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I, Borges, I, And I, You, Who Are I, Who Were, Steve Kemple

I have tried to rescue from oblivion a subaltern of horror: the vast, contradictory
Library, whose vertical wildernesses of books run the incessant risk of changing
into others that affirm, deny, and confuse everything like a delirious god.
(Borges 216)

That which mirrors itself in language, language cannot represent.


(Wittgenstein 53)

of methodical, un-dramatized language.


Ultimately, rationality will convince her:
someday whales will beach on the moon.
(Hart 14)

Writing about writing is a mirror turned into itself, revealing innumerable duplications

skittering off into a graceful endless infinity. When I write the word infinite, a sense of what the

word means is exploded within the reader’s mind, which resists a finger being put on it. In itself,

infinitude is a conundrum that has made countless theologians and philosophers restless and

bewildered, its allure being due in part to its resistance of all attempts at pinning upon it any sort

of exactitude, the metaphysical paradox that arises at the notion of beginninglessness. There are

competing inclinations within the mind of the beholder to bewilder at its impossibility and also

to revel in its beauty. In a sense, writing is always about itself. In putting words onto paper there

is always a mirror turned inward; a graceful endless darkening of repeated forms, falling out of

sight into depths of silvery luster. In writing, I am compelled to pull strange objects from their

graves of luster, objects that have undergone countless repetitions, a city beside itself, its shape

graceless, an inch away, a collapsing star.

Meanings of words explode in the mind of the reader. Meanings of words explode in my

own, falling back toward themselves in a vacuum of semiotics, before being placed onto a page

in a fit of consciousness and verbiage. There is a terrible humor to language, its mysteries,

spirits, and ambiguities that compels me toward writing. The ancient Egyptians believed that

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certain words possess magic powers, that language is somehow intertwined with being. At least

to an expression of the remarkable capabilities towards being and infinitude that language

possesses, there is a certain truth to this. Matt Hart, a poet and professor, showed me these

capabilities, encouraging me to consider the contexts of words, the spirits and usages, the

innumerable associations and implications that surround each one. These spirits, he convinced

me, are what give the English language its vitality, comprising strings of metaphors even in its

most basic declarative forms. Language being so remarkable, I am compelled to approach its

vast tapestry as one intuits the contours of a living body beneath a woven blanket. What follows

are crystallizations, akin to a vehicle in a skid on a wet road, summarizing the trajectory of that

which the driver has no control of and yet has perfect control of, a vehicle, an extension of the

body, an intuition. Language is such a vehicle.

Matt Hart’s influence, both directly and in his writing, has been instrumental toward my

own interests in authenticity (he, would call it “sincerity”). Writing is very much a tool toward

getting at an elusive center. Matt Hart’s writing has provided a paradigm for getting to the

center, which is elusive even in his most profoundly personal poems. Following Ludwig

Wittgenstein’s famous declaration, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world,”

(117) part of getting to the center is using the right words. I understand this to mean that my

writing is not an expression of my mind; writing is my mind: the more articulate my writing is

the more articulate my mind is. Thus, trying to understand how language works has been an

impetus for my writing, which is really a way toward a place that is authentic, toward

understanding myself. Writing is research. To write well is to know oneself.

The way language wraps around thoughts is something that continues to fascinate me;

this mutually affective relationship remains a point of interest in my writing. Awareness of this

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is a room, at first dark, suddenly light, revealing glittering walls made of mirrors, thrusting a

straightforward act into new and wonderful headspaces. Gazing deeply into a Turner painting,

its sprawling oceans filled with violence and awe, its misty paint, marvelous; gazing deeply into

the mirrors, gazing deeply into gazing.

Considering the workings of language itself, I am interested in metaphor. I am convinced

it is the glue that holds sentences together: how can we know the meaning of anything, much less

find another’s words comprehensible, without transferences of concepts from one thing to

another by way of metaphor and analogy? I declare that all language is metaphorical. Writing

about writing is writing about being itself. Contemplating the metaphorical workings of

language is a door into the sublime, the stormy violence within a Turner painting. In reading

Matt Hart’s poems I am shown what it is like to incant the sublime with words.

