Charles Bernstein

Introduction
99 Poetsl1999: An International Poetics Symposium presents the work of
ninety-nine poets in dialogue with one another across the divides of lan-
guage, nation, and temperament. Grounded in resonances and affiliations
among the contributing poets, this issue is as striking for its interwoven
themes, concerns, and forms as for its immediacy and intimacy. Indeed,
this issue is the result of years of informal exchange through translations,
readings, and visits. (This ongoing dialogue is currently being transformed
by the Internet, which has greatly facilitated the means for such ongoing
exchanges.)
Starting in 1997, with the help of several coeditors, I asked poets
from around the world to respond to a series of interrelated questions con-
cerning national, multinational, international, global, regional, or local con-
texts for their work as poets or for the poetry they most value. This is what
I wrote to the poets:
Do you see your work in the context of a national state, or in the
context of international capital, or in some other context (including
imaginary or imagined ones)? Is identity an important issue for your
work, and if so, in what senses? For me, these issues have a spe-
cific connection to the possibilities or impossibilities for poetic lan-
guage (so often identified with specific groups, states, or classes):
diction, vernacular, dialect, sound, syntax, and so forth.
Recognizing the rare opportunity to have this kind of international exchange
on poetry, I wanted to remain open, also, to responses not directly related
to my questions, and so I asked one alternative question:
What do you see as the most urgent, yet insufficiently recognized,
or addressed, issue or issues for poetry and poetics at this moment?
While this issue of boundary 2 is international, it clearly emerges from the
United States. Many of the poets included here speak or read English and
have some contact with those tendencies in contemporary American
poetry to which I have been committed. Some of the poets have already
been translated in English, or in any case have established some U.S.
readers for their work. In this sense, this issue charts a series of related
boundary 2 26:1, 1999. Copyright © 1999 by Duke University Press.
2 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
points of contact that in their constellation suggest if not an international
postmodernism then a cross-national network of affinities and a contempo-
rary intersection of possibilities. My intention has been to broaden, without
vitiating, the lines of interest articulated in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, the mag-
azine I coedited with Bruce Andrews from 1978 to 1982; my earlier anthol-
ogy of poetry, 43 Poets (1984), published in boundary 2 in 1987; as well as
a 1989 forum, Patterns/Contexts/Time, which I edited with Phillip Foss. In
addition, 99 Poets/1999 comes immediately on the heels of the remarkable
world anthology Poems for the Millennium: The University of California
Book of Modem and Postmodern Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg
and Pierre Joris. In many ways, this issue extends the work of that anthol-
ogy, providing a set of poetics that parallels the poetry and commentary in
the Rothenberg and Joris collection, just as it echoes the increasing inter-
national focus of Douglas Messerli's Sun & Moon Press and indeed bound-
ary 2's increasingly global perspective.
This has been an intensively collaborative project. Beyond the con-
tributions of the poets, and the editors and staff of boundary 2, I have relied
on the editorial collaboration of Carla Billitteri, Stacy Doris, Johanna
Drucker, Ernesto Grosman, Pierre Joris, Lyn Hejinian, Yunte Huang, and
Tyrus Miller. Carla Billitteri edited and translated the Italian section and pre-
sents her perspectives on the work included in her contribution. Stacy
Doris edited and, for the most part, translated the selection of French poet-
ics, which includes excerpts from works by Pierre Alferi and Olivier Cadiot,
Emmanuel Hocquard, Katalin Molnar and Christophe Tarkos, and Christ-
ian Prigent. Doris also designed the format for this section, in which the
four works translated, two of which are collaborations, are printed in
one of the four columns on the first two pages of the section. Each of
these essays then jumps to its continuation in one of the four columns of
each subsequent two-page spread. Johanna Drucker assembled a mini-
anthology of visual works, which she discusses in her contribution. Ernesto
Grosman edited the Latin American section, which features Fabio Doc-
torovich, Reinaldo Laddaga, Jorge Lepore, Jorge Santiago Perednik, Mer-
cedes Roffe, and Roberto Tejada. He also worked with me and Regis Bon-
vicino on the related Brazilian section. Pierre Joris edited and translated a
set of works by Adonis, Gennady Aygi, Nicole Brossard, Mahmoud Dar-
wish, Edouard Glissant, Abdellatif Laabi, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Amina
SaId, and Habib Tengour. Lyn Hejinian assembled, and worked with the
translators of, the Russian section, which consists of contributions by
Arkadii Dragomoschenko, Nina Iskrenko, Julia Kunina, Alexei Parshchikov,
Bernstein / Introduction 3
Aleksandr Skidan, and Marina Temkina. Yunte Huang edited, and in his
piece details, a selection of new poetics from China. In addition, Tyrus
Miller not only translated several works from the German but also worked
with me on the selection of Austrian poetics.
In inviting the poets to participate, I indicated that I wanted the issue to
reflect the range of styles and forms possible for poetics. To this end, I
have asked the editors of boundary 2 to bear with these poetic texts, leav-
ing the grammar, punctuation, and forms of documentation as close to the
submitted manuscripts as possible, with the belief that standardizing the
diversity of styles in these works would undermine a central commitment of
the collection. I realize that not everyone sees significance in the style of a
footnote, but, after all, many of the poets presented here explore the space
between the significant and insignificant, between uniformity and eccentric-
ity, and I am reluctant to limit the terms of such an exploration. (I have made
a concession to space by eliminating, where possible, blank lines between
paragraphs. )
The selections included here were written specifically for this issue,
unless otherwise noted. Several contributors wrote in English, even when
this was not their first language; rather than "fixing up" these works to
make them more fluently English, my policy has been to keep as close as
reasonable to the texts submitted.
The issue is arranged alphabetically by author, with the contributors'
section also serving as a table of contents. There is one exception:
because the French section, which appears as the third contribution to the
issue (alphabetized as Alferi et al.), interweaves four works, the contribu-
tor's note for each of the poets after Alferi refers back to this initial French
section.
4 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Contributors
Charles Bernstein's most recent books are My Way: Speeches and Poems (1999)
and Log Rhythms with Susan Bee (1998), and, as editor, Close Listening: Poetry
and the Performed Word (1998). He is David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters,
Poetics Program, State University of New York-Buffalo .

Jeremy Adler, born in 1947 in London, made his first calligraphic poems in 1966 fol-
lowed by typewriter works, stencil poems, and cycles. With Bob Cobbing, Peter
Mayer, and others, he was part of the London Group of Experimental Poets and has
extensive contacts with visual poets internationally. He has produced over fifteen
volumes of poetry.
Adonis, born Ali Ahmad Sa'id in Qassabin (northern Syria) in 1930, moved from
Damascus to Beirut, Lebanon, in 1956, where he cofounded Shitir (Poetry). He has
been based in Paris since 1985. The text reprinted here is an excerpt from a 1992
interview with Jean-Yves Masson, from La priere et /'epee (1993). Available in
English are The Pages of Day and Night (1994), a volume of selected poems trans-
lated by Samuel Hazo, and the major book-length essay An Introduction to Arab
Poetics (1991).
Fernando Aguiar, born in 1956 in Lisbon, has been making visual poetry and instal-
lations since 1972. He has published thirteen books of poetry and had twenty-two
solo exhibitions. Since 1983, he has been involved in poetic performances and
sound poetry.
Pierre Alferi's most recent titles include Kub Or (1984), Fmn (1994), and Sentimen-
tale journee (1997). Together with Olivier Cadiot, he edits the Paris-based Revue
de litterature generale. A translation of his work by Cole Swenson, Natural Gaits,
was published in 1995. His contribution to this issue, a collaboration with Cadiot that
begins " ... Unidentified Word Objects," is excerpted, with permission of the authors,
from Revue de litterature generale 95, no. 1 (La mechanique Iyrique) and 96, no. 2
(Digest).
Nelson Ascher was born in Sao Paolo in 1958. A literary critic for Folha de S. Paulo
since 1984, he founded Revista da USP (1988-1994). His poetry books include
Ponta da Lingua (1983), and Sonho da Razao (1993). He has translated poets from
Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Joseph Brodsky, including a collection of modern Hungar-
ian poetry. He is coeditor of Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain: New Brazilian
Poetry (1997).
Gennady Aygi was born in 1934 in the Chuvash Autonomous Republic, some five
hundred miles east of Moscow. Although writing mainly in Russian, Aygi is regarded
Contributors 5
as the Chuvash national poet. There are two English translations of his work by
Peter France: Selected Poems 1954-94 (1997) and An Anthology of Chuvash
Poetry (1991). The texts included here come from the collection of essays Conver-
sations a distance, translated by Leon Robel (1994).
Josely Vianna Baptista was born in Curitiba, Brazil, in 1957. As a poet, she has pub-
lished AR (1991) and Corpografia (1992). She is also a translator of Spanish poetry
and literature and writes a weekly newspaper culture column. With visual artist
Francisco Faria, she created a visual-poetic installation for the 5th Havana Biennial,
Cuba (1994).
Renato Barilli was born in Bologna and teaches a course in the phenomenology of
style at the University of Bologna. Some of his works have been translated into
English and published: Rhetoric (1989), A Course on Aesthetics (1993), and Voyage
to the End of the Word (1997).
Carla Billitteri's undergraduate degree is from the University of Catania, where she
wrote a thesis on Oelmore Schwartz. She now lives and teaches in Buffalo, where
she is completing a dissertation on the phenomenology of meaning in the work of
Laura Riding, Charles Olson, and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry. She has translated
Gianni Vattimo, Nanni Balestrini, and Gianni O'Elia.
Robin Blaser grew up in Idaho and has lived in Boston, San Francisco, and, for
many years, Vancouver. His poetry has been collected in The Holy Forest (1993). A
collection of his essays is eagerly awaited.
Regis Bonvicino is author of Ossos de Borbo/eta / Butterfly Bones (1996) and
Remote Identity (forthcoming), and coeditor, with Michael Palmer and Nelson
Ascher, of Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain: New Brazilian Poetry (1997).
Manuel Brito is the editor of Zasterle Press. He lives in the Canary Islands, where
he teaches at the University of Laguna and is working on an anthology of American
poets.
Nicole Brossard was born in 1943 and lives in Montreal. She writes poetry, fiction,
essays, and in the space between. Among the many English translations of her
work are Picture Theory, translated by Barbara Godard (1990) and Typhon Dru,
translated by Caroline Bergvall (1997).
Alexandr Bubnov is a contemporary Russian poet, head of the Society for Pal-
indromic Work, and editor of its main publication. He lives and works in Kursk,
Russia.
Olivier Cadiot's books include L'art Poetique (1996) and Futur, ancien, fugitif (1993).
He has also written libretti, lyrics, and theater pieces. He coedits, with Pierre Alteri,
Revue de litterature generale. Charles Bernstein's translation Red, Green, and
Black was published in 1990. Cadiot's contribution here is a collaboration with
Pierre Alferi.
6 boundary 21 Spring 1999
Che Qianzi was born in 1963 in Suzhou, China, and is one of the founding mem-
bers of the Original Poets group. His poetry, in English translation, has appeared in
Exact Change Yearbook, Parataxis, and Tinfish.
cris cheek is a British-based sound and language composer. His most recent publi-
cations are Songs from Navigation with Sianed Jones (book and CD, 1997), skin
upon sKin (CD, 1996), and fog s, mono lake (CD, forthcoming).
Mara Cini was born in Sasso Marconi, in the outskirts of Bologna, where she still
resides and works in a public library. Her books of poetry include La Direzione della
sosta (1982) and Dentro Fuori Casa (1995). Her short stories have been published
in Narratori delle riseNe (1992) and Racconta 2 (1993).
Bob Cobbing, born in 1920, made his first visual poem in 1942 and has been a lead-
ing figure in Britain in pursuing visual poetics in creative work and research. Fifteen
volumes of his collected poems are currently available as well as the selected
poems Bob Jubile (1990) and Bill Jubobe (1976). He earns his living from perfor-
mances of his work.
Robert Creeley's Selected Poems (1991), Collected Poems (1982), Collected
Essays (1989), and Collected Prose (1988) are published by the University of Cal-
ifornia Press. He teaches in the Poetics Program of the State University of New
York-Buffalo.
Wystan Curnow's most recent book of poetry is Castor Bay (1996); his most recent
work of art criticism is Imants Tillers and the Book of Power (1997). He curated The
World Over / Under Capricorn for the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam,
Netherlands, and the City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand. He teaches American
literature at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Franz-Josef Czernin is the author of natur-gedichte (1996), die aphorismen (1992),
and also Marcel Reich-Ranicki: Eine Kritik (1995). His critical work Die Shreibhand
(1997) has as its subject the poem of Reinhardt Priessnitz published as part of this
issue. He lives in Rettenegg, Austria.
Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1942 in Palestine, moved to Cairo in 1971, to Beirut
in 1972, and after 1982, to Paris via Tunis, Cairo, and other Arab cities. In 1973 he
joined the Palestinian Liberation Organization but resigned in 1993. His works in
English include Memory for Forgetfulness, translated by Ibrahim Muhawi (1995),
and Psalms: Poems, translated by Ben Bennani (1995). His statement published
here is taken from some of the interviews gathered in the volume La Palestine
comme metaphore (1997).
Haroldo de Campos was one of the founders of the international Concrete Poetry
movement, although the scope of his work extends to other poetics and to other
areas as translations (Pound, Joyce, Mallarme, the Bible), essays, and a range of
poetry styles. Born in 1929, he has always lived in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Recent works
Contributors 7
include Galaxias (1984) and Metalinguagem & outras metas: ensaios de teoria e
critica literaria (1992).
Gianni D'Elia was born in Pesaro in 1953, where he still lives, teaches, and trans-
lates. He has published a novel and five collections of poetry, most recently Con-
gedo della vecchia Olivetti (1996), from which the poem included in this issue has
been translated, with the permission of the author. D'Elia was the founder and
director of Lengua (1982-1994).
Dubravka Djuric was born in 1961 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and lives in Belgrade, Ser-
bia. She writes poetry and essays, and is engaged in performance. She has pub-
lished several collections of poems, including The Nature of the Moon, the Nature
of the Woman (1989), Traps (1995), and CosmopOlitan Alphabet (1995). She is an
editor of ProFemina and lectures at the Center for Women's Studies in Belgrade.
Fabio Doctorovich was born and continues to live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is
the editor of Postypographika, an experimental poetry Internet site (http://www.
postypographika.com). He is one of the founders of Paralengua, the Argentinean
experimental poetry movement that started in 1989, and the author of Land of
Scoundrels (1995).
Stacy Doris's books include Kildare (1995) and La vie de Chester Steven Wiener
ecrite par sa femme (1998). She has coedited two magazine anthologies of new
French poetry: with Emmanuel Hocquard, Violence of the White Page (1992) and,
with Norma Cole, Twenty-Two New (to North America) French Poets (1997).
Arkadii Dragomoschenko was born in Potsdam, Germany, in 1946 and has lived in
Leningrad/St. Petersburg since the 1960s. A translator himself, his versions of
works by numerous American poets have appeared in the famous "underground"
publication Mitya's Journal as well as in anthologies. Two of his books, translated by
Lyn Hejinian and Elena Balashova, have been published in the United States-
Description (1990) and Xenia (1994).
Johanna Drucker, born in 1952, has been printing and designing typographically
experimental work since the early 1970s. She has produced more than two dozen
of her own editioned works, most under the imprint Druckwerk, and has written in a
scholarly mode books and essays on visual poetics, alphabet history, typography,
and artists' books.
Ken Edwards, born in Gibraltar in 1950, has lived in England since 1966 and in Lon-
don since 1968. He was editor of the journal Reality Studios (1978-1988), and is
now director of Reality Street Editions. His collections of poetry include Good Sci-
ence (1992),3,600 Weekends (1993), and Glissando Curve (forthcoming).
Flavio Ermini was born in 1947 in Verona, where he lives and edits Anterem, which
he cofounded with Silvano Martini in 1976. His most recent book of poetic prose is
AntJitz (1994). His contribution in this issue is from his introduction to Ante Rem:
8 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Scritture di Fine Novecento (Ante Rem: Writings of the end of the twentieth century)
(1998) and is published here with the permission of the author.
Deanna Ferguson lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she is an editor of
BOO Magazine and publisher of Tsunami Editions. Her books include The Relative
Minor (1993) and Rough Bush (1996). Her work has also appeared in Essex,
Matrix, and Open Letter.
Allen Fisher is a poet, painter, and art historian working in London at the Roehamp-
ton Institute and from his studio in Herford. He has over one hundred publications
documenting art performances and poetry. He has edited and published SPANNER
since 1974.
Edouard Glissant, born on Martinique in 1928, moved to Paris in 1946. In 1959, he
founded the Front Antillo-Guyanais, which was outlawed soon after, and in 1967
founded the culture and research center Institut Martiniquais d'Etudes. His books in
English include Caribbean Discourse (1992) and Poetics of Relation (1997). Glis-
sant resides alternately in Paris, New York (where he is Distinguished Professor of
French at City University of New York, Graduate Center), and Martinique.
Milli Graffi was born in Milan, where she lives, teaches, and translates (Lewis Car-
roll, Charles Dickens, and Gertrude Stein). Her books of poetry include L'amore
meccanico (1994). Her contribution in this issue was published in its entirety in /I
Verr; and is published here with her permission.
Bill Griffiths was born in London in 1948. In the 1970s, he started Pirate Press, a
small press that published many pamphlets of his work as well as his extraordinary
translations of premodern poetry. A substantial selection of his work was published
in Future Exiles: Three London Poets (1992).
Ernesto Livon Grosman is an Argentinean poet who lives and teaches in Connecti-
cut. He is the editor of The XUL Reader (1997) and is presently editing, together
with the Chilean poet Cecilia Vicuna, a bilingual anthology of five hundred years of
Latin American poetry. Translator Kathy Kopple has a doctorate from New York Uni-
versity; she is now working on a book-length translation of Juan L. Ortiz.
Ana Hatherly was born in 1929 in Oporto, Portugal, and since 1958 has published
many books including poetry, visual poetry, and essays. She is a leading member,
and major theoretician, of the Poesia Experimental Portuguesa, a movement started
in Lisbon in the 1960s. Hatherly has also published scholarly research in the field of
visual poetry of the Baroque era.
Randolph Healy lives in Ireland, where he runs Wild Honey Press. He has pub-
lished five books of poetry, including Rana Ranaf, Arbor Vitae, and, most recently,
Flame.
Helmut HeissenbOttel (1921-1996) has had three works translated by Rosmarie
Waldrop, and published by Diana's BiMonthly (all in 1977): The Dilemma of Being
High and Dry, Schematic Development of Tradition, and Novel. A collection-
Contributors 9
Texts-has been translated by Michael Hamburger and published by M. Boyars
(also in 1977). The two translated poems are from Odipuskomplex Made in Ger-
many: Gelegenheitsgedichte Totentage Landschafen 1965-1981 (Stuttgart: Klett-
Cotta, 1981) and are published here with permission of the publisher.
Lyn Hejinian lives in California. Her collections include My Life (1987), OXOTA: A
Short Russian Novel (1991), The Cold of Poetry (1994), A Border Comedy (forth-
coming), and an essay collection, The Language of Inquiry (forthcoming). She has
published two books of translation of Arkadii Dragomoschenko. She is a member of
the poetics faculty at the New College of California.
Emmanuel Hocquard's many books include Theorie des tables, translated by
Michael Palmer and published as Theory of Tables (1994). He is founder and direc-
tor of the Bureau sur I' Atlantique. His contribution in this issue, an excerpt from
Blank Spots (1997), published here with his permission, is included in the French
section, which begins alphabetically with "Alferi."
Anselm Hollo, poet and literary translator, was born in Helsinki, Finland. After
sojourns in Germany and the United Kingdom, he came to the United States,
where he has now lived for thirty-two years. Since 1989, he has been on the core
faculty of the MFA Writing and Poetics Program at the Naropa Institute in Boulder,
Colorado. His most recent book of poems is AHOE (And How on Earth) (1997).
Huang Fan was born in 1963 in China. He is a member of the Original Poets group.
Yunte Huang was born in 1969 in China. Huang's work in English has appeared in
Prairie Schooner, Central Park, and Tinfish. His Shi: A Radical Reading of Chinese
Poetry was published in 1997. He is completing a doctorate at the State University
of New York-Buffalo in the Poetics Program.
Nina Iskrenko was born in 1951 and is the author of three books of poetry published
in Russia, all of which appeared in 1991: ILl (Or), Referendum (in collaboration with
Yu Brabov), and Neskol'ko Siov (A few words). The Right to Err, a collection of her
work in translations by John High, Patrick Henry, and Katya Olmsted, was pub-
lished in 1995. Nina Iskrenko died of cancer in 1995.
Ernst Jandl was born in Vienna in 1925. Renowned as much for his performances
and radio plays as for his many books of poetry, he has also translated Cage,
Creeley, Stein, and others. The selection here, published with his permission, is
from lecture 3 of the Frankfurt Poetics Lectures (winter 1984-1985), which
appeared in The Opening and Closing of the Mouth (1985, 1990).
Pierre Joris was born in 1946 in Luxembourg and is the author of Breccia: Selected
Poems 1972-1986 (1987), the translator of Paul Celan, Maurice Blanchot, Edmond
Jabes, and Kurt Schwitters, and the coeditor of Poems for the Millennium: The Uni-
versity of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry (1995). He teaches at
the State University of New York-Albany.
10 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
John Kinsella is an Australian poet whose books include ErratumIFrame(d) (1998),
The Radnoti Poems (1996), Poems 1980-1994 (1998), and Genre (1997). He is
editor of Salt and a by-fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge.
Julia Kunina was born in Moscow in 1966. She is finishing a Ph.D. in comparative
literature at New York University. Kunina has translated Susan Howe and John
Suckling into Russian. Kunina's works, which she, Richard Sieburth, and Jim Kates
translated, appear in Durer at His Mirror (1996) and New Freedoms (1994).
Abdellatif Laabi was born in Fez, Morocco, in 1942 and is a poet, novelist, play-
wright, translator, storyteller, and human rights activist (having himself been impris-
oned for almost a decade for "consipiracy against the state"). In 1966, he founded
Souffles (http://clicnet.swarthmore.edu/souffles/sommaire.html) and Anfas, which
together influenced an entire generation of Maghreb's progressives. His major works
include L'ecorche vif (Skinned alive) (1986), Sous Ie bail/on, Ie poeme (The poem
beneath the gag) (1981), and his latest poems, Le Spleen de Casablanca (1996).
Reinaldo Laddaga is an Argentinean writer and scholar who lives in New York. He is
the author of two musical plays, Estudio al estilo veneciano (1995) and Balasar
Brun (1997).
Lan Ma is the pen name of Wang Zhigang. He is one of the founding members of
the Nonoist School (1986- ) based in Sichuan, China.
Peter Larkin is a librarian at Warwick University (United Kingdom) and runs Prest
Roots Press. Among his published books are Pastoral Advert (1989) and Parallels
Plantations Apart (1998). His essay here is a shortened and revised version of a
paper presented at the Sub Voicive Colloquium, Centre for English Studies, Univer-
sity of London, October, 1997. The original version may be accessed at the Web
site "Lynx: Poetry from Bath" at http://www.bath.ac.uk/-exxdgdcllynx.html.
Michele Leggott was born in 1956 and teaches at the University of Auckland. Her
books include Reading Zukofsky's "80 Flowers" (1989) and three collections of
poetry. DIA (1994) won the 1995 New Zealand Book Award for Poetry. She is cur-
rently preparing Collected Poems of Robin Hyde. Because of a degenerative retinal
condition, her eyesight is gradually deteriorating.
Leevi Lehto is a Finnish poet, translator, and Web-page deSigner. "Juanita and
Points of View II" is based on his poem "Juanita ja nakokulmia" and composed
using mainly (native or translated) English language sources. The Finnish original,
also a collage, has been translated by Anselm Hollo and is available at
http://www.substanssi.fi/li.
Jorge Lepore was born in Cordoba, Argentina. He has been a regular contributor of
the journal XUL and is the author of several books of poetry, among them Blabla
Dalgo (1986). His latest book is EI desierto de ceniza (1997). Translator Molly
Weigel has a doctorate from Princeton University and has written about North and
South American poets.
Contributors 11
Rogelio L6pez Cuenca writes from Spain: '0 cease being held hostages I to this double
kidnapping: I fear and hope I hope and fear. I Fears hand hope I hopes add fear."
Steve McCaffery, born in 1947, has exhibited his visual poetry in numerous contexts
throughout the world for over the last three decades. He is the creator of "Carnival," a
'heoretically" ongoing environmental typestract project, and the author of twenty vol-
umes of poetry and criticism. He is currently on the faculty of York University in Toronto.
Emily McVarish, born in 1965 in California, began printing letterpress works in 1990
and established her own shop and press in the early 1990s. She has recently com-
pleted an advanced course in artists' books at Camberwell School of Art and Design
in London. Her work has been exhibited in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Friederike Mayrocker was born in Vienna in 1923. In the 1960s, she was associated
with the experimental Vienna Circle, and she often collaborates with Ernst Jandt.
Her works in English translation include Night Train (1992), translated by Beth
Bjorklund, Heiligenanstalt (1994), translated by Rosmarie Waldrop, and With Each
Clouded Peak (forthcoming). The excerpt from Magische Blatter (1995) is published
here with the permission of the author.
Abdelwahab Meddeb was born in Tunis in 1946. He studied literature and the history
of art before taking up a teaching post at the Ecole des beaux-arts in Paris, where he
lives and edits the magazine Dedale. His works include Talismano (1979, 1987),
Phantasia (1986), Tombeau pour Ibn Arabi (1987), as well as translations of classic
and modern Arabic texts, such as Suhrawadi's Recit de I'exil occidental (1993).
Douglas Messerli was born in 1947 in Iowa. His books include A/ong Without (1992)
and The Walls Come True (1994). In the 1970s, Messerli edited two magazines:
Sun & Moon and La Bas. He is the founder and publisher of Sun & Moon Press,
which is based in Los Angeles (http://www.sunmoon.com).
Tyrus Miller teaches comparative literature and English at Yale University and is
the author of Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts between the World
Wars (forthcoming).
Katalin Molnar's books in French are poemes/ncorrects et
chantsTranscrits (1994) and Quant a je (Kantaje) (1996). She edits Poezie Proleter
with Christophe Tarkos. Tarkos and Molnar's lexically effervescent collaboration is
excerpted from Poezie Pro/eter (no. 1, 1997) and is part of the French section,
which begins alphabetically with "Alferi."
Harryette Mullen is the author of Tree Tall Woman (1981), Trimmings (1991),
S*PeRM**K*T (1992), Muse & Drudge (1995). She teaches creative writing and
African American literature at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Bernard Noel is the author of thirty-five works including Le Syndrome de Gramsci
(fiction), Magritte (art criticism), and La Chute des Temps (poetry). He lives in
Mauguy-en-Haye, France.
12 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
The group Original Poets, founded in 1988 in Nanjing, China, includes Che Qianzi,
Zhou Yaping, Huang Fan, Vi Cun, Hong Liu, and others. The manifesto appeared in
Parataxis and is reprinted here with the permission of the translator, Jeffrey
TwitcheU-Waas, who has taught at universities in the United States, mainland
China, and, presently, Singapore. He has published on modernist poetry and con-
temporary Chinese literature.
Maggie O'Sullivan lives in West Yorkshire, the United Kingdom. She has thirteen
publications, including In the House of the Shaman (1993). She is also editor of the
widely acclaimed anthology Out of Everywhere: Linguistically Innovative Poetry by
Women in North America and the UK (1996).
Alexei Parshchikov was born in Olga Bay, Far East, Russia, in 1954. He is an asso-
ciate editor of Kommentarii Joumal (Moscow-St. Petersburg) and currently resides in
Cologne, Germany, after living for a brief period in the United States, where he stud-
ied at Stanford. His most recent book is Selected Works (1996). Blue Vitriol, trans-
lated by John High, Michael Molnar, and Michael Palmer, was published in 1994.
Jorge Santiago Perednik was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is the editor of
the influential poetry journal XUL. He has translated many American poets, among
them e.e. cummings and Charles Olson. He is the author of EI fin del no (1991) and
EI Shock de los Lender (1986).
Nick Piombino is a poet, essayist, and psychoanalyst who lives in New York. His
books include Poems (1988), The Boundary of Blur (1993). and Light Street (1996).
His work has been anthologized in The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book, In the Ameri-
can Tree, The Politics of Poetic Form, From the Other Side of the Century, The
Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative American Poetry, and Close Listening.
Reinhard Priessnitz was born in Vienna in 1945 and died in 1985. His work was a
crucial bridge between the Wiener Gruppe writers and the contemporary avant-
garde. The poem published here is translated from vierundvierzig gedichte (1978)
and is reprinted with the permission of Droshle Verlag.
Christian Prigent's many books include Ceux qui merd Rent (1991), A quoi bon
encore des poetes? (1994), and Dum pendet filius (1997). He edited the review
TXT. Translator Ray Federman is author of many works, fictional and metafictional,
including Take It or Leave It (1976). Prigent's contribution here-an excerpt from
"What Use Poetry?"-is part of the French section, which begins alphabetically with
"Alferi."
Tom Raworth was alive when he answered these questions.
Lisa Robertson is the author of Xeclogue (1993) and Debbie: An Epic (1997),
excerpted in the anthologies Moving Borders (1998) and Out of Everywhere (1996).
She works in Vancouver with members of the collective of the Kootenay School of
Writing.
Contributors 13
Mercedes R o f h ~ was born in Buenos Aires and has lived in the United States since
1985, Her collections include Poemas (1978), EI tapiz (1983), Camara baja (1987),
and La noche y las palabras (1996),
Amina Sa'id was born in Tunis and lives in Paris. She has published eight collec-
tions of poetry as well as two volumes of stories, including Feu d'oiseaux and L'une
et I'autre nuit (1993). She has also published a number of translations from Arabic
and from (Philippine) English.
Jerome Sala's most recent book of poems is Raw Deal: New and Selected Poems,
1980-1994 (1995), He is a doctoral candidate in American studies at New York Uni-
versity. He works as a writer of direct-mail advertising.
Leslie Scalapino was born in 1947 and lives in Oakland, California. Her works
include The Front Matter, Dead Souls (1996), Defoe (1995), a collection of essays
titled Objects in the Terrifying Tense / Longing from Taking Place (1993), and a
selected works titled Green & Black (1996). She edits 0 Books.
Ferdinand Schmatz is the author of dschungel allfach, speise.gedichte, and sprache
macht gewalt and the editor of the works of Reinhard Priessnitz. He lives in Vienna,
where he teaches at the Hochschule fUr Andewandte Kunst.
Spencer Selby, born in 1947, began making visual work in the 1980s. His most
recent books are No Island (1995) and Malleable Cast (1995), which is a sequence
of visual poems. He lives in San Francisco.
James Sherry is the author of ten books of poetry, most recently Our Nuclear Her-
itage (1991), and Four For. He is the editor and publisher of Roof Books and presi-
dent of Segue Foundation in New York City.
Aleksandr Skidan was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1965 and lives
there still. Two books of poetry, Delirium (1993) and Critical Mass (1995), have been
published in Russia, as well as a volume on poetics and the philosophy of writing
titled On Second Reading. He has also translated Charles Olson, Susan Howe, and
Paul Auster into Russian.
Pete Spence, born in 1946 in Australia, has published and exhibited his work inter-
nationally, has curated many international exhibitions of visual poetry in Australia,
and has produced his own work in a number of editions.
Misko Suvakovic was born in 1954 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He was among the
founders of the Belgrade conceptual art Group 143. He has published several
books: A Prolegomenon for Analytical Aesthetics (1995), The Postmodern (1995),
and Asymmetrical Other (1996). He edits Transkatalog and teaches aesthetics and
art theory at the University of Arts in Belgrade.
Christophe Tarkos has published a number of books, including Processe, Oui, Cai
(1997). He coedits POl§zie Proleter.
14 boundary 21 Spring 1999
Roberto Tejada was born in Los Angeles in 1964. From 1987 to 1997, he lived in
Mexico City, where he edited Mandor/a: New Writing From the Americas, an English-
Spanish journal, and En algun otro lado (1992), an anthology of twentieth-century
poems on Mexico written by poets from North America and the United Kingdom.
Marina Temkina was born in 1948 in Leningrad and moved to New York in 1978.
Her poetry collections include Observatoire Geomnesique (1990), and, most
recently, The Watch Tower (1990), from which the selection here is taken. Transla-
tor Alexander Stessin was born in Russia in 1978 and immigrated to the United
States in 1990. Currently a student at the State University of New York-Buffalo, his
first collection of poems, Cottonwood Smoke, is forthcoming.
Habib Tengour was born in 1947 in Mostaganem, Western Algeria. Since the 1960s,
he has lived between Paris and Constantine, where he teaches sociology. His
major books are La Vieux de la Montagne (1983), Sultan GaliEN (1985), L'Epreuve
de rArc (1990), and Gens de Mosta (1997).
John Tranter has published twelve collections of verse, including Selected Poems in
1982, The F/oor of Heaven (a book-length sequence of four verse narratives) in
1992, Gasoline Kisses in 1997, and Late Night Radio in 1998. He is the editor of the
free Internet magazine Jacket, at http://www.jacket.zip.com.au.
Cecilia Vicuna is a Chilean poet and artist who lives in New York and travels fre-
quently to Latin America. Her most recent books are Qu/POem / The Precarious Art
and Poetry of Cecilia Vicuna (1997) and Unravelling Words and Weaving Water
(1992).
Rosmarie Waldrop's books include Another Language: Selected Poems (1997) and,
with Keith Waldrop, Well Well Reality (1998). She is coeditor of Burning Deck Press
and translates and publishes German and French poetry. She lives in Providence,
Rhode Island.
Catherine Walsh was born in 1964 in Dublin, Ireland. Her books include Short Sto-
ries (1989), Pitch (1994), and /dir Eatortha and Making Tents (1996).
Darren Wershler-Henry, born in 1966, is a writer and critic who lives and works in
Toronto. His first collection of concrete and visual poetry, NICHOLODEON: a book
of /owerglyphs (1997), was the first work published by the newly rejuvenated Coach
House Books.
Oswald Wiener, who is from Austria, lives in the Canadian Yukon and teaches in
Germany. His selection in this issue is translated from die verbesserung von mit-
tie/europa, roman (The improvement of central Europe) (1969) and is published
here with the permission of the author.
Vi Cun was born in China in 1954. He is a member of the Original Poets Group. His
work in English translation appeared in Exact Change Yearbook and Parataxis.
Jeremy Adler, from Pythagorean Sonnet Sequence
16 boundary 21 Spring 1999
Adonis
from A Language that Exiles Me
Europe, as geographical locus, gets its name from the goddess Europa,
who came from the land of Canaan, as I do. You know the legend: how
Zeus, the Greek, kidnapped the Canaanite goddess. You also know how
her brother Cadmos, whose name means "Orient," set out to find her, car-
rying with him the alphabet. But he did not find his sister: her body had
vanished into the occidental earth. And yet he gave the alphabet to
Europe, as if he wanted to celebrate the meeting between our Orient and
your Occident, to found it on knowledge and the sharing thereof. Isn't that
a first, a founding sign indicating that the Other, in relation to the land to
which I belong, was one of the dimensions of the Self? Especially if one
remembers that this Self gave Europe not only its name, but also that most
profound element of its identity, the alphabet. Isn't this then not also a
founding sign showing that the Other is the present and the future of the
Self? Cadmos keeps on looking for Europa.
I think that the danger threatening poetry in the future will be even greater
than the danger it was exposed to by the ideologies of this century's totali-
tarian systems. Poetry risks becoming yet again an instrument in the ser-
vice of technological or religious truth: we are going to witness an unprece-
dented return to the originary text, a political and ideological return toward
a stadium where, meaning being considered an a priori given, poetry may
no longer be anything but a simple variation on the first text, governed by
didactic and rationalistic concerns. Truly original poetry will once again be
dismissed as delirious language, madness. It will no longer be tolerated as
a questioning but only as an answer, as something fixed and not as some-
thing moving. It will no longer be called upon to create meaning, but will be
used as caulking for the fissures of time, so that time may again adhere to
eternity's meaning, meaning's eternity. Orient and Occident risk walking
toward the future in the footsteps of the past, a past which more than ever
will be that of the sacred texts.
How will poetry face these dangers? I don't know. But I can try to
sketch something that is beginning to take shape in me, something dream-
like that wells up from my imagination and experience as if it were given
me to live in the next century. To save itself, poetry will need to progres-
sively espouse the unknown internal truths and refuse again and again to
Adonis 17
be regimented from the outside by any kind of ideology, system, or institu-
tion. Manipulated by the two great machineries of technology and religion,
the media will continue to increase their hegemony, while poetry will have
to advance by exploring regions the invader cannot reach: the regions of
the heart, of questioning, of wonder, and of death.
