscured or suppressed divergencies and cor-
respondences in institutional circulations of meaning across time. This
method is strongly apparent in the work of Foucault and Derrida, but here
I am less interested in the Benvenistian method as a precursor to Post-
Structuralism than I am in observing the specific paths of his research
into the thicket of concepts that continue to structure our institutional
experience. Benveniste was not engaged in a search for origin as a fixed
or authorizing value; rather, he charted the situated differentials of change
in its institutional contexts. Siring, giving, hosting, buying, hiring, marry-
ing, swearing by oath, measuring, supplicating and healing are subjected
to profound lexical diachronic analyses, revealing how the emergence of
new ideas and cultural and social practices requires that specialized ap-
plications are supported by changing institutional structures which next
preserve the altered linguistic meaning, often in contradiction to the for-
gotten or diverging history of a given concept.
In rendering these transformations or elisions legible, Benveniste's lin-

guistic fieldwork makes possible a freshened, altered perception of those
specialized, but seemingly transparent concepts that continue to condi-
tion our collective experience. Like Dante, Benveniste placed language, in
its profoundly social and collective dimensions, at the fundament of hu-
man experience. For each, language is man's nature, not a secondary tool
or acquired artifice. In this foundational sense, for Benveniste institutions


79
. . d inseparable from human history and becoming, and a
arc Jntcgra
1
to an
. f )' tguistic history and change can' t proceed apart from an
deep ana Iys1s o n . . .
. f · ta' tutions Perhaps an engagement With the histoncal traces
an
al
ysas o Jns . · . .
of lexical differentiation, and more specifically wtth the regulatory work
en the mythic hold of dualism, for example, as a seemmgly self-eVIdent
regulating structure in almost every institutional formation. Thinking ar­
chaeologically into lexical counter-histories as Benveniste does may of­
fer the ideological clearings necessary for an infonned critique and future
disengagement of the fixed and fixing dualisms ofsignifying institutions.
In Indo-European Language and Society, Benveniste analyzes the Latin
words '' Civis" and "Domus," finding that the earliest written uses ofthese
ter1ns did not pertain to concepts of bordered and material spatial limi­
tation, and that both civis and domus related to immaterial concepts of
collective reciprocity. "The authentic sense of civis is not 'citizen,' as it
is traditionally translated, but 'fellow-citizen'," he specifies: "A number
of ancient uses show the sense of reciprocity which is inherent in civis,
and which alone accounts for civitas as a collective notion." In a similar
dematerialization ofmeaning, Domus denotes the "house in its social and
moral aspects, and not as a construction." He aligns the Latin domus with
the Greek oikos, which also indicated a community ofcompanionship and
quotidian participation: the sharing of food, worship, and the "worb of
peace" in Aristode's words, not a built architecture, defined the house­
hold. These everyday operations were at the centre of a scaled series of
collective concepts, which progressed outwards from the household to
the polis. The domus was that group - related perhaps but not necessar­
Wood, but more specifically by shared everyday operations - that
• the same door as a point ofarrival and departure. Both
rrespond to the specific milieu of a social reciprocity.
..,•• them is not qualitative or oppositional, but is one
rivate or public, in the way we now understand
ownership or to interiority and exteriority, ap-
So





Benveniste did not conduct research in order to draw conclusions. One
of his putposes in carrying out this fine-grained analysis was to transform
linguistics' disciplinary understanding of the mode of signification oflan­
guage. He added to Saussure's semiotics of the sign as a dual, designat­
ing structure - signifier/ signified - an additional, mediating concept, the
se1nantic. The mode of signification of language as semantics was in his
thinking collective and institutional; Benvenistian semantics refers to the
movement and circulation of meaning as intersubjective exchange in a
specific and changing historical matrix. His starting point in this etymo­
logical work was Saussurian designation. Then he proceeded to describe
problems and discontinuities in designation, through comparison and
diachronic analysis of lexical usage in recorded historical sources, in this
way teasing out a narrative of the problematic complexities of social and
institutional transformation.