Trying to wrap my mind around exactly how language wraps around my mind is a

paradox worth trying to wrap my mind around. In “A New Refutation of Time”, author Jorge

Luis Borges argues, somewhat solipsistically, that reality and mental states are not so distinct

from one another. He writes, “Are not these identical moments the same moment? Is not one

single repeated terminal point enough to disrupt and confound the series in time? Are the

enthusiasts who devote themselves to a line of Shakespeare not literally Shakespeare?” (323).

Further, he argues that at the moment of his writing, within the microcosm of his essay, he has

entered into the moment in the past when he was in another past. In reading what Borges wrote,

then, I was Borges, at innumerable instances, simultaneously, having, while retaining me, lost all

traces of Steve Kemple, and I, Borges, then realized that as I read Homer that I am Homer,

completely, with no distinguishable trace of Borges or Kemple or of you or I or whomever you

think you may be. This writing is infinite and self-aware. Writing that is self-aware is death. As

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I write, in pursuit of authenticity, I am really writing in pursuit of self-aware writing and death,

so that I can be in pursuit of writing in pursuit of authenticity in pursuit of myself in pursuit of

writing. Writing is death and reading is dying.

To write authentically is to pursue this paradox. Writing is death and reading is dying, for

to write authentically is to write writing so complete that it negates any bit of the reader or writer

who may happen to be interacting with it. This is what happens when we say we are lost in a

book; we have actually come close to death. To pursue life in writing is to pursue authenticity in

writing is to pursue death, which glides innumerable, the minute topography of ink settling on

paper. I am as immortal as these words, and in the act of reading these words so are you, Reader,

I, for it is a misnomer to say that you and I in this present moment are different people. In the

universe of this page, our beginninglessnesses are intertwined. In an episode of The Muppet

Show, Peter Sellers leans close to Kermit the Frog, saying in a low voice, “There is no me, my

dear Kermit I do not exist. There used to be a me, but I had it surgically removed.”

To write is to encounter something. To encounter something is to encounter metaphor.

To encounter is to metaphor. Effective communication can only exist in terms of encounters, in

terms of correlations between things. Writing is mind. Leaving our bodies behind to encounters

is to know the geometric meta-structure that language provides. As we leave our bodies behind,

we become synonymous with pronouns and nonspecific language. Our essence is of strings of

words that say, “They are over there.” Something is happening. It might be raining, or maybe

nothing is happening at all. In pursuit of is-ness, we ramble neighborhoods unfamiliar,

encountering something, becoming something like rambling neighborhoods unfamiliar and

encountering something becoming something. Our minds, a string of pronouns, a sentence about

a sentence that is a mind.

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And in obliqueness, I am compelled: innumerable, wordless, a thousand skittering

mirrors, incoherent, and all of this, where there can be a striking of sounds, a word, a

contradiction, beginninglessness, falseness, and in-between. Being is beside itself, and correlates

to itself. Writing is a universe of metaphors, a singularity: a star collapsing into vagueness. The

shape of a sentence is the shape of all sentences is the shape of a word is the shape of I. New

information can be extrapolated from synthetic correlations, and writing cannot be writing when

it is not about itself. But writing is always about itself, pulling from the ether, my trousers rolled,

gleaming along the ocean floor, stretching submerged between continents, a mirror turned into

itself, immemorable and innumerable and I writing this; I reading this, I, who are:

And yet, and yet . . . To deny temporal succession, to deny the self, to deny the
astronomical universe, appears to be acts of desperation and are secret consolations . . .
Time is the substance of which I am made. Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I
am the river; it is a tiger that mangles me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me,
but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges.
(Borges 332)

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. (Wittgenstein 117)

I have always understood “nothing” as a series of zeros.

and imagine the clouds as if I myself were a cloud,


as the hiss of a slow-leaking tire requires. (Hart 9)

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Works Cited

Borges, Jorge Luis. “The Total Library.” Trans. Eliot Weinberger. Selected Non-Fictions. Ed.

Eliot Weinberger. New York: Penguin, 1999. 214-216.

---. “A New Refutation of Time.” Trans. Eliot Weinberger. Selected Non-Fictions. Ed. Eliot

Weinberger. New York: Penguin, 1999. 317-332.

Hart, Matt. “Completely by Accident.” Who’s who vivid: poems. New York: Slope Editions,

2005. 9.

---. “Criss-Cross In Every Direction.” Who’s who vivid: poems. New York: Slope Editions, 2005.

14.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Trans. C.K. Ogden. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. New York:

Barnes & Noble, Inc., 2003.