Indeed, before being a simple relation between words, poetry-the
supreme expression of the human through language-is a relation with
the world and with things. The original finality of poetry is to embody this
relation; this asks of the poet a perfect knowledge of the world, a profound
and authentic vision, and a highly refined sense of beauty. From a more
traditional standpoint, poetry is seen as an ideological tool, an intermediary
between the reader and the unknown, a fount of answers. But faced by this
double oppression-technological and religious-this traditional view of
the poem cannot survive, it will have to be transformed in its very structure.
Just as the traditional concept of poetry has already broadened to exceed
the limits of traditional forms of speech, so, in order to resist the utilitarian
goals which nearly strangled it this century, in order to escape ideology, the
structure of poetic language will have to open itself to more movement,
and move always more toward a concept of the total poem. Perhaps the
poet will infuse the poem-to-come with various elements from the theater,
the novel, philosophy, science, history, things themselves and what's
beyond them, the quivering of the body, and the questioning of reason.
Drawing, architecture, and music will perhaps combine in the poem-to-
come to create a total theater for all things and all languages. Such a
development would inevitably lead to an ever growing polarization around
a focal point located inside and not outside the human being. The poem
would then become a node of energy leading the reader back to his own
innateness, it would force him to ask and to answer his own questions. The
poet will try to always go deeper into his innateness and to explore the
dimensions of his language in order to better particularize the identity of
the talking self and that of language. Poetry will create unprecedented
upheavals in the system of language and thought. The shards of history
and of the world will collide in the poetic text: poetry as the crucible where
places and times, the ancient and the modern, science and the dream will
meet. Poetry will focus always more on desire and pleasure.
Poetry will be like a sea gathering all the rivers and folding in their
waters: loaded with desire, with pleasure, the poem will be transgressive.
And yet, like the head of Orpheus, the poem will navigate on the river Uni-
verse, totally contained in the body of language.
18 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Hegel said that art was a thing of the past. It pleases me to say: to
the contrary, poetry is a question for the future, so much so that the future
itself belongs to poetry, is poetry. Without poetry there will be no future.
The time that would see poetry die will itself be just another death.
Poetry does not have a time: it is time.
(Translated from French by Pierre Joris)
Fernando Aguiar
20 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Pierre Alteri & Olivier Cadiot, Katalin Molnar & Christophe Tarkos,
Emmanuel Hocquard, Christian Prigent
... Unidentified Word Objects are
literature's first prize: they fasci-
nate, they lull to sleep. It is easy,
tempting, to overestimate them, to
inflate them like floats. They are the
stamp of virtuosity in the prose of
stylists. Exhibited like pearls, they
lend themselves willingly to over-
cultivation, becoming little
enshrined votive offerings. Their
monstrousness, instead of fueling
the machine, can be flaunted in its
own right, in at least two ways.
Through prettification, harmoniza-
tion, precocity, in a complacent
Baroque. Or through languagey
aberration, in an equally pat
Expressionism. Arrest on the
image.
It is not for nothing that
the more or less acknowledged
dream of these types of literature,
Baroque affectation or Expres-
sionist exaggeration, is poetry. It
is in poetry more than anywhere
else that the ideals of the arrested
object and the exception are
achieved. A modern accomplish-
ment by means of condensation,
brilliantly summed up in Claude
Royet-Journoud's title Objects
Contain the Infinite. Of course,
there is a whole world between
the metaphors of Symbolist
poetry, Surrealist linkage, and
Objectivist fragmentation of the
Blank Spots
1 - When I speak about
the French translation of contem-
porary American poetry as a contri-
bution to contemporary French lit-
erature, what do I see as the
nature of this contribution? I'm
tempted to reply: a rip. Or a hole.
Or even a "blank spot."
OCEAN-CHART
(Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the
Snark)
2 - My generation will
probably be the last one to have
seen the "blank spots" on maps of
the world where the countries and
colonial empires were colored in
red, orange, blue, green. There
remained a few blank spots, indi-
cating the few still unexplored
zones. Today, the maps are com-
pletely colored in and the explorers
are replaced by tourists.
3 - For me, then, the con-
deskeshen betwfJn
[ foddagraf of lade standin
on cher wif baskat on hed, redin )
and
[ foddagraf of maan warin
andarpantz standin on flar hod'n a
(gas mask?) )
wi, wi, wi, 0 wana ravyu?
o ya, ya. ta sichawat arsefz.
ta get tatale sichawatad.
ya, bat, bat wadaOmen? we
got a sichawashan.
we gat taform at. we gat
taform at. tha plac hwer, bakaz, we
gat ta get ta hwer we se wi we rit
hwat. use? tha plac dazn jast sho
up on itz on, we gat t constrakt it,
we gadajastafi it.
Alferi et al. 21
What Use Poetry?
It is said these days that things are
going badly for literature, even
more so for poetry, which is in cri-
sis and even threatened with
extinction. Of course, one could
ask if things have ever gone well
for poetry. Some twenty years ago,
Roland Barthes already warned
that in our world, literature should
try "to save its skin." One can won-
der what it would mean for poetry
to be well: when and where was
poetic literature ever sold and
read? When and where was poetry
not in crisis?
When our world tries to
reflect on itself it tends to whine
about the meaning that has been
taken away from it by the failings
of the great progressive or revolu-
tionary utopias. There is no longer
any possibility of grandiosity
beyond our present and our
immediate future. This retreat, this
recoiling seems to have removed
from meaning the very idea of
meaning (the meaning of our
presence in the world and our
destiny)-yet without, however,
preventing the search for mean-
ing. Consequently, anguish per-
sists in this human world of ours,
as in all worlds in want. The need
for meaning, the need for salutary
plenitude, the need for determina-
tion and clarity is present in the
same proportion as it is missing.
22 boundary 21 Spring 1999
tribution of translations of Ameri-
can poetry to contemporary
French literature consists of: 1)
creating a distance within a
space-time in the process of
incessant narrowing; 2) express-
ing that distance; 3) reinserting
"blank spots" within the general
coloring context.
4 - When I wrote that con-
temporary American poetry in
French translation is a contribution
to contemporary French literature,
I didn't mean to say that French lit-
erature is enriched or augmented,
but rather that its surface area is
expanded into unexplored zones.
Today, to translate American
poetry into French is to gain
ground.
Unowned territory. No-
man's-Iand. Not for selling or build-
ing. And definitely not a ground for
meetings, exchanges, dialogues,
discussions, influences, commu-
nication in short, but rather an
initial space of observation and
reflection.
5 - I also remarked: "My
real pleasure is reading American
poetry in French. ... My satisfac-
tion could be expressed in these
terms: no French poet could ever
write this."
5 1/2 - Besides, what sort
of language is it, where the phrase
'in perfect American' rings
strangely like a displaced echo of
the expression 'in perfect English'?
ya.
itz jastafid bi, evan bi, bi itz
intrinzik bOte. itz jastafid bi itz
kohirans.
ya, bat then, hwa iz it? izit,
itz, padagajikal?
no! no! itz, itz, itz, itz, itz
parfick far padafiz.
padagajikal dazn men far
padafiz. padagajikal menz it menz
thatz hwat we r, thatz hwat
we want.
bat hO dO we wana tel it to?
ta hO? ta hO? ta as! that itz,
that itz thar, that ifyarit: so-n-soz an
as, itz far hO? Q sa: so-n-soz an as.
Q jast rit it. Q rit it bekaz, Q can rit it
on a wal, a grafete, Q rit it, itz, at
lest its ritan.
ya.
no?
ya.
bekaz far hO? i men, war
runin inta prablams im fargetin.
The present political situation
offers numerous spectacular and
often terrifying instances of this.
In such a context, one can
understand that our contempo-
raries show little taste for what
does not bring comforting clarity or
stable knowledge. Not surprising
either their disdain for "difficult" lit-
erature (especially that which is
labeled, more or less, experimen-
tal poetry). Not surprising that our
contemporaries try to avoid the
kind of writing that does not satisfy
itself with the representations that
official discourses offer of the
world, the kind of writing that
erodes the certainty of actual
knowledge, that undermines the
formality of comfort, that does not
essentially propose meaning but
provokes anguish about the very
conditions of the production of
meaning.
In a larger sense, only those
who write in this perspective can
be called poets. But there is a ten-
dency to relegate these types of
poets to a marginal inaudibility
(since no one listens to them): they
do not correspond to the demands
of the world, they are inadequate
to the logic of spectacle and com-
merce, the eccentricity of their lan-
guage makes them appear
unreadable, monstrous, they are
considered "errors of nature."
Reason why, today, one
readily declares that this activity
Alferi et at. 23
literal. But it is always a question
of little devices disunited in the
service of an ideal Object, hiero-
glyphs to decipher, knick-knack or
monster.
This poetics of the exception
can be summarized in one pose:
Char-ism. Or it can become a radi-
cal new method of concretization:
trip to Michaux's personal zoo,
Reznikoff's minutes, Cingria's cyclo-
tourism, Ponge's game-things, Ste-
fan's scissorings. In the affected
neoclassicism turning up every-
where you look, it can assume the
inoffensive form of memorable
moment or well-turned aphorism.
Or it can deeply affect the structure
of language itself.
Poetry has often recognized
the threat posed to it by arrests on
the Object: self-mutilation, self-
confinement. Poetry devises
escape routes by inventing indeter-
minate open spaces, zones of
indistinction, or pockets of resis-
tance. It knows, better than any
other genre, how to invent urban or
desert states of infrapersonal equi-
librium: spleen, void, apathy. And
this is how true "literary space"
should be determined. But more
often than not, poetry opens such
spaces only to use them as a
sanctuary in which to await the
apparition of the Exemplary Object,
the sublime singularity.
The procedures reflect and
almost mechanically reproduce this
24 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
ya. no, butif, far hO we wana
start a ravyO? far hO?
i dano. ya send samthin, ya
send samthin, ya stik z postar on
tha wal
i navar put up a postar.
ok bat its tha sam thin.
bekaz a ravyOzz a postar. itz a
manafesto. no bat wi? i dano.
yO, yO war sain, i ramembar,
yO wer sain that yO wantad a plac
far as. ya.
than, that menz that we
pablish staf we Iik.
ya, hwat we lik.
n that we tri ta mak it
intarasin, that ya kep on redin,
bakaz tha prablam wif a ravyOz
that thar borin.
ya, bat borin wi? simple
bekaz tha don no hwat thar sain.
tha on Ie intrast of a sichawashan
Iik this iz hwen it noz hwat itz sain.
it saz samthin. it shoz samthin. it
shoz a wa of sein.
nd hwats tha wa of seiin?
its Os!
.. I
us.
(the poetic activity) has no future.
A number of rather well-placed
intellectuals, such as Guy Debord
and Jean Baudrillard, even tend to
think that there is no more litera-
ture worthy of that name in France,
that poetry is dead, or for that mat-
ter the same can be said of art in
general.
And yet poetry continues
to exist in varied forms, often con-
tradictory, but alive, and deeply
rooted in the anguish proper to
mankind-anguish of language.
Let me explain:
One could begin by asking
a crude, naive question: Why is
there poetry? Why is there STILL
poetry when everything (com-
merce, spectacle, ideology) wishes
there would be no more poetry.
This is what I believe:
1. A nonwritten life (non-
symbolized in a personal
manner) is a wretched life, a
life subjected to a false lan-
guage. Therefore, one
must respond to the shame
of being subjugated and of
being without a language
with a defensive gesture: by
an action on language.
2. The language of every-
one is no one's language,
consequently one must ''find
for oneself a language" in
order to articulate what is
intimate (and which positive
ideal of exception. Little formal
models, not only disjointed but also
mounted on pins, varnished paint-
ing or abrupt juxtaposition,
metered, assonant, or purposely
elliptical. And the poems are stub-
bornly presented as quintessential
exceptions: flowers, four-leaf
clovers, cameos, enamels, tro-
phies. This hunting scene can also
be a shop of horrors: the sanctifica-
tion of gore is just the flip side of
precocity.
Beyond the complacency
that lies in wait for it, the Arrested
Object presents a limit (a limita-
tion?) for poetry. The arrest of
poetry: an old story. From
Ducasse's Poesies to Denis
Roche's visit to the theatre, pass-
ing through "performance"'s more
nuanced forms of avoidance or the
rejection of "literary" poetry in the
name of "the real world," etc. It's
still the topiC of the day, fast
becoming a farce. In this corner,
the fetishistic artisans, upholders of
forms and know-how. In that cor-
ner, the ex-iconoclasts who either
redigest a "modern" destiny or go
reconvert themselves in ordinary
prose.
How to retain the precision
of the poetic mechanism without
sacrificing speed? How to efface
the icons without deactivating
them?
If it is a question of soul sup-
plement or purring engine, lyriCism
Alferi et al. 25
"Perhaps my dilemma about
whether this expression is Ameri-
can or not is exactly the pOint,
since its ambiguity puts Reznikoff's
relation to the language (American
or English) and the men in ques-
tion" (Benjamin Hollander, "The
Eloquence in Question, Reznikoff's
Manner").
Perhaps the same thing can
be expressed this way: "No Ameri-
can could ever write this."
6 - Finding oneself in this
strange situation. Without even
being able to speak of exoticism,
since exoticism is itself a matter of
habits.
7 - No, it's on the contrary
strangely familiar and at the same
time so strange, you see. This dis-
tance. The distance between what
can be written directly in French
and what can only be written indi-
rectly, through reflection, through
translation.
7 - The distance between
habits and politics, for example.
Or: what unarticulated pOlitical
intonations does the translation of
American poetry suddenly articu-
late in French? What politically
"blank spots" suddenly speak
through our habits?
8 - Political in what way?
In the way the American detective
novel is political. But not political
like the neo-noir French novel.
(Incidentally, it would be interest-
ing to try to find out why the
26 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
discourses cannot account is nowhere to be found. And the
for). anatomist can be accused of not
3. The paradox is that lan- finding the spirit, expression can
guage, which makes us be played off against technique,
human, frees us from the and sentiment against its form.
world at the very moment "Lyric" designates the energy of
when it pretends to give the the literary mechanism that
world to us. Therefore, on changes form into content and vice
the one hand all we have to versa. Rather than a particular
do is push this wrenching tone or affect, "lyricism" is a pri-
from nature to the extreme, mary affectivity that gives tension
and on the other to seek a to writing, inseparable from the
new alliance with the world. mechanism as an act from its
4. This produces on one conditions.
side DICHTUNG (that is The driving force of writing
to say, rhetorical condensa- has been so often thought of in
tion and the desire of negative terms that a sort of Vul-
hermetism), and on the gate of "lack" has developed with
other side the exchange reference to literary France. This
of metaphors, "correspon- Vulgate reinjects transcendence,
dences," echolalia, har- mystery, and piety by misappropri-
monies, etc. ating grand negative concepts rig-
S. "Poetry" is the site where orously elaborated under specific
this contradiction (this circumstances (impossibility, limita-
dichotomy) which structures tion, inexpressibility). Far from
language is exposed. For what constituted these concepts'
this reason, poetry is force and pertinence the Vulgate of
ineluctable. "lack" reduces them to a Single
6. Neither the atonic block grandiloquent thematic in order to
of prose (the continuum of re-create an illusionistic scene of
thought or narration) nor the writing. Vagueness gives rise to its
melodic metronome (that is every hope: since the writing origi-
to say, prosody) can nates in radical negativity, it is by
account for the sensation of definition subversive. It is remark-
discontinuity of things and able, on the contrary, how this dif-
the meaninglessness of the fuse ideology falls back, in the idea
present (the unnameable of a sublime elsewhere, on the
reality). Therefore, one must bourgeois stereotype of inspiration.
find a form that can record Of course, something
this sensation (a rhythmic escapes the mechanical disman-
majority of French translations of
American detective fiction sound
so fake.) Political like Gertrude
Stein, the Objectivists, Jackson
Mac Low, the L=A=N=G=
U=A=G=E poets, and so many
others, not like Kenneth Fearing
or Ezra Pound or the Beatniks.
9 - Political. That doesn't
imply that today's American poets
are particularly involved in actual
political struggle. It simply means
that they situate political reflection,
radically, in the field of language.
10 - Rips. Holes. "Blank
spots."
12 - The political force
in question is equivalent to the
force of language. Its strength in
place of its power. Gertrude Stein's
grammar, Charles Reznikoff's
recopyings, Jackson Mac Low's
chance-intentional language
blocks, Armand Schwerner's
tablets, David Antin's spoken
poems ....
Any child knows how to play
with these things, while we all too
often content ourselves with pro-
nouncing on or against. The will of
language as a key to a different
political space. America blank on
the map or the re-embarking of
Rochambeau.
13 - Wittgenstein's Rhinoc-
eros: any child can understand that
he crosses the room. And can
extrapolate from that conse-
quences for life, in other words
political consequences.
Alferi et al. 27
ya! itz hwat we fik, hwat we
fik, itz jus evrethin we fik. bat wif
an Ide, se, itz jus hwat we fik!
ansted ot evar sain hwat, hwat it
iz, tha, the speshel thin iz that
it saz, it showz hwat it saz, yO se?
yar not gana hav a miks s6 miksd
that yO cant tel hwat it iz. evrewan
kan se hwat it iz. then itz a k6hiren
objakt.
k6hiren hau?
itz hwat we fik! yar not gana
te me that hwat we rit 'z ITk evrethin
Is. Ilk 6 lidarachur.
'cors not.
so, far lidarachur, we start a
ravyO.
ya.
if, it hwat we rit iz lidarachur,
ya
we ned a plac to matamor-
foslz, jarminat, reflakt, mOv araund,
go wOn wa, go tha adar wa,
dapendin on hwat war lukin far. a
plac hwer we kan think, sugjest
stat, set tha limitz, giv Idez hwen
we get am nd, hwet daz that dO? it
it givz matieal ta se, hwat lid-
arachur iz. 1b.atz it. bekaz I
ramembr yO war sain: I wan a
plac fa Os. an Iwaz sain, I wan,
28 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
tling of texts; there is always a
remainder from the operation. But
it's not elsewhere, at the bottom of
a well; it is part of the operation
itself. As long as it remains the
unknown in the equation, remain-
der = x; as long as it is not hypo-
statized into a religious object, it is
not considered to be lacking.
The thematics of lack pro-
duced flat texts that had to depend
on their place in the shade to take
on depth. Their space was still the
space of illusionist perspective. But
if you focus on the writing, all you
see is a surface, like a painting
without a faked third dimension.
How to produce reliefs on the very
surface of writing? How to reinvest
the surface with energy to score it?
How to maintain a constant
gearshifting effect with a thousand
discrepancies of consistency and
registers of writing? How to let cer-
tain lines of phrasing-descriptive,
theatrical, narrative, poetic-
occupy by turns the foreground of
a single text, then fall back behind
the other lines they covered over?
Through braiding: a line
locally overlaps another line that
seemed to hold it behind. A relief
appears, then is reabsorbed in the
surface because there is no back-
ground. The gearshifting shows up
in the writing by means of a con-
currence of voices: a voice mani-
fests itself through its register-
narration, discourse, etc.-or
through its phrasing-rhythm, tone
14 - No politics without
animals. "The Whale places the
object at a distance. The title
enforces an estrangement, actually
an abstraction of the whale. Neither
this whale nor that whale. Then an
empty place, an unoccupied spot,
establishes itself. A space without a
subject (a "no-man's-land") where
the speaker is missing: ... place of
locution lacking a subject that
allows himself to be perceived in
the traces of his speech .... A dis-
course that, fatally, will do violence
to both language and to the lan-
guage. That will constitute a loss
in terms of the abundance associ-
ated with the unspoken or, better
yet, in terms of the richness of the
not-yet-spoken" (Claude Richard,
"Melville: la lettre blanche").
15 - Political in place of
metaphysical. A hole in place of a
lucrative building. The backers of
the City of God cultivating the art
of blabbing about the unspeakable.
A comical project. Charlton Heston
receiving the tablets of the law in
the Cecil B. DeMille movie.
15 112 - Israelis and Pales-
tinians both claim Jerusalem for
their capital. That would be comi-
cal if it weren't for the deaths. If
one group, for its own reasons,
insists that Jerusalem should not
be the capital of the other group,
and vice versa, there's no solution.
But if both, for opposite-that is to
say identical-reasons, insist that
Jerusalem should be their capital,
sOm, sOm separashans widin
lidarachur. Twan tha old store: wer
wOn famale
ovar.
that evrewOn IOvz evrewOn
ovar,ovar.
ovar.
o ya, ya.thatz it.thatz hwet
itz far.
and we sa bad thinz abaut
tha adarz. yO ramembar that?
ya, T ramembar.
bat, bat tha prablem iz,
tada, T don se
yO don fe Iil< sain bad thinz
abaut tha adarz. if som daz yO fe
Iik it, som daz yO donfe Iil< it, itz ok,
yO chanj, yO sa, no insaltz far, far,
wOn mOnf far igzampal and wOn
mOnf, speshel no insaltz isO.
no bat tha prablam iz, iz
we one pablish pomz.
we one pablish pomz in tha
ravyO?
onle.thatz it. an lhatzz 01.
an we kritsTz nathin.
Alfari at al. 29
schema that obeys no fixed
rules a priori, an artificial
happening detached from
meaning). Poetry has this
discovery as its objective.
As long as there will be this,
at least this, that is to say as long
as there will be some speaking
beings, some anguished human
beings, there will be, it seems to
me, an exigency of poetry. Not for
poetry, but against poetry, in the
murder of poetry, in poetry as a
form of disappearance of poetry.
And, of course, in unpredictable
forms-forms that must at the
same time undermine the search
for a "true" language while insisting
that there is no "true" language-
forms that propose not to create
fullness but rather emptiness in the
false language that surrounds us
and fills the space around us.
What are the forms of repre-
senting the world that today
parade before us? The fugacity of
the spectacular, the onrush that
makes the real vanish in the frivo-
lous and jovial bric-a-brac of trash-
TV, or the obscene tautology of the
talk shows (the reality shows).
The derealizing flow of
images drowns our vision, our con-
science, our lives. It subjugates us,
as if naturally, to the ascendancy
of represented things. It obstructs
the real for us with simplistic repre-
sentations. It teaches us to
approve dumbly what is there
30 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
why can't Jerusalem be, at the
same time, the capital of both?
Jerusalem, capital of Israel;
Jerusalem, capital of Palestine.
That way, everyone is happy. Any
child can understand this. Now,
about the falcons.
16 -I don't know for sure,
but apparently about twenty pairs
of falcons live in Paris, where they
have supposedly been reproducing
since the Middle Ages, nesting in
certain belfries. Their hunting
grounds presumably extend over a
radius of several dozen miles.
Based in the capital, they evidently
seek their daily sustenance as far
as Royaumont. Personally, I've
never seen a falcon over Paris.
And, even if I had, I would have
taken it for a quick pigeon. I
assume that the majority of
Parisians are equally unaware of
their presence.
I think this story is very edi-
fying. It shows that two territories
that are unaware of one another
can exist in the same space, with
no interferences or connections.
16 1/2 - For days all the
radio and television stations have
been boxing our ears with this high
philosophical debate: should day-
light savings time be done away
with? Should the winter or the
summer hour prevail? At what hour
does the sun rise? Etc.
At the fourth beep the time
will be exactly eight o'clock is
nO,no,kaz,kaz,kaz,kaz,
Iik, if, if yO bald a ballldin, yO don
star bi
kritsizin tha baldin nekstdor
-K. M. & c. T.
(Translated by Stacy Doris)
before our eyes gorged with icons.
Facing this thoughtless and alien-
ating onrush, poetry is nothing
more than the name of another
appropriation of reality. Poetry is
another name for realism, because
the strange, overcomplicated, mul-
tiple cut-up of poetic writing
imposes another functioning of
meaning (another rhythm of
apparition, of constitution and of
dispersion of meaning in the dura-
tion-the duration of writing as
well as the duration of reading).
For instance, the speed of surging
and vanishing visions in Dante
or Rimbaud and, by contrast, the
crystallized slow motion of
Mallarme.
Similarly, rhetoric is not the
name of an ornamentation or of a
brilliant performance of expression.
Rhetoric is the name of this other
functioning which creates a com-
plexity, a density (Dicht-Dichter, in
German), a difficulty which resists
the flow of time, resists the disas-
trous vanishing of things, of
beings, of thoughts, into time.
Rhetoric is the name of the tech-
nique that hardens this resistance
and makes it last.
Petrarch used to say: "I
don't want my reader to under-
stand without effort what I myself
wrote with effort." One should not
interpret this statement as an affir-
mation of esoteric elitism. On the
contrary: this statement tells us
Alferi et al. 31
lexicon, etc.-, dominates the
other voices for a while, then is
covered over by another. The
opposition between the unique,
autocratic, linear idiom of poetry
and the relativising, discontinuous
dialogism of the novel loses its sig-
nificance. Prose could be consid-
ered, in a way that includes certain
poetry, a braided voice whose
ideal is maximum integration and
continuity at once: several voices
in one. A prose whose clear line
doesn't blur the contours of poetic
objects. A prose that piles up the
registers-rhythm section, key-
boards, melody-, yet obeys the
exigencies of a continuous phrase,
without pause. A line is launched,
takes off, and, when it seems to
lose itself, is relayed by another,
threads back through the mike,
loops: feedback. Lines of voicing
move parallel to each other at dif-
ferent rhythms.
Confidence in the surface,
which is simply confidence in form,
does not inevitably lead literature
to smooth linearity or to abstraction
in the service of pure textual mate-
riality. Literature's specific material
is not language as such, but
always objects already both com-
plex and dehierarchized-Uniden-
tified Word Objects.
Many effects of relief result
from the circulation of these het-
erogeneous objects. Some vanish
in passing, others persist. Above
32 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
that poetry is the name of a
chance given to the reader, caught
in the vertiginous precipitation of
prosody, or in the densifying of
polysemy. To see one's time as an
obstacle to time and to take
momentarily the initiative over
time, in the slow-motion thickness
of deciphering.
Difficult literature, Antonin
Artaud said, is a search for ''true''
language. Its particular function-
ing is to attempt to speak the inti-
mate-"individual modulation."
Intimate does not mean only sub-
jective, personal (what lyricism
tries to express). It is rather what
Kafka called "the negative," Batame
"Ia part maudite" (the banished
portion), Beckett "the unnameable."
That is to say, what communitarian
discourses that are subjugated to
the positive (politics, moral, sci-
ence) cannot take in charge.
Unlike history and unlike
prophesies, poetry confronts the
present. The love of its own time is
its subject. But this love, as all
love, is ambivalent. Modern litera-
ture is an ambivalent love of the
present; nothing other than the
present because it refuses nostal-
gic maceration, the hatred of
modernity, and prophetic align-
ment-nothing other than the
entire present (its tragic space, its
senseless on-the-spotness)-
which painfully frustrates the
desire for meaning. Loving and
all, some are reabsorbed at a cer-
tain reading speed, viewed from a
certain angle dictated by context,
but reemerge at another speed,
from another angle. When the spo-
ken interrupts the flow of the writ-
ten, for example, a certain surface
imposes itself on another and
coats it. This transcription effect is
closely linked to heterogeneity, to
the forced entry of an object into a
code which wants nothing to do
with it: surprise sound effect on the
written, unintentional literary effect,
effect of telescoping or corruga-
tion, fortuitous or highly calculated.
Strangleholds of the written on the
spoken, the spoken on the written,
the written on the written.
But the attraction of strange
objects can also be understood lit-
erally. Objects, whether of external
observation or frantic imitation,
when recognized in their strange-
ness and violently employed, cre-
ate a disturbing relief which the
text does not smooth over, but
exposes. The external breaks in by
force and is suppressed as back-
ground, which can't happen with-
out a degree of irony. Covert irony
in the case of a referent imposing
itself upon nonfactual writing,
exerting such pressure on the writ-
ing that it raises objections. Overt
irony when the text declares itself
a fake, tailoring itself to fit a genre
that becomes its object, its refer-
ent. The issue is not of greater or
Alferi et a!. 33
clearly a command, not a piece of
information. Why should the whole
world go by the same time?
Wouldn't it be enough for those
who have some business to take
care of together to synchronize
their watches like before a holdup,
and let the others live life at their
own pace? In the '50s, L. Mumford
cleverly showed the role of the be/-
fry-clock order in the birth of capi-
talism.
"The Eliminator is a clock
that doesn't keep time, but loses it.
The intervals between the flashes
of neon are 'void intervals' or what
George Kubler calls 'the rupture
between past and future.' The
Eliminator orders negative time as
it avoids historical space" (Robert
Smithson, "The Eliminator").
Still, the system of hours
and time zones is good for one
thing: differences in time in differ-
ent zones. The necessary lag
between a voice and its echo,
between one language and
another. But also between us.
18 112 -I arrive at a per-
ilous and let us say disreputable
passage here. I could have trans-
lated Sun as "Solitude." Of course,
I didn't. Before deSignating a fash-
ionable social plague, the word
was (and remains) one of the great
poetic plagues. One of those
words that should be retired from
the language and disinfected
before being allowed back in circu-
34 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
hating, that is to say embracing the
present passionately, poetry con-
fronts in-significance because the
meaning of the present is located
in this in-significance: in this
impossible framing of perspec-
tives, in this wavering of knowl-
edge, in this leakage of significa-
tions confronting our discourses
and our beliefs.
Or to put it differently: either
the world (the present, things, the
outside world, our bodies) falls, as
it is said, into "obvious meaning"-
and thus literary language
becomes the aestheticized reflec-
tion of this fall-or else it remains
obscure (absolutely aside from
meaning) -and as such literary
language takes this into account:
its given ineluctably becomes this
in-significance, this empty spot at
the heart of the constitution of
meaning.
The goal of poetry is as
much to fix this non-sense of the
present as to produce meaning (to
say the world clearly). Therefore,
poetry incarnates senselessness,
indeterminacy, and the malaise
which speaks the truth of this sin-
gular rapport of speaking beings
with the world (speaking beings
that Artaud called "departed
beings": the separated ones, those
wrenched from the immediate ani-
mality of experience). Poetry
accomplishes, in its very own diffi-
culty, the logic of this speaking
lesser realism, but of negotiation
with that object, with the "reality
effect," suspect or paradoxical,
which necessitates a plan of
attack.
Relief requires mixing and
mixed techniques. This brings to
mind "multimedia," but the mixing
need not be systematic, it can
impose itself on a text at any point.
Sometimes a book unfolds from a
single refractory nucleus and
passes through all the genres (the-
ater, narrative, essay) in an
attempt to set that nucleus in
motion. At other times the motion
of the description or narrative
slows before an image, an event,
and transforms into a poem. In a
novel, the effect of poetry (in a
sense extended to any form that
calls attention to its own contours)
is always gripping: suddenly we
dwell on the words themselves,
only to forget them again, dragged
along by the narration. The ques-
tion of style, of the writing's author-
ity and thus the writer's posture,
"novelist," "poet," etc., gives way to
more modest considerations. How,
for example, in a text that disobeys
the laws of genre, to justify the
nonlinear arrangement of words
and the persistence of sound, or
theater, the mise-en-scene
installed through typography in the
mise-en-page.
lation. Gilles Deleuze, for example,
utilizes it when he tells that his role
as a professor was to teach stu-
dents (in search of communication
because they feel lonely) that they
should be glad of their solitude.
That they could proceed only as a
function of their solitude. "It was
my role as a professor to reconcile
them with their solitude."
I'm sure that translation
has a lot to do with utterances.
And utterances, like (genuine)
mushrooms, aren't cultivated,
aren't manufactured; you gather
them when you find them. No
individual subject (no writer), as
great as he may be, has ever
invented or produced the slightest
utterance. I would say the same
thing about utterances as Olivier
Cadiot has written about poetry:
"(they) are in the language. It
suffices to delicately disengage
them and then make a mold of
them."
When I say that translation
seems to me to have a lot to do
with utterances, I'm talking about
solitude. Because utterances are
rare. Not because there are so few
of them, but because they can be
spotted only in a rarefied space, a
no-man's-land, a space without a
subject.
And utterances are solitary.
By this I mean that they do not
communicate, they do not form
links, that they are without connec-
Alferi et al. 35
36 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
Pebbles in the stream: to varying
extents, the flow of sentences
weakens and melts the dense for-
mations they sweep along with
them. Digestion is a kind of veloc-
ity. The contours of a foreign body
in a text can dissolve to reappear
more clearly later-an interplay of
angles and rhythms. The redun-
dant accumulation of sentences
from elsewhere, for example, first
blurs their contours, but on a
slower reading, their stitching
reappears. We read at different
speeds, for different forms of
enjoyment: panting to keep up
with the rush of a new discourse,
or taking time to let exemplary
objects rise to the surface. Multi-
plicity of readings for the multiplic-
ity of writing. A book often func-
tions like a particle accelerator for
the unidentified objects it con-
tains. The acceleration provoked
by the machine of repetition sepa-
rates the ear from the text. In tra-
ditional poetry, enjambment is an
accelerator that forces a non-
grammatical skeleton out of the
sentence.
All these effects of relief,
intermittence, striation, ungluing,
precipitation, and reliquification
suggest in every case a specific
literary treatment of the material:
digestion of word objects by the
block or by phrasing, by stitching
or fusions, double justification. To
survey the changes of consis-
tion, even if there are several of
them on a page. But they beam
like idiots.
Translating Sun or writing
Theorie des tables, the work of an
idiot, has helped me "reconcile
myself with my solitude."
-E.H.
(Translated by Stacy Doris)
Alfen et al. 37
being. It speaks the loss of the
world in language, and through
language the wrenching away of
human beings from the mute stu-
pidity of the world. In fact, poetry
has as its goal to draw this void
and this wrenching (with abstract,
artificial, nonnatural rhythms).
To offer a readable world
(as it is done in the coherence of
explanatory systems, in the
na"ivete of utopic visions, or in the
homogeneity of fictions which artic-
ulate time) would be, for poetry, a
betrayal of the effort toward truth, it
would be a submission to the lure,
an admission of the world. Thus
Baudelaire, Mallarme, Jarry,
Artaud, Beckett, and many others
did not seek to render the world
readable: their works constructed,
across from the world's obscurity, a
homologous obscurity (homeopa-
thetic?)-and it is in this that these
works give the effect of truth.
-c.p.
(Translated by Ray Federman)
38 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
tency, observe the contamination
through contact of materials taken
from wherever, research the most
minute material differences. To
elaborate a form where genres
and registers realign themselves
in full swing.
-P.A. &0. C.
(Translated by Stacy Doris)
Nelson Ascher 39
Nelson Ascher
Being a Poet in Brazil
Brazilian intellectuals do not have a real sense of how strange their country
is. Like fish (to use a strikingly innovative metaphor) they thrive in their
own unawareness of the fact that the cultures of most other countries-
Western countries, at least-breathe differently in another medium. In
contrast, most foreigners who try to understand Brazil and its culture end
up missing the point completely, not the least because they rather blindly
stick to categories which, perhaps, should apply but in the case of Brazil
need some crucial translation. Thus their conceptions become all too eas-
ily misconceptions in a non-downtown country.
A single example should suffice: a European leftist (say, a British
Labourite) trying to interpret Brazilian literary life according to accepted
standards of left and right would arrive at laughable results in a place
where many first-rate intellectuals, both political conservatives and Com-
munist Party cardholders, work for the main TV network. This is an institu-
tion that, despite being considered our own "evil empire" by the national
Labour Party (the cultural leadership of which obviously is also employed
by that very same network), has become in recent years a kind of bulwark
of some important aspects of democracy, and has backed, for instance, up
to a point, movements like land reform through, who would imagine it?, its
soap operas. It is worth remembering that, a quarter of a century ago, our
not too bloodthirsty (at least not as much as its Spanish American counter-
parts) but sincerely modernizing military dictatorship was openly fought by,
of all possible institutions, our left-of-the-center Catholic Church.
Brazilian culture is so easily misunderstood abroad that, as it
seems, faced by its lack of transparency, people would rather give it up
altogether. So a country as large, populous, and varied as the whole of
Spanish America remains more like a blind spot in the minds even of
knowledgeable American and European intellectuals, not even to mention
common readers. But the explanation, if that is possible, or the decodifica-
tion of at least some of those complexities WOUld, first of all, imply an effort
by/from the Brazilians themselves. And it is amazing to look at the sheer
number of lost opportunities. Twentieth-century Brazil's most important
prose writer (Joao Guimaraes Rosa) and two among five of its best poets
ever (Vinicius de Morais and Joao Cabral de Mello Neto) were diplomats,
spent many years in Europe and in the U.S. but did practically nothing in
40 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
terms of developing cultural contacts. Our great expatriate poet, Murilo
Mendes, who settled in Italy, was a personal friend of people ranging from
Ungaretti to Jorge Guillen. Nonetheless, this did not further the promotion
even of his own poetry abroad.