For Benveniste, language is inextricably discursive, always in social move­
ment. His lexical scholarship in the Indo-European language gToups
permitted him to discern irregularities, fractures, and transformations
in discursive fields and institutions. In the word-groups domus and civis
then, one point ofirregularity can be located in the transformation in ref­
erentiality to a materially identified bordered enclosure from an immate­
rial circulation of reciprocity. The household and the city changed into
structural limits, from systemic intensities. But it is by beginning again as
intensities that they can function as transformers rather than reglllators.

In the milieu of the reciprocally significant matrices domus and civis, a
vernacular figures its speakers as co-determining participants in a collec­
tive valuing. The insistence on the founding and maintenance of situated
material borders as designators and differentiators of identity will never
become a libratory rhetoric, only a rhetoric of gridded delimitation. Co­
citizens, in Benveniste's historicist linguistics, are those who speak togeth­
er, and tfteir home is the vulnerable shelter that speaking together offers
them, for the duration of speech's intensity. Urban, architectural, sarto­
81


. efract and carry the traces of such
. . surfaces may recetve, r
. rial and setnlotic . . The space of the citizen is not bounded,
. ~ but cannot limit thetn.
meetings,
but semantically inflected.
. . . . can begin to hear a poetics, and a prosody,
Within semantic Intensities we . .
0
t e c1 Ize . .
a vernacu ar s Isperse ·
t e sema , .
torian Varro connected it specifically to language. Illich defines the earlier
sense of the word as ''sustenance derived from reciprocity patterns em-
bedded in every aspect of life." For Illich, the vernacular is what con1es
from the commons, as opposed to what is obtained through formal and
institutionalized exchange. It can include language, as well as food, heal-
ing, mending and other daily practices. Carried and transmitted as it is in
the variable texture of daily living, rather than embedded in an administra-
tive superstructure, its transfortnational potential is enormously powerful.
. As a verbal event, the vernaculru; differentiates itselffrom official languages
not only through its collective and many-bodied origins, and its horizontal
means of acquisition and circulation, but through its refusal of teleological
protocols and eschatologies. A vernacular constitutes events apart from
ends; it refuses instrumentality, evades the gridded centrism of capital,
supports a meaning as uncontrollably embodied among others. A ver-
nacular does not produce or even make; it supports, carries, enlivens and
transforms an ethos, and only via a specifically and changeably embodied
co-movement. So what is at stake with the vernacular - and this is what

Dante seized upon - is not specific to linguistics and its anthropological
branches, nor to an aesthetics of literature, hut extends infinitely into a
poetics of politics, where politics is the nature of the human and poet-
ics is the invention and description of linguistic reciprocity patterns. In
a vernacular, where poetics and politics circulate through one another to
untie the gridded duality of ethics and aesthetics, a poetics of the citizen
ly,
:e,



1
time as a gestured co-improvisation, in deeply in · d
. novates g1rune ref­
ltl to the shared fact of embodiment, and historical contin ' t Th
erence . UI y. e
ular is the movement for which language is not the stat b h
vernac . e, ut t e
dl
'tion ofemergence of the subject to and for others It is g ~ a
con · · ..l mmar ess
vulnerable.
Given this spectral shimmering, one's great fear is that vernaculars could
disappear, quantified then subsumed by the instrumental gTammar of
capital. The fragility ofspeech, whose proper location is anywhere people
face and receive and act towards and for one another, could be anywhere,
as we have discerned, and yet it seems that there are fewer anywheres, and
many somewheres, fewer anybodies, and many somebodies. The public
sphere and the private sphere, those attractive products of Romanticism
and Enlightenment economic thought, each radiate a mystique. Even the
political functions as nostalgia and not event. In the current economy,
public and private lose their differentiation, but not in a manner conviv­
ial to freedom. Domestic space is not redemptive space in the homework
economy; it offers no Rousseauian shelter of innocence, rather the un­
challenged site of the abuse of labour. Any c.urrent representation of the
domestic sphere must bleakly iterate Poussin 's critique ofthe pastoral- Et
· A d · E N the cumulative force ofa convivial ethics must flood
zn rca za go. ow . .
the conventional thresholds, untie the instrumental binaries.
. h d with an ethics of conviviality? Poems are be-
What do poems ave to
0
.
.al b · ction of the poem might act as shelter to
g
inners. The urgent soci a ~ e
tl the poem transforms that vernacular to
estured vernacu
1
ar.
C
over y . .
a g . . . flouriShes in the bodily time of an mstJ.tu­
a rosodic g ~ f t whose agency
P . . L t us suppose here that poems are those
. al d economic evasion. e .
tlon an. heres that might evade determination by contmuously
commodious anyw . . "b . I d
. d" olution in semantic distri ution. n poems an
. .ti their own ISS
mVI ng 1 s citizens begin themselves, because only here speech
throu vemacu ar ' . .
still e es quan '
.ts ear. towards natalitv, which is anybody' s. Here my use of
guage towar ds
l
, ...r
the word "poem" parts from the conventions of aesthetic autonomy that
have resulted from commodity culture's limits and heroisms, to propose
that the poem is the shapely urgency that emerges in language whenever
the subject' s desiring vernacular innovates its receivers. The poem is the
speech ofcitizenship. The poem distributes itselfaccording to the neces­