Anyway, a couple of things should be stated clearly. Brazilian lit-
erature and particularly its poetry are, in this century, quintessentially
modernist. There are few countries so deeply unmodern as this one in
which high international modernism met such a remarkable success
almost from its beginning. Literary modernism and its developments are
basically beyond dispute everywhere, be it in the universities or in the few
anthologies, in the newspapers or the electronic media, in the pop song or
the movies. Incidentally, it was Vinicius de Morais who, in the late '50s,
created with a small group of friends what could be called our highbrow
pop song, in which lyrics written according to the precepts of modernist
poetics were put to a music that, without discounting the native rhythms,
opened itself to the influence of jazz. As Brazil did not and still does not
have anything like a strong theatre or cinema (our cinematographic mem-
ory, of course, is almost 100 percent American), the pop song, as the main
public art at a time when it had left its "folkish" character behind but still
was not wholly an industrial product, had a tremendous influence, lasting
a quarter of a century, into the '80s, when it began losing steam. In the
meantime it became for two generations of Brazilians the mirror in which a
newly developed urban middle class tried to recognize its country and its
place in it. Followers of Lukacs and Adorno in the universities, as well as
avant-gardist poets outside them, debated the pop song hotly and, at the
high tide of its influence in the '70s, one could easily tell anybody's politi-
cal leanings from the singers he listened to: traditional Stalinists, for
instance, loved Chico Buarque, Maoists preferred Geraldo Vandre, while
Trotskyists backed Caetano Velloso.
It is our national enigma that with every new generation, any
attempt by aesthetically conservative writers or artists in general to estab-
lish a foothold has been repelled again and again. On the other hand, one
should keep an awkward fact in mind: Brazil has its own Academie de Let-
tres, that most kitsch of "cultural" institutions, modeled on the French origi-
nal. It never became anything resembling a true literary establishment, but
was founded by a writer called Machado de Assis, who not only was the
most innovative writer this country has ever had but may also be consid-
ered a kind of "lost link" between Laurence Sterne and Jorge Luis Borges.
Guimaraes Rosa, the great avant-gardist novelist, died of a heart attack,
Nelson Ascher 41
overwhelmed by the emotion of being accepted in that same Academy. In
other words, the victory of modernism in all branches of cultures is not in
question, what is in question are the unmodern, archaic loyalties rooted
deep in the heart of hearts of many great and not so great writers.
Brazilian archaism, though stemming from the last Western econ-
omy to have slavery abolished (many would say: in theory rather than in
practice), never reached the murderous consequences that became com-
monplace in the part of the world from where my parents came, namely,
Eastern Europe. In spite of our ever growing politically correct rhetoric,
and notwithstanding much real violence, no policy of extermination has
been conducted in these lands against any ethnic, religious, or economic
group. But archaism is archaism and not less problematic because it lives
side by side with modernity in the souls of a large number of influential
individuals. And I am not talking here of politically conservative mod-
ernism (as that of Yeats, Eliot, Pound), but of the opposite kind. There
have been many literary polemics in Brazil, but this archaism has seldom
been their subject, for they consist mainly of somewhat petty personal dis-
agreements.
I am a native speaker of two languages: Brazilian Portuguese, in
which I write my poetry, and Hungarian, in which I all too often dream. My
spoken and, I hope, my written Portuguese (which I really appropriated
as my own language through listening to the above-mentioned singers-
composers in my childhood and teens) retain a vague accent of the lan-
guage in which I used to talk to my parents and in which the past of my
family has been coded to be stored somewhere inside my brain. Whatever
I have listened to in one tongue is a large portion of the raw material I use
to write poems in another, something I have learnt to do (if I ever did)
through the study both of the poems translated into Portuguese by our
concrete poets (Haroldo and Augusto de Campos, Dacio Pignatari) and of
the poetry of Portuguese and Brazilian high Modernism, mainly Fernando
Pessoa, but also all the others (and nowadays I see Concrete poetry as
the third generation of our Modernism).
To complicate things further, most poetry I have read was origi-
nally written in or translated into English and the single most important col-
lection of books for my formation, if I may call it such, was the British Pen-
guin Modern European Poets series. Thinking and translating are for me
almost synonymous words. Whenever I get closer to one of these lan-
guages, the other begins to sound not as my own, but as a foreign lan-
guage only recently learnt. (It is only natural, in these circumstances, that
42 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
most of my work consists of translations: for every single poem I wrote, I
have translated five or more.}
Being a Jew, in contrast, prevents me from feeling really at home
in Hungarian, one of the tongues of the murderers, and the fact that I
speak neither Hebrew nor Yiddish takes any linguistic possibility out of my
Jewishness. Thus I may say that I work, inside Brazilian poetry, as a real
"rootless cosmopolitan," and I would like to believe that my patron saint is
that greatest of all (to borrow George Steiner's expression) "extraterritorial"
writers: Jorge Luis Borges. This situation was not, obviously, my choice,
but I cannot say that I do not derive some pleasure from it.
Gennady Aygi
1) from "A Few Remarks Concerning My Poetry"
Much in my aesthetic formation is clearly linked to Chuvash culture ... What
has marked me before all is this: that for me poetry is, irrevocably, the type of
"action" and "linkage" best expressed by the words "sacred act:' Since child-
hood, when I did not yet know that this was called "poetry," I have observed
all around me exactly that one of its functions. Later I strengthened this
thought-that said function was necessary in order to "work with the spiri-
tual forces"-without excluding {to the contrary: by also including} the need
inherent in it to "put in evidence and sustain brotherhood" among mankind.
Since 1960 I write in Russian. The first reader to have approved my
poems in this language was Nazim Hikmet, who earlier had counseled me
and Pasternak to switch to Russian.
2) A Little Something - Concerning the Present "Consummatum*" /
Preface to the Polish Edition of My Poetry /
You are called: Letter and Spirit
Cyprian Norwid
I am writing these lines in a forest hut, in my short-lived Walden (my already
ancient "Thoreauism" has indeed remained an unrealized dream), where I
spend my long nights of insomnia-this time-in the sole company of
Cyprian Norwid, and I would have liked this meditation, destined to Polish
readers, to be as far as possible "practical," also in the spirit of Norwid.
Gennady Aygi 43
It is indubitable for me that the contemporary Poetic Word has,
essentially and for a long time, been seriously diminished and not only in
the space surrounding me.
"A certain" poetic system has come to an end, and it does not
ter here if it was "traditional poetry" or "contemporary free verse"; what is
important is to define what, in this system, was the attitude toward
guage: its autonomous force was doomed to oblivion, its language
remained shallow and insignificant, no matter the importance of the
lem in whose service it was used / poetic art is never renewed in a "the-
matic" manner / .
More than once have I tried-in despair and without result-to
speak of the need for a present "resurrection of the Word," considering it
one of the manifestations of creative force that exists in the "universality" of
the unity of the human and the "other" / which goes beyond us / .
Two great Poles-Norwid and Malevich-had that "universal lan-
guage" (I say this without forgetting the profound "Russianness" of the
great Kasimir).
The "poetry of sounds" / once more I recall Norwid / exhausted itself
a long time ago, though it still retains its scale of lifeless bel canto feeding
the immense ocean of versification and personalist rhetoric,-"eternal"
romanticism has degenerated in our time into a private and alienated
ary personalism / not to be confused with theological personalism I ,-
poetry seems chockablock full of war poems-war of men among men;
everything that gathers men "into a brotherhood" in this house-like world
becomes anachronistic / .
To say "it is language that makes the poet" is to say nothing. In this
case language easily fabricates versifiers / no matter how clever and dex-
terous they are inside the inertia of a sonority that moves by itself / .
Khlebnikov's "radical verbocreation" renewed Russian poetry. Male-
vich's famous "square," "incising itself into the skies," set about to create
another representation of time and space. Poetry does not create an inert
melody preserved in language, but the Verb and the Doing turned in a new
way "with crackings" by the / here I am once more in
plete solidarity with Cyprian Norwid I .
It seems indispensable for me here to somewhat specify my own
position "inside" today's poetry.
In his Letter on Malevich, Roman Jakobson called me "an
nary presence in today's poetic avant-garde."
I attach much importance to this great scholar's words. I do think of
44 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
my constant aspiration to give poetic language an extreme sharpness as
being avant-garde. This said, I have more than once pointed out that there
are two concepts in the Russian avant-garde I do not accept: its scientific
utopianism and its religious eclecticism.
Present-day manifestations of ''the Russian avant-garde" seem to
me to be unconscionably conformist in their aspiration, with a ludic aim of
"arranging" a civilized hell lone may be obliged to live in hell but that
doesn't mean that one has to accept it as something necessary and indis-
putable I.
Without making conscious the New Function of the Word, the
renewal of contemporary poetry is impossible.
Here I cannot resist the desire for a little digreSSion.
For a long time we have lived without poetiC thinking, faking it with
invertebrate "meditations."
But our concentration on something essential? ... To all appear-
ances, people will raise their prayers for good toward something Very-Seri-
ous when they are caught in a definite ecological trap where they will be
surrounded by their own crimes, rather than in the midst of wars explained
through the hostility of "others."
And I permit myself to say frankly I there remains so little time for
everything I : the future "resurrection of the Word," I don't see it as
abstractly spiritual I the word spiritual is presently in Russia an ersatz des-
ignation for a vague feeling of goodness and all gradients of "sentiment,"
nor as pseudo-existential I continuing henceforth to automatically fragment
man I , but tragically-&-personally-religious as a new ''turning-point''; in
poetry this demands from the "poetic receptors" the reestablishment, under
new conditions, of their links with the Universe-house and with the Brother-
hood-life as in the ancient-old-deep intensity of what was called Truth,-no
matter how emphatic this may sound.
From a "purely literary" point of view one could call this a realism of
the essential, an existential realism, by specifying very carefully its aes-
thetic and philosophic new ecclesiastical elaboration I I see a grandiose
example of this realism in Andre'i Platonov's The Foundation Pit, which
stands there towering like a Unique Word: so that we can speak not only of
a desired future for such a tendency, but also of its rootedness in Russian
literature, to begin with Innokenti Anneski, the first existentialist "manifest"
in European poetry I.
I do not doubt that many people I no matter if they were heard or not
I have more than once started to speak of a neohumanism. Be that as it
Gennady Aygi 45
may, we will have to seriously address-in a large and vast community-
the question of the new aesthetic of skeptic humanism with its new experi-
ence, in the name of a renewed acceptance of life.
Repeating this I state the obvious, but I've known for a long time
that what is least understood today are the so-called banal truths. The cur-
rent complexity is brimful with a prolixity that costs nothing I which is, by
the way, the principal characteristic of contemporary European poetry I,
while "Simplicity" always remains the same miracle, always similarly I and
in all ages I indefinable.
14-15 August, in the village of Sosnovo, near Leningrad
* According to Norwid (1821-1883), the "consummatum" is the synthesis of the "Letter,"
which is the thesis (of an "uncompleted" work, with no hidden meaning), and the "Spirit,"
which is the antithesis ("Unsaid"-"Complement," "silence").
(Translator's note)
(Translated by Pierre Joris from French of Leon Robel)
46 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
Josely Vianna Baptista
UNTITLED
(with South Coast Brazilian landscape
and metal scene in an expanded field)
Destitute of sky and land, adrift in darkness
and winds, destitute of nearly everything,
J'ai heurle, savez-vous, d'incroyab/es F/orides,
absences are anchors rust
erodes, false are the distances
the wind signals, and the trees it whips.
The sun tropic, on those skyless clouds,
unveils the one-sense body on its reverse,
the enmeshing of fish in the silence of nets,
in the skins that darkens the inside of reflexes
(burning look, organza, in the fever of an embrace),
sweat in bronze threads from men under the sun:
glossy exuding
in a world beyond the world.
The soft raw linen declothing us,
gaze: so many sunny days
over our nude bodies. Your face
in a submersed, jade lagoon,
in clear glass
or tiles of tides-under the southern
wind-, your face submersed.
Josely Vianna Baptista 47
*
I dive deep and into isolated seas
I clench to the body as to language
the body brings up to the surface.
Distant glare: the color of the buoys
among porpoises.
On the loosened leaves of metamorphoses
(if poets' predictions are to be trusted)
I drop my anchor,
beyond the sea, beyond myself,
beyond the love one will go on loving.
*
Time suspended by rosin
bird lime, mushrooms
intermingling with whelks:
florid furor
(chiaroscuro) hats
amid the buzzing of mollusk
legends.
48 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Virgin pages kisses
unveil, the moving of bows, the falling
of garments, island of stars
amid foam: red galaxy
the sea inscribes in rouge
baroque over the beach.
Over the beach rare little animals
revolve in the shallow waters and among your fingers,
calcareous rays briefly touching
another skin, another estuary,
virgin, fossil, temporal pages.
On the swaying, gongoric-golden sea,
the imaginary embrace of a distant love,
on my damp eyes your hair,
the humid entangling of face curls,
the lips (breathing the sea through
folds, like a fish) half-open-oyster,
the water stirring its persienne-gills,
and the gaffs of a shredded scallop in the sun
on the dissected wings of a sea
elytron-disaster of forms,
promises of folds-corals
bleeding in pale crepon.
Fugacious cartography of pi/grim images,
opaque calligraphy on the ethereal opaline of the sands.
(Translated from Portuguese by Regina Alfarano)
Renato Barilli 49
Renato Barilli
The Italian avant-gardes in this century have moved in synchrony with
technological development, thus in the progressive "speeding up" of lin-
guistic expression. For instance, Marinetti and the Futurists abolished
punctuation and the inflection of verbs, and considered both hindrances to
the thrust of poetry. Furthermore, the Futurists initiated a trial against the
typographic apparel of discourse, judged to be a constrictive encum-
brance; they also opened the way to sound poetry with their famous
declamatory practices.
However, the poetic researches of the Futurists as well as of the
other historical avant-gardes took place in an exceptional climate with the
intention to epater /es bourgeois, in the spirit of open provocation and exhi-
bitionism, almost as if poetry was an athletic competition. From this derived
a certain Titanism, a burning protagonism that accompanied the events of
the first experimental wave, characterized by a hot, if not flaming nature.
The second wave of the avant-gardes, or rather the neo-avant-gardes
gathered around the Group 63 and in poetry around / Novissimi (Balestrini,
Giuliani, Pagliarani, Porta, Sanguineti), adopts a decisively "cold" approach.
The poets' protagon ism comes to a halt with these democratic poets-
spokesmen of the common reader, even though they keep in touch with
what is brought about by technological progress. Theirs is the poetry of
advanced industrialized societies, marked by an increased production of
goods and a parallel growth in access for the consuming masses. Com-
modities have become "popular," but commodities are not only objects: we
should not overlook the presence of linguistic commodities, of words des-
ignating this overflowing panorama of things. The work of / Novissimi is in
fact the acquisition of a broadened lexicon capable of designating the
growing population of objects, and the acquisition of occasions for naming
them, including the usage of technical jargon and of foreign languages, in
accordance with the enlarged, international horizon of consumerism.
Regional dialects, the linguistic instruments of a peasant universe built
upon abnegation and mental narrowness, are neglected. Taken by the
urgency of mastering the new overflowing semantic possibilities, I Novis-
simi (as already the Futurists, Dadaists, Surrealists) do not have time for
the good traditional conjunctions or for any other grammatically correct
connection. Words and phrases are added together according to a collage-
like criterion.
In parallel with the poetiCS of / Novissimi, the 1960s are character-
50 boundary 21 Spring 1999
ized by another interesting experimentalism that pays attention to that
world of visual commodities belonging to the sphere of advertisement,
tabloid papers, and magazines for mass consumption. These images, rig-
orously popular and stereotypical, are then connected to the equally
stereotyped idiom of verbal consumption. This is the work of Lamberto Pig-
notti and Eugenio Miccini and the current of "visual poetry" in Florence.
The 1970s, in Italy and elsewhere, show recessive traits, a rebound
from the innovations of the previous decade. In poetry there is the attempt
to recover a Simpler and more sentimental form of communication with
almost post-hermetic inflections (consider the anthology The Enamored
Word
1
published at the end of the decade). This trend corresponded, in
the economical and technological fields, to the gasoline crisis that men-
aced the Western world with a loss of velocity and a return to past posi-
tions. A climate of mode retro is in place, with the citing of forms already
stored in museums and history textbooks.
The 1980s mark an awakening, the end of stagnation, the restart of
technological progress, and this time no longer in the name of the
"mechanical society," whose gestures are always stiff and awkward. It is
the triumph of the elastic and the ductile electronic; the "soft" prevails over
the "hard." In poetry there is an opening which will later bring forth the
Group 93. The new electronic technology has contributed to a definitive
shaking of the word out of its written-or worse: typographical-attire,
allowing the recovery of its primary nature, its oral, sonorous dimension. In
fact, we are getting more and more used to consuming verbal messages
through audiotapes rather than printed texts. This flow on the thread of
sound baffles the traditional boundaries that limit the semantic radixes to
being intermediate linkages between prefixes and suffixes. The different
acoustic parts become autonomous, separate, and can be combined in
unusual manners, giving birth to a wealth of neologisms. This is a proce-
dure that James Joyce had masterfully executed in the prose of Finnegans
Wake. In 1981, in my book Voyage to the End of the Word,2 I theorized this
very same possibility, that the poetic research was bound to move in the
direction of its intraverbal levels. The book also included an anthology of
poets that already were experimenting in that line. I cannot say that the
poets of Group 93 (Bajno, Cepollaro, Voce, Frasca, Ottonieri, Berisso,
Gentiluomo, Frixione, Berardi, and Caliceti) exclusively practice intraverbal
neologisms: for their repertoire employs a certain plurilinguism and the
recovery of regional dialects in order to expand the expressive possibilities
Carla Billitteri 51
of their writing. Ultimately, we can discuss a final aim, a going toward the
babelization of languages. Babel was once feared as a sign of confusion,
against which the prior rights of a unitary language were upheld. Today,
instead, we are trying to overcome the lack of communicability caused by
the different regional forms of Italian through a simultaneous usage of each
linguistic possibility, portioned and blended with all others so to create a
pOintillist mixture, capable of expression, overcoming all restricted special-
ized codes. In this sense we can say that poetry nowadays is written as a
universal language that does not imply the victory of one language over all
others, but a concurrent, imbricated appeal to all possible resources.
1. La parola innamorata: i poeti nuovi, 1976-1978 (Milano: Feltrinelli, 1978).
2. Viaggio at termine della parola (Milano: Feltrinelli, 1981). Translated by Teresa Fiore
and Harry Polkinhorn and published in 1997 by San Diego State University Press.
(Translated and abridged from Italian by Carla Billitteri)
Carla Billitteri
Five Italian Poets: Some Brief Introductory Remarks
For this issue, I have selected and translated five Italian poets: Renato
Barilli, Mara Cini, Gianni O'Elia, Flavio Ermini, Milli GraffL These authors
highlight three schools of thought, three frequencies of thinking-and poli-
tics-of writing:
(a) Ideolect, dialect, and ideological realism (O'Elia). After Pasolini,
O'Elia's concern for realism is the vector of cultural and political critique. Not in
favor of abstract linguistic experimentation-yet yielding the most interesting
and interwoven poetic results because of its undivided attention to the chang-
ing laboratory of the "linguistic chorality" (in O'Elia's words) of the present;
(b) Experimental avant-garde (Graffi, Barilli). Not unlike contempo-
rary American avant-garde combination of the "intraverbal" (Barilli's words)
and sound/semiosis of language. Graffi's main areas of interest include
semiotics, linguistics, psychoanalysis, and sound poetry. Barilli's main area
of interest and research is aesthetic theory in art and literary criticism; and
(c) Ontological-post-Heideggerian (Ermini). As above, but with
some experimental inflections (Cini). Cini's interests include all aspects of
writing: linear, visual, graphic, chirographic, and concrete.
52 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
Robin Blaser
out of the velvet-the denim-the straw of my mind,
I look into my poems, especially those I've not yet written -just now, the
affection of crows or a marvelous conversation with birds-and I know I'm
a "word-child" (Amos Oz). I do not see my work in the context of a national
state, though I hold, with conscience, dual citizenship by birth in the United
States and by responsibility to Canada, where I have lived and earned my
living during the last thirty-two years. Oh, yes, I worry about nationalisms,
their mythic destinies borrowed from religion, and the endangered democ-
racies here and abroad. I also think about what Christopher Hitchens calls
their "styrofoam Round Tables." I watch their fake wars over the Islas
Malivinas, Grenada, and Panama, apparent successes in pulling out of the
air a popularity for nationhoods-their salvos. I protest the corruption of
U.S. Cuban and Latin American policies. I marched and read with others
against the War in Vietnam. I've stood in daylight and nightlight before
Maya Lin's black granite rampart-between the whitenesses of the Wash-
ington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial-the shimmering meaning of
60,000, whom we may name according to the day each one died. "The
piece itself is apolitical;' she tells us, "in the sense that it doesn't comment
directly on the war .... " This is, of course, political poiesis, which the perni-
cious, political right recognizes and moves to curtail. I turned to look up the
hillock where Ross Perot placed his traditional, bronze soldiers, whose uni-
forms and weapons are mute in the shadows beyond Lin's shimmering
thought. No, the serious or ramshackle poet in us hasn't a chance at being
apolitical, even if the elf of his or her language wishes to be. (There is no
real quarrel between popular culture and "high"-only commercialism says
there is, according to the amount it can sell, whereas both have always
entwined in human consciousness.) My sense of democracy-so new and
little understood, so fragile-is that it is first devoted to social justice in
matters of food, shelter, clothing, and health for large numbers (Hannah
Arendt). On the record, governments are vicious manipulators of matters
imperial, religious, moral, and philosophical-we wind up with, for exam-
ple, a call for the death penalty for homosexuals in Texas, another bush-
whacker, or with, say, the degradation of the philosophical notion of an end
to history in Francis Fukuyama, whereas Hegel actually argued that a CUl-
ture is a judgment on itself. (The current culture had best take some care
with its down-at-the-heel sense of elitism, lest it lose the ability to think
through the vast effort of human consciousness to find meaning here and
Robin Blaser 53
about.) I listen to our governments whine that they do not know how to
manage global capitalism, all the while joining the gobble of that reality. No
government devoted to social justice is allowed to live under its capitalism
or its privatization. Someone said, "Advertizing tells us who we are and
presents a completely integrated culture." How true! For my part, I do not
understand how it is possible to come to terms with democracy and the
government of it, while teaching Lordship, Mastery, and Love that sacri-
fices mortality for someplace else, a Totality that forgives us. The cost of
these Totalities-of Christianism, of Marxisms, of Capitalism-are on the
public record-forgiving themselves again and again for the terror of this
century. I reject the apocalyptics of modernism and of postmodernism-
these are borrowed from Daniel and Revelation, religious under their skins.
Our language has other work to do. Admiring the vast human effort of it
and living within the "vast exhaustion" of it, I founder in the bitterness of
Western metaphysics. I have chosen a poetic practice of entangling dis-
courses, including the running about of my lyric voice. A companionship of
seeing through "the lack of meaning in our time and the lack of a world at
the centre of meanings we try to impose" (Jean-Luc Nancy). The challenge
of syntaxis, the actuality of parataxis. I continue to write Exody, my neces-
sary exit from all that which denies the "existentially given" in the heart of
things:
The world of the happy and that of the unhappy, the world of the
good and that of the evil contain the same states of things; with
respect to their being-thus they are perfectly identical. The just
person does not reside in another world. The one who is saved and
the one who is lost have the same arms and legs. The glorious body
cannot but be the mortal body itself. What changes are not the
things but their limits. It is as if there hovered over them something
like a halo, a glory. (Giorgio Agamben)
Working the materiality of language-
54 Boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Regis Bonvicino
The Displacement of the "Scholastic":
New Brazilian Poetry of Invention
One of the characteristics of twentieth-century Brazilian poetry has been its
organization in the "form" of literary movements, echoing European and
later North American literary and visual art vanguards. "Form" here is
understood in Wittgenstein's sense, in the Tractatus: "The form is the pos-
sibility of the structure." The first of these movements, Modernism,
launched in 1922, by Mario and Oswald de Andrade, raised issues that
remain alive even today. Oswald de Andrade's "Brazil-wood Poetry Mani-
festo" (1924) received some affirmative response in Concretism in 1956,
and in Tropicalism in 1967. Oswald advocated an international Brazilian
poetry open to exchanging ideas with other poetries on an equal basis and
was interested in the incorporation and reconstitution of foreign influences
into an active and original Brazilian poetry. Up to the '20s, the feeling was
"never exportation of poetry," reflecting the idea that Brazilian poetry did
not have a sufficient identity to create dialogue.
Oswald: "Only Brazilians of our time. Only the necessary chemistry,
mechanics, economy, and ballistics. A" digested. Without cultural meetings.
We are practical. Experimental. Poets. Without bookish reminiscences.
Without comparisons for support .... " Concentrated here are the issues that
every Brazilian poet of each movement- and even the independent
poets-have sought to address. Exporting Brazilian poetry meant-and
still means-putting Brazilian poetry in active dialogue with the poetry of
other languages so that it ceases to be only the passive receptacle of
influences. Exporting Brazilian poetry disrupts the condition of "being
peripheral." Still alive and essential, the challenges presented by Mod-
ernism, and not only by Oswald, found sound answers in the poetry of
Raul Bopp, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Manuel Bandeira, Murilo
Mendes, and later, in that of Vinicius de Moraes (creator of the Bossa
Nova, a movement, from the musical viewpoint, richer than Tropicalism),
and Joao Cabral de Melo Neto.
Later, these challenges were readdressed by Concretism, which
restated the need for acting in an exploratory, experimental way as the
main path for the creation of Brazilian poetry. Besides "inventing" a
Brazilian form of quality literary translation, Concretism launched, and
more or less bound together, even if only temporarily, good poets such as
Regis Bonvicino 55
Haroldo de Campos, Ferreira Gullar, Augusto de Campos, Afonso
Avila-not to mention Mario Faustino, up until his untimely death. The
issue of a Brazilian exploratory art remained alive in the Tropicalism of
Caetano Veloso and Torquato Neto, a movement that fused "high" and
"low" cultures via pop music. As of the 1970s, Tropicalism's significance
began to fade as creativity waned; above all, its discourse lost the vital
"movement" content of group interaction. Certainly, one of the causes
was the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. The lack of hope for a
socialist utopia-for sOlidarity-was a second cause. In any case, by the
1970s, the collective proposals of Concretism (such as parting with the
"romantic" concept of authorship) and Tropicalism (such as the rethinking
of local/universal, developed/underdeveloped) had become frozen in the
work of their creators. Indeed, these movements seemed to transform
themselves into literary-musical schools with their own "standards." On
the one hand, this allowed for a strong regrouping of the ever present
conservative poetics that is opposed to social and aesthetic change
(which nowadays is neo-Parnasian, late neo-Modernist, and a visual
poetry of repetition). On the other hand, the dissolution of these move-
ments allowed a space for creative individual responses-with the disad-
vantage that such responses had little visibility in terms of Brazilian
poetry's identity as an inventive art. However, the most consequential
result of the lack of a collective and renewed "agenda" for innovation was
the establishing of an authoritarianism in the public representation of the
activity and thinking of poets, critics, scholars; that is, the spreading of
the myth that there was but a "single model" for innovation (Concretism).
a myth that enforces "conservativeness" without acknowledging it. The
issue of what it means to be Brazilian at this particular time in our history
was never-has never been-addressed. Almost everyone accepted
this or that labeling under the umbrella of a poorly conceived and diffuse
idea of "post-modernism."
Torquato Neto (1944-1972) anticipated this crisis situation in the
post-Tropicalist text "you call me up":
you call me up / I wanna go to the movies / you bawl me
out / and my love doesn't please / you love me / but that
train's already moved on / how much time / that time's
been gone.
1
In this context, it is important to note the differing consciousness that
enfolds in the poem: a consciousness that is at first naive ( "I wanna go to
56 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
the movies") and loving ("my love doesn't please"), but then abruptly
reveals, in language and content, the consciousness of an era (Concretist
and "pop") that is over: "how much time / that time's been gone." The per-
ception that "that time's been gone" and that now there is an emptiness
echoes the sense of many younger poets in the 70s and '80s about the
state of Brazilian poetry. {There are remarkable, coincident similarities
between l=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry-the language of the lung-and
the texts of the dispersed Brazilian authors.)2 The "certitude" that "that
time's been gone" reappears in the '80s in "Traveling Theater" by Duda
Machado (1944-), which reports, in a parody, the story of actors who per-
formed for three years the same play and routinely and successfully
became alienated from the original text. The poem "depicts" the uneasi-
ness caused by the "loss of the original" and, ironically, the joy of recover-
ing it, but now under the condition of its repetition or "school": "In the dress-
ing rooms, the actors could hardly look at each other. Only later, over
dinner at the hotel restaurant, did they realize, with excitement, that they
had followed every dialogue, every scene, from the original play."3 Duda's
poetry, in another text from the 1980s entitled "Happening," recovers the
need for innovation, now with positive and complete inflection, different
from the ones proposed by Concretist and Tropicalist movements:
anybody / some nobody / someone else / who / in turn /
mirage / of mirrored reflections / point / of intersection of
the real/it was / it is written.
The subject abandons the mirage form (impossibility) or the mirrored
reflection (copyist) to affirm, arriving in the present time: "it is written."
Resuming the innovation in tone-in a different way (in Brazil, more
than the "anxiety of influence" there is the "anxiety of the influential")-was
a constant in the life and work of Paulo leminski (1944-1989). Some of his
lines, extremely critical and bitter, may be read in this direction:
let me vanish / let me melt / let me fall apart / until/after
me / after us / after all / nothing but charm / is left,
a poem from 1979 whose strength reflects, among other things, the emp-
tying out of the vanguards, which have become consumer products.
There is, however, a poem published in leminski's second collected
work, Polonaises (1980), that synthesizes the tensions that I seek to
address here about innovation and contemporary spirit from a Brazilian
perspective of independence and dialogue:
Regis Bonvicino 57
once I we were going to be homer I the work an iliad no
less I later I things got tougher I we could maybe man-
age rimbaud I an ungaretti some fernando pessoa I a
lorca a ginsberg an eluard I finally I we ended up the
minor provincial poet I we were always I hiding behind
the many masks I time treated as flowers.
The poem foregrounds issues of imitation and provincialism, among other
things, present in all Brazilian poetry of the twentieth century. (We con-
tinue, at last, "after all," to have a strong poetry but with ineffectual world-
wide dissemination.) I want to focus, however, on one aspect of Leminski's
poem: that of the rescue-through denial-of the capacity for innovation
and diversity that characterizes contemporary Brazilian poetry, a capacity
that goes beyond the militant discourse and rigidity of movements.
Regarding this poem, I quote Wittgenstein: "It is essential that the thing be
a constituent part of a state of things." Literary movements, that is, move-
ments that inaugurate new "standards" of perception (French SymbOlism,
Portuguese Futurism, Surrealism, Beat poetry, etc.) are represented (ironi-
cally) by their authors (is Pessoa more important than Portuguese Futur-
ism?), only to be, in the last stanza of Leminski's poem, reduced to masks,
as fragile, as short-lived, as flowers. The awareness of the transitory
nature of all "movements" is the touchstone of this poem-that constituting
a new state of things displaces the "scholastic" and emphasizes the need
for the permanent invention of an OTHER-anyone, no one-giving clues
for a new poetry, not only Brazilian, but a poetry of the present:
EI Cante Hondo
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
Eliot
More often than not cante hondo
ignores this distinction:
its most plaintive lament
ends in an explosion.
So taut is its tension,
so living flesh its repertoire
that, unsheathing into song,
it shatters the sheath and explodes.
-Joao Cabral de Melo Net0
4
58 boundary 21 Spring 1999
1. The poems discussed in this essay are in Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain: New
Brazilian Poetry, ed. Michael Palmer, Regis Bonvicino, and Nelson Ascher (Los Angeles:
Sun & Moon Press, 1997): "you call me up," trans. Dana Stevens; "Traveling Theater,"
trans. Regina Alfarano and Dana Stevens; "happening," trans. Regina Alfarano; "Let me
vanish," trans. Regina Alfarano; and "once," trans. Robert Creeley and Regina Alfarano.
2. For an approach to the concept of Language poetry, a movement that refused to
become a school or the idea of movement, in the traditional sense, I quote a passage of
the introduction by Douglas Messerli to the anthology Language Poetries (New York: New
Directions, 1987): "For these poets, language is not something that explains or translates
experience, but is the source of experience. Language is perception, thought itself; and in
that context the poems of these writers do not function as 'frames' of experience of brief
narrative summaries of ideas and emotions as they do for many current poets." Or still:
"Language is not a movement in the traditional art sense, since the value of giving an aes-
thetic line such profile seems counterproductive to the inherent value of the work:'
3. Notice the coincidence of the text My Life, by Lyn Hejinian, and "Traveling Theater," by
Duda Machado. I quote here the beginning of Hejinian's poem: "Summers were spent in
a fog that rains. I had claimed the radio nights for my own. There were more storytellers
than there were stories, so that everyone in the family had a version of history and it was
impossible to get close to the original" (Language Poetries, 34).
4. Joao Cabral de Melo Neto, "EI Cante Hondo," in Museu de Tudo (Rio de Janeiro: Jose
Olympio Editora, 1985), trans. from Portuguese by Guy Bennett and Regis Bonvicino.
Manuel Brito
Zasterling
I have coined the term zasterling to describe the process of exchange &
publication of cultural texts on a small island. This process is evidence of
the possibilities for almost instantaneous communication our contemporary
situation offers. Living on an island as small as Grand Canary forces its
inhabitants into constant transpositions. Ten million foreigners have visited
the Canaries over the past twelve months & this leads the island's inhabi-
tants not only to absorb other experiences but also "to read" what lies
behind them. That is why academic terms like intertextuality (Kristeva),
pantextuality (Derrida), or transtextuality are particularly meaningful in con-
texts such as this, since we are contrasting, taking, sharing, & transposi-
tioning ourselves with others' experiences & subtexts on a daily basis. The
tricontinental character of our geographical position also plays an impor-
tant role. Historically our position between three continents has implied
regular contacts with other countries. So the cosmopolitan nature of our
immediate reality is a determining factor when it comes to taking part glob-
ally in the media & services available to us at the end of this millennium.
Manuel Brito 59
Zasterle is a press not exclusively related to the reductive space of an
island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, an island that catches almost at
random a conglomeration of texts & even more signs to be interpreted.
Nowadays geographic location only serves to assign to the book its corre-
sponding ISBN & not its identity. Wherever it is published the modern text
demands that the reader should fight against what is considered the CUl-
minating work. Nine years after sentenced he gives a shape by Tom Ra-
worth, & after the publication of twenty-nine more titles, the hermeneutics
of the dialogue with authors & their work make it clear that we are con-
stantly met with possibilities rather than fixed formulas, with flexibility of
interpretation rather than the reduction to the univocal. In fact, the value of
this series of publications lies in the fact that by having some concept of the
whole business of making literary productions one is able to more acutely
perceive extratextual issues. The decision to edit an original manuscript by
a poet from an almost unknown location plays with the ambivalence of
geography & the individual imagination of that lost place in the ocean. Per-
haps political & moral arguments exist within transposition, especially if
people persist in thinking they live on the periphery & would like to move to
the artistic or literary centers. But technology & the worldwide structure
which map new analogies so rapidly make us conscious that we become
defamiliarized with what we believed more stable. So we have the evasive-
ness of the text & the uncertainty of geography somewhat akin to Rilke's
conception of life as something approximate & vague. The poet explores &
sails (again a necessity for the islanders) through language in search of
limits-limits on both the language & the world. Spanish poetry is the clos-
est reference for the Canaries & perhaps this is another reason to explore
other literary worlds. In general terms, Spanish poetry is characterized by
its lack of critical rigor & its inward-looking nature. Cesar A. Molina has
described Spanish poets as a group of whining mourners buried in their
own traditionalism & social neorealism, all the while engaging in endless
navel gazing. This hackneyed poetry has ignored Modernism &, boringly,
only speaks about the visual in nature & the epiphany of young bodies.
This monotony & mannerism suffocated us to such an extent that once
obliged to sail new seas we prefer other continents & contexts. Like many
others before us we have become involved in debates & forums at the
global level & we choose to engage ourselves in a dialogue with the con-
temporary, that is, with issues which are debated in other countries & with
some of those we see arrive at our airports every day. The global nature of
our situation throws up contrasts & allows us to evaluate our cultural posi-
60 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
tion. Its influence, though great, is not always uniform since we also find dis-
satisfactions & missing links generated when comparing situations or ideas.
The new position that the poetry I read has taken up involves originality &
the work displays new forms which suggest to us ways of finding the essen-
tial elements of our contemporaneity. Going from the autobiographical to
the monumental, from the simplest title to the accidental situation, all the
authors who have worked with us have celebrated the text & how it pro-
duces different meanings for different readers. Those writers have sent their
texts through the Atlantic (apparently unconcerned about where the Can-
aries lie) to communicate their aesthetic experience. The variety of writers
who have published in Zasterle conveys a certain ambivalence though this
has never been an objective. In a real sense they have come along with the
very process of publishing, to almost intuitively respond in some way to life
& literature. The ephemeral or transcendent nature of Zasterle books
throws up ambivalent values. I'd prefer to speak about the joy of being one
of the first to read works of international literature as I edit the manuscripts
that come to me & the satisfaction one gains from offering the work to differ-
ent individuals & different cultures. With this comes the process of transpos-
ing ourselves & articulating different forms of our contemporaneity. Despite
the ever present monolith of scientific method to arrive at scientific truths, I
identify more closely with the idea of multiple possibilities. And, of course,
with the constant uncovering of the potentialities that lie dormant within the
material text that will come to life throughout the world.
Nicole Brossard
I like to say we and look elsewhere
make of language turbulence
catch up with me in my tradition
in the sentence's duration
pleasure softly spaced out
catch up with me in my difference
1
I'm a woman of the present fascinated by the history that enters into the
composition of the words with which each generation bears witness to its
anguish, invents its hope, modifies the collective tale. I am interested in
what confines each generation inside themes, metaphors, theoretical and
stylistic attitudes. I imagine the passion of the language that is allowed to
escape from this. The turbulence that cracks open history. The desire that
Nicole Brossard 61
consumes the common places. I imagine the interior urgency that forces
the liquidation of an era's truisms. Literature is the fruit of a displacement of
belonging into a belonging that invents its own horizon. I always displace
myself starting from the words of my belonging.
2
Today, 24 February 1998, I answer the question from where I speak,
thus: from there where I feel a strong desire to be silent. Not that I want to
be done with writing. To the contrary, I speak from a place, difficult to des-
ignate, for sure, but from which the words would organize themselves in
such a way that their choreography on the page gives an impression of
silence, of a lowering of the volume of ambiant nOises, noises that are not
always depth sounds.
As others satisfy their desires with daring gestures, so do I want to
satisfy my penchant for silence with words that have a strong sensual res-
onance, literary connotations, and philosophical depth.
It is said that identity as quest or self-affirmation often acts as the
engine of writing. This may be true, but it seems to me that what works
best in us is that which vibrates, moans, compares, cuts, spark(le)s in lan-
guage in a singular manner. In effect, we work well with what resonates in
us, that is to say with what has the property of extending the duration
and/or the intensity of the value we attribute to certain words. Around these
words, with these words, we create microclimates, sometimes called
theme, style, or stance. Key words, passe-partout words, bulldozer words
starting with which we trigger tornadoes of meaning. Turbulence takes up
residence: grammar and syntax adapt themselves.
For me, the words that carry me away, that stimulate me, are
before all abstract or strongly symbolic. As I have stated repeatedly in
numerous essays, I tend to make a synthesis of my reality by reducing it
to its most simple expression, to a vital formula which incorporates the
essential of what, for me, is significant in a life: desire, ardor, intensity,
speed, intelligence, honesty, lucidity. Thus, rightly or wrongly, I always
project onto the group to which I objectively belong (woman, lesbian)
qualities of creativity, rebelliousness, and passion. Similarly, the Montreal
I view as mine will be a desirable and exciting city. No matter that winter
lasts close to five months, for me Montreal will always be a July city, a
summer city with a tiny opening onto October-an October of rebellion.
It seems important for me to recall here how I marvel at that period
between 1974 and 1984 when I had to play it close to the vest, in lan-
guage, so as to exist as a female subject, that is to say I had to invent and
practice writing rituals.
62 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
As far as my sense of belonging to Quebec is concerned, I have
to say first of all that I am part of a generation that takes it for granted
that it lives not in the province of Quebec, but in the fictive and virtual
country called Quebec. I am moved and touched by this belonging, though
this emotion has never been the core matter of my work as a writer.
What I have tried to inscribe before all into texts such as Sold-Out
(etreinte-illustration), French Kiss (etreinte-exploration), is the Montreal
of modernity, its North American energy and of course its linguistic
drama unfolding through memory, in the quotidian and as a scenario
engaging a future in which I is less and less an other and more and more
completely other. The Quebecois frequently use the expression nous
autres (we others). It translates well this feeling of strangeness and
ambivalence which we still experience in relation to ourselves. It is before
all in our relation to the French language that this effect of strangeness
comes to the fore.
Linguistic contexts which proceed from political contexts are carriers
of tensions and semantic excesses which energize literature. Every writer
who is subjected to linguistic stress records those malfunctions of meaning
which enter into the composition of her mother tongue and transforms
them to her profit.
As a Quebecoise, it is certain that I am subjected to a strong linguis-
tic stress because the rift between the written language (reflection) and the
spoken language (life, the quotidian, daily experience) is major, if one takes
into account the constant intrusion of English and of that other language
born from the forced association with English: joual. This linguistic stress
can be seen at work in my novel French Kiss (1974). A further stress: to
inject feminine subjectivity into a language which discredits the feminine. It
is in L'amer(1977) and in my novel Picture Theory (1982) that I have best, it
seems to me, fought and survived that struggle of/with meaning.
Since always I love to keep myself elsewhere. I love to keep myself
in the untranslatable, that is at the very limit of I exist and the poem.
1. From Vertige de I'avant-scene, Editions Ecrits des Forges/Orange bleue, 1977.
2. From Elle serait la premiere phrase de mon prochain roman / She would be the first
sentence of my next novel, trans. Susanne de Lotbiniere-Harwood. Toronto: Mercury
Press, 1998.
3. "Writing as a Trajectory of Desire and Consciousness (Rituals of Writing)," trans. Alice
Parker, in Feminist Critical Negotiations, ed. Alice Parker and Elizabeth A. Meese.
Philadelphia: John Benjamin Publishing Co., 1992.
(Translated from French by Pierre Joris)
Alexandr Subnov, Tolpe Teplo (crowd/warmth)
64 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
CheQianzi
The Destitution of Poetry
What we know about poetry is not too little. On the contrary, as poets-
writers currently at work-we know too much about poetry. An obstacle
has thus formed: facing the blank page, we lack the most direct feel of
poetry. Repeat, meander, yet seldom get to the point. The abundance of
the phenomenal part of poetry has caused the essence of poetry to fall into
a state of destitution and almost disappear amongst phenomena.
What are phenomena of poetry? Simply put, they are the themes
that the poet is concerned about, various methods that he uses, etc. In
some cases, it is thought that the phenomenal part of poetry is just the
content of poetry. This is not exact. Because if so, can't we then say: Form
is the essence of poetry? The phenomenal part of poetry is a whole that
includes content and form, but the essence of poetry is the ideal radiance
that shrouds the whole structure, like the atmosphere enveloping the pow-
erless earth. It is more abstract than form, and more concrete than content.
The destitution of the essence of poetry largely results from our
excessive attention to the phenomenal part of poetry. And most of us who
are now interested in form have arrived at this interest by way of a revision
of the past, when the content was overemphasized. The art of poetry, if
standing on either side of the extremes, cannot possibly develop in any
significant way. To me, as a poet devoted to the revolution of form, with
mature conditions and enough talent, I would transcend the phenomena of
poetry and march directly toward the essence.
The essence of poetry is not the so-called legends; neither could it
be redesigned or reconstructed. As the essence, it is unchangeable! -
What changes is the particular method of writing poetry. The difference
between Goethe and Pound lies not in essence; both being masters, they
don't differ essentially. Instead, they only adopt different methods of writ-
ing. Their different methodologies have become two different facts, but dif-
ferent routes lead to the same end.
It can be said that contemporary Chinese poetry has many different
routes that don't lead to any end at all. Because the "end" must be "one."
This "one" is the immutable essence of poetry from time immemorial; it's
the telos, it's the "one." Whatever doesn't lead to the "one" is, on the one
hand, not mature enough; on the other hand, it is due to a misunderstand-
ing of the "many." The "many," I believe, should be the attribution of the par-
ticular writing methods; it should not lead to the assumption that poetry has
cris cheek 65
many kinds of supreme essences. Neither does it support the notion that
essence = sub-essence + sub-essence + sub-essence ....
What is the essence of poetry? Above all, it should be defined as a
game-a process in which the soul experiences pleasures or pains. It
should be innocent, filled with initial curiosity and surprise, without ambi-
tion, interested in the signifier.
The genuine art of poetry, to the largest extent, overlooks the phe-
nomenal part of poetry. Only so can it overcome its destitution-in fact, the
essence of poetry can never be destitute; it remains as it is. Correctly
speaking, what needs to be overcome is the destitution in our understand-
ing of the essence of poetry.
(Translated from Chinese by Yunte Huang)
cris cheek
Local : note - International : 'quote'
Distinction - Base, odious. Nation too comfy. How about regional? Keep to the
left, as in English.
(a conversation between Local and Inter-r-e-gional. Local leads)
: Too prescriptive. Pursuits, produce 'results'. One thing is to take notes.
What's registered? Who's what, to whom?
: I'm standing at a bus stop, reading.
: Waiting, in this writing. Put there.
DOing what?
"To show I'm still taking buses and everything in the garden of the aspi-
rant bourgeoisie is not simply lovely?"
I doubt that.
I am used, if you push me to take on that role, for example.
66 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
'Cause, when I'm standing at that bus stop ...
It isn't raining by the way.
It ain't exactly bright and sunny neither.
I've not defined anything about the site yet, as if 'standing at a bus stop'
will do 'the trick'. As if everyone hearing that, or reading this will
autonomously imagine their own bus stop scene. As if, when I say I, every-
one hearing this or reading this will place themselves instead of me.
: Especially if they haven't ever met or seen me anywhere, like even if
they've seen my picture in the papers, on a chat show on tv or on my nest-
setting, make that best-selling book jacket, they might think I'm really a
good looking person rather than that stand-in that does all of my public
appearances for me.
: There it is then, from a plural distance, that I, standing at the bus stop on
a partly cloudy day. Presumably I'm standing somewhere close to where
the road runs by?
: I'm asking you to trust me, to tell you the things you need to know to
understand what interests me enough about this 'performance' to want to
tell you about it.
: What I'm engaging with is performance?
: As engagement is performance in and of itself. I'm looking at the figure of
a woman bending down across the road and picking up a piece of paper
from the ground.
: Yes, I fully realise how tall that "bending down across the road" might
make her seem.
: What I mean is on the other side. The wind, I also haven't mentioned yet,
has blown a piece of yellow paper, torn from a larger sheet, to make a
bookmark or a stray address.
: A note from a bottle, or reminder of some kind - and that fragment has
eris cheek 67
been caught somehow. That is, I can't see what has caught its flow. I'm
sort of bored.
: Light wind. Not strong enough to tear a piece of paper from one's hand
unless one's grip was slight, but strong enough to gently turn the pages of
an open book. Perhaps the angle of the wind bounced, creating a momen-
tary pocket of stillness that this, momentarily, registers.
: Stillness, born from fluttering arrival, has caught the eye of this woman,
who is now, as I reach for my dictaphone, bending to pick it up.
: A moment that I want to 'make a note of'.
: A woman bends to pick a local detail from the ground?
: Although my note-taking has already moved through its initial process of
mental registration and response phrase formation; temporarily, one might
say, stopped. Except not stopped. I press 'record' and speak. 'Sweeps this
distraction home'.
: Looks up, sees me, watching, and talking checks
for oncoming traffic, and crosses ... walks up close, muttering
"what's the big up"? That space articulated on the body as on a mobile, in
conformity with one's will is practice? That an opaque, and fleeting page
has frames? There's a blur of, humanities, a
tumultuous accuracy being deferred here
(holding the cleat around her shoulder whilst
blowing on the trumpet, a buckled melody
of pockmarked brass) moving,
among groups of players
feasting on a carcass that
appears remodelled
so as to epitomise, a sense of the
romantically sculpted in nature, a kind
of 'natural' choreography of err,
cows, in a field the scene
where, lines, drawn down the spine
unlace a body from a bag
68 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
: What we have here, is a copyright problem. Typing, direct to screen. Pro-
jected onto the walls of a heaving. Not only that, we're broadcasting. Who
knows how many in Dar es Salaam and Hong Kong are tuning in right
now? Looking out, from a connectable ''fiction" of scriptible samples, con-
structed to make of the map what a society can. Note the detachable, torn
from modification. This complex ontological system. Writing, a clearly navi-
gational tool, providing models of linkage. An interdisciplinary, interregion-
alising practice. The uncertain, as distinct from the certain its preferred
domain. From one articulated architextonic space to another.
Bulk precedence to begin "unbound". An act of translation, resembling, in
the context of a monument to writing, compelling and inert.
in the fold, a hand, lines that, "reach, for the sky!" (btw there's that copy-
right problem I mentioned)
pumped so that a smudge
undocuments, a process of interactions, a conversation, a form of collabo-
ration between what goes out and what comes back.
: Heard said in a head and then altered, even partly forgotten it, and then
re-created it as pleased but unsure what had come to. 'Writing, sweeping
the home of distractions'. Such an inflated commodity. Walking across the
harbour bridge at night. Pink underbellies of seagulls caught in gantry
lights, or stalking The Scores in a fog. Listening to take Rant Score, a gift.
To feel intruded on frequency. Decaying bricks won't lodge complaint, any
more than the sign 'This Is A Heritage Site', of a confrontation between
Cromwell and some Royalists in 1643. If that's a blunt attached 'officially',
how much does such a note tell 'us'?
The bus stop, the bridge and the Score - to blur elisions between such
socially, politically charged spaces? Is all that they have in common the
convention of 'between'? Are the between words, the between lines, the
between frames not each other? Who speaks to whom?
'so, I've bitten my lips to bleeding with the anxiety
at the mere thought of public speaking you know,
there's that sensation of erm being on the motorway,
distracted by ...
Mara Cini 69
Mara Cini
Writing
One day i had to write:
the wind here has amassed a heap of leaves. but the wind is not the
wind and the leaves are not the leaves. the names of things are inventions
with which i gamble. eventually they mock me. yet i've always thought the
other slope, that of the unnameables, was unavailable. and now even
more. much more. the breath, indeed, sometimes becomes possible only
if i attempt these restorations of writing. what frightens me is the duration
of this tension, not to be eluded (in the morning, during the day, in my
sleep). then also the consciousness that every answer is patrolled by its
contradiction. in the free territory of poetry mastery decants for a while, two
or three minutes, some half an hour for the quotidian gestures and all the
rest is in the deaf recall, a rattle (whence from? from myself? from who?)
that i do not know how to bring to the page, that i do not know how to drain.
and i do not know where it will flow.
things demand to be named to set off in their direction, even if it is
the direction of rest. things written drip from a stratification of linguistic sed-
iments coming from different areas: fragments of experience, shreds of
information, questions, embryos of stories, citations, microscripts.
writing is a modality of reflection, of focusing reality and memory,
and, in the meanwhile, writing is memory selection, reality production. writ-
ing is a labor that proceeds through options and aggregations. things-
words are burning, are cold, they crumble, or solidify, they are launched
again in new, transitory configurations. writing is to be in possession of a
language of references, physical too. writing is to find oneself again in the
company of that lady who after all is also a graphomaniac ... she carries a
folder with plenty of papers, pens and pencils, which I think is vel}' encour-
aging, evel}'thing considered (Kafka).
this is not about telling this or that other story. writing is circumscrib-
ing the substance that stands between the puis ions and the objects,
between the page and the skin. writing is tracing a line of transit, drawing
a rail from which we lean forward into the exterior of the internal (into the
interior of the external). the grip on words produces unseen architectures
of saying or otherwise hides itself in the tritest common senses, in strings
of low language, in lumps of ready-made locations, sometimes as glittering
as epiphanies.
this is not about opening one's door, nor leaving the key in the lock,
70 boundary 21 Spring 1999
the problem is not whether or not keys exist: if we didn't have doors we
wouldn't need keys (Perec).
thus: not words-explanations but contiguity between named and
names. identity informs words as the seism informs its trace. a certain
ethnicity of vocables, decorative drafting or symbolic cypher, discloses the
identity (be it a mask or a transitional livery). many of my words and terms
come from geometry (a lack of orientation forces me to delimitate with line
and angle the page, to remark that the act of writing takes place in a cir-
cumscribed and thus vaguely controllable locale). many of my mots-cIa
are containers: cups, pitchers, bottles. to capture, to detain. with the help
of a trap or with laser beams. the prey, soft as animal fur or elusive as a
mark on the sand, is the spot of ink or the luminous recall of a video.
oftentimes the word like predominates, as a term of comparison, similarity,
contiguity.
there is in literature this astonishment of seeing again all that we
have already seen, with no doors, no keys: one room after another, in
succession . ..
to cease belief
be navigator
and sail
to lay claim
and master
a sail
to belie
facts
to lie
to build up speed
inertia
wind
to waver
to hypnotize
do, do up
to resemble
to seem
wind and sail
to avail not
the notion
of battening life
to batter
to buffer
billowing sea
Mara Cini 71
(Translated from Italian by Carla Billitteri)
72 bOundafY 21 spring 1999
Bob Cob
bing
• tram oomestlC Ambient Noise
Robert Cree/ey
Old Poetry
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon's roar;-
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes
Robert Creeley 73
Even to speak becomes an unanticipated drama, because where one has
come to, and where it is one now has to go, have no language any longer
specific. We all will talk like that, yet no one will understand us.
When I was a young man, I felt often as if I were battling for the integrity of
my habits of speech, my words, my friends, my life. W. C. Williams had put
it most clearly, and with the expected emphasis of that time: "When a man
makes a poem, makes it, mind you, he takes words as he finds them inter-
related about him and composes them-without distortion which would
mar their exact significances-into an intense expression of his percep-
tions and ardors that they may constitute a revelation in the speech that he
uses." In the furies, then, of the war and the chaos of a disintegrating soci-
ety, I felt a place, of useful honor and possibility, in those words.
As though one might dignify, make sufficient, al/ the bits and pieces one
had been given, al/ the remnants of a family, the confusions of name and
person, flotsam, even the successes quickly subsumed by the next arrival.
And after that, the next-and then the next again. How would one ever
catch up?
There was no identity, call it, for the poet in my world. It was only in my
mind and imagination that any of it was real. "Only the imagination is real,"
Williams said. It felt particularly American to have no viable tradition, no
consequence of others seemingly sufficient, my elders contested if not dis-
missed. Yet, paradoxically, we were exceptionally chauvinistic, felt finally a
74 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
contempt for the poetry of that old world, the European, which nonetheless
still intimidated us. All the arts, it seemed, fought to become dominant in
whatever scale they might be weighed in-Abstract Expressionists vs. the
School of Paris, John Cage vs. Benjamin Britten, Louis Zukofsky vs. W. H.
Auden. Already that person as myself had become an insistent we, a plural
of swelling confidence.
They say you can be sure of three things in America, in any company, and
you can always let them be known without fear of social reprisal. One, that
you know nothing about opera. Two, that you know nothing about poetry.
Three, that you speak no language other than English. Is that true?
Rene Thom somewhere speaks of poetry's being like humor. It stays local
because it uses its means with such particularity. Just so, a friend tells me
of a friend of his, a fellow student who is Japanese, saying, "What the
Americans think is interesting in Japanese poetry misses the point entirely.
They miss the essence, the kernel, the substance of its effects." Another
friend once told me he had written a haiku whose second line was a mea-
sured one mile long.
I ~ Nation of Nothing but Poetry . .. " Who owns it? "He is the president of
regulation . .. " How did that go? How is it (ever) far if you think it?
Where are we? It was poetry that got us here, and now we have to go
too. "I'll hate to leave this earthly paradise . . ." Is there a country?
"Image Nation . .. "
Despairs since I was a little boy seem always the same. No money, not
enough to eat, no clothes, sick, forced out. No job or identity. Years ago,
driving back to San Geronimo Miramar from Guatemala City in the early
evening, I caught sudden sight of a body lying out into the narrow road, so
stopped to see what had happened. It was a man, drunk, trying to kill him-
self in that bleak way. He had spent all his life's accumulated money in one
day's drinking, and had lost his identity card as well-and so he no longer
actually existed, in any record. I kept trying, uselessly, persistently, to help.
We will keep ourselves busy enough, working with our various procedures
and values. There'll be no irony or blame. Whoever we imagine it's for will
either hear us out, else leave with a sense of better things to do. Better we
learn a common song?
Wystan Curnow 75
Seventy-two my next birthday and still feeling good, still pouring it out.
Hardly a day goes by that I don't think of something, either to do or to be
done. Stay busy seems to be it. But most it's like coming back again to
childhood, dumbly, even uselessly. When I saw myoid school chums at
our fiftieth reunion, I realized I hadn't seen them-Fred, Marion, Katie,
Ralph, and Patsy-since we were fourteen. Now we were over sixty, all
the work done but for whatever was left to tidy up. It was a great, unex-
pected relief not to have to say what we had earned, merited, lost, or cov-
eted. It was all done.
So now for the bridge, as in music, carries one over--
Trust to good verses then;
They only will aspire,
When pyramids, as men,
Are lost i' th' funeral fire.
And when all bodies meet,
In Lethe to be drown'd,
Then only numbers sweet
With endless life are crown'd.
- Robert Herrick
With love, for Herrick and Zukofsky.
Wystan Curnow
A Brief Description of Poetry in New Zealand
I'm reading Kendrick Smithyman's Atua Wera (Auckland University Press).
And helping Leigh Davis with his Station of Earth-Bound Ghosts. Ken-
drick's book-he was a friend, and a colleague-I'm only now sorry to say
getting around to, came out last year, two years ~ f t e r his death. Atua Wera
is a sequence of nearly three hundred poems concerning Papahurihia, or
Te Atua Wera, a nineteenth-century Nga Puhi tohunga (leader) and the first
of the Maori prophets of the contact period. I'm about halfway through.
One reviewer, a New Zealand historian by profession but also a sometime
poet, wasn't sure whether it was poetry or history so close is it to the bits
76 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
and scraps of record and recollection out of which both are ordinarily falsi-
fied. As for Station of Earth-Bound Ghosts, its inspiration are the Hau Hau
flags associated with another, somewhat later and more famous, Maori
prophet and rebel, Te Kooti. Flags also figure here and there in Atua Wera:
Papahurihia had the message: I On Saturday run up your flag. Yet
what I flag was it? Was there only one? II Flags held power. Masts
were powerful. I Each settlement had a flag of its own. I When peo-
ple were to join together I for especially (Sunday) service I A white
flag was flown. II White is good (Flags, 32).
Leigh's poems are appliqued onto twenty-eight flags (1.5 x 3 m) and
will be shown (flown) in Auckland's Central Station two months from now.
This I suppose grand nineteenth-century railway station is disused and
deserted, part of a property parcel sold some years back to the Ngati
Whatua in part settlement of a very long-standing land dispute, and now
awaiting 'development' by Magellan Corp.-yes Magellan-from whom
we will rent it. Later the flags will come out (fluttering) in book form. Leigh
Davis is best known for his 1983 sonnet sequence (ninety-nine of them)
Willy's Gazette (Jack Books), and his editorship, with Alex Calder, of And
magazine, which taken together are seen to represent the turn to language
in the recent history of our poetry: 'He's [Willy's] lined up, like his writing,
on small, coded, printed rails. There is a sense also that Willy is an editor
of his own combinations, that he doesn't come from nowhere, that he's
never got an empty page' (Note, Willy's Gazette). Subsequently Leigh went
into finance; Mark Williams can't have been the only local literary historian
who hoped he'd take up Anglo-Catholicism.
Two of the most impressive and influential works of history to be
written here in recent years-Anne Salmond's Two Worlds: First Meetings
between Maori and Europeans, 1642-1772 (1991) and Judith Binney's
Redemption Songs: A Life of Te Kooti Arikiangi Te Turuki (1995)-indicate
a broad context of current investigative writing into which Smithyman's
and Davis's projects can be placed. Binney, it happens, wrote the entry
on Papahurihia for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and reading
her book sparked Davis's interest in Te Kooti. However, Salmond's and
Binney's books also beg or uncover questions concerning the poetics of
contemporary history writing, which Smithyman and Davis can be seen to
take up.
All these books (not the flags) get mentioned in the just out 890-
Wystan Curnow n
page Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, Major New Edi-
tion, edited by Terry Sturm. (Feel the weight.) Unlike the first 1991 edition,
this update exposes diverging views about recent poetry. Denis McEl-
downey's chapter, 'Publishing, Patronage, Literary Magazines', boasts a
new section called 'Rise and Fall of Post-Modernism' in which a supposed
'rise' is represented by poets associated with Freed (1969-1972) and later
those with Parallax (1982-1983), And, and Splash (1983-1985) and
reaches its apogee with a brief takeover of the mainstream Landfall during
Michele Leggott's poetry editorship (1991-1993). What toppled it was a
new magazine, Sport (1988-), Bill Manhire's creative writing course at Vic-
toria University and the Victoria University Press, which saw to it that the
'new literary movements ... [were] assimilated but presented in friendly
and accessible form' (680). Landfall's publishers pulled out; a new patron
emerged and revived it under a return-to-centre management. 'Banished
from Landfall . . . ' concludes McEldowney, postmodernism later 'took
refuge in Alan Loney's [magazine] A Brief Description of the Whole World'.
(Feel the antagonism.)
McEldowney directed the Auckland University Press; his successor
there, Elizabeth Caffin, wrote the chapter in the Oxford on contemporary
poetry. Since her arrival, the Press has published two collections by Leg-
gott, and this year will bring out its second Loney volume, Sidetracks, note-
books 1976-1991, so perhaps it is no surprise she takes a more friendly
view of the 'postmodern'. Her update, 'Back to the Future: Into the 1990s',
follows received wisdom in lauding the pluralist and populist turn registered
in Ian Wedde's and Harvey McQueen's 1985 Penguin Book of New
Zealand Verse, and in tracing the strong growth of Maori and Pacific Island
writing and women's writing, but departs from it in noting how 'evaluative
principles were unstable, and outbreaks of hostility occurred' among writ-
ers of and on poetry, by arguing that far from being a fad or fashion, post-
modern poetry was dealing with 'difficult and urgent questions about the
very nature of language itself' brought home by global Capital's media cap-
ture of the word, and by pointing to the failure of Oxford's 1997 anthology
to question the 'canon' and to its neglect of 'experimental poetry'.
These anthologies and histories, they loom so large in a small cul-
ture, and they drive the poets wild. Alan Brunton, Michele Leggott, and Mur-
ray Edmond are working on a collection-they won't call it an anthology-
of poetry from the late '60s and early '70s, which aims to rescue the period
from the worst of 'drive-by' narratives to which it has been subjected. I'm
working on two exhibitions; one glances back-through a sequence of
78 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
four two-week shows-at the art of the '70s, down some main and not so
travelled roads. The other, Dear Mondrian, Or, the Fear of Abstraction, is
also a refiguring. Of painting's past and present, and some poetry-it fea-
tures Alan Loney's new long poem Mondrian's Flowers. In both I believe
I'm motivated (over the hill) by entrenched generalizations. Something
these projects share with those of Smithyman and Davis is a critical pas-
sion for the detail upon which all pictures, if they are to be of use, depend.
Franz-Josef Czernin
Context, Darkness and Light, the Romantic
Every word can be seen as dark, obscured, so can the word context: in
this context, context means ... , and then one looks for other words, and
they are not less dark and seem to ask that one looks for still other words,
or finds something in the world that would explain them.
*
Just as God-for some of those who believe in him-encompasses
everything, knows all places and times, even of the smallest grain of sand,
so every work of poetry should encompass all aspects of language in such
a way that it encompasses all things and their contexts, so that a work of
poetry will know the place and the time even of the smallest.
But what is not obscure about that sentence; what, for example, is
clear with words like encompassing or knowing? What could enlighten this
romantic vision (pursued by Novalis and the Schlegels, but possibly also
by Shelley when he calls the poets the "unacknowledged legislators of the
world")? How, if at all, could this vision, stripped of its poetical aura, not
seem excessive or even absurd, and in any case not of our times? How
can this vision be turned into the knowledge that Robert Musil calls "bright-
dark", a knowledge, which could also be called poetry?
According to that romantic vision, every poetic work (and every
poetics) can be seen as a more or less meaningful representation of these
questions and also as a more or less far-reaching answer to them. In the
light, or in the darkness, of that vision, any work of poetry manifests itself
as something that compels experience and knowledge of all things and
their contexts, even of the smallest grain of sand.
Franz-Josef Czernin 79
*
If a work of poetry encompasses everything and even compels the knowl-
edge of everything, then there is nothing a work of poetry cannot be seen
as; then any individual work of poetry (and also every individual poetic)
determines the scale of significance of all things and contexts. Every work
of poetry-and the poetics corresponding with it-seems to show that it is
in the first place this or that and much less this or that than something else.
For some Dadaists, the poetry might be mainly in the letters or sound. For
the early Pound of Imagism and for Surrealism (but in a different way), it
might be mainly in images. For a poet like Paul Valery, and (in another way)
for Henri Michaux, poetry might be the representation of mental states. For
Bertolt Brecht, the poetry was for some time mainly the representation of
social contexts and at the same time the social context itself. For some
poets, poetry might even be the expression of some nationality or region or
gender. So every work of poetry appears as something or wants to be seen
as, or understood as, something; but-in the name of that romantic vision
of encompassing, experiencing, and knowing everything-poetry must also
be seen as an indefinitely long series of things and contexts. (With poetry, it
is not as simple as with Wittgenstein's famous example of the figure that
can be seen either as a duck or a rabbit but as nothing else.)
*
With this romantic vision in mind, one cannot believe that a work of poetry
is exclusively this or that but not something else. And so one cannot mean
literally any statement of poetiCS that says that poetry is to be seen as this
but not as that. Such statements of poetics can only be understood as sta-
tic representations of experience. In contrast, this other way of looking at
things means that every work of poetry, and with it every poetiCS, has cer-
tain points of departure from which any other points may be reached. What
for one work of poetry, and its poetiCS, is at the beginning of the way, or is
illuminated in the foreground, is, for another, somewhere on the way or at
the end or in the background, in the dark.
If a work of poetry puts this or that in the foreground but something
else in the background, if it creates points of departure close at hand but
leads to things and contexts far away, then it creates a gestalt and there-
fore something that has spatial and temporal qualities. Its experience
involves spatiotemporal movement, a certain series of incidents. According
to that romantic vision, wouldn't every work of poetry and every poetics be
80 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
the expression or representation of what for it is the best road to the expe-
rience of things and contexts? Poetry's way of trying to follow this to the
end, to the smallest grain of sand?
*
If the literary points of departure change, and with them the temporal and
spatial roads from thing to thing and from context to context also change,
and in a similar way, then this brings into being what we call literary history
(the temporal aspect) or a geography of literature (the spatial aspect),
which are founded on the assumption that certain phases or epochs or cer-
tain regions can be understood through a number of similarities and be dis-
tinguished from other phases, epochs, or regions. If, for baroque poetry,
one point of departure was the intrinsic value of the semantic structure, but
sometimes also the letter and sound and at the same time the rhetorical
artificiality, those points of departure in the early poetry of Goethe were
given up for certain mimetic and expressive, but also idiomatic, qualities of
language, only to be replaced, in turn, in the poetry and the poetics of
Novalis, Tieck, and the Schlegels by a concept of the poetic symbol that in
some ways goes back to the baroque concept of semantic structure.
According to the romantic vision, time after time one gets from each
of the named points of departure to all things and contexts. This image
of poetry requires that any poetic epoch or region-no matter how far
other pOints of departure may lie or how veiled and dark they may be-
encompasses every other one or represents the best way to every other
epoch or region. How difficult it is to believe this! Wouldn't it be much eas-
ier to see literary history (and not only "real" history) as a Joycean night-
mare, from which one cannot wake up? But if not one literary epoch or
region shows the best way to the experience and the knowledge of all
things and contexts, then there also is not one single poetic work that can
show that way. Then there can exist only a labyrinth of inappropriate
attempts, a series of partial solutions, which not only mocks the romantic
vision but also mocks all things and contexts and every grain of sand.
*
Every word can be seen as lucid, and so can the word context. In this con-
text, context means ... , and then one is satisfied with this radiant revela-
tion (Kafka), or increases the clarity of this word through finding other
Mahmoud Darwish 81
words; and it doesn't seem necessary to find something in the world that
would explain them.
(Translated from German by the author and C. B.)
Mahmoud Darwish
... I discovered that the earth was fragile and the sea light; I discovered
that language and metaphor are not enough to provide a place for the
place. The geographical part of History is stronger than the historical part
of geography. Unable to find my place on earth, I tried to find it in History.
And History cannot be reduced to a compensation for a lost geography. It
is also a point from which to observe the shadows of self and other, grasp-
able in a more complex human journeying. History awoke a sense of irony
in me. This lightens the weight of the nationalist worry somewhat. And so
one sets out on an absurd journey. Is that just artistic cunning, a simple
borrowing? Or is it, to the contrary, despair incarnating itself? The answer
has no importance whatsoever. What matters is that I was able to find a
greater lyrical capacity, and a passage from the relative to the absolute. An
opening allowing me to inscribe the national on the universal, so that
Palestine not limit itself to Palestine, but that it may found its aesthetic
legitimacy in a vaster human space.
I believe that it is not only Palestine that is a poetic alibi. Every subject is
an alibi. Which brings us back to the fundamental question: where does
poetry live? In the subject it addresses or in its aesthetic independence in
relation to its subject? I believe that the theme of Palestine, which is simul-
taneously a call for and a promise of freedom, risks transforming itself into
a poetiC cemetery if it remains locked inside its textuality, inside the limits
that are the "self" and the "Other," inside delimited space and the historical
moment. In other words, if the poetic project does not contain its own aspi-
rations, its own proper object, which, when all is said and done, is but the
accomplishment of poetry itself. Thus my postulate that every subject,
even that of a sanctified Palestine, is finally an alibi.
It is up to the poet to produce a personal aesthetic. If this aesthetic
is open enough, it will set a horizon for the homeland; if it is too narrow, the
homeland will feel constrained in it. A homeland cannot be reduced to what
82 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
it is objectively. Because poetry opens the homeland onto the human infi-
nite, on condition that the poet be able to take it there. In order to achieve
this, the poet has to create his own myths. By this I don't mean the myth
proceeding from another, already known one, but the one born of the
poem's construction, partaking of its own form and universe. The one that
transforms concrete language into the language of poetry.
With the disappearance of our country we suddenly found ourselves rele-
gated to a pre-Genesis. And so our poets have had to write our own Gene-
sis starting from the mythic one of the Other. For one has to be aware that
Palestine has already been written. The Other has done it in his manner,
through the narrative of a birth which no one dreams of denying. A Creation
narrative that has become one of the sources of knowledge for humankind:
the Bible. Given this, how could we have written a less mythic narrative?
The problem of Palestinian poetry is that it set out without extra resources,
without historians, without anthropologists; it therefore had to equip itself
with all the necessary baggage needed to defend its right to exist.
This forces the Palestinian to traverse the myth in order to arrive at
the familiar. I am a poet and I am before all the poet of the familiar human
details. But I have never stopped arguing with the consecrated version of
Creation. An argument that has forced me into a mythic writing of the quo-
tidian real, of the Palestinian present. It is a cycle that moves from ordi-
nary dailiness to the mythical, and which can be accomplished only by a
return to its origins. Even when I refer directly to the myth, my obsession
is to write that which is simple, familiar, banal. I am trying to humanize the
Palestinian text. Myth is not always the enemy of man. Not always. Here it
is but one aspect of the cultural struggle to write the same place. We
Palestinian poets write in close proximity to the Book of Genesis. In hail-
ing distance of a finished, definitive, and consecrated myth. Maybe we will
find our way in an aesthetic of the quotidian, in the most simple human
questionings. This does not seem like a contradiction to me. Our lyricism
can move in the space of myth, even in that of the epic. Today we find our-
selves in a hybrid place, at a median point between the historical and the
mythic. Our situation, our very existence partakes of both.