sity of subjects to begin, to begin speaking to anybody, simply because
of the perception of continuous co-embodiment as the condition of lan­
guage. This shaped speaking carries the breath of multiple temporalities
into the present, not to protect or to sanctify the edifice of tradition, but
to vulnerably figure historicity as an embodied stance, an address, the

poem's most important gift to politics.
In this discussion, I've been using the concepts natality, prosody, and
the vernacular as energetic, temporal innovators that insist on language
as always already political, in the air between the changeable subjects it
fleetingly constitutes. I have wanted to test the ways the institutionalized
and gendered dualism of civis and domus as spatial contraries might be

capsized by the historical and temporal force ofrhythmed vernacular lan­
guage. In this speculation, linguistic relations of reciprocal embodiment
coalesce in a process of subjective natality that vehemendy overflows
the bordered and policed containment of identity, in either its public or
private 1nanifestations. "Prosody," in this thinking, is the dynamic and
specifically historical relation of subjects to language. My redefinition of
and insistence upon prosody as an open politics rather than a conven­
tion of formal measure leans heavily on the work of the French linguist
and poet Henri Meschonnic, whose work closely followed
euiste's, laterally shifted or opened Benveniste's active concept of
• • CJ Doat the field oflinguistics to the field ofpoetics. Meschonnic
'slexical analysis of the idea ofrhythm, a re-open­
as a moving figuring, an improvisational continu­
ce emphatically not Inetre, not tneasure h
an , , nor t e al t . ,
· · I · · ernat
M
eschonnic, poetry IS t 1e critique of the d al' ton of beat :L n
' . u Ity of the si ·n . ror
th
e poems - and thus the subJect's _ agen I . g ,and rhyth . .
. . cy. t ts onl . . •n lS
t
·nuously enacted critique that the subiect c y Within such a con ..
I an emer ·e ..
c open t e conve .
d geographic borders that disallow the fr nbonal cultural
an . . . ee move1nen t of . . .
t
.
11
as continuous rhythm. Within his pro . . subJecttvlza-
10 • • position, politics do
t the spatialized economics of governance b h es not refer
o . . . , ut to t e necess .
· of a shared linguistic duration. And t . th' . ary propost-
uon . . oo WI In this pro ositio
d
't know definitively what language is _ th' . h . P n, we
on Is Is w y It can .
· M h · ' k remrun open
as an inquiry. esc onntc s wor on rhythm claims al'
. . . . . or Ity as the mode of
the political. In his words, m Polztzque du rythme:
Literature and poetry oblige us to define oralit"' What th k
. . , ._, · ey ma e appar-
ent is that oralzty zsn t and never has been the opposite of the written, the
2 In Benveniste's 1951 essay "The Notion of'Rhythm' in its Linguistic Expression," he
follows a philosophical transformation in the use of the word rhythn
1
os, fron
1
the work of
Democritus to Plato. Benveniste insistently disarticulated rhythm fron1 its now costumary
etymologies, which connect the word to the natural recurrent moven1ent of waves. In
pre-Platonic usage, he summarizes, "The citations suffice amply to establish: (I) that
rythmos never meant rhythm fron1 the earliest use down to the Attic period; (2) that it
was never applied to a regular movement of the waves; (3) that its constant meaning is
'distinctive form, proportioned figure, arrangement, disposition' in conditions of use that
are otherwise extremely varied." He goes on to establish that, "We can now understand·
how rythn1os, meaning literally 'the particular manner of flowing', could have been
the most proper term for describing 'dispositions' or 'configurations' without fixity or
natural necessity and arising from an arrangement that is always subject to change. The
choice of a derivative of rein for explaining this specific modality of the 'forn1' of things
is characteristic of a philosophy which inspired it; it is a representation of the .in
hi h
d fl
ti " Benveruste ts
w c the particular configurations of moving are define as uctua ons.
I th thi · · · fh dispositions such as
c ear at s movmg pertains to a hun1an n1aking or a set o uman '
. 1 . fa written character,
a manner of gathering the folds of a cloak, or the arbitrary s 1apmg
0
not to an interpretation of nature. In his thinking, rhythm is historical, not natural .