Haroldo de Campos 83
My last four books of poems are part of an ambitious project I hope I'm
able to complete. It's the project of a lyrical epic, of the liberation of poetic
language toward epic horizons. History would serve as a scene through
which peoples, civilizations, and cultures could circulate freely. I am on a
quest for my identity according to the laws of crossbreeding, of the shock
and cohabitation of all identities. I want this hymn to take root in the open
space of history. I don't know where this quest will lead me, but I know that
its origin is the multiplicity of cultural origins. In such a project, poetry
comes up against cultural racism and rejects any culture based on purity of
blood. Aren't we the children of a region that from time immemorial has
been the theatre of interactions, both positive and negative?
I have found a terra firma saturated with history. I draw my
strength from it because I look through the prisms of past and future. Thus
the present appears less fragile, more like a passage toward a more cer-
tain history. Standing on said earth, when I observe something tragic I also
see its temporary aspect, for human beings are finally the product of this
tragedy crisscrossed with absurdities.
Rome, depite all its brutal attributes, will not dominate the earth
again. I am one of the inhabitants of the suburbs of Rome; it is with irony
that I watch the emperor pass by-and continue my story.
(Original translation from Arabic and Hebrew by Elias Sanbar and Simone
Bitton; adapted and translated from French by Pierre Joris)
Haroldo de Campos
The Brazilian Jaguar
The couched Brazilian Jaguar
-T. S. Eliot
Brazilian poetry, like some mythological heroes, never had a true infancy
(infant, one that cannot speak). It was born already adult, operating (flu-
ently speaking) a universal code: the Baroque, a very sophisticated and
elaborate language. Our first great poets were Baroque and multilingual:
Gregorio do Mattos Guerra (1636-1696), a virulent satirist nicknamed
"The Mouth of Hell," but also a gifted lyricist, wrote in Portuguese and
Spanish, including in some of his poems African and Indian words. Botelho
84 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
de Oliveira (1636-1671), a distinguished lyricist, composed poems in Por-
tuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Latin. Not to mention a forerunner, the Jesuit
Anchieta (1534-1597), founder of the City of Sao Paulo, who wrote poems
and mystery plays (autos) in Portuguese, Spanish, Latin, and Tupi Guar-
any (he was the author of the first Tupi language grammar). Our literature
arose under the sign of polyglotism. Our Arcadian (neoclassic) poets had
reacted only moderately to the Baroque code: "cultist" features remain, for
instance, in the diction of Claudio Manoel da Costa (1729-1789), one of
the best representatives of that period.
In contradistinction to Hispanic American literatures, Brazilian
Romanticism produced an extremely singular poet, Joaquim de Sousa
Andrade, Sousandrade (1833-1902), author of a long epic as well as dra-
matic travel poem (the scenery of which is both South and North American,
from Patagonia up to Manhattan). His "Wall Street Inferno" (a section of
this long poem) was located in the New York Stock Exchange and melded
quotations in several languages, using a kind of "montage technique." In a
certain sense, Sousandrade's poem has anticipated Neruda's Canto Gen-
eral and Pound's "Financial Hell Cantos." Our best Symbolists were Cruz e
Sousa (1861-1898), the "Black Swan," an Afro-Brazilian poet, and Pedro
Kilkerry (1885-1917), a mulatto from Bahia, descended from Irish stock,
who had a remarkable gift for languages and was an admirer of Mallarme
and translator of Corbiere.
Brazilian Modernism (Avant-garde) started in 1922, the year of
Eliot's Waste Land, Joyce's Ulysses, and Vallejo's Trilce, under the influ-
ence of both Italian Futurism and French Cubism. In contradistinction to
Spanish-speaking countries, French Surrealism had no significant influ-
ence on the Brazilian scene. In contrast, Brazilian Modernism's "philoso-
pheme" by excellence was the Anthropophagy (Cannibalism) of Oswald de
Andrade (1890-1954): a metaphorical proposal for devouring foreign influ-
ences and reelaborating them from a Brazilian differential viewpoint.
After this very brief survey, I should like to say a few words on
Brazilian "Concrete poetry," a movement that started in the early fifties.
Differently from other foreign "Concrete poets," the Brazilian poets were
much concerned with tradition (a live tradition), being influenced by
Pound's "make it new" conception. Since the very beginning of the move-
ment, Brazilian "concretists" developed a programmatic translation (''trans-
creation") activity from several languages into Portuguese, in order to
enrich and enlarge our patrimony of forms. A critical and theoretical activity
was also intenSively promoted, in order to create frames for the apprecia-
Haroldo de Campos 85
tion of new trends, and also in order to rescue from oblivion inventive poets
neglected by profeSSional literary historians (as, for instance, Sousandrade
and Kilkerry). For these reasons, Brazilian Concretism had a deep influ-
ence being a sort of departure point for new developments throughout the
next decades.
Since the sixties, I have no longer written "concrete poems" in the
strict sense. Avant-garde movements have, in my opinion, an ideological
and historical duration or tempo. Avant-garde has to do with Utopia, with
programming the future. After the optimistic period of the fifties (under the
presidency of liberal-progressive Juscelino Kubitscheck, the builder of
Brasilia, our new capital, and the promoter of the distinguished communist
architect Niemeyer), we suffered from a more than twenty years long mili-
tary dictatorship (from the sixties up to the eighties), and the world entered
concomitantly into a phase of "ideological crisis." So, by a natural context-
motivated tendency, I have moved from the more limited conception of
stricto sensu "concretism" to the larger problem of concretion (sign materi-
ality) in language, in a Jakobsonian sense. Furthermore, I don't believe in
the end of Modernity and in the emergence of a so-called Postmodernism.
I think we are now in a "Postutopian" moment, but still within Modernism
(we may be called "Postmodernists" only in the sense we are still develop-
ing the possibilities opened by 1897 Mallarme's UN COUP DE DES; or, in
other words: Baudelaire was the Modern poet par excellence, as W. Ben-
jamin pointed out; Mal/arme-the late Mallarme-in regard to Baudelaire,
is already the first "Postmodern," and we are still exploring Maltarme's her-
itage). To be a "Postutopian" poet working on the concrete materiality of
language does not mean to have renounced the critical dimension of the
poetical task, neither to have forgotten the technical conquests of Moder-
nity. Even committed poems continue to be possible and necessary (as for
instance my recent "The Left Angel of History," protesting against the mas-
sacre of the SEM-TERRA/without-land in Para, north of Brazil). No nostal-
gic, regressive orientation is being aimed at. What is different is that I have
substituted the optimistic-futuristic-millenarian project of the fifties with a
more realistic and effective one. based on the urgent needs (either aes-
thetical or ideological) of the present.
86 boundary 21 Spring 1999
Gianni D'Elia
The Impoetic, or the Language of Things
The context of poetry should be, strictly speaking, that of its readers. Yet
since the Symbolist movement, poets have gone after the myth of an
absolute poetic language, losing sight of their task (to outrage) and their
site (the crux of their epoch). They have disregarded their grounding rela-
tion with the audience; they have closed themselves in the literary ghetto
of the hyperliteral, writing for themselves, for the philologists and acade-
mics. I believe we should no longer discuss poetry talking about poetry but
talk instead about something else. For poetry exists, outside of ourselves,
in the world, not only in poetry books. Pasolini constructed his discourse
on poetry by addressing the most impoetic and distant realities, immersing
his thinking in the contradictions of his time, critiquing the religion of poetry.
After Pasolini we must refrain from being poets, in the sense of narcissisti-
cally circumscribing the poetic discourse that makes us incapable of escap-
ing from the paper-context of writing and its miserly gratification.
With the magazine Lengua (1982-1994) I have tried, together with
other friends and collaborators, to regain the sense of this ideological
realism, a realism of thought that continues the legacy of Officina
(1955-1959), the literary magazine of Pasolini and Roversi, Romano and
Fortini, Scalia and Leonetti. In Lengua we have followed and questioned
throughout what I have called the linguistic chorality of the twentieth cen-
tury. Thus we have given space to the poetiCS of dialect, jargon, neo-slang,
and idiolect, in a dialogue with the living postwar poets: Loi, Scagliatini,
Caproni, and Luzi as well as with some of the poets of the younger gener-
ation: Magrelli, Viviani, Cucchi, De Angelis. And the very young poets Nadi-
ani, De Vita, Deidier, Oal Bianco, Febbraro, Antonella Anedda, Giovanna
Sicari, Silvia Bre-published by Quaderni Italiani di Poesia Con tempo-
ranea.
What is then the context of poetry? It can no longer be poetry itself.
We are all caught in the mythology of an absolute poetic language of sym-
bolist descent, and we have elaborated our conception of linguistic and lit-
erary criticism from this position. To break free of the symbolist influence,
we need to rethink the fundamental question of the referent. Perhaps my
choice bears the trace of my political activism in the Italian New Left and
my extraliterary intellectual formation. Yet, I think of this as a response to
the present state of crisis, of dissatisfaction, of impasse. I feel a lack,
Gianni D'Elia 87
nowadays, of other voices that have the courage of saying that it is possi-
ble to move on to a different phase of cultural poetics. We must move on,
try to write about things that have actual sense today, carry on in solitude,
depending only on our own labor, our relation with the real; we must write
in order to understand, and understand in order to write. Poets work on
language, within language-this goes without saying. But what is written
must nevertheless give something new, it must cut into the real, must
give a clear, sharp reading of the world that we experience and confront.
What we write should be validated in a poetic form that is born out of re-
elaboration of-and sinking into-form. We should write without renounc-
ing the myth of form and acknowledge its limiting influence, as already in
the past we acknowledged the myth of the "real" as the extralinguistic and
extraliterary. And yet, I stick to the myth of "the real" rather than the
absolute language of poetry. I believe in emotions that become word, pass-
ing through the body and thus marking with their own rhythm metric forms.
In this way emotions create new metric bodies-which constitute the
actual revolution in the use of language. We need to return to a physiologi-
cal thought of form. In the initial issues of Lengua we discussed how Dante's
terza rima or hendecasyllable defined the harshness of Dante's cognitive
horizon-a condition which dictated the strictest of forms, in close referen-
tial relation to what was being said. We also reconsidered, as the basis of
our modern poetic tradition, the intersection of Dante's conception of
/engua volgare (written language born out of orality) and Leopardi's con-
ception of poetry as natural language (the "natural fantastically spoken").
We do not need the avant-garde. The contemporary avant-garde in
Italy is a branch of academia and its literary magazines (Baldus, L'Allegoria,
L'/mmaginazione). The avant-gardist pretense of substituting a counter-
mythology of "quipuscular" language for the myth of the Word, and an
antiform for form, has brought about a preposterous codification and nor-
mativity (that Pasolini already foresaw). In a recent piece published in Ren-
diconti (the poetiC journal edited by Roberto Roversi), I contend that avant-
gardism is the senile ailment of classicism: both poetics run aground in
intellectual aridity, delusional self-sufficiency, and denial of the audience.
Thus the theme I propose for this symposium is the impoetic. Even
though the "impoetic" does not exist in the context of the contemporary lit-
erary scene dominated by the sublime experimental poexcrescence, , think
it is only appropriate to insist on the ideological impact of the impoetic as a
locution that can articulate the language of things. The present times
speak a language of things that poetry finds difficult to grasp. The lan-
88 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
guage of things has changed, and so the language of words (poetry)
should rethink the relation between text and context, to capture the inter-
posed imaginary of media and technological reproduction. And all of this
should be achieved without renouncing the communicative value of metric
resources-what traditionally constitutes the efficacy of poetic texts, their
memorability, exactness, and concentration. This is the most difficult task:
to introduce a weighty proportion of the prosaic, of the impoetic (experi-
ence, ideas, questions), without losing the poetry of the text. This was the
heretical example of Leopardi's La Ginestra and of Pasolini's poems; this
is the crucial issue for contemporary ideological realism -finding the rela-
tion between form and content with which we must begin again.
Further Instructions
"The impoetic: tell it to the lightning.
Name the imperceived new
things of the world in which we're now
immersed. And let the verse
be sensitive to prose, the commonness
you serve. And to the arid
chatter of the press, for singing
is duress of memory and sentiment
and today nothing but the fragment
seems to be given in the flash,
try it, if you can, as others have,
lasting a little longer beyond that wind ... "
(Translated and abridged from Italian by Carla Billitteri)
Dubrsvka Djuric
Fragments on Writing Poetry in Postcommunism
The castle is the whiteness of the screen
poetry takes place between new technologies
-new realities-VR-MTV-Postcommunism
Poetry is the passionate body-Sex Screen
Postcommunist reality in Serbia
chokes the wish for poetic Eros
Oubravka Ojuric 89
it is hard to find a way out from the mud of the collectivism of One:
One Nation, One Religion, One Ideology
Therefore a critic hates when the Other speaks the language of the
One
and inserts the language of the Other-the language of his/her
(multiple) identities
Identities are interwoven
since the Politics of the poem is the politics that escapes the control
MERRY critics are like MERRY POLITICIANS
they control all space of the POETRY THAT BECOMES
POSTCOMMUNIST OTHER
The Other is sacrificed, the Other is killed, the Other is expelled
from our Heavenly postcommunism
The veil of lies waves on the wind she stood and thought
this world seen in virtual reality of postcommunism is really
wonderful
the catastrophe is realized in tectonic dislodges that
destroyed millions of human lives, corpses are an everyday image
but no one is disturbed-because the future is realized in front of
our eyes at the moment when we look at that reality on the screen
90 boundary 21 Spring 1999
butchered bodies, butchered minds
that beauty of the decomposed, of disease
-but is there the reality that the West could read
as the Code of East Europe
This context that is empty, uncertain
zero departures, discontinuities
the things that disappear
to turn your head around and to see
waves, wind storms, fires that endeavor (engender) small
pushed angles
at the end of all worlds
and there are the names that in microcosmos of the place
and time do exist or maybe don't
the figures that build this destroyed contexts
And where is there poetry if not in resistance
I is the eye that writes. i is the non-eye that writes. i is the writing
and the language
i is the geopolitical space:
balkan: balkanization
Fabio Ooctorovich 91
Fabio Doctorovich
from ENCAszTERS
Progress, Science and Poetry
According to Clemente Padrn, experimental poetry, by moving beyond the
manipulation of established concepts, and thanks to the conceptualization
of the unknown, makes possible the development of cultural knowledge,
avoiding its stagnation.
1
The concept of poetry as a means for the acquisi-
tion of knowledge, and the term experimental, intend to match poetry with
science. There is currently a prevalent tendency among many authors and
critics to incorporate scientific precepts on their literary investigations, even
more, to base their work completely in classical scientific methods. This is
probably a partial vision: current science is based on a rational mode of
thought while poetry must encompass other investigations beyond the lim-
itations imposed by such reasoning. More than scientifizying art, science
should be reexamined from the point of view of art in the way, for example,
8euys did, in search of a communion and at the same time a reform in
both fields of knowledge. That is why the term postypography seems to be
more adequate than experimental to describe those changes that are
occurring in literature due to the invention of new media.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that there is a strong component
of investigation in "experimental" poetry, not only of rational knowledge but
also of modes of life, of extensions of humanity beyond physical reality,
investigation of the indecipherable, indescribable, and invisible.
Interaction
A good amount of poetry created in this century is "private": it has been
written to demonstrate the emotions of the author or as a tool of a personal
search for knowledge-but not to be read. Which does not prevent it from
being published, commented on, and even read. For example, the surreal-
istic mechanism of automatic writing is a technique of textual creation and
not necessarily a device designated to generate readings: the accent is
given on emission more than on perception, the center of the creation is
the poet and not the reader.
Some post-avant-garde Latin American movements such as
Process/Poem
2
and Poetry to Make and/or Realize
3
revised the mecha-
92 boundary 21 Spring 1999
nisms of reading generation and intended to shift the center of creation
(and so of emission) toward the reader. This was a first step toward the
disappearance of the notion of an author-artist placed on a superior plane
of creation-a notion that has remained strong over centuries and that has
undoubtedly contributed to the construction of a barrier between reader and
work.
Multiconcept
The progreSSivist attitude of the artistic movements of this century have
been such that most works produced by those movements are generally
"partial," works that emphasize a single aspect or a sole poetic technique,
slanting or overlooking the others. The failure attributed to the avant-garde
could be due, among other factors, to the monoconceptualism of the pro-
duced works, which concentrated their strength on a single fundamental
concept that, at the most, included some related basic ideas. A certain ide-
ological fanaticism, spurred by the fight for legitimacy and consecration,
according to the analysts of the sociology of culture,4 compelled the
authors to discard concepts from predecessor movements, trying in that
way to demonstrate the novelty of their proposals and to gain an advanta-
geous position in the artistic community.
Fittings (Encastres)
An application of multiconcept art could be constituted by the production of
works with diverse components (textual, visual, auditory, etc.) organized in
interrelated-though separated-parts that would be assembled to form a
modular structure. Each module, from multimedia to audiovisual, would not
be necessarily represented simultaneously with the others. This would give
to the modular project a character of "work to be assembled," for the reader
could order the modules in distinct possible sequences or could even add
his/her own modules, thus generating a multiplicity of readings. With the
purpose of producing a work that is a whole (though divided in pieces), and
not the mere sum of its parts (apart from sharing one or more topics in
common), the modules should possess appendixes that would function like
fitting pieces. The most obvious example of this is the intertextual tech-
nique in which module B employs phrases that make reference to module
A. However, this would not be applicable when no phrases or words are
utilized (as in some visual poems that make use of signs), and in such
Fabio Doctorovich 93
cases intertext should be extended to "intersign" or "intericon" (reference to
a sign or image instead of a phrase or word). For example, the construc-
tion of blueprint-poems of virtual places that would be described or referred
to in the text.
In this way, mono- or multiconceptual units (modules) are constructed
that fit between them forming a three-dimensional semantic mesh. A
hypertextual syntax or better a hyperpostypographic one replaces the lin-
eal syntax of the written language. The fitting pieces would be given by:
Intertext: repetition or allusion to textual elements in different units to be
fitted.
Intericon: ditto with mobile or static images.
Inter/action: application of modes of similar action in different modules.
Interweave: structure that continues in the following module like a splice of
cinematographic sequences.
Transitions: "frontier" works that mix aspects or techniques of each one of
the modules to be joined, similarly, to the transitions of computer-generated
video.
The initial designer must sketch a map or diagram (linear, bi-, tri-, or n-
dimensional) of the work that will serve as a guide to future authors and at
the same time will indicate the spaces to be filled (modules or fragments
to be realized). Thus, the work evolves into a dynamic entity, formed by
assembled parts that can be fitted or unfitted a piacere. The concept of
"finished work" does not exist anymore, for the notion of "artwork" unfolds
from being something material and fastened, like a book, to a metamor-
phic gelatinous structure-a kind of "blob" forged by solid and virtual
materials.
Timing
Synchronization of all modules, like in opera or other multimedia specta-
cles, is only possible when the relation author/spectator exists and the
mechanisms of the work are adjusted for that purpose. Moreover, over-
feeding the spectator with simultaneous visual and auditory stimuli gener-
ally induces passivity. We suggest a series of asynchronous autofitted
modules: not only the work's creation but also its perception is realized at
different temporal intervals. More than that, the different modules (auditory,
visual, etc.) may be fitted simultaneously in multiple combinations. The
existence or not of these and the manner of combining them will be
94 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
decided by the spectauthors. In this way, the work becomes an entity that
can be only partially perceived in any temporal interval. Totalization is
solely possible in the spectauthors mind and, of course, it is different for
each one of them. This would be in some way closer to the partiality of
vision in real life.
1. Clemente Padfn, Methodological Difficulties in the Examination of Experimental
Poetry, 1993, Uruguay, author edition.
2. Clemente Pad!n, Semiotic Poem: The Beginning of the End of the Word in Latin
American Poetry, 1993. Speech given at the XI International Symposium of Literature,
Montevideo, Uruguay; printed by the author. English translation by Harry Polkinhorn.
3. Edgardo Antonio Vigo, From Poetry/Process to Poetry To And/Or Realize, in Corro-
sive Signs, 1990, edited by Cesar Espinosa / NUCLEO POST-ARTE, translated by Harry
Polkinhorn. Maisonneuve Press: Washington, D.C.
4. Beatriz Sarlo, Escenas de la Vida Posmoderna. Intelectuales, Arte y Videocultura en
la Argentina, 1994. Espasa Calpe Argentina / Ariel: Buenos Aires. Refer to the subtitle
Va/ores y Mercado in Chapter 4, p. 152.
Stacy Doris
Those been the cokkes wordes and not myne.
Comedy is better than identity. And no, even with cheating, you can't really
have both. Comedy is a mess. A disunity. Where the seams split. It is also
prosody's perfect compliment, since it alleviates form; comedy enlightens
or illuminates the genre.
The lack of comedy is poetry's tragedy. Poetry buckles under the
weight of seriousness of purpose; of homogeneity.
No things are ever commensurate; perhaps therein lies the joke
behind metaphor making. Correlatives are fortunately nonobjective. If Eliot
had had a different sense of humor, he might have discussed Taming of
the Shrew instead of Hamlet. He might have rejOiced in the pure ridiculous-
ness of domesticity itself. This would have spared Anglophone poetry gen-
erations of teapot epiphanies.
In terms of geographies and nationalities, the best bet for poetry is
delusional space. Because poetry is there to reformulate placement and con-
texts, to destabilize imagined consistencies. Any poetry that doesn't some-
how begin in a realm of wild fantasy is not worth the writing. That poetry takes
shape; that it comes into being, is reason for occasions of great mirth.
Arkadii Dragomoschenko 95
When where am I is I. Writing is concerned with such impossibilities
of being. Translation is mainly its movement; it progresses by means of
misunderstanding.
What could be funnier?
Arksdii Drsgomoschenko
On the Superfluous
It is not particularly appropriate to speak of poetry nowadays (it has
become unnecessary, "superfluous," something that has fallen either to the
lot of poetologists trying to extract some ontological root from ephemeral
quadratures or to sentimental ignoramuses who should at some point have
gone to police school).
Yet it is difficult to describe adequately how popular it was in those
times that in turn resituated "poetic conversations" in a class of phenomena
only partially identifiable. Having gone through a sequence of procedures in
which it was simplified by aesthetics and pneumatology, poetry found itself
at a place where "everything is understood" or, vice versa, is not worth
understanding. That was at best; at worst, it arrived at a certain ideological
space that represented it as an instrumental practice of language.
Despite attempts at decolonizing poetry, excluding it from the sphere
of Great Literature, and subsequently introducing it into the conventional
bounds of "writing," it was gradually barred from naively questioning its own
nature as well as the limits of the actual scene, that is, its book-in other
words, one of the totalizing forms that offer the world existence beyond any
"picture." Synaethesia is the forgetfulness of any definition.
Beyond the bounds of a metaphor lies the next metaphor, just as
beyond one word lies another. Beyond memory, however, only the memory-
producing machine is to be found, i.e., the structure of a sign that consists
of a shadow or that fits into its own shadow. Thunder is neither the essence
of lightning nor its signifier.
By calling time beautiful, horrifying, or bitter we only reaffirm our
helplessness before the speed of discord in invisible substances.
The privileging of the momentous "now" in the age of representation
and of the identity of word and thing established the manifestation of
essence (ultimate indivisibility) as presence in that "now," which in any
case should not have been time but "its timeless nucleus," while time
96 boundary 21 Spring 1999
emerged in that classic metaphysical perspective as notwnow, not-being,
not-truth.
Vision is also a linguistic procedure, the process of description, dif-
ferentiation.
Every voyage is a message to the past.
To give one case among many, a written/published book can be
viewed as an attempt at rehabilitating (or possibly justifying) a preceding
book, if one does not see it as a commodity involved in relations obviously
separate from the interests of its writer and reader.
"Svistonov lay in bed reading, i.e., writing, as for him they were the
same. He marked a paragraph in red pencil, and in black, entered its
altered version in his manuscript. He did not care about the meaning of the
whole and the coherence of it all" (K. Vaginov).
One can only regret the fact that none of Svistonov's books have
yet been published.
If one admits the obvious, that the culture in which we have been
brought up-the one that takes into its body, forms the language, vision,
ideas of ourselves (I) and the world around us, i.e., of "reality"-that this
culture functions as a metaphysical machine of perfection, invulnerable
plenitude, and technology, then it would be logical to assume that the inner
space of the drama whose players we become at the moment our own his-
tory is born could be described as the space of noncoincidence produced
by the machine of self-sufficient plenitude, telos ... and by our inherent
insufficiency determined by the known finitude of existence, or, Simpler still,
of desire.
Which means that is the I that is the breach, the gap taking on dif-
ferent names with apparent ease. Let us compare this I with the outline of
a hole-the outline of absence. Including that of the present, which tends
to expand its meaning.
Idleness is much harder than labor. It requires effort, durations of
another sort, and richer imagination.
The technology of idleness is parataxis. The speed of conjunctions
that lack momentum exhausts the possibilities of vertiginous stasis. But the
temptation is most often irresistible.
The I unable strictly to follow the strategy of idleness, the I that does
not rupture the circulation of its language (Khoma Brut's chalk circle as
Arkadii Dragomoschenko 97
described by Gogol in "The Viy") and, consequently, of history and mem-
ory, is doomed to failure. Everything is the residue of its own description.
Perhaps the Russian national idea is contained in the idea of Par-
adise (a communal "body without organs," sobornost), while the asceticism
of labor, the overcoming of one's own nature (read Aleksandr Etkind) that
such an idea suggests, does away with idleness just like Protestantism,
which every day faces Hell.
Experience tells us that a tremendous amount seems to have been
done toward that end, but most probably, not "the way" it should have been
done.
An error is always conscious.
Sometimes an error is the result of extremely complicated, multi-
level operations and calculations (Freud, for the moment, is rejected).
Poetry does not err in any projection of its questioning itself
because it is the unconscious of a society (a pre-organic growth): the four-
dimensional landscape of an impeccable action, X, where everything con-
verges precisely, even if somebody's notes don't tally (Pound).
It is the fullest absence (above all, of representation). Meanwhile,
the desire for absence is accompanied by the insurmountable fear of trans-
gressing the line that separates us from it. This is why such ''transgression''
never really transgresses (with balance caught at the last moment, fear of
irreversibility); it abides (prebyvaet) beyond the past and the future and
arrives (pribyvaet) at the perfect time of the present-(which "evaporates
in its own shining").
It is the same, whether "four," "green," or "the dream of Paradise."
I am not interested in the "how" or the "what;' but in the "why."
Yet only the idle (prazdnye) set out on the journey (stranstvie)-
they who celebrate (prazdnuyut) estrangement (ostranenie) (and removal
[ustranenie]) of their I, they for whom the being (sushchestvo) of the
other, which is so necessary for self-identification, loses its necessity
(nasushchnost) .
The poet remains a badly exposed photograph in the album of his
time. The picture is washed away in patterns of oozing salts and oxides.
Sometimes they represent completely different relations. But all this is only
wild speculation.
Later they easily claim that he/she resembles someone. On resem-
blance see below.
98 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
The author's well-known dictum, "I exist because of the existence of
the other," is replaced by a different one: "Since my I is separate from my
being-ness (sushchestvennost) the other in this case also loses his or her
necessity (nasushchnost}." Pan-European dialogism governs any narrative
but not the writing of poetry. You and I, past and future, and, etc. can be
exhausted in the metaphor of the shell that rotates on a single axis the exte-
rior and the interior, moisture and sand, presence and absence-the shell
that was once simultaneously the instrument of calling and the labyrinth of
hearing. There is not certainty. Not signifies ways whose trajectories do not
belong to any single design or trace. Sleep is nothing but a combination of
phonemes necessary at a given moment. It offers the trusting mind the
theme of resemblances, the conjugation of examples, the representation of
patterns which are to strengthen that theme.
It would appear that the simplest comparison of one thing to another
gives evidence of the coherence of the whole. Yet every word, even if pre-
ceded or followed by another, speaks of nonconnectibility, noncompatibil-
ity, of being ruptured. Like speech, reality consists of holes. Of difference.
Of endless beginnings. Because "poetry is always already different."
But the accumulation and subsequent transformation (is it really into
its opposite?) of insufficiency again presupposes the growth of its critical
mass and its transition to something akin to a residual surplus, with whose
expenditure BataiJle was so preoccupied.
The melancholy of speech as the state that precedes its emer-
gence, its dissection-difference. Is anyone seed the center of the field?
The yearning for stasis, which in any of its respective rhetorical
frames of reference can bear any of the commonly accepted names-is
described by another metaphor as the yearning for death, absolute self-
sufficiency and completion. Whereas erotic rapture (rupture) represents
the permanent destruction of the forming picture of balance.
Perhaps the hidden nature of this rupture, its resolve not to disclose
itself, besides being the mystery of its very presentation, is also the pretext
(I do not want to say reason) for our daily labor-writing, or some other
trivial occupation, venture, or project, including publishing. From which
nothing actually follows.
Neither loud, nor quiet. One can sing a song or make a film. If one
so desires. About how they speak. Only speak or keep silent soundlessly
moving their lips (the dream of a hand). Or do both at the same time.
As usual, nothing superfluous.
(Translated from Russian by Evgenii Pavlov)
Johanna Drucker, Writing Lesson
, L. ""\
\ N"\ .> \\Z iC:. \( +-\- '"\ t::l
Ltf'J.E .A.S .IH.E.E.LRS T .....

.U..l. ......... ........ L ... ).. .... ........ O ......... w. ....... CU
·····:I.:::··,yo····;J·7;··············· ............ . .... :.. . ......... /fVJJJ7. f
.... .. . .............
.. ...... . ........... ' ... ,... ... .... ..................... ....... . .............. .
..... .. .... ..
withholding "the heart
Of SeNSE IN THe HAND
&HEADLINES
100 boundary 21 Spring 1999
Johanna Drucker
Visual Poetics: An International View
For this issue of boundary 2, I have edited a selection of visual poetry by
Jeremy Adler (UK), Fernando Aguiar (Portugal), Alexandr V. Bubnov (Rus-
sia), Bob Cobbing (UK), Ana Hatherly (Portugal), Steve McCaffery
(Canada), Emily McVarish (US), Spencer Selby (US), Pete Spence (Aus-
tralia), and Darren Wershler-Henry (Canada). Few of the works in this
selection of visual poetry are motivated by a concern with national identity.
But visual poetry, particularly in its more specialized identities such as
Concrete poetry or Lettrism, has had a history of appearing in localized
centers of activity (Germany and Brazil in the case of Concrete poetry,
France in the case of Lettrism) which de facto provide a specific cultural
context to the work. While the differences which characterize each of the
poems in this selection could not be mapped in any strictly geographical
sense onto such a set of locations, nonetheless there are often aspects of
each individual poet's work which bear witness to their specific place within
the terrain of current visual poetics. Sensibilities, access to technology, a
disposition toward particular poetic traditions and concerns-all of these
are aspects of such specific sense of "place" as an identity within this work.
At the same time, the continually accelerated pace of exchange facilitated
by new media (initiated by older communications systems from radio to
mail art) has disintegrated hard and fast borders of national identity as
telling or determinative features of these artists' activities. Neither stylisti-
cally nor in terms of content issues are any of these artists compellingly
linked to national agendas, programs, or mythic characterizations.
That stated, in my first acquaintance with the work of Alexandr Bub-
nov at the EyeRhymes conference held at the University of Alberta in
Edmonton in June of 1997, I was immediately struck by the way his formal
means and obsessive preoccupation with palindromes bespoke an almost
extravagantly cliched image in my mind-that of the bureaucratic intrica-
cies, frustrations, and pointless exercises I associated with the old Soviet
regime. Is this fair? My projection or his intention? Or neither? I was unpre-
pared for his engagement-and that of literally dozens of other poets of
his generation and background-with these extended palindromic exer-
cises. Hand-drawn and elaborate designs on sheets of inexpensive paper,
they were works of careful labor, tedious exercise, and a sustained obses-
sive concentration unlike anything I had encountered in other areas of con-
Johanna Drucker 101
temporary visual poetics. Rather than risk some misconceived interpreta-
tion in causal terms, I will refrain from interpretation of the presentation of
his work and that of the other poets invited here and instead, as much as
possible, present their work within the context of their own statements and
a brief, general history of this field in its current form.
Modern visual poetics finds its precedents in the works of Stephane
Mallarme, novelties like the renowned tail-of-the-mouse poem of Lewis
Carroll, and early twentieth-century experiments in Dada, Futurism in Italy
and Russia, the British Vorticist group, and various Anglo-American Mod-
ernists such as e. e. cummings, Bob Brown, and many others. Motivations
toward the visual manipulation of the poetic text varied along a wide spec-
trum of political and aesthetic concerns, some of which dovetailed all too
readily into nationalistic movements in the 1920s and 1930s, some of
which advocated avant-garde agendas of oppOSitional subversion or
utopian transformation. But there is no unified link between aesthetics and
politics-let alone nationalism-in the overall field. The single element
which does unite this otherwise improbably disparate list is an engagement
with the visual form of poetry as an element of linguistic meaning. This is
the same element which unites the work of the poets in this contemporary
selection-who are otherwise as distinct in their poetic and aesthetic iden-
tities as were the practitioners of earlier decades. All of these poets are
engaged in some way or other with the manipulation of the visible proper-
ties of language, letters, words on a page, and/or in combination with
images. Their reasons for doing so range from clearly articulated poetic
principles extending, critiquing, or commenting upon the terms of Mod-
ernism in its latest manifestations to creative investigations proceeding in
advance of any clearly stated aesthetic program.
While the term visual poetry has very little specific meaning beyond
indicating an intensifed self-consciousness about the potential of these
elements to be an integral part of the work, there are established traditions
whose concerns continue to be manifest in contemporary work. Dada and
Futurist interests in appropriating advertising typography or mass-pro-
duced imagery are visible in the collage practices of Spencer Selby. The
aesthetic rigor of modern typographers Piet Zwart and Lazar EI Lissitzky
can be sensed in the work of Pete Spence. And Ana Hatherly's work is a
direct continuation of the mid-century Concretism of which she was a part.
In this field, as in any other, distinctive individuals have also had the effect
of galvanizing interest, if not imitators. One has only to think of bp Nichol
and Steve McCaffery as the Toronto Research Group in the Canadian con-
102 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
text of the 1970s, of Bob Cobbing, Peter Meyer, Lawrence Upton, and oth-
ers forming the London Group of Experimental Poets, and/or the de Cam-
pos brothers in Brazil and Eugen Gomringer in Germany, to recognize how
potently a few individuals can stimulate poetic investigation. But poets also
continue to arrive at visual experiment through idiosyncratic or individual
investigations only to learn afterwards that there was/is a tradition within
which their work has a place and (sometimes) precedents.
At the present the field seems to be gaining energy from the ready
accessibility of highly varied technological means as well as from an inter-
est in the visual life of language within the public sphere of daily life. Desk-
top publishing has increased the sensitivity to once specialized notions
such as "font," or "point size," or orientation on the page. I have deliberately
tried to select poets working in every possible medium rather than empha-
size only those who make use of electronic and/or digital new media. Thus
each of these individuals has used different production tools: Steve McCaf-
fery, a typewriter which assigns every letter the same sized space within a
line; Emily McVarish, a letterpress in characteristic overprinting; Darren
Wershler-Henry, digital scanning and manipulations; Fernando Aguiar, a
photographic pastiche; Ana Hatherly, a cut-up technique; Alexandr Bubnov,
hand-drawn letters on a carefully penciled schematic layout; Jeremy Adler,
stencils and ink; Bob Cobbing, a Xerox machine; Spencer Selby, Xeroxing
and handwriting; and Pete Spence's found, cut-and-paste materials.
Some comment on the source of their work within technological con-
straints. Emily McVarish states that "fundamentally, my work explores the
physicality of language in its relationship to the generation of meaning." The
adverb fundamentally reveals the full weight of convictions each of these
poets reveals in forging the visual and verbal at the moment of conception
of the work, rather than after the fact. She goes on, "Letterpress, being a
process of concrete construction, from the setting of type to its imprint on
the page-and at every stage of set-up in between-spatializes and objec-
tifies text in a way that acts as an extension of the collage technique with
which my writing begins." At the opposite end of the production spectrum,
Darren Wershler-Henry works in digital media to "photodestroy" found
material (in this case, the obituary notice for Kathy Acker). Conceiving of his
process of "reconstruction as a scar that shouldn't necessarily erase the
ravages that have been done to the original structure," his process is to fill
a "damaged text with another that acts like scar tissue."
Textual process is not always the primary motivation for these
works-some are conceived within visual procedures. For instance,
Johanna Drucker 103
Jeremy Adler's Pythagorean Sonnet Sequence, from which the work here
is taken, "creates a visual sonnet including all geometrical shapes, like
Kepler's model of the universe. The plan is to use mechanical means-
stencils-to create something human (and refreshing?)." And Bob Cob-
bing's work, part of a dialogue with Lawrence Upton begun in 1994, is a
"variation" on the theme of Domestic Ambient Noise in which "any means
of making marks [is] permissible, including computer, finger painting, type-
writer, found material etc." Cobbing's work is intended for performance, and
visually graphic as these works may be, they serve as points of departure
for a temporal, vocal enactment. Cobbing's eclecticism is mirrored in that
of Pete Spence, but the aesthetic sensibility of the two is widely discrepant
-Spence's work has a hard-edged clarity which suggests readability, a
decipherable code within the diagrammatic, schematic, and organized space
of his page. Spence gathers "bits and pieces of typography, lay-out marks,
blocks, circles, triangles, etc. from old magazines" and starts "pasting 'em
down treating each bit as equal in value" working "with little interest in a
semantic evaluation or evolution." Similarly, Spencer Selby "uses early to
mid-century American low culture to create ... new context and meanings"
thus making "statements which are both social and personal .... " The
Xerox machine is a major tool for Selby, as it is for Ana Hatherly. Both
poets take full advantage of the ready capacity for reproduction and trans-
formation of tone and contrast in that medium, though Hatherly's textual
density reads through abrupt juxtapositions, ruptures, and sutures while
Selby's layered pages stress iconographic and pictorial possibilities. Fer-
nando Aguiar frequently performs the writing of his work in real-time pro-
ductions, painting at a larger scale in bright colors, but like Selby, Aguiar is
interested in the contrasts offered by differences in the historically specific
syntax of images and texts. Using ''visual languages with 100 years of dif-
ference" for "a language of a new century."
The issue of semantic value is treated very differently in Alexandr
Bubnov's palindrome, where it is the basis of a tightly woven pattern, a
fixed and reiterated meaning, reified by the shape on the page and the rep-
etitious mode of making. Steve McCaffery's "typestract" is equally process
driven, and equally dense with semantic value as a result. "The piece
investigates 'vertical and depth syntax' and the potential of the typewriter to
construct graphic accumulations"-in this case ''the systematic overprint
and cumulative gathering of the alphabet in a vertical row of twenty charac-
ters." He cites Michael Gibbs's idea of "semantic chords" as a retinal-cogni-
tive effect in such works, producing "a visual liberation through a graphic
1 04 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
suffocation" in a work which epitomizes the effective and performative
quality of visual poetics. As in every case cited here, he uses visuality as
an integral element of textuality, not as a decorative surplus or after-
thought.
Ken Edwards
Nine prose pieces from
BIRD MIGRATION IN THE 21 ST CENTURY
1 Alcyone, daughter of Aeolus and wife
of Ceyx, King of Trachis, who perished in
a shipwreck, whereupon she drowned
herself in the sea. The gods changed
them into kingfishers, imagined to build
their nests upon the waters, which
calmed at their breeding time, before and
after the winter solstice.
2 London, the "settlement on the
marshes", sat on clay of the Eocene
tertiary, City and 32 boroughs.
3 Brilliant blue-green above, with vivid
cobalt streak up back, white throat and
2
It happened the halcyon day1
began to open into the four walls of
the world; and if awakening out of
and into this was pleasant, so too
was the concomitant sense of
unknowing, once again, both so
familiar and estranging; that is, as
long as the person kept his/her
head still, and did not try to answer
the questions that started to cram
the unaccustomed brain: how much
space is there? compared to what?
in which city, if city this is?2 do I
own this room? what is the country
of my origin? which gender am I?
how will it end, if it can be said to
have an end?
8
Sirens gliss in the street, a sound
world, a sound wave, provoke the
meltdown of particles, birds being
still, bright liquid. Gas falling, utterly
blue,3 Moorish men at table.
4
You
could fix your gaze on it and then
neck-patch, chestnut underparts, caught
in headlong plunge above water.
4 The invasion of AI-Andalus by Tariq-ibn-
Zayyad, 711 AD (89th year of the
Hegirah), through Gibraltar.
5 Thus, the A above middle C (submedi-
ant of the scale of C major), 440 Hertz
(cycles per second).
6 And the A an octave above that, fre-
quency doubled (880 Hertz); very low fre-
quency radio waves, 10 KiloHertz;
infrared radiation, 10
9
-10
11
KHz; visible
light, 10
12
KHz; cosmic rays at 10
19
KHz
and up.
7 Imagined as a downward augmented
4th or tritone, the "devil's interval".
8 "By 'darkness' I mean 'a lack of
knowing'-just as anything that you do
not know or may have forgotten may be
said to be 'dark'to you, for you cannot
see it with your inward eye:'
9 "Black Wednesday" (11 Nov 1992) to
Mayday 1997. An auction of liquidated
stock, monitored by thugs, operating as
Ken Edwards 105
the wave would come past, over-
whelmingly. Or you could go with
that wave, keep your eyes moving
with it, and then a funny thing hap-
pens, all movement ceases, the
wave is absolutely still, and it's as if
the sound of it then also fades
away, because you're synchronised
with its frequency5-the sound has
become silence, as movement has
become stillness.
12
He's far from home; but he doesn't
know what he means by that, nor
how the condition could be
changed. It's as though the term
were not equal to itself, a fiction or
contrivance, like the octave's really
being the "same" note.
6
In the dis-
tance of the evening, a train's whis-
tle;7 in the morning, the sunshine of
lost days striking the counterpane.
Be not afraid, do duck & dive.
19
In the chromatic orbit of the com-
puter screen, he flicks a wrist to
send his encoded wishes across
half the globe, dancing through an
electronic cloud of unknowing
8
till
they reach their destination. The
Chancellor rises; indices fluctuate,
a fax comes in.9 Your father is
dying/living/dying, the blame is
nowhere. Why are you daunted?
And why should you not think? I
106 boundary 21 Spring 1999
fast as the profit thread allows. The
necessity of the terminology to under-
stand this. Work fitful, a few frenzied
hands go up, a breathtaking scam, really.
The recession hits the book trade. In the
name of MasterCard, Visa, and American
Express, Amen.
10 That is, the radio repairman's name-
which may have been "Jose", rather than
"Timmy", but of course is an arbitrary sig-
nifier in the Saussurean sense. As for the
wavelengths, this was the time before
presets and frequency modulation.
11 Spanish musical instrument consisting
of stretched parchment over a wide-
mouthed jar, into which is inserted a stick,
rubbed by the moistened hand.
12 Gibraltar in the 1960s.
understand all that, and accept it
since I can't change it. And all of
this may kill me. The economics
don't work out anyway, try as he
may, at his workstation in the very
midst of the English language.
21
Which was his habitation and came
to be the only one he knew, after he
learned it had been forbidden to go
outside it, as though it were a fixed
wavelength. The waves lived inside
the yellow light of the radiogram the
man came to fix, whose name was
not, after all, arbitrary, as he'd
thought.
1o
The siren, the sine wave,
swooping back from infinity, the
smell of its glass against which
moisture condensed. And men
below in the street at Christmas,
hands moistened against the stick
of the zambomba,11 and the English
sailors, drunk of course, roaring
their songs in small groups stum-
bling on Main Street,12 wishing the
best of the new year to the stalled
motorists as midnight approached
and you could begin to hear the
ships hooting in the harbour.
24
So stood grasping the bars, watch-
ing the colours play on the ceiling,
pastel and primary, from the neon
below, from Tony's ice cream shop,
13 That is, in real time, the origin of the
universe appears as a singularity, though
in imaginary time there are no singulari-
ties or boundaries.
14 "Now we are all brothers"-line from a
zarzuela (popular Spanish operetta fea-
turing alternating dialogue and songs, so
called after the zarzas or bramble bushes
native to the site of the 17th century
Spanish royal hunting-lodge).
Ken Edwards 107
listening to the sound-which room
is this?-of the drunken sailors,
the echo of a singularity13 coming
down the aeons in the radio spec-
trum, the radiogram in the sitting
room, ahora somos todos her-
manos,14 needles and cloth, sliding
paper, the big zarzuela arias long
silenced in the Theatre Royal,
jumping for joy in the place of birth
and death.
38
How much space is there in the
room? And outside the room? If he
contemplates it for long enough,
will the excess words fall away?
Where have the colours gone, after
the light changed? If there's an out-
side, what's inside it? Are these the
photographs? Who's the other
one? Why the smoke? Won't you
give me a wave? If the world fell
away in the smoke, what then, and
what is there about smoke that's
wholly impervious, or imperme-
able? What if the lights were to fail?
Is that it, then?
40
Some time in an era of great light,
at the start of the second half of his
15 001 mezzo. . . life (the midst),15 his thought bur-
geoned onto the computer screen
in such fashion as to suggest, or
foretell. He was in his cot, and the
108 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
16 John Trinder, 55, stabbed to death in
Solway Road, East Dulwich, early on
Xmas morning 1995, after drinking in the
Rye Hotel.
17 Mother evacuated to Casablanca in
1940, father drafted into the Gibraltar
Defence Force; married 1947. Author
born 1950, sister 1954. Migration. Family
reunited, London 1971. Three sons born
to sister, 1986, 1988, 1991, in Kingston-
on-Thames.
18 Late summer, 1966, I'll be there, I'll
always be there. Water does expand as it
freezes, Planck's constant is a certain
value, which is why we're here, and the
equations harden imaginary into real
time.
music played: it was the music of
love. A century would begin some
time thereafter, whatever that
meant. So he searched through all
the newspapers and all the data-
bases for [the word]. He looked
across the table, to see his friends
eating food he had cooked; soon
they would go their separate ways.
In the hotel next door, shortly after
midnight on Christmas morning, a
man heard [the word]; he picked up
a loaf of bread and left. Twenty
minutes later, before reaching his
home, he was stabbed more than
twenty times on the left-hand side
of his upper body, the cuts slashing
through the material of his sheep-
skin coat.
16
He felt love for his fam-
ily;17 but it was not an easy thing.
And to nudge back into the dynam-
ics, that was what always had to be
done, for we're all still here and I
guess we'll see.
45
The newspapers said the season
had begun. The newspapers said
ah, look at all the lonely people,
where do they all belong?18 It was
the other that did for him, that
knifed the bubble: his legs were in
the way, so the other sprang up,
primed, and pinned him against the
column. Then the other, his face
contorted and coloured with rage,
said: [the word]. It was the bad
Ken Edwards 109
word, after all that. After all that
was said and done. So it was that
the other finally set him free, which
he achieved by smashing some-
thing. Because he'd locked love
away in his heart, and the family
was nowhere, or at least distant.
And some months later, snow fell
and remained on the ground,
everywhere: it was a Winter Won-
derland. And he wondered, and
couldn't remember ever experienc-
ing such cold.
110 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
Flavio Ermini
Thought and Word: Reflections on Contemporary Italian Poetics
And the amber has grown
finely everywhere
the joy has grown
joy of those unable to speak
aparl from knowing
their own dark marriage
with the sky and the forests
-Andrea Zanzotto
The new poetics active in Italy have many elements in common and also
some differences.
In common is the destiny of growing at the margins of want and lac-
eration, of looking at a poetical dimension where there is no space for the
aesthetic, ornamental vocation of the word. In common is the borderline
project that accounts for all those interior processes where the positive and
the negative, ascension and fall, shadow and darkness coexist, are inter-
twined in and contribute to restoring the originary possibility of the poetic
word of being and of saying its wisdom. The nodal point of contemporary
poetic research in Italy is constituted by the pulsion toward the inaugural
word, a word capable of fully recuperating its primitive value, its initial
potentialities of creating places and things, the mutable and varied horizon
of the world, departing at the same time from the communicative and
expressive functions to which it has been bent. The new poetics also con-
stitute themselves as a laboratory for a reconciliation of poetic and philo-
sophicallanguages in a single illocutionary form. There are five possible
modulations of this word destined to recuperate its aural capability of
founding its own sense. We've so far suggested what is in common. These
modulations are the differences:
1. The inauguration of sense. The poetic word is the hand that in
leaning upon an object does not belong to the body from which it extends.
It manifests itself in the separation that gives birth to a new sense, calling
forth a figural thought that acknowledges its inherent duality. In comple-
mentarity and exclusion, the figures of the limit document the characteris-
tics of jagged terrains, irreducible to the cognitive habit: places of fall and
loss, where beyondness becomes visible. These liminal figures represent
Flavio Ermini 111
that access to silence that is seldom allowed. A silence destined to listen to
voices, as the desert is destined to experience movement. In this interme-
diate reign poets weave their voices. With a gesture that implies an uproot-
ing motion before the advent of sense. This is the leaning forward of being
on the thought that intends being's containment. The poetry of Giacomo
Bergamini, Fabrizio Breschi, Michelangelo Coviello, Eugenio De Signori-
bus, Camillo Pennati, Antonio Rossi.
2. The responsibility of the word. In each deliberative act the word
obfuscates the colonized view while casting light on what it founds. Persis-
tent confirmation in the text of the immanence of textual knowledge, the
word advances in liminal areas, in proximity to the zero. Its nature is non-
functional and intransitive. Its achievements the consolidation of an atopia.
Whencefrom, the relation is difference. Hardness, vibration. Opacity, trans-
parency. Writing is defined by the simultaneous action of two opposite
movements, both facing alterity and inhabited by the signs of a collapse of
order. Both situated on the shady margins of the teleological course of his-
tory. The poetry of Giovanni Schiavo Campo, Mara Cini, Osvaldo Coluc-
cino, Mario Cresci, Gio Ferri, Monica Larocchi, Giampiero Neri, Cesare
Ruffato, Raniero Teti, Sirio Tommasoli.
3. Poetic know/edge. Living through contemporaneity means to go
beyond the limits of its internal frontier. And accepting that in proximity of
the distant the recognized may encounter its form. Poets say what
exceeds the plain designation of things, calling into play relation and differ-
ence, No and Yes. They announce the revealing of sense where there is
no protection and nothing is withheld in quality and computation. This
openness is revealed via the graces of betweenness, in the form of a
departure from sense which discloses the ancestral past of pre-sense, of
the latency that unveils the route from one order to another. Where other is
yet another, unrelated and nonsublimated, united in an event that happens
but doesn't yet have a name. We confront areas withdrawn from the com-
forting clarity of consciousness and essentially unstable forms because of
the distance between what already is in our minds and what does not yet
belong to memory. The poetry of Bruno Conte, Gabriella Drudi, Vito Giu-
liana, Lucio Saffaro, Marosia Castaldi, Marco Furia, Francesco Marotta,
Rosa Pierno, Toti Scialoja, Ida Travi.
4. Fragmented truth. Grasping the perSistence of this openness in
contemporary thought-as the thought of its crisis-means to accept the
questioning that the word incessantly promotes. Imperfection is founded
here. Governance lies in this fading. Imperfection announces itself as a
112 boundary 21 Spring 1999
swerve from the codified, or an advancement from tradition, as a work
intentionally left unfinished. Or it may appear as a sign taken from the dis-
order that precedes form, bearing stylistic traces of impurity, roughness,
illicit bodies. Imperfection is the element that is commonly amended or
removed; it is an openness toward what no system can foresee: given in a
glance that decomposes the false unities of the world and exposes dishar-
monies, fractures, disconnections, dissyntacticisms, anomalies, crevices.
The poetry of Vincenzo Accame, Nanni Balestrini, Guido Ballo, Brandolino
Brandolini d'Adda, Davide Campi, Alberto Cappi, Domenico Cara, Franco
Cavallo, Agostino Conto, Gilberto Finzi, Milli Graffi, Giancarlo Majorino,
Nanni Menetti, Giovanna Sandri, Edoardo Sanguineti.
5. The persistence of the sign. Carrying on the research of a new
language means to stage a scene that contains disquietude and doubt.
Mutation. It means to promote the unexpected in the linguistic event.
Words move between persistence and change in nomination. Fu"ness
spills over. Falling on the outside of things. In unending waves. A language
different from common sense is found. A language that lifts the edges of
the unformulated. A language with no discernible laws, consequences,
foundation, irreducible to hermeneutic clarity. In this place of the happening
a radical experience of encounter with the other is proposed, as a meeting
point of beginning and end, in which the notion of law takes shape in its
absolute atemporality. The poetry of Claudio Adami, Paolo Biadini, Giorgio
Bonacini, Aldo Ferraris, Giuliano Gramigna, Cesare Greppi, Jolanda
Insana, Cosimo Lerose, Valerio Magrelli, Giuliano Mesa, Magdalo Mussio,
Mario Ramous, Luca Sala, Roberto Sanesi, Andrea Zanzotto.
Conclusion. The dialogue of contemporary poetics converges on
that point in which voice and silence belong to each other; on the necessity
to retrace the historical moment when the caesura between Yes and No
took place; on the possibility of wording what has been forced into silence.
And yet, how can a language be enunciated when it declines to articulate
its thought within the grammatical net of reason? There is no method. Per-
haps the only thing that can motivate poets to find a final origin of sense is
the constraint of moving toward a form of writing that forces sense to trace
itself without certainty of result. Here things are and are not, because they
are in becoming. Here the origin remains a future and writing happens in
decomposition. The five poetics I've presented demonstrate howthe liter-
ary research in Italy is moving toward this unthought.
(Translated and abridged from Italian by Carla Billitteri)
Deanna Ferguson 113
Deanna Ferguson
Eight and a half conditions for the existence of restricted code
Oh lands of abundance. They are more cruel than those lands in
which there is scarcity. To see the suspicion come into the eye of
an owner of trees who does not care about the fruit, but is trying to
calculate whether or not the people who are asking for it will be
trustworthy on the land, is an awesome thing.
-Ed Dorn, By the Sound
Born not really manual. Interest support of pay-off to close a nostril, or
weather exaggerates urge on the born dull cinders, but not good, not for-
tune, about to bring trial against.
As such flush in the church of the trailer. As if hours scholarships you to
your rear. All the boiled scars are mine resenting paste of the harvest to
impulse and graduates.
Once a medicine bent down to hear a misprevented beast signifying.
Goods found bad in an arm chair down stairs for long the pavement. One-
self telegraphing haltingly philosophy.
Brushed experience moves ease narrate or under ground of self lapse,
mine a disfigured order. Object-rub-reducing conjecture to invention.
Squire stood by identity swinging stale. Swallow up for the weekly pene-
trating itch of the twin johns pyre and speech on on foremost. Perhaps the
subject fussed as his habitat was reconstructed upon a thoroughfare.
Otherwise to drink democratic transient by dint of old sermons against the
we provincial generation of south-easterlies so that no matter what a holy
administrator might of been, the final ultra violent carriage weighs tired, the
devil system is worthy and the desirable testament is grey.
As she tottered nausea in range. Cunning had reigned so long but there it
was, parked in the space where a man preferred coarse. Later came the
project oh yes a sequence of chiefs at the barrel. Truly described as
114 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
touched and managed as atomized. For the rest of intelligent life advanced
as public bureau.
In anatomy combat is removed. Insufficience could be insufficient beach or
insufficient obedience. Or one onion in the cartoon. In any case celery is
crisp. Delicacy interferes bellows. Get one speck of confirmation.
Sum of the spill plus the fleet is the may gain senate with the clue. Perhaps
a complete corkscrew situation. Yield to short of sight might calculate lion
diner. Inadequate destitution and squelched amplification no relief.
A mate-unexpected. If that's not going to be payable then the terrain
should be free. At least. Shaft our spirit romance to index of synthetic
blessing. Pricks at the circus such. Thousand-million dogs of waste.
Order down a rhyme and right then affection steps into nuisance and then
the end is getting guilty and reduction is all extremely abroad, then, original
interruption. Looks like nylon settings buzzed me dumb hon all aflutter in
situation.
Advertise in the short of detail, to double over and do that in its mercy
wholly. It did. Canary honoured the terms, death, as the tax down the tube.
Are terms the act or honour death or tax. Can picket restriction if rapt in
economical flotsam.
Woman what working hedgey stockings '" Flower open my belly in saucy
hopes the precise aforesaid cherry will invest care in this simple one who
invented pain the colour of anywhere in the group.
Allen Fisher 115
Allen Fisher
The Poetics of the Complexity Manifold
Poetics encompasses all fields of each artistic endeavour, incidentally and
substantially, held by ideas of resthetics and how consciousness is consti-
tuted. This interspins with the understanding that resthetics has a deter-
mined effect upon comprehension and evaluation, theoretical or practical,
ethical or political. A poet's resthetics substantially contributes to what con-
stitutes that poet's consciousness. The resthetics for one activity substan-
tially contributes to the resthetics of each different activity, across genres,
across disciplines, across levels. Comparison across genres may be
objected to as inappropriate, but this is a failure to understand the basis of
aestheticisation, consciousness, and their unifying function. This is not to
say that crass generic comparisons are viable, for example, a recent
review of the poetry of J.H. Prynne compares his work with paintings by
Willem De Kooning.1 Where the comparison is made between works of the
same consciousness, comparable resthetics become less strained and,
eventually, better comprehended.
Let me enlarge on this preliminary proposal to the world in which a
poet or painter perceives where they are. The proposal is that the Com-
plexity Manifold gathers the resthetics at all levels and all functions of a
poet's production, both consciousness and product, and is responsible for
what is gathered and held, ordered, disrupted, retained, and lost. Poetics,
in this sense, spins across the epistemological boundaries of scale and
energy. A poet's attitude to and understanding of quantum field theory will
affect that poet's experience of gravity, drawing, and reading, just as a
painter'S comprehension of the annual Cup Final affects that painter's
interest in television as well as the local ball game. How a poet applies an
aesthetic stance interspins the poet's consciousness, which affects that
poet's capacity to be active differently elsewhere.
Project schema. To begin with, consider the concept of the project
schema. A worry leaps attention, why do you need projects, can't you just
write poems, aren't projects always long projects? A project can be an
unscripted notion or a precise plan, both and either of these. Each project
has a different schema, furthermore, at another level, each project could
be the resthetics of a different poetics, deliberately or incidentally so. Each
project demands its own analysis and comprehension. Application of one
analysis on one project can be used on the next, but it may not work, what
116 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
is more, it may have been designed to deliberately not work. A casual
observation can be made, perhaps that's the overall aesthetic, a demanded
breakage from the expectation, to trip the self in its own stride. Fracture
and facture, well there's a premise, does this mean that life is fractured and
needs repair, that we live in fragmented times, are our understandings as
banal as that, or does this lead to meaning that the process of facture,
from the constructivist idea of putting together as a process of production,
derives from materials that are in a state of oosthetic complexity different
from the oosthetic state of the poet facturing? Each project is different in
schema, more than one project is under way during the same period. What
does "under way" mean, the complexity of facturing a poem with an unfin-
ished canvas on the easel next door. The activity of painting with the inter-
nal energy of the inconclusive research under way, or the half completed
verse on the computer down the corridor.
Each of the poet's projects has a different spacetime, one is exten-
sive or scheduled to be abandoned, another is planned for breakage and
damage after facture; one is planned against a numeric prefiguration,
another concludes when the research and vocabulary analysis, used as a
basis for it, are exhausted. Some of these projects are as short as a chap-
book or single verse, others are over many books or an entire exhibition.
The idea of project is that its conception precedes its facture, and some-
times that conception is instantaneous and sometimes it takes many
months to plan.
Conceptual Programme. The project may be differentiated from the
conceptual programme by recognising that the latter concerns the machine
or apparatus for each project. Sometimes this is a deliberate innovation
from earlier work, sometimes this has to do with stance, or a second voice,
prOjected as an other vociferated by the poet. Clearly the ideas of project
schema and conceptual programme overlap. A conceptual programme
which relies on a prefigured structure clarifies the project schema; in
another example the schema may be both diagrammatic and epistemolog-
ical and its limits will be deliberately in a state of proposal and breakage
from the proposal, in a process-showing method that quietly works through
transformations of the pages already written. A work may be undermined
by additions and extractions, and this may result in extra works or large
gaps in the main text.
Research. I use the term research for the work in poetry and paint-
ing that is carried out in parallel with work in the factory, in the laboratory,
and in the facturing process. Irrespective of the different schema and
Allen Fisher 117
spacetime parameters, two or more programmes of research may be
under way at once. The results from the research sometimes directly fea-
ture in a poetry sequence or painting, sometimes they feature differently in
both. Sometimes they deliberately feed each other, sometimes their parity
is incidental.
Fracture and facture. Fracture may be considered a necessary and
positive process. A metonym for broken civilisation or damaged social duty
is not necessarily intended. The initial facture derives from direct fracture
of the research. The factured product is a consequence of the fracture
which has been involved, particularly in post-collage and in transforma-
tional poetics. By this I mean that the facture of the text has been possible
through a series of transformations. Fracture and facture thus overlap with
the earlier proposals, of project schema, conceptual programme and
research, and lead into an overlap with the ideas of transformation
addressed from a variety of levels.
Transformation. At the level of words in the text, for instance, trans-
formations may be used which deliver word links through the use of sound
(rhyming), comparable meaning (rhetoric), disruption of meaning (poetic),
and damaged pasting (found in most genres including poetry, painting, and
comedy). The factured product has thus undergone transformation through
a series of fractures and factures. Sometimes this series involves planned
breakage and incidental repair, sometimes the work uses collagic disrup-
tion, sometimes the pasting together of different parts simulates continuity.
Underpinnings: theoretical and practical. In conclusion it might be
useful to discuss some bases of these poetiCS. In 1804 William Blake
painted Albion walking into the New Jerusalem carrying one of the glass
spheres for making electricity to his partner. In 1817 John Keats articulated
"Negative Capability" as "being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without
any irritable reaching after fact and reason."2 Charles Olson was to paste
this against Werner Heisenberg's 1927 "Uncertainty Principle" to clarify his
manifolds in 1950 and 1956.
3
In 1818 Faraday published his essays in phi-
losophy and cesthetics, followed in 1821 by his first conception of "field." In
the nineteenth century a range of understandings of truth were discussed,
continuing what by then had become a tradition of questioning finite and
golden concepts. Such questioning had already started to promote radical
change through the work of Samual Taylor Coleridge and eventually Ger-
ard Manley Hopkins. Project schemas had groundings in ideas of visual
planning and geometric configuration that needed radical shift from ideas
of Golden Section in Euclid and Vitruvius. Conceptual programmes were
118 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
beginning to establish a difference from the ideas of proportion articulated
by Fibonacci. In the second half of the nineteenth century Riemann, Bolyai,
Lobachevsky, Gauss, and others had demonstrated alternatives to the lin-
ear geometry of Euclid's Elements. Baudelaire and Courbet differentiated
between finished and complete. Monet visualised the amorphous nature of
position and momentum in an age where report of the fleeting was part of
the new science of phenomenology. Before the end of the nineteenth cen-
tury Rosso and Cezanne had articulated the shifts in perception that
understood shifts in physics. Braque was reading Bergson and Nietzsche.
By the 1920s G6del had proven that truth cannot be demonstrated. Ideas
of order, planning and exact proportions were developed into ideas of com-
plexity, linking natural constants like the speed of light to indeterminacy in
quantum theory. For instance, the ideas of ether and space and time were
reappraised following the concepts of field in Faraday then Maxwell then
Einstein, Hilbert and Lorentz, and others. Electricity and magnetism became
inseparable, but human existence could no longer rely on the certainty that
potential led to action. In the 1970s understandings of gravity and its con-
straints on spacetime and existential form matched Rene Thorn's analysis
of morphogenesis and biological development (promoted as catastrophe
theory).4 "Catastrophe" marked each heartbeat, each electromagnetic shock
wave lost in observation of it, felt at each breath as altitude and thus oxy-
gen affected each conducted bar beat, each brush stroke. It became
apparent that process and development, like quantum leaps, are step-like
or sometimes better characterised as phase transition activities, that con-
ceptual programmes needed to take this into account. Subsequently Man-
delbrot's rambling analysis, published as Fractal theory, partly articulated
an array of potential truths.
5
All of these factors impinge on research, and
indeed become part of the reading for that research. These factors also
impinge on transformation, as each sentence or phrase shifts with the
step-like change in words. This is the threshold of the Complexity Manifold
and the description has only just begun.
1. Birgitta Johansson, The Engineering of Being: An Ontological Approach to J.H.
Prynne, Uppsala, Sweden, 1997.
2. John Keats letter to George and Thomas Keats, c. 21 December 1817.
3. For example, Charles Olson, Human Universe and Other Essays, Grove, New York,
1967.
4. Rene Thorn, Structural Stability and Morphogenesis: An Outline of a General Theory
of Models, trans. D. H. Fowler, Reading, Massachusetts, 1975.
5. Benoit B. Mandelbrot, Fractals: Form, Chance, and Dimension, San Francisco, 1977.
Edouard Glissant 119
Edouard Glissant
from Introduction to a Poetics of the Diverse
I speak and, before all, I write in the presence of all the world's languages.
Many languages are dying today throughout the world-in Black Africa for
example, languages are disappearing as their users are absorbed into a
larger national community, or because the language is no longer a lan-
guage of peasant production or, simply, of production and thus becomes
eroded, or simply because its users disappear physically from the country
where they lived-but we know that we write in the presence of all the
world's languages, even if we know none of them. To take my own exam-
ple, I am permeated, poetically permeated with that necessity even as I
have incredible difficulty speaking any other language than those I use
(Creole and French). But to write in the presence of all the world's lan-
guages does not mean to know all the world's languages. It means that in
the present context of multiple literatures and of the relation of poetics with
the chaos-world, I can no longer write in a monolingual manner. That is to
say that I return and force my language not into syntheses but toward lin-
guistic openings which permit me to conceive of the relations between
today's languages on the surface of the earth-relations of domination,
connivance, absorption, oppression, erosion, tangency, etc.-as the fact of
an immense drama, an immense tragedy from which my own language
cannot be exempt and safe. And therefore I cannot write monolinguistically
in my language; I write it in the presence of this tragedy, of this drama. One
cannot save one language in the world by letting the others die ....
Yesterday, in the days of the founding books and of all the literatures that
emanated from them, thought-what I call systemat.ic thought-organized,
studied, projected these slow and imperceptible repercussions between
languages; it foresaw and ideologically framed the movement of the world
it legitimately governed. Today this systematic thought- I like to call it
"continental thought"-has failed to take into account the generalized non-
system of the world's cultures. Another form of thought is developing, more
intuitive, more fragile, threatened, but in sync with the chaos-world and
the unforeseeable. Though buttressed perhaps by the conquests of the
human and social sciences, it derives from a poetic and imaginative vision
120 boundary 21 Spring 1999
of the world. This thought I call "archipelagic thought," a nonsystematic,
inductive thought that explores the unforeseen of the world-totality and
attunes the written to the oral and the oral to the written. What I see is that
today the continents are being "archipelagized," as least as perceived
from the outside. The Americas are archipelagizing themselves, are con-
stituting themselves into regions beyond national borders. And I believe
that this term of "region" needs to be given some dignity. Europe is archi-
pelagizing. linguistic regions, cultural regions, beyond the barriers of nation-
hood, are islands-but open islands, this being their main condition for
survival.
To live the world-totality from the place that is one's own means to estab-
lish a relation, not consecrate exclusion. I believe that literature, in terms of
the question of identity, is coming into a period when it will produce epic
works, new and contemporary epics. All atavistic cultures, as we said,
have known an epic literary beginning. We have mentioned the great
founding books of humanity. From the Old Testament to the Iliad, from the
Egyptian Book of the Dead to the Indian Bhagavad-Gita, from the Icelandic
sagas to the Chanson de Roland, from the Aeneid to the Popul Vuh or the
Chi/am Balam of the Native Americans, to the Finnish Kalevala, the great
epic books that found humanity are books that reassure the community on
its own fate and that consequently tend, not in themselves but by the use
made of them, to exclude the other from this community. I say "not in them-
selves," because the great books that found and root communities are in
fact books of wandering. And if one examines the Old Testament, the Iliad,
the sagas, the Aeneid, one sees right away that these books are "com-
plete" because while their vocation is one of rooting, they also and immedi-
ately propose the vocation of wandering. It seems to me that a new, con-
temporary epic literature will begin to appear as soon as the world-totality
will begin to be conceived of as a new community. But then we will have to
consider that this new epic, contrary to the great founding books of atavis-
tic humanities, will be given through a language that is multilingual in the
very language in which it will be written. This epic literature will also
exclude the necessity for an expiatory victim, as one sees them appear in
the founding books of atavistic humanity. The victim and expiation allow for
the exclusion of all that they cannot buy back. Or else they permit us to
Edouard Glissant 121
"universalize" abusively. The new epic literature will establish relation and
not exclusion. Finally, such an epic literature may be able to do without the
concept of being, in order to remain astounded by the imagination of
becoming, of all the possible becomings of the world, of all possible exist-
ings. The question of being is no longer asked in that profitable solitude to
which the thought of the universal had been reduced. The universal has
been upset and toppled by the diverse ....
Let me end with some brief thoughts on what I consider one of the most
important arts for the future: the art of translation. What every translation
henceforth suggests in its very principle, by the very passage it attempts
between one language and another, is the sovereignty of all the world's
languages. For this reason translation is both the sign and the evidence
that we have to imaginatively conceive this totality of languages. Just as
the writer now practices this totality in the language he writes in, so does
the translator manifest it in the passage from one language to another,
confronted as he is by the singularity of each language. But, just as in our
chaos-world one cannot save anyone language by letting the others per-
ish, so it is for the translator who cannot establish a relation between two
singular systems, between two individual languages, except in the pres-
ence of all the other ones, powerful in his imagination, even if he doesn't
know any of them.
(Translated from French by Pierre Joris)
122 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
MIIIi Graffl
Borderworker
The utopian project of the avant-garde, of bringing art into the quotidian, or
organizing a new kind of life-beginning with the renovation of art, with the
construction, in Breton's words, of an "inhabitable world"-is commonly
understood as a political project, and the term failure that is used to define
the outcome of such a project is the unavoidable consequence of such an
interpretative perspective. In fact, the utopian content of any art theory
involves areas that have nothing to do with politics, and this very consider-
ation should caution against overlapping or homologating the spheres of
art and politics.
The only purpose of a literary project focused on utopia is the formal-
ization of the potent fulcrum of poetry: "u-topos" is the nonplace, the place
that does not exist, the unknowable site where art takes shape, the iIIocality
of Emily Dickinson, the terrible and conclusive second night of Blanchot.
The avant-garde has put in evidence and indicated this non-place of art's
geneSis as something that is impossible to define, find, tell, or even just nar-
rate: a nonexistent yet propulsive, ungraspable yet productive site. To per-
ceive this non-place is to understand the foundational character of art (that
is its future) and to formulate a judgment on the present. The act of affirm-
ing the utopia jolted the artist outside the contingent, and at the same time it
drew him inside a reformulated present; it hurled an opening that was a
ravine, an abyss, the vertigo of facing inhibitions, hindrances, frictions,
obligations, obscurities, fears, nightmares, dissonances, over- and under-
evaluations. This opening operated with the same force outwardly (through
the acceptance of any material; technique as a triumph of the het-
eronomous) as well as inwardly {Boccioni's interior search, Breton's uncon-
scious}. The non-place constituted a tuning with the organicism of research
in art, an interminable research. Products would be found, eventually, with
some surprise (Picasso: "I do not seek, I find") along the way.
What is left nowadays of the indications of the avant-garde? Where
is the non-place that even in an improper alliance with the project of build-
ing future and better societies managed to ignite the possibility of finding
sense in making art? The borderworker is someone who lives on the fron-
tier and every day goes to work in a foreign country. He is at the margins of
the institutions, inside yet faceless-admits the existence of art, acknowl-
edges the apparatus and tradition, but does not want to install himself in
Milli Graffi 123
the center because the non-place can never be at the center of a consoli-
dation. The non-place that is the indispensable spur to the artist's dialogue
with art will never be at the heart of the statutes. Marginality guarantees a
sound distance that keeps art's critique of the status quo effective. But
more importantly, it safeguards the opening to new hypotheses of work.
This is certainly a diminished version of the utopia, yet it exposes the con-
straints of the institutions.
Perhaps it is time to turn the traditional perspective on the avant-
garde upside down and consider art's marginality vis-a-vis utopia rather
than institutions. In this configuration, the institutions are left behind, have
become protective. Thus the borderworker manages to always find himself
in the most favorable of ali situations: he holds in check the draining battles
with the institutions and does not confound them with his own objectives:
he shifts the conflict. Facing the non-place is the everyday.
imagine a cut
a Maginot line of the newspepper mill
in its pipsqueak total
indiscretions highly upheld
local loan of the sacred divine gift vigor wailings
hollow horizons masculinate
and for the women only the family romance
with extensive offspring intrusive profitable
and under
forgetful of the arc that embraces and sustains
clandestine of the desert
threading the word with the needle
I camel with lofty a turquoise headgear
the position is that of an autumn
of fruits
ripened in complete hostility
the voices of warmth pause undecided
124 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
on the threshold of crystalline vanishing visions
from the old flower comes the net
of its coercions to live
unthinkable absolute
today you see
the classicism of Arp
the cuts on void nourish the full body and color
everblue rosemary in the sea resins
like the object in Darwin
the work opens only above the pressure
of whatevermillion thoughts constructing
a shape of space
old erosion
self-naming and global
Breton takes away from the I what covers it
usefully he encounters it timely
he finds it
does not repeat the found
and in the flash remains
a suspended legacy
to thread us down under
I seek for the gorilla-word
that in the chattering can rise tall and robust
justly truncated
and in its noise could absorb all
the green buzz of light
but its frontal muzzle
will be hairless
a levigated pink mountain
that can see for me mobile and acute
the diffuse net of the forest of good-and-evil
the first vowel will be a large nostril
mother and sinner
then the rest heavily faded against the black
Bill Griffiths 125
(Translated and abridged from Italian by Carla Billitteri)
Bill Griffiths
The Poetry Escape
There is no such thing as a human. There is no such thing as language.