h
d
d letter. Whick is what the world continues
. . · osed to t e ea
· ·s o e sz
that uncovers t e znanz . . .
hick . asses or na u . . .
shows us that rhyt m an . k h . k
. h b · ct who makes zn language t at w zc has
material of the subject, t e su 'Je .
d hick becomes the path jro1n one vozce to another
never yet been made, an w

vozce.

.
1
. . . fi d language as its object by intersecting langllage 's
Saussur1an Inguistlcs xe
al h bl 1
ith the structuring vector of synchrony. But
tempor , c angea e p ane w . .
sue a mater1 1za Ion o h ·a1· t" flanguage as structure can be proviSional at best,
mains barely articulated in the structural model, although subjectiVIty IS
continuously self-innovating. The development of the concept of seman-
tics in Benveniste's thinking, or discourse, in the closely related work of
Foucault, begi.n to provide a way to think about the problem, but the ques-
tion remains open: Why does language continuously speak among sub-
jects, voices? This is the equivocal quest of poetry. In the poem, language
is not object, it is subject. And it is within the history of poetry that we
have a record of subjectivity's movement in language. In this sense, poetry
is the record of the description of the problem of the immateriality oflan-
guage as politics. Through the poem we receive rhythm, or the specificity
of continuance as a disposition, a momentary form, and we receive the
urgent call to always renew our vernaculars, to set them melodically adrift
in the civis, in the domus, among bodies. Poetry may show us that when
we sing to the subjectivity of the other, without determining that subjec-
tivity, this is politics. "The politics of rhythm," Meschonnic says, "are the
politics of plurality and specificity, the historicity of the subject."
The poem refuses any assuaging or redemptive role, but claims for its
reader, who is also its subject, the incommensurable work of refusal as
continuity, where this continuity lives in the vernacular. It is worth point-

86




that a vernacular is not what other, supposedly more d .
ut &ere emottc
ing
0
ak That definition results from Herder's museologrv of t' al
IkS
5
pe · " na 1on
fo . R ther a vernacular loosely gathers whatever singular wo d d
orig
1
ns· a ' . . . . . r s an
adences rnove a gwen situation, a given meetmg, as it is being lived by its
c eakers. Characterized not by lexical economy and simplicity or limita­
sp · d h' d C 1 · d · ' r ·
. as
10
Wor swort s an o en ge s tormulatiOn nor by a m1·8a _
' p
cess, plasticity, admiXture, surge, caesura, the wildness of a newly turned
metaphor, polylinguality and inappropriateness, the vernacular is the
name for the native complexity of each beginner as she quickens. If, in the
Greek polis and in the Roman city, was limited to male speak­
ers of the master-language, in a pointed elimination of women, beasts and
barbarous speakers from a linguistically bordered polity, her domus, her
civis, the commodious, illustrious and exilic vernacular, will shelter her
for the rhythmic duration of a refusal. And the poem, with its provisional

distributions and tentative relationships, its chaotic caesura, temporarily
gathers a received and spoken reciprocity, where the I and the you create
one another for the pleasure of a shapely co-recognition. To maintain this
urgent errancy, a disposition that is at the same time ethical and aesthetic,
the vernacular needs the poem; where they confer, a citizen, beginning
again and again with the pandemonium at hand in the rhythmi­
cally invents her domus: Illustriously useless poesis .






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