These generalities cannot be made to be exact and specific; that would be
misleading to the point of anti-sense. The zoologist goading this or that
species into universal aggressive or heartwarming famiiial pose is a politi-
cian, making biological policy; the psychologist rewarded with deviant
actions in deviant conditions tells us nothing fundamental while promoting
self-interest. We confirm such analysis only to the extent that we believe
it and act it. The new human moist lightweight born ball is a blatant self-
construction kit, with endless schemes of testing, copying, inventing
ahead. We risk obstructing rather than assisting it with our obsession for
human fixedness and zeal for objective genetic proofs, for our definition of
'human' is a moral one and always means 'good or acceptable person'. If
the human and the human language can be viewed alike as flexible, once
freed from these preconceptions, then there can be no total basis for liter-
ary criticism. Only the preexisting values of the assessor.
Yet it is precious to us, our commodity, poetry. Where does it come
from? 'Poetry is patterned speech' would be my starting point. Speech as
in colloquial speech, or special arcane vocabularies, yes, but only in con-
trast to the everyday. Pattern as in showing evidence of a short-length unit
126 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
of composition, a perceivable regularity: but recall here, pattern is not just
repetition, it combines variation, and can imply anything from tight metrical
rules to fairly free word assembling. The line is one breath or one thought
or one shape of sound, but when it becomes no more than one dose of
predetermined pattern it is switching to serve a society in love with
exclusatory definitions and laws. The type of pattern available seems to
arise from the nature of the language spoken.
Egyptian-Sumerian biblical verse already used a sophisticated arbi-
trary system of line units-the 'balanced line' in which the second half para-
phrases, varies, or opposes the semantic content of the first half. The words
are polysyllabic and capable of further extension by affixation, which might
make it hard to clarify simple tricks of beat or sound. The biblical Psalms
share this approach. And so this grandeur is fossilised in Christian liturgy like
the Te Deum, and once reanalysed in the eighteenth century became the
framework behind Christopher Smart's Jubilate Agno. Perhaps he took the
two halves to signify dramatic roles: priest and congregation. This balance is
also Walt Whitman's technique for challenging neat rhyme stanzas and
bringing antiquity, dignity, and lawful movement to his violent new world. His
basis must surely be the Old Testament, but he also knew Egyptian antiqui-
ties and literature through Henry Abbott. The effect is slow, emphatic, narra-
tive, dramatic, epic, magic, but also effectively novel, when as a culturally
unacceptable pattern it is brought in to disrupt a cultural norm.
Mediterranean poetics developed into measured lines, supposed to
be based on the simple patterns of the foot in dancing, extended to make
the hexameter and other line units based on alternation of long and short
syllables. The ultimate root is thus contrast of short or long syllables in
speech, or tones of speech capable of being used to create such a con-
trast. And such is the kudos of Greek and Latin that this has been
extended to all modern European languages, who have none of these
qualities perhaps, as rhythmic pattern (blank verse, popular song), or syl-
labic count (French verse, English hymnal). As Latin metres declined with
loss of spoken Latin, it is supposed rhyme developed to give line endings
definition: the Christian Latin hymn, with rhyme and stanza, becomes the
prototype of much writing since. But the effect is irritating, exact, intimidat-
ing, pompous, self-deceptive, emotionally intensive. Or popular, neat, con-
vincing, amusing. It is the good and bad of the ballad ....
Native Northern Europeans used an alliterative verse. Their lan-
guage was accentual, and pattern came simplest from repeating or varying
the stressed initial sound, usually consonantal. Sievers alarmingly assumed
Bill Griffiths 127
(for Beowulf in Old English) that this can also be analysed as a measured
verse, but since alliteration is a function of stress not vowel or syllable
length, it seems pointless to follow him: there is little arithmetic regularity to
the Old English line. Which survived into the fifteenth century; and was
revived by Wagner for his German libretto to the Ring, and in English by
William Morris; cf. Chesterton's 'The rolling road ... .' The alliterative effect
is now seen as artificial and archaic, and only to be tolerated in occasional
bursts, but as a poetics has a swiftness and continuity (no end-stopping)
and an awareness of word-sound (not just the diphthongs of imperial
rhyme) that must have alerted G. M. Hopkins.
Sensitivity to the sound of words (Crabbe, Keats) is one response to
fixed poetiCS, fixed societies, and symbolic literature: in the microworld of
individual word impressions the larger structure can in effect be set aside.
Alternately, we have sought to make patterns more flexible, less restrictive,
in keeping with a more tolerant, broader view of what a human encom-
passes, and to reduce the emphasis on rules, formalities and exclusions
as the basis of normality. But the opposition to such a development can be
bitter and merciless, as though God determined the iamb in Eden. In England
in particular, patronage has been used to promote tired, trite intellectual
entertainments and to keep poetry safely in the hands of ostensibly nonpo-
litical 'trusties' (a word for prisoners who will not break the rules).
The opening up (I have suggested) can be a contrasting new pat-
tern, a challenge to or a relaxation of pattern, but what about no pattern?
This is increasingly attractive as verse: a significant positioning of words
that nonetheless eludes analysis as any consistent rhythmic or aural or
semantic pattern. Is it something the nonmechanical individual can hope to
encompass? The poet asserts the role of single agent, but not necessarily
significant individual ('geniuses' chosen by birth or deity; prizewinners in a
meritocracy); rather as workers who do not need and will not advocate
simplistic mass solutions. This is not a critique of popularity. It is an attempt
to relate poetry to a valid impermanence, and that lies not in supporting a
self-justifying society or code but in demonstrating the impossible range of
the human, of renewing the human, of inventing the human, in making the
word human, once and for all, thoroughly indefinable.
128 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Ernesto Livon Grosman
The Questing of the Americas
America is impossible and for this reason, also, it exists. Or Americas, for it
is in the resistance to any singular unity of identity that the impossibility of
America, of a Poetics of the Americas, may be said to dwell. (Charles
Bernstein, "Poetics of the Americas," 1996)
The response to the question of the whole is found in its parts. The
question of "the Americas" is problematized in English where the plural is
necessary to distinguish it from "America." Geopolitical differences (Central
America, South America, North America) are expressed in English as
being absolute. The continent is therefore referred to in its dismembered
parts. In this sense, a poetics of the Americas is an impossibility, which, in
spite of the problematic noun, becomes necessary. Is it not these very
same difficulties which allow us to conceptualize such problems?
Let us assume that home for you means tree-covered mountains and
waterfalls. Do you feel moved when you see similar mountains and water-
falls in another part of the world or are you disappointed? (Max Frisch,
Sketchbook 1966-1971)
Let us assume that we are not neither disappointed nor moved but
rather curious about what this vision tells us about a certain order of reality.
Where to find a vision that can embody the reflection about poetic practice,
national identity and its changing borders without lending to the discussion
a centrality comparable only to the authority of essences? The responses
of the Latin American writers who contributed to this issue of boundary 2
do not deny the importance of such questions but they avoid giving defini-
tive responses.
The vil/ager fondly believes that the world is contained in his vii/age, and
he thinks the universal order good if he can be mayor, humiliate the rival
who stole his sweetheart, or add to the savings in his sock-unaware of
the giants with seven-league boots who can crush him underfoot, or the
strife in the heavens between comets, which stretch through space,
devouring worlds. What remains of the parochial in America must awake.
(Jose Marti, Our America, 1881)
Emesto Livon Grosman 129
If a nation is defined by its culture, such a mutable concept, it is less
definable and predictable than the Latin American literary canon suggests.
How can we understand the rigidity of national literatures except as a result
of the institutional violence with which the university defends them? Why
not consider literary study in terms of a practice of a pedagogy of limits?
The monumentality that dominates Latin Americanism, "a grand terri-
tory of great works," suppresses the specificity of works that do not illustrate
the idea of a literature that transcends regional specificities, a kind of national
literature for all Latin America. This project limits the possibility of reading
canonical works in relation to other works, other literatures, within and out-
side of the same language. The conflict does not arise from the necessity of
replacing canonical works with another reading that is equally definitive and
hierarchical but in understanding that this monumentalist interpretation sup-
presses by definition the self-critical gesture out of which it constructs itself
as though the reader were not dealing with a single interpretation among
many; as if it were not from the beginning and in all circumstances simply a
possibility. As though the a priori that determines the Latin American program
were a natural product and not yet another cultural artifact.
One of the reformulations of this point of view arises in the United
States in Chicano literature. A literature that defines itself from the start
in terms of the intersection of cultures, and which is written in great part
in English, causes there to arise anew the discussion of the specificity of
national literatures, even if those encounters have always been there. In
the past we could think of other individual examples: Witold Gombrowicz
in Argentina, Copi in France, and J. R. Wilcock in Italy, all writers who
caused Spanish to intersect with other languages. It is in that sense of
encounter that Chicano literature is one among many opportunities to
think anew the boundaries of national literatures.
The sense of unity that pan-Latin Americanism proposes was, in its
most strict sense, attained at the exclusion of Portuguese, aboriginal lan-
guages, French and Caribbean English and, up to some extent, the dialec-
tal variations of Spanish found throughout the continent. And if Chicano
literatures can extend the definitions of what is Latin America, so must Bra-
zil. Is it possible to think of a "Latin American literature" without Brazil?
A different way of thinking of a poetics of the Americas would be,
then, in the intersection of common issues and different languages.
Instances in which some concerns, not their outcome or resolution, could
be recognized as a shared moment. A case in point would be the connec-
tion between Thoreau and Guillermo Enrique Hudson or Waldo Emerson
130 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
and Jose Marti, writers who were dedicated to reading the landscape as a
defining feature of the Americas. Works that carry out a displacement of
the state's sovereignty toward the community's independence.
A similar case could be made for the avant-garde in the Americas dur-
ing the early 1900s. It might now seem inevitable to look at the Americas'
vanguardism in regard to the way in which they try to differentiate themselves
from Europe through their emphasis on vernacular language and mestizo
culture. And among more recent movements when considering formal exper-
imentation as political resistance as appears in magazines like the Argentine
XUL and the U.S. L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, both of them committed to investi-
gating a poetics in which meaning is better understood as process.
The field of the Americas has been slowly claiming its space and,
like any new field, it becomes more revealing when confronted with the
obvious. There is a need to see that the conflictive political and cultural
relationship between the United States, Latin America, and Canada has
been strong enough to leave traces all over those literatures. They share a
contact zone and, the more we look into their many poetics, the better
chance we have of finding contiguities and not just bipolar oppositions.
But in this context Europe is just one possible reference and not the
only criteria that justifies the interest to establish an area of contact with
works that have been written as a reaction to Europe. Nonetheless, pro-
posing genealogies that constitute a line of transmission and recourse to
an authoritative order with respect to Europe creates the dissatisfaction of
having to justify them as a mere reaction.
In an excellent anthology of the most recent poets of Brazil, Regis
Bonvicino and Nelson Ascher formulate the problem in relation to Brazilian
poetry:
Paradoxically, poets from Brazilian Modernism on are unknown, owing less
to their failure than to their success. Not only have they created many indi-
vidual sets of poems (though that is surely true): they have created a liter-
ary universe of their own. Each one of them is, of course, connected with
other universes, including those of French, German, Russian and Anglo-
American poetry, but preferably acting through the whole. There can be no
Weltliteratur if a whole set of concerns and debates is not universalized.
Thus, we are left in the odd position of having to define Brazilian poetry by
what is not. (Bonvicino and Ascher, Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain, 1997)
Still, the Brazilian anthologers make their own genealogy while
showing that:
Europe
Got-here
Former/there
Formal?
Americas
Ernesto Livon Grosman 131
Less interested in establishing a hierarchy than in working on the collective
perception of what happens locally in more than one place. They develop a
personal and textual dialogue, of the moment, of institutional limits, a (the)
history turned to thought.
As Roland Green would say, "New World studies often poses prob-
lems of these sorts, and in addressing them one must move readily
between historical and contemporaneous dimensions, national and linguis-
tic registers, 'old' and 'new' worlds in a single textual artifact" (Roland
Greene, "New World Studies and the Limits of National Literatures," 1996).
I would add that several literary projects could also be seen as contempo-
rary among themselves, as it is the case when looking at the different reg-
isters of poets from the same generation, all of them part of the same state
of affairs but evolving in different directions.
. . . an equally disabled history or a history of the disabled ... my
history is (also) your (hi)story. Faith in history as a mechanical matrix with
no chance of comparison except when they share same space and time as
if we didn't have already constant coexistence in time and space ...
Resistance of terror.
The Americas: a list of instruments.
Those fragmentations of Europeanness do not make for a whole,
so much wreckage and is all here.
You tell me how many languages you lost and I will tell you what we
are not.
Unsubstantiated direction.
A crossing point, a path, a poetic position?
Such a deep love for a long-lasting mistake makes
room for an extended detour. It is not in the shelves,
it has no shelf life. Being so anamorphic
makes up for a lot of wasted time in unperformed operations.
Is that awareness?
The Americas, who are they? Where are they?
Ana Hatherly, On Baroque Typography
Randolph Healy 133
Randolph Healy
Uncertain Questions
In the wonderfully named Irish Free State, the withdrawal of the British
led to an identity crisis. In order to be Irish one had to be free from any
suspicion of Englishness. The Irish language became the straitjacket to
success. Without it, many professions were closed. However, while still
our official language, it is, though not actually dead, in permanent inten-
sive care. One supported or played traditional Irish games. Playing soc-
cer, a "foreign" game, could lead to permanent exclusion from a school
team. (Not that we were such a superfit nation. The traditional method of
playing Gaelic football involved smoking twenty Woodbines, downing a
few pints, then lumbering up and down the field.) The Second World War
didn't happen. That was England's business. Instead, we had the Emer-
gency. Any stage performer would be guaranteed a huge round of applause
by referring to English as an drochtheanga, the disgusting language. (In
fact, Maurice Scully pointed out to me that the Irish language word for
English, Bear/a, is a corruption of the word Bea/ra, literally mouthing, gib-
berish, unintelligible nonsense.) Irish writers of poetry in English were
thus in a tricky position. The Protestant Irish tradition, associated with the
ascendancy class, became almost invisible. Yeats's version of Ireland,
the Celtic twilight, was a major pull, yet his aristocratic outlook was dis-
tasteful to those who associated it with Britain. On the other hand, the
Irish are perhaps too ironical to be good democrats, and this tension
allied to that of the obligation to feel guilty about writing in English, led to
a quietist mode, a harking back to a golden age, and a focusing on the
rural. Evoking an unmistakably Irish location became a primary aim,
checkpoints being erected at every entrance to the tradition into which
one could not pass without a certified "sense of place". Irish language
writers, freed of these burdens, were in many ways formally and themati-
cally more adventurous.
In a spirit of perversity, an Irish enough spirit, one might reply to the
anti-intellectual bent of the above tenable caricature by investigating the
expressive potential of logic. It is possible to misrepresent the historical
context of logic as a search for truth. A wholehearted attempt to uncover
the picture of the world. However, in our century, such a search has been
so hopelessly compromised as to have become something far more inter-
esting. The instrument of orthodoxy, the scaffolding of the world, had
134 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
begun to collapse under internal pressures. Freed from its former dogma-
tism it was now available to poetry.
Take the axiomatic method. According to this, one begins with unas-
sailably true propositions from which one deduces a series of conclusions
in a series of absolutely certain steps. Thus Euclid's "Elements", a work in
twelve hefty volumes, becomes a seamless unity, every part connected to
every other. Formally this is very exciting, if demanding. The structure is
also very rich in resonance and is capable of expressing some very fine
nuances in irony.
Another point of departure from the closed lyric could be to address
the field of information. In our society ideas wash in from a huge variety of
epochs and cultures. Rigidly deterministic tones drive in from the Enlight-
enment, raw hormones pour across from more expressionistic sources,
and there is no way one can know in advance whether a given idea will
come up again in such a way. If a poem can be thought of as a model of
the world, however small in scale, random procedures are particularly apt
in profiling this arbitrary richness in content.
While a model shares properties with its subject, it can be made from
entirely different materials. For instance, the number known as the golden
ratio can be considered as a model of the process of evolution. What can be
seen to evolve are finite patterns. Since this celebrated number is itself a ran-
dom sequence, it raises questions like: In an infinite random process, will any
possible pattern arise? Are we just so much information which for some rea-
son, or not, is driven to transcribe itself inaccurately? It also provides a clear
example of how a mathematical entity, theoretically neutral, can be a hub of
all sorts of cultural concerns. Considered by the Greeks to be the most per-
fect of proportions, this very emblem of order has become in our century an
instance of the random. Such reversals are by no means uncommon as one
culture's ideas move through the minds of succeeding generations.
In a polarised society concepts of identity tend to be overspecified.
This can be claustrophobic, to put it mildly. The human population con-
tracts as one goes back in time, yet one's family tree expands. In other
words, branches are shared. Even the most extreme opposites can turn
out to be mirror images, living together in alienated intimacy. The rational
enterprise has had to come to terms with incompleteness, paradox, and
uncertainty. At the minor expense of absolute truth there has been an enor-
mous gain in richness. One might even believe that it could be possible to
address tortuous political situations without polemic. It takes a great deal of
energy to stand still.
Helmut HeissenbOttel 135
Helmut Heissenbiittel
Oedipus Complex Made in Germany
Daddy has been ruling for about a thousand years
the Oedipus complex of the German people is called NSDAP after that we
tried it with Grandpa but that was not a permanent solution now we
just don't know
who can advise us quiz masters wanted
who landed us in this stew Bild magazine wants to know
Grandpa has been preserved in a glass coffin Daddy's representatives
have their names erased as time goes by but have we forgotten
Daddy
we're still doing better than in the Third Reich that is not a permanent
solution
do they have Daddies in Washington or Moscow too our ersatz Oedipus
complex is called Pankow Grandpa 0 mein Papa or in Rome
Daddy's reign is extinct but bits of it still hang in the air it is the air of Berlin
still that smell whose name was Josef
what we demand is an end to Daddies and Granddads an end to Oedipus
complexes
enlightened as we now are
enlightened as we now are
enlightened as we now are
enlightened as we now are
grant power to the most rational
why don't you just try that for a change
Essay in Greek
if I knew Greek I would converse with you in GreeK
but I don't know any Greek
Amery's sentence on the drive from Brussels to Waterloo 9-24-1975 rainy
street Atlantic low pressure ran a red light threatening Belgian cops
du machst mich an spoken in Cologne dialect
you turn me on said Amery has purely sexual connotations
telephone voice surprises I'm always on time
rubbed in between thumb and palm
glance across trees in a dream leaning against the hood nipples erect and
136 boundary 21 Spring 1999
hard a long time
look at me look at me look at me
I have no Greek and difficulties with classical education all those
Patmoses Lesboses Apollos Dionysuses
the Greeks' antique nakedness is replete with ideational content
nakedness without content our nakedness simply just naked
to learn that nakedness instead of content
say Greek woman wouldn't you be safer in your Greece
but when pressure mounts there is increased danger of everything
bursting
even though pressure can lead to nice things maybe a little psycho
who loses steam gnaws bones
losing steam losing sense makes for a wrinkled pouch and a tiny pin
wrinkly present wrinkly nature cutapplebrown
the brown of cut apples
in Greek I would converse with you in Greek but I don't have any Greek
and you can't understand me
sexual union means insight into the matter at hand not into psychology
your rage your grunting does open you but not your psychology
even when I can't stand it I hurl myself into gaping flesh
into flesh which is definitively and in the most extreme sense facing me
and I am not
naked torsos half asleep incessantly interchangeable repeatable
quartered backsides repeatable
the bird quite clearly flown to Idaho railroad embankment Thoreau
crumpled and gummed-up moon
we have lived under this moon
crumpled and gummed-up moon
we have lived under this moon for a long time
crumpled and gummed-up moon
it may well be we have lived under this moon for too long a time
my language is a noise
(Translated from German by Anselm Hollo)
Lyn Hejinian 137
Lyn Hejinisn
Happily
1
Constantly I write this happily
Hazards that hope may break open my lips
What I felt has taken place a large context a long yielding incessant
chance, to doubt it would be a crime against it
Is happiness the name for our (involuntary) complicity with chance?
No straight line the riddle set is settled and I am tempted to say,
rough circles hazards lips that only things can differ
It's not not me I'm afraid saying this is thus
I'm ambivalent-the artistic will being weak as well as strong
about being seen heard understood
We go out of control with happiness-anything could happen
This is happening
I sense that in stating my 'reason'
It has existence in fact in that in context
Whatever we perceive we come to coming to us in history
Whether or not the future looks back to trigger a longing for
consonance is 'unfinished work' to remember to locate
something launched near us as a dilemma in time to come
Surely a terrible thing whistling at the end of the rope is a very
poor way of laughing
The dull make no response
Whether or not a buzzard sees a battlefield as mere scratches in
context we reason in such a way as to make ourselves
aware that it includes us
Imitation claims the cows, the hens, the pigs
2
Nothing for the magician is accidental
All that could possibly happen to the magical prop is intrinsic to it
and knowing "all that" (could possibly happen) to the prop
is what constitutes a magician's knowledge
The event is the adventure of that moment
138 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
If I were a fictional character thinking back she might be weeping in
a hundred bedrooms tonight wanting to be good long after
this depiction of wanting to have been good
But what is it that Plotinus says-the 'good' will not be a guideline
standing outside?
It's the interior of the life that provokes compassion for it
It is there that one must sustain the belief that one's existing is
never to not-exist again
Then it is not part of some metonymic chain, some vernacular
meant to bring us in, you know what I mean, and so on and
so forth
Along comes something -launched in context
3
Along comes something-launched in context
How do we understand this boundary
Context is the fate that strangers among whom we may name
ourselves find difficult to penetrate
The context is completely mundane and should be viewed with
cruelty and from this follows fear and then grief
Madame Cezanne offers herself to it in homage with its various
uses and does resemble an apple with her curve and blank
stare
And the most unexpected aspect of this activity dependent on
nothing external is that it consists of praise
Yet the context is completely mundane: coming by chance, viz.,
happiness, into the frame of the world
It is midday a sentence consists of history with a future
Someone speaks it within reason
The blue is sky at all high points and the shadow underfoot moves
at zero point that is at midpoint
In context to pass it the flow of humanity divides and on the other
side unites
Surely we don't want a reason that plows to authority
4
Launched?
Anselm Hollo 139
Flaubert said he wanted his sentences erect while running-almost
an impossibility
Nonetheless, though its punctuation is half hoping for failure, the
sentence makes an irrevocable address to life
And though the parrot spoke but said nothing this had the impact of
an aphorism
Are you there?
I'm here
Is that yes or no?
Perhaps happiness is what we volunteer
Without that nothing recurs
The thing arrives-tightly the hands of the clock turn but other
elements also must conduct logics of which we are
becoming conscious when we experience the sensation that
this is happening
Anselm Hollo
Context? The reading-writing in and of this life. Identity? "My 'identity' is
MINE!"
Born on the northeastern edge of Europe five years before the start
of World War Two; on my mother's side, a descendant of an extinct cultural
species, the "German-speaking Baits"; and with most of my adult life spent
in the U.K. and U.S., I consider myself a "lower-case american" postmod-
ern postnationalist writer. I am deeply, perhaps even paranoically, suspi-
cious of all manifestations of nationalism, tribalism, militarism, imposed or
self-imposed (= ready-made) 'identities.' All of these are too easily sub-
verted by shortsighted individuals and groups motivated by greed. My life
has basically proceeded along the lines of Guy Debord's derive-drift-
combined with a genuine love of exile, i.e., communities and places of
choice, not predetermined by 'accidents of birth.' South and West have
been the main directions, so here I am now, in the American Southwest.
By elective affinities, my poetic education found its core curriculum
in the great U.S., German, Finnish, Swedish, French, British Moderns:
Apollinaire, Bjorling, Brecht, Bunting, Celan, Haavikko, HeissenbOttel,
David Jones, Mina Loy, Pound, Reverdy, Saarikoski, Stein, Williams,
Zukofsky; the New American Poets of Don Allen's anthology; New York
School" and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets; and poets of the continuous
140 boundary 21 Spring 1999
past/present who show an awareness of these and related literary legacies
(Sappho, Arkhilokhos, Villon, Heine, Rimbaud ... ).
As Christopher Middleton has noted,
Even in a relatively coherent society the levels of human reality
intersect at odd angles and are stratified across loops and slopes.
Those angles, loops and slopes are different warps of time in which
people actually live, participating in the same epoch only tangen-
tially and under sexual compulsion and economic coercion ....
Asynchronicity is the key, I am guessing, to any significant renewal,
as act or event, personal or social. (italics added)
Another quote I cherish is this one from Pentti Saarikoski:
I described my writing as 'democratic' or 'dialectic' because different
notions were allowed to threaten one another in the work. (italics
added)
A
I write things I'd like to read, and even read again. Years ago, a bright
young student-poet expressed surprise-tinged with what felt like moral
disapproval-at his discovery that almost none of my works bore any clas-
sifiable textbook similarity to each other. They came in all kinds of weird
shapes & sizes. They still do. I look for the un-paraphrasable and heretical,
but also for a semblance of an answer to a question faintly echoing down
the ages: "And what was it like, that world of yours?" If that 'world' should
prove utterly eccentric-so be it.
A
In the Utopian Millennial Wish Department, I foresee no great changes in
general dominant cultural views of and attitudes toward poetry or any of
the inventive arts. I wish, however, that toilers in the field of poetics opposi-
tional to those dominant attitudes would bear in mind that they, too, often
succumb to a corporate culture's desire to have everything (not just poetry)
clearly labeled and classified. Here comes favorite quote number three:
Richard Cadders Classification System to be used when trying to
respond to questions of the "Is _ a _ (Academic, Beat,
L=A=N=G, etc.) poet?" There are 2 classificatory methods which
Anselm Hollo 141
apply (on the whole): 1. genetic coding: this is the linear descendant
of taxonomic classification -you look for a fixed string of events or
symptoms: when you get your match, you tick the form, pop the fox
in the box. 2. consensoid: if it's asserted on 3 or more occasions
that a shape fits in a box, assume that it does until evidence to the
contrary emerges. This is by far the most common method. There
are others, of course, such as 3. convenience: look, everyone
knows that string isn't glue, but they're both used for fixing things
and we haven't got any more spare boxes.
~
In Utopia, Home and Exile will be identical: I don't think artists truly,
actively, exist anywhere else but there. Was Emily Dickinson 'at home'?
Sure, but she was/is also totally elsewhere, and it's in that 'elsewhere' we
meet her, not in some dreary New England town. She was not a romantic
elitist outcast, either. She lived a life, she read, she wrote. You can see the
movie only in her poems. Her entrancements left that trace.
SO FIX THAT BROKEN AXLE
Then is it past screeches of the mighty
"blood actions" Old Bird said
pondering revolted
let us insinuate another song
"Art is my wife & myself"
turn this music on
for identity? slept all evening
monotonous rush and purr
summer hard with the dead
The Edge surely lovely
cannot be a bed
"I am behind
that grows a mind"
was that a
german joke?
142 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
sad-sack protagonist depressed recluse
of sporadic human encounters
"may note down what he sees
among the ruins, for he sees
other things and more than
others; he is after all dead
in his own lifetime, and is
the true survivor" (Kafka)
but one is not that one is floaty yet anchored
"balloon on a string"
ship that sails both oceans and air
elevator that rises
through the clouds
or keeps going down
but no again it is a much smaller but truer
universe
Huang Fan 143
Huang Fan
Poetry's New Shore: Language
We are willing to tolerate our own ambiguity. There's a trick in this. We try
to pose elegantly while listening, but then turn around and leave the confu-
sion to the speaker. We are forever tired of poetics and let this bad habit
spread among poets. But language has already wrapped around our neck
like a scarf, almost strangling us to death. We then need the cutting edge
of intelligence to help us straighten things out, because sometimes dodg-
ing confusion and tolerating confusion are almost the same. Only a few
years ago, we were struggling for words, brushing past mistakes and noble
derision, because our eyes had been blurred and were not able to perceive
what was behind language. We came to know one another through poetry.
Before that we were each confined to our own lives, without much contact,
but our tacit agreement was amazing. It is in our poetry that language for
the first time becomes the end itself rather than a tool, whether simple or
complex. This is the new excitement that language has brought to poetry.
We are no longer interested in renaming the world, for we are facing the
plastic reality of language itself (instead of something behind language). In
this reality we clear the confusion of words, giving them a complete aes-
thetic order (which has nothing to do with image or intonation). We want to
bring to the attention of more people the splendor of Chinese characters
and to correct the fallacy that words derived from objects. The Chinese
character (or language) is not a good medium; if you try to use it to trans-
port your interests in the world, it'll be a huge mistake. If you find more
pleasure in others' misconceptions or in drawing conclusions based on
your own taste, then you are only wondering at the magic tool in your
hand, since it can always lead you to more things than expected. Your
eyes are so sharp that you can always immediately see through language.
But we, with our eyesight weakened from the excessive toil of life, are
trapped in language, abused by language, or abusing language. Our firm-
ness, clarity, and principles have all been dissolved in the art of poetry.
Had we not been well-trained, we would have been unable to appreciate
the beauty and the intrigue in the arrangement of words, and the flavor
contained in it; nor would we have been able to see the visual shape, hear
the sounding, or feel the new signification of these words. This is the rea-
son you want to strangle us to death. Also, if, looking at abstract art, you
always feel so confused that you are unable to evaluate the work, it means
144 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
that you have a fixed idea about limitations. But now you should learn to
feel the new boundary of art. You always equate the search for the pur-
pose of poetry with rule-governed writings. On the one hand, you claim to
avoid principles while secretly following some rules in writing; on the other
hand, you carelessly destroy the harmony in other kinds of poetry. This is
your intellectual dilemma. And our fault lies in that we are unwilling to
ignore the basic facts that language presents us, unwilling to deny in these
facts what is pure, shining, simple or complicated, forever spinning and
collaging. Undoubtedly, we were all thrown into the mill of language the
minute we were born, and no one has really mastered any language. We
each have a particular way of combining words. Therefore, we always
think that we know what the other is talking about, while in fact we cannot
understand. It is worse in the case of writing poetry. We are used to blam-
ing or whipping language because it acts (to some poets) like a retarded
kid whose words can never convey his ideas. It seems that the problem
lies in the arrangement of words. Language is as innocent as a naughty
usher boy, deliberately leading us in the wrong direction. So the ultimate
question is language's recognition of its own purposefulness. It always
intends to lead us to itself, to a position unpredictable to us. And this ulti-
mate seat is forever moving. A slight change in the connection will produce
explosive fractures. Our writing is an unceasing effort to relate to or reach
for the self-purposefulness in the structuring of words. The quality of a
poem entirely depends on the formal metamorphoses of language itself
and on the steadiness and harmony of these metamorphoses. The matu-
rity and flavor contained in the process cannot be reproduced by others.
However clear the language is (to others), it is confusing to us. It is as
adamant as a stone wall, blocking what's behind it, exciting us only by
itself. But the acuteness in it almost crushes us.
(Translated from Chinese by Yunte Huang)
Yunte Huang 145
YunteHuang
Writing against the Chinese Diaspora
Much of the current writing about the Chinese Diaspora is contingent upon
the idea of a preexisting homogenous "mainland" China. What is interest-
ing in these writings is not how people live diasporically, but how they
imagine themselves living diasporically, or how the homogeneity, to which
the Diaspora is fashioned as the antithesis, has been imagined. For in my
imagination, a homogenous China has always been an idea that takes
hold only of people who are eager to foreground their Chineseness. What
is important then is not to imagine but to de-imagine.
"To imagine a language means to imagine a form of life," said Ludwig
Wittgenstein. To me, an expatriate Chinese writer, it is far more relevant to
de-imagine the homogeneity of the "mother" tongue (and the "hostess"
tongue) than to imagine it or stage a diasporic or exiled self against it. Easy
to enter the stage and feel glorious, but not so to exit when the imaginary
audience is dozing off. The de-imagination of the language de-imagines a
form of life that has been for centuries subject to scenic, orientalist imagi-
nations; for the latter I will only offer counterexamples, cases where de-
imagination takes place:
When around the turn of the century Ernest Fenollosa studied Chi-
nese from his Japanese masters, he was fascinated by what he was told:
Soketsu, who invented the Chinese written characters, in the time of
Emperor Kotei, was not Chinese in origin but believed to have come from
the West.
Or when Pearl Buck delivered her Nobel lecture at Stockholm in
1938, she emphatically de-imagined a "Chinese" novel: "Into this confined
literary atmosphere [in the sixth century] came the Buddhist translators
with their great treasures of the freed spirit. Some of them were Indian, but
some were Chinese. They said frankly that their aim was not to conform to
ideas of style of the literary men, but to make clear and simple to common
people what they had to teach. They put their religious teachings into com-
mon language, the language which the novel used, and because the peo-
ple loved story, they took story and made it a means of teaching."
Or as Lin Yutang, an eminent modern Chinese author writing in
English, said, "If I contradict myself here as a Chinese, I am happy as a
Chinese that I contradict myself." The willingness to contradict oneself is
the willingness to de-imagine one's own imagination.
146 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
In this issue, among the pieces written by Chinese poets that I
have edited and translated (including also works by Che Qianzi, Huang
Fan, and Vi Cun), the manifesto of the Original group declares their objec-
tion to localist, ethnocentric, or nationalistic writings while it simultane-
ously de-declares their objection as they continue to say that "we are at
the same time creating and developing a localist and ethnocentric, or sim-
ply put, nationalistic modernist art." The seeming contradiction finds its
roots not in formal logic but in the word game (y6uxi), which connotes the
"profound,.eerie spirit of art and philosophy." Or as Lan Ma writes in "Man-
ifesto of Nonoism; Nono is not "not." It is an imagination that de-imagines
itself.
In contrast to these de-imaginary "Chinese" writings, many others
that have made their way onto the global stage continue to live on the idea
of diaspora or exile, which in turn feeds on the imagination of a homoge-
nous or totalitarian "mainland." Unable to de-imagine its own imagination,
diaspora or exile literature lives comfortably in the sweeping current of
globalization and applauds or laments the dissolving or "containment" of
the local, the ethnocentric, and the nationalistic. Such literature only serves
and confirms a reality that does not allow for the imagination of its own
unreal ness.
Where globalization reaches, the local is imagined for the first time.
Poetry must be able to de-imagine this.
Nina Iskrenko
from Referendum
An Address to a Supposed Interlocutor
The author apologizes for rejecting the classical notion of eternity as a cer-
tain memorial museum where one can place one's name and the
works marked with it.
The author Sincerely regrets that for this reason not a Single real object-
be it a material thing, a concrete individual, or an artistic fact-occu-
pies a marked place in the surrounding world and in this sense no
object is of no interest to the artist in and of itself. What is interesting
is only the possible points of view on that object, the polysemantics
of the way it is perceived in different The concrete events
themselves are merely the more or tess acceptable material, a cer-
Nina Iskrenko 147
tain system of coordinates, and in this sense they are absolutely
indistinguishable, identical (they are invariants, as physicists say).
The author, consequently, does not care "about what" she is writing-the
Trojan War, Johnny's love for Jane, the annihilation of electron/
positron pairs, or the rusted mailbox with yesterday's newspaper
sticking out of it. The content of a poetic text is not the reflection of
the real situations taking place in it, and especially not of their
unequivocal evaluation, but only the capacity to perceive an object
simultaneously in all or at least several of its possible conditions or
from all the points of view, as incompatible and contradictory as
possible. To see something through the eyes of different (in the
classical understanding) people or under different temporal angles
means not only to "live" the collected life of these various, often con-
trasting people, but to feel, recognize oneself (that is, to be) simulta-
neously a human being and humanity in its entirety, a tree trunk and
a forest, the entire world and one of its minute parts, the way a frag-
ment of a holographic disk, unlike a clipping from a photograph, car-
ries all the information about the represented object. It is precisely
this understanding of the identity of the part and the whole that
leads the author to feel a strong desire not to resemble a certain
Beatrice Kideler, a character from a Kurt Vonnegut novel, who
"together with other old-fashioned writers tried to make people
believe that in life there are principal and secondary characters, that
there are events that are important and those that are unimportant,
that life can teach us something, lead us through trials and tribula-
tions and that life has a beginning, a middle, and an end:'
The author believes it to be self-evident that any particular thing on this
earth can turn out to be the beginning, the end, the meaning of
human existence, while remaining ordinary, or somewhat sublime,
or being a veritable piece of junk. It seems that it is for this reason
that the author should offer the approximately eighth book instead
of a first one, and that every poem included in it in principle can
open it, close it, be something most important and simultaneously
meaningless, the way, essentially, anywork of art is just a trifle com-
pared with some living grass, a human smile, or misfortune, com-
pared with any real manifestation of what we actually call life.
The author apologizes for the fact that she, contrary to the established
stereotype of the world of publishing, does not believe her sup-
posed interlocutor to be dumber than herself.
148 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
The author offers a thousand apologies for stopping at the most interesting
place because she needs to switch off the kettle, and she sincerely
hopes that everything stated above will not detract the supposed
interlocutor from reading the book.
The author
(Translated from Russian by Vitaly Chernetsky)
Ernst Jandl
from Scenes from Real Life
Talk, when we do it, and who doesn't, so long as he can speak, talk is fully
a matter of extrapoetic reality. Talk is made up of language and bodies, our
bodies, the head primarily, but other extremities also, "he talks with his
hands" does not of course mean "with his hands alone," except perhaps in
the special case of the deaf and dumb among us. It is wholly a matter of
extrapoetic reality, even when it is halfway composed of a thing which
gives poetry its material. So naturally a poem that deals in some way with
talk is a poem that somehow also incorporates extrapoetic reality. "Some-
how" is valid for poetry as a whole, for each single one can do it only in a
completely determinate way, each in a little bit different way, and so all of
them taken together then do it "somehow." I'll show you what I mean, in a
spoken poem from 18 April 1957 ... :
talk
blaablaablaablaa
blaablaablaa
blaablaablaablaa
blaablaablaa
babb
babb
babbbab
babbbabab
bababbb
babb
babb
babbbab
babbbab
babababbb
blaablaablaablaa
babb
babb
babbbab
blaablaablaa
bababbb
babb
babb
bababbb
babb
babb
babbbab
bababbb
blaablaablaablaa
bababbb
Ernst Jandl 149
You have noted that this poem is oriented toward conversation, conversa-
tion as an extrapoetic reality, although the way that this occurs here, and it
must be this way with such a poem, is through and through poetic and not
otherwise. It makes use of an open and a closed syllable, one which ends
with a vowel, "blaa," and one which ends with a consonant, "babb," one
which can be found in your dictionary, and one which is invented, "babb"
being the invention and "blaa" being in the dictionary-but how? Always
doubled. If I now begin to spell out words, I find myself almost completely
outside any poetic reality and at the same time apparently exclusively in
the extrapoetic actuality of language, and I'll do some spelling now, after so
long, for the first and perhaps for the last time in these lectures, sometime
or other there must be spelling, otherwise why did we learn it? Always dou-
bled, I have never heard it any other way, but what a disappointment, my
big two-volume English-German dictionary does not have it, Langen-
scheidt's Encyclopedic Dictionary, and I have it, nonetheless, from English,
I have it in my ear: "that's just blah-blah," but it is not to be found in there,
maybe in Dudens German Universal Dictionary, in there of course in Ger-
man, the neuter noun, imitative of the sound: "das Blabla," written together,
b-I-a-b-I-a, with the accent on the second syllable, Blabla, slang, with the
meaning: empty chatter, expressions that say nothing, for example: "The
discussion was nothing but __ :' But thank God neither Roget's Thesaurus
150 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
... nor Daniel Jones's An English Pronouncing Dictionary ... leaves me in
the lurch. Both here and there we find the beautiful English word blah-blah,
b-I-a-h-hyphen-b-I-a-h, with even stress, suspended accent, according to
Daniel Jones, no differently than in my poem, where the line perhaps can't
even be sounded as "blabla-blabla," but rather only as "blaablaablaablaa,"
thus to be spoken with suspended accent, even stress, valid evidence for
its origin in the English language, not in the German: whereby I, in contrast
to both, employ the written form b-I-double a-b-I-double a-b-I double a-b-I-
double a. Three dictionaries, then, were needed, to return to our point of
departure, for me finally to find, in Langenscheidt's Encyclopedic Dictio-
nary, as American slang, the mutilation b-I-a-h, blah, undoubled, as I have
never heard it, a word-cripple, pitiful. With the meaning entry: nonsense,
crap, bragging.
This uninvented syllable, not invented by me anyway, never
appears alone throughout the whole length of the poem, it would have
negated the concept for me, since its concept for me was constituted by
the doubled syllable. But it also never appears, and this is equally decisive,
merely doubled, rather four times quadrupled, blaablaablaablaa, and three
times tripled, and therein lies a decisive withdrawal from extrapoetic reality,
without its becoming in this way less clear, on the contrary. Or imagine to
yourself that I had completely renounced the invention of the second com-
ponent of the word, the repeated "blaablaa"-then I would have had to
renounce the poem as a whole. With blaablaa alone, however often
repeated, it would have always remained a mere extrapoetic thing ....
Besides that, it would only be by means of the syllable "babb," written b-
umlaut-a-double b, that it would be in some way a German poem, which
would be thanks to the "a" with two dots over it-even if, in fact, it works
across the borders of languages, and thus remains understandable without
translation. The title "talk" of course fixes the English point of departure,
and besides, because of its monosyllabic character, fits better with the play
of syllables that follows than would its German counterpart "gesprach." It
also holds for the German, or at least Austrian, ear (not eye!) a resonance
with the slang, probably regional verb "talken," meaning the babble of a
child not yet fully capable of smooth speaking.
For the etymologists among you, one additional note of corrobora-
tion of the unconditional necessity of the doubling: what do you make of
"Bar" when you are thinking of "Barbar"? And what do you make then of a
simple "Blaa"? It;s a question, not of poetry, but of onomatopoeia, one of
the possibilities of its realization ....
Ernst Jandl 151
In any case, the invented syllable has gotten a bit too little attention
up till now, a question of balance, or fairness. As something not taken from
anywhere within extrapoetic reality, if at the same time it reflects this reality,
though thanks only to the poem, within which it first came to be, this sylla·
ble is an inner poetic being, a poetry-immanent entity, not subject to the
laws of any extrapoetic reality at all, it is free, it is free, and would be fully
so, were it not compelled to obey, without contradiction, the compulsory
laws that make this poem the poem it is. However, it has retained some-
thing of its natural-born freedom, and indeed it must, in order to make this
poem the poem it is. "babb" is the opponent of "blaablaa," and without this
syllable there would be no play. Also no poem, that has already been
emphasized. It appears eight times in isolation, always taking up a whole
line for itself, yet always paired, not doubled, but paired in couplets, four
couplets. "babb" appears doubled ten times, but not a single time doubled
in the manner of "blaablaa"-one does not want simply to imitate-thus
never with suspended accent or even stress, rather always with a distinct
accent, at the beginning or end, even in the two places where it appears
tripled. You will no doubt demand to know how this shifting stress, this dis-
placement of accent, was actually achieved, not how it was spoken, you
already know that, rather how it was achieved on paper, how it was
notated. Nothing simpler: "babbbab," the doubling with the accent on the
forward syllable, appeared as b-umlaut-a-b-b·b-umlaut-a-b, the reverse
"bababbb," the other way around. The tripling, with the accent at the end,
appeared as: "b-umlaut-a-b-umlaut-a-b-umlaut-a-b-b-b"; the reverse,
"babbbabab," appears in print simply as the inverse: b-umlaut-a-b-b-b-
umlaut-a-b-umlaut-a-b. Besides that, and this is a concession to a thing
that was once so free, the syllable "babb" belongs to twenty-two of the total
twenty-nine lines of the poem, what more could this thing ask in compen-
sation? It is this that brings all the movement into the poem, if you sense
movement in it. Nevertheless, "blaablaa" retains all the power lent it by
extrapoetic reality.
[Jandt reads ''talk'' a second time.]
(Translated from German by Tyrus Miller)
152 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Pie"eJoris
->N->O->M->A->D->
->C->E->N-> T->U->R-> y.->
->A->H->E->A->D->
I am going towards a future that does not exist,
leaving every instant a new corpse behind me. (Rene Daumal)
not because I could have been a wax archangel
or evening rain or car catalogue (Tristan Tzara)
1. CLOSING TIME: As this century draws to a close, here comes every-
body's eerie feeling that we've been here before, or in the immortal words
of Yogi Berra: "It's deja vu all over again." So it would seem Joyce's man,
Vico, may have been right after all, that it all is cyclical, that our end is in
our beginning, & that the spiral draws tighter & tighter around our scruffy
necks. Yet this century a certain kind of history was, if not abolished, at
least brought up short & shown up for the con it is-(oh no, not by the offi-
cial war artists, & not by the thinkerers & tinkerers of the Polit-Sphere, nor
by the Hackademic watchdogs of Kulchur)-namely, the linear soon-to-be-
over, hold-on-this-will-be-heaven-in-just-another-minute, escha-teleo-Iogical
time-machine. You know what/who I mean: the various fascisms, the vati-
can, the leagues of protestant ball-cutters, the myriad totalitarianisms,
macro & micro, etc. La condition humaine, one man wrote, is revolution in
a far off country, & then went home & made the world over as state-subsi-
dized museums.
Reality is not simply there, it must be searched for and won. (Paul Celan)
... I was very curious to see how they planned to bring me to life again. (ism-sorter
by Jefim Golycheff.) It is strictly forbidden to touch objects in the collection. I felt dizzy.
(Kurt Schwitters)
2. SNIP-SNAP: We go on or back, by nerve alone, on rafts made of the
skin of our teeth, nostalgia always already being what it is, i.e., exactly that
linguistic formula, we try to find ourselves in the old journals & magazines,
flip the pages & all of a sudden discover that all the images have disap-
peared, have been cut out carefully, only the shadow of their absence, only
Pierre Joris 153
the ragged edge of their contours giving a vague indication of who or what
was here, I mean there. Snip, snap. They are over there, I mean here,
now, rearranged, collaged & decollaged, montaged & demontaged, syn-
taxed & parataxed, but taxed for sure, cyber-mounted in the demonic-
maniacal autobiography of this century "prewritten" by Time-Life, The Sat-
urday Evening Post, Paris Match, Die Welt, Popular Mechanics, EI
Moujahid, Rolling Stone, Pravda & rewritten by the various collage & cut-
up avant-gardes. Does this look familiar? It should-the century has come
back to haunt you, to show itself (up) one last time for what it was, for what
it stood for & against, from Tzara to Kitaj, from Duchamp to Kienholz, from
Schwitters to Pelieu, from a to z: COLLAGE, its core innovation, foreseen
by Lautreamont late in the previous one. It cut the time lines, taught us a
new history, and yet is also graft, a rearrangement of arborescent struc-
tures, trees as always already roots I trunk I branches, even when cut and
rearranged, say branches I trunk I roots, the heavenly tree grows down-
ward in polarities we can no longer afford, if we ever could. No time left,
neither ascent nor descent beckon. GO to the treeless planes of the Pleis-
tocene, DO NOT turn back, DO NOT RECOLLECT, GO flat out at top
speed across curve of earth is the only way. Get down on all fours & run,
become fox, wolf, become animal once again.
Wandering creates the desert. (Edmond Jabes)
I am a line which expands and I want to grow in an iron
tin pipe I say that to amuse you. (Tristan Tzara)
3. OPENING SPACE. What is needed now is a nomadic poetics. Its
method will be rhyzomatic: which is different from collage, i.e., a rhy-
zomatics is not an aesthetics of the fragment. which has dominated poet-
ics since the romantics even as transmogrified by modernism, high & low,
& more recently retooled in the neoclassical form of the citation-ironic
&/or decorative-throughout what is called "postmodernism." Strawberry
Fields Forever. A nomadic poetics will cross languages, not just trans-
late, but write in all or any of them. If Pound, HD, Joyce, Stein, Olson, &
others have shown the way, it is essential now to push this matter further,
again, not so much as "collage" (though we will keep those gains) but as a
material flux of language matter. To try & think, then, this matter as even
pre-language, proto-semantic, as starting from what Kristeva calls the
chora, which she defines as "a temporary articulation, essentially mobile,
154 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
constituted of movements and their ephemeral stases." And then to follow
this flux of ruptures and articulations, of rhythm, moving in & out of
semantic & nonsemantic spaces, moving around & through the features
accreting as poem, a lingo-cubism, no, a lingo-barocco that is no longer
an "explosante fixe" (Breton) but an "explosante mouvante:'
The relations of poetry are, for our period, very close to the relations of science. It is not a mat-
ter of using the results of science, but of seeing that there is a meeting place between all the
kinds of imagination. Poetry can provide that meeting place. (Muriel Rukeyser)
People wish to be settled; only so long as they are
unsettled is there any hope for them. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
4. STATE OF. The days of anything static, form, content, state are over.
The past century has shown that anything not involved in continuous
transformation hardens and dies. All revolutions have done just that:
those that tried to deal with the state as much as those that tried to deal
with the state of poetry.
I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane. (Muriel Rukeyser)
I have never been able to tell a beginning from an end. (George Braque)
5. MEMORY BABE. From the twentieth century we will retain everything-
in memory. We will forget nothing and we will forgive nothing.
We will also remember that the twentieth century was the tail
wagged by the nineteenth-century dog .
. . . what I have tried to do is to inflect the French language, to transform it in order to express,
let's say: "this me, this nigger-me, this creole-me, this Martinican-me, this Caribbean-me."
That's why I was much more interested in poetry than in prose-exactly because the poet is
the one who creates his language, while the writer of prose, in the main, uses language.
(Aime Cesaire)
Poetry is the promise of a language.
(Holderlin)
Pierre Joris 155
6. BAROCCO. We will write in foreign languages (real or made-up ones)
in order to come to the realization that all languages are foreign. And those
that are not are uninteresting in their self-reflecting egoism. All live lan-
guages are creolized by what Edouard Glissant has called the chaos-
world. The first need thus is to have done with the prison-house of the
mother tongue, i.e., why should one have to write in the mummy/daddy
language, why should that oedipal choice be the only possible or legitimate
one, why should it not be my own choice, that moment of one's discovery
of the other, that moment when it is our body/mind that speaks and not that
of our progenitors. The mother tongue will become the lover's tongue, the
other's tongue. A nomadic language of affects, of free lines of erotic flight,
that break the triangular (the strongest of shapes, as Bucky Fuller has
shown us) strictures of the Freudian scene de famille and of its sociopoliti-
cal macroprojection, the nation-state.
We stand in relationship with all the components of the universe, as well as with the hereafter and
with antiquity. Which relationships we will cultivate, which for us is preeminently important, and
which should be realized, depends only upon the course and duration of our watchfulness. (Novalis)
in the cerecloth of devious stratagems (Dennis Brutus)
7. WORLD. Here now to propose expanding Robin Blaser's beautiful say-
ing It is an absent America whose presence is at stake to read It is an
absent World whose presence is at stake. A world yet to be invented. Deja
vu all over again must not win out. As I write this, March 1998, the Bible
and the Sword (in the shape of that most reactionary of popes and that
most pliant of U.S. presidents) are crisscrossing Africa, softening up the
continent for the New Colonialism of the coming century. In the U.S. media
the only voice I heard speak accurately to this condition was that
of a poet-Dennis Brutus. Which brings to mind Helene Cixous's sense
that ''the twentieth century, in its violence, has brought about the marriage
of Poetry and History." History not dead yet, imagination, imagine, not dead
yet, history is yet to come, we are all in need of becoming archaeologists of
the morning after.
Un mouthed lip, announce,
that something's happening, still,
not far from you.
(Paul Celan)
156 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
John Kinsella
The Hybridising of a Poetry: Notes on Modernism & Hybridity-
The Colonising Prospect of Modernism and Hybridity as a Means to
Closure
Modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent; it is one half of art, the other
half being eternal and immutable.
-Charles Baudelaire
For me "art" is finite and entirely contingent. It has no glory, it is paranoid
and self-satisfying. Hypermodernism is a millennial modernism-it is
action without real movement, it is the flow and exchange of "data", and is
entirely static in any natural sense. It subverts the laws of profit only insofar
as it is useless, ephemeral, and the wealth it generates is illusory.
*
In Australian poetry an awkward relationship with Modernism has had a
dual legacy: it has led to a fierce rejection and conversely a desire to move
"beyond". Australian Modernism might be described as a reflexive/reflec-
tive dichotomy: it is a field in which reflex is possible (put simply, reflex is a
reaction that is impulsive and necessary). On the other hand, it is a general
characteristic of the Western Continuum that much experimentalism is
reflective: the present being examined through the past, rather than acting
against it.
There is a poem of Lionel Fogarty's that I'd like to note as a possible
starting point for discussion: "Remember Something Like This". It concerns
the nature of memory, the flexibility of time and space, and examines the
specificity of incident. There is a communalising of the lyrical I taking place.
The poem resists prosody and enhances a recolonisation by entry into the
public place (as per the Western Continuum) as entertainment and art:
Where's this and that, you know.
So they find out where him came from
by looking at the tracks.
He's headed for the caves
just near milky way.
Fogarty comes close to creating something that is both culturally and lin-
guistically unique. While reacting to the colonising of his Murri tongue by
John Kinsella 157
English he in effect colonises English, rendering it subservient to his
itance, to his spatiality (time/space). He sees this as a natural and
sary action. It is impulsive and decisive, a reflex action. If this sounds
frontational then I should emphasise that it is! Fogarty makes language a
tool or even weapon of resistance; or even more, an offensive weapon. His
is the most revolutionary of languages being used in Australian poetry.
Freedom doesn't come solely by marking territory and occupying a
ceptual space, a space linguistic in nature. One must reterritorialise lost
ground. This is especially true for a culture where the rites of naming are
all-important in establishing a map of social and cultural identity. Where
song is cohesion.
In an article entitled "Poetics in the Americas", published in a recent
issue of Modernism/modernity (3:3, 1996), Charles Bernstein interestingly
notes:
The invention of an ideolectical English-language poetry as a poetry
of the Americas involves the replacement of the national and geo-
graphically centered category of English (or Spanish) poetry not
with the equally essential category of American poetry but with a
field of potentialities, a virtual America that we approach but never
possess. English languages, set adrift from the sight/sound senso-
rium of the concrete experiences of the English people, are at their
hearts uprooted and translated: nomadic in origin, absolutely partic-
ular in practice. Invention in this context is not a matter of choice: it
is as necessary as the ground we walk on.
While this comment is in many ways transferable to the Australian condi-
tion, there are differences between the American and Australian situations.
Once again, turning to Lionel Fogarty-while his language is conceptual it
is also exclusive. It does desire (and I use this in the fetishised sense!) to
communicate to people other than his own, but only insofar as it will allow
his people the space they had occupied and should still occupy. In a
sense, this ironically makes it an incredibly utilitarian poetry, albeit as an
enemy of a marketplace that actively seeks to deny his people's exclusive
rights to territory. This is not to say that poetry can't be a universal and uni-
versalising mode of language, but rather that this is something to be wary
of. Bernstein refers to the nomadic. By way of cultural generalisation, Fog-
arty is of a "nomadic people" (a cuttingly reductive collective noun when
used from outside the discourse-and I am consciously divorcing it from
Bernstein's context to highlight the point), whether they "wander" or not.
158 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
They are classed accordingly, at least in certain Empire text books. His
poetry does not work against the concrete experience of the Murri people,
and I mean this in an objective and not subjective sense. Any use of the
English base/standard, regardless of intent, is recognising, interacting with,
reinforcing, and qualifying, a particular English historicity. The fringe should
call the shots vis-a-vis its relationship with the coloniser!
*
I talk of hypermodernism as a qualification of a framelessness of the field
of the page. I argue that hypermodernism does not, per se, issue from the
Object as structure, that its forms-in a Platonic sense-are not plastic,
but conceptual. In approximating this idea to the Modernist project one
could look again to Bernstein:
I would propose at least three modernist projects: subjective, objec-
tive, and constructive. By nonsymbological or constructive, I am
referring to the fact that in many of her works Stein does not depend
upon supplemental literary or narrative contexts to secure her
meaning but enacts her subjects as continuously actualized presen-
tations of meaning. Unlike Pound or Eliot, with their myriad literary
and other references, or James Joyce with his etymological anaphora,
with Stein you are left with the words on the page and Imaginary
structures they build.
For me, the imaginary structure is the page, as it would be, I imagine, for
Fogarty. The page is a representation of a field of myth-thought, of song-
dream continuity, a place that refuses closure. Its imagined frame is con-
struct. Language rendered as text categorises the breakdown and results
in a loss of occupancy and produces closure. The word itself does not lib-
erate in this written context. Hybridity in this sense is an attempt to keep
language moving, though with the inevitable (and politically desired) result
being confinement through qualification, and consequently control. The
words work as double agents.
I've referred to the kinds of poetry Fogarty and I write, from entirely
different perspectives, as examples of "hybridising". By hybridising, I don't
mean a mixing, or a production of a third-party alternative from a set of
specific material. A hybrid is not a possible next stage in a developmental
sense, nor a "dilution" of the component parts! Nor is it a fusing of tradi-
tions. It is, in fact, a conscious undoing of the codes that constitute all pos-
John Kinsella 159
sible readings of a text. It is a debasement of the lyrical I. What am I, I am
this ... contradicts the certainty of the informed and/or plugged into the
sensorium of the poet per the Western Continuum. Master of nothing,
rather than Master of all surveyed. It is not a rejection of frameworks but
of contents. It recognises frames for what they are: empty shells. Bern-
stein recently termed this my Trojan Horse theory of poetry-get inside
formalism/Western poetic traditions and dismantle. It is not a homoge-
neous poetry that replaces certain demarcations, borders, divisions, and
qualifications. In some sense it highlights these separations. I use the ses-
tina and villanelle and sonnet. Though I doubt Fogarty does. The result is a
denial that is cultural as well as linguistic; a refusal to accept that the com-
ponent parts are relevant to the discourse. I use the word hybrid in a spe-
cific sense, outside regular postcolonial discourse.
I mentioned an undoing of codes that constitute all possible read-
ings of a text. I should stress that this is insofar as the author understands
them. It stresses the distance between author and reader. It is a theory of
unfamiliarity. In a sense it invites closure, but only in that an end means
another hybrid might and should develop. A parallel fertility. However, it is
process, not an end result. Though through its methodology one hopes for
a political response. Once Fogarty has achieved his aim, his hybrids (will)
revert to the continuum of his Murri tongue. That is not to say that they'll be
reintegrated, as a hybrid is too much of a conscious break, but rather that
the old tongue, now liberated, will appropriate them.
They will become part of the land and its meaning. The work of the
poem will have been done. There will be closure, and only then is it desirable.
160 boundary 21 Spring 1999
Julia Kunina
1.
Our games, you remember, are innocent
in the garden of good and evil,
the sun never setting, endless day
piercing the heart, a threadless needle
leaving no trace. In the long Baltic light of childhood,
badminton, game upon game. In its white arc
the shuttlecock erases any trace of place
and turns into a contrail in the sky
known only to dragons, and having violated
the laws of nature, reduces itself to a feathered
speck, lensed through binoculars in reverse.
And then we touch our tongues to the roof
of our mouths and run down the three-syllable
steps into the garden.
It will never come back.
But as we must all enter the heart of the rose
and emerge on the other side,
from there it flows, widening into a downward cone,
lighting the face
and hits home.
2.
This white noise, driving
you crazy,
this woman's voice
I said
she said
I said
drilling into the head,
this is speech, speech, speck
of dust
this is MY house, MY meadow and MY sheep on the meadow
AND GET OUT OF HERE WITH YOUR FUCKING SHIT
this is MY house, I said, MY fucking lawyer
and MY paradise lost
Julia Kunina 161
MY speech is you, the ongoing syntax of years, a reflection
This life is my life, which is why you have no extension
These are but anaphoras in a fit of speech
the stutter of shoulder blades, lips lingering on copper,
standing for passion, proscribed, hollowed of temptation,
collarbone to wrists, you, my impenetrable text
plummeting from the final ramparts, shot through the chest
in a paroxysm of inversion
you fly back
into the sudden purple
of caesura
And then, baring the skeleton like an X-ray,
like a pack of piranhas, Erinys,
this voice of a total stranger, arc weld,
steel scratching sandpaper,
dripping with self-righteousness,
muteness, darkness, eloquence,
cutting my voice short,
passing into speech,
like you,
passing into speech.
(Translated from Russian by Richard Sieburth and the author)
162 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
Abdellatlf Laabl
I am a Child of this Century
I'm the child of this pitiful century
the child that didn't grow up
The questions that burned my tongue
have burned my wings
I had learned how to walk
then I unlearned
I tired of the oases
and of the camels greedy for ruins
Stretched out in the middle of the road
my head turned toward the Orient
I await the caravan of Fools
(Translated from French by Pierre Joris)
from A Human Continent
I can but speak from one particular continent of the human condition. Even
if I write in French, even if my life has been lived for a decade now in
France with all that implies in terms of openness and universal processes, I
remain a man of the South. I will not cease then to vibrate with all that
touches on that "excluded third" of humanity, to lend my voice to the cries of
rage and distress which emanate from it, my pen to the immense "book of
grievances" it addresses desperately to the rest of the world. I am not a
black man, but I retain in me the memory of slavery. I lived through the colo-
nial epic as a very young child but I carry its stigmata and cannot cease to
denounce its repercussions. I am not an Algerian but I feel mutilated by
obscurantism. I am not a woman but I feel the humiliation of those who
struggle for recognition as human beings. I am not a Palestinian, but I have
labored for Palestinians to have a right to a country of their own, while, as
an exile, my relationship with my own country has become, to say the least,
problematic. I have never set foot in Argentina, but a text I wrote recently
brought with it the revelation that I was an Argentinean. All this to show how
unbearable the division between North and South is, and how horrifying I
find this gap which continues to grow to the point of splitting humanity into
two worlds moving away hopelessly from each other, as if taken over by
Abdellatif Laabi 163
some merciless drift of continents. To unveil this reality, to make its causes
more explicit, is not enough. One must go further, showing for instance that
this reality does represent all the components of humanity, apparently the
privileged as well as the poverty-stricken, those that have nothing human
left in them except the instinct not to live but only to survive. What I want to
assert here is that no one (South-North, rich-poor) can manage alone, can
build his/her future while ignoring that of the other. For after all we live on
the same planet or sail on the same boat. If the ship breaks in two, it would
be useless to throw one half of the passengers overboard while hoping to
save the other half. It is true, such an illusion is more rampant in the camp
of the haves. Thus the fetishism of frontiers, the resurgence of ideas that
preach natural selection and purifications of all kinds. We therefore have to
remind ourselves that the peril is at our door. The humanitarian ideal,
praiseworthy in its spirit, desirable given these dire straits, can soothe some
suffering here or there. But it cannot substitute itself for a true humanism,
the one that considers mankind in spite of its differences, in its unity, with its
equal right to dignity and to a dream borne by hope.
Thus the particular brings me to the general. For what is at stake is
the rethinking of the world and of humanity in their unity, to return to the
values that make man the prime preoccupation. Now, you have to admit
with me that we are living an unrecognizable historic phase where the
great movement of ideas, to speak only of the great social movements (but
don't they all go together?), does seem to belong to a distant epoch.
Those who still remember (the generation that preceded us and our own)
are for the most part helpless. Their faith in an operative humanity, master
of its history, is, to say the least, shaken, for the philosophical and ideolog-
ical edifice on which this faith rested has been shattered. The emergence
of a new thought capable of integrating these upheavals and of proposing
paths toward a reconstruction of meaning and strategies of resistance to
the newly established order-before even thinking of counterattack initia-
tives-the emergence of that thought is slow in arriving. The shock of the
collapse has been too strong and its echo is still deafening.
This is why I consider that the end of the era which is our own (while
it isn't "heroic" in the usual sense, though depressing in many ways) repre-
sents a determining stage for the stakes I have mentioned earlier. The chal-
lenges are such that poetry, and thought also, of course, are at the heart of
their adventure and more than ever they are enjoined to get as close as
possible to the spirit of this adventure. Creation is urged once again to
break its limits through a more meticulous exploration of its territory.
164 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Let us not forget that among some of our dreams which have been
destroyed, there were, however, a few illusions whose loss can only serve
to reinforce our remaining dreams. But even our losses have been com-
pensated by an added liberty that we tend to reduce to the sole dimension
of solitude. For if we have disentangled ourselves from all closed systems
regardless of their claimed generosity, we are even more committed than
in the past to the emergencies that constitute the foundation of poetry.
Those of us who cling desperately to the center of this chain of love that is
poetry, We have no right to loosen our grip. What is at stake is a legacy of
light without which no dawn can break through at the end of this darkness
through which we stagger together with what remains of a humanity unre-
Signed to its own decay. What is at stake is the survival of the breath and
the spirit, the survival of the work that testifies, of freedom that gives life
back to life.
I cannot help but think that the century's drawing to a close is giving
a grave, even a solemn tone to my remarks. And because we have a ten-
dency to denounce it, I would like to scrutinize it in other ways at this part-
ing moment. Let me conclude with these remarks: this atrocious century is
also our own, the only one that truly "belongs" to us. We have lived in it for
better or worse. Our eyes have opened on it and will close soon after it.
Our speech was given to us through its birth pangs and its death throes. It
hatched our conscience and consciousness.
It is this century that will carry a minuscule trace of our loves, our
revolts, of our most stubborn dreams. It is the one that will gather and echo
a small vibration of our cries and our tears. I don't know if we, women and
men of this century, have been better or worse off than those who pre-
ceded us and those who will come after us. The war of good and evil in
man accompanies him since his origin and will thus continue till the end.
Evil is simply more concrete and more atrocious when it survives under our
eyes and touches us head-on.
Facing this intangible reality of the human condition, we poets do
not have the power to change the world and the course of history to "heal"
man from the evil that consumes him, to indicate, like the prophets of old,
the way to salvation. What comes out of our fingers will not nourish the
starving, will not bring back life to a child trapped by a bomb he was
caressing like a toy, will not convert the predators of this world to virtue.
Our poetry cannot resolder the planet, reduce inequalities, prevent war,
ethnic, moral, and cultural purifications. But what we can be sure of is that
it will never be a lie which will add to other lies, an ingredient of intolerance,
Reinaldo Laddaga 165
heightening the cold dishes of intolerance, a firebrand of hate feeding the
brazier of hatreds, the share of a speculator deposited in the stock market
of corruptions. If we write, it is out of respect for the pact of honor we have
signed with ourselves since our awakening to conscience, it is out of faith-
fulness to the dazzling dreams which visited us, among them, that of a
humanity reconciled, fraternal, sower of love, source of beauty, messenger
of hope.
Reina/do Laddaga
(Translated from French by Edris Makward;
adapted and with additional material by Pierre Joris)
I call "poetry" (just for myself without the aspiration that this would become
common usage) some discourse, some segment of language, that incites
me or induces me to utter it out loud, to imagine myself uttering it. Which is
to say, I refer in this way to whatever discourse induces me or invites me to
enact, in reality or in fancy, a placement of the voice; a segment of lan-
guage that presents itself as though it should be-if one wants to get what
can be gotten from it, not everything, maybe, but something-intoned.
Deliberately.
But one cannot, in all fairness, intone, place the voice, without plac-
ing oneself in some determined way in relation to the world, as an exten-
sion among extended things. One cannot intone (in reality or in fancy) with-
out extending oneself in some determined way at the very moment in
which one intones: without dealing with oneself as an extended thing, situ-
ated at each moment among extensions. But there are many ways of
doing this. There is a character, a way of placing oneself as somebody
who requests in the moment of intonation, for example, a fruit or a newspa-
per in the appropriate situations. Or the way, different, in which a discourse
is spoken at a meeting, another way of affectation, of placing the voice and
arranging oneself.
Do I wish to say that there is an intonation, a way of extending one-
self, which could be called "poetic"? I do not believe it is so simple. But I do
wish to say that the poetry of recent years (of these last decades) that
interests me is that which produces hesitation in the moment of intoning it:
that which induces me to ask myself, "In what tone should this be said that
which I am now reading?" (In one of the few but extraordinary, in the sense
166 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
of pleasurable, experiences in listening to readings I have had, the unfor-
mulated question of mine has been, "What is the tone of the person read-
ing?") Put another way, I am interested, in the last decades, above all, in a
poetry that does not let me, or does not easily let me, decide in respect to
the following question, "How should the voice be placed, mine or
another's, in this segment of discourse?" (How to arrange myself in exten-
sion, with respect to people and things?)
What does this have to do with the question of context? An invita-
tion to think about the question can be found in a fragment of a writer who
composed, throughout decades, this type of discourse that I have been
speaking about which interests me: an Argentine named Juan L. Ortiz.
These are the last lines of a poem of his ("Ah, my friends, you speak of
rhymes ... ") included in a book published in 1958 entitled Of the roots
and the sky:
Do not forget that poetry
if it is pure sensitivity or inevitable sensitivity,
this also, or perhaps above all, the want of shelter without end
crossed or crucified, if you wish, by endless cries
and spread out humbly, humbly, for the invention of love ...
In which tone to read this line? This line-which goes on as if
extending itself continuously-hesitating, at each moment, as if it had been
uttered by someone who had yet to manage deciding which attitude of
enunciation to adopt. Hence this "also," or "perhaps above all ... ," or this,
"if you wish ... ," or even this repetition of "humbly." But the line, even hesi-
tating, says without equivocation certain things. That poetry is "the want of
shelter without end," for example. This can mean, of course, very different
things. I choose to read it in this way: the poetic condition, the condition of
poetic utterance, is finding oneself completely unsheltered, or weakened,
deprived of certain mechanisms bound to shelter, defenses, that also
impede pleasure. And exposed, at the same time, offering a maximum of
surface susceptible to that which comes from others. "Crossed or crucified"
is the extension in which this mode exposes itself, irritated already from the
beginning, experiencing the pleasure or pain of this irritation. "Crossed or
crucified" without deciding, without finishing deciding, if that which in the
endless want of shelter comes, causes imprisonment and pain (if finding
oneself crucified) or pleasure and its multiplication (if, before being cruci-
fied, it is crossed). And this extension, in poetry, is not crossed or crucified
by something that is presented but merely by something which cries out. By
Reinaldo Laddaga 167
"endless cries." Is it a blessing or a curse, the mere fact that any of us may
find himself exposed to cries without end?
All of the distaste and the delight of being there, in whatever place,
in whatever moment and whatever place, is ciphered through the fact that,
no matter what the place and what the moment, there are cries without
end, in the endless want of shelter. Here is the context of a poem-of
someone writing or reading, that is to say, uttering a poem-of the poems
that, in recent times, interest me: the endless want of shelter. (But is the
endless want of shelter a context?) A poem is written in a language, or
even more, in a region of language. But anyone of these poems is intoned
faithfully in the moment and in the place of this intonation by he or she-in
the endless want of shelter-who extends himself or herself "humbly,
humbly" (the humility of this extension is what matters. Whoever extends
himself in this way does so without drawing attention to and without affirm-
ing himself, hesitating, if you wish, upon going forward) "for the invention of
love." But what does it mean, "inventing love"? It is not, of course, merely
discovering it, or identifying it, as though this "love" was itself singular, uni-
fied. "Inventing love" means, just, inventing a way of being among others, a
mode among others in placing oneself in such a way that the endless
cries, which each and every one crosses and crucifies, better yet that
deafen, become amplified. At the moment, in any case, if not enduring, of
an intonation.
Which is rather vague, in a certain sense, if it means deciding if he
who writes in this case does so (believes he does so) in a national context,
or in the context of capital, or in some other context, according to the for-
mulation of the question organizing this selection. Some precise affirma-
tions could be deduced of what has been said if I had more space about
the realization of the simple fact that there is poetry, in a language and a
culture, that prevents this language from stabilizing itself in a code and this
culture in a vision of the world. In context, the endless want of shelter.
(Translated from Spanish by Kathy Kopple)
168 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
LanMa
Manifesto of Nonoism*
(Chengdu, China, 4 May 1986)
In the midst of the ruins of ancient Rome stand those gigantic stone pillars:
that they have been alive, that they have been thinking-it is what our
thoroughly illuminated intuition informs us. As long as we don't make our-
selves completely nonchalant, we cannot help but believing: they truly
have been alive, and they truly have been thinking, always thinking. The
only difficulty is that up to now we still haven't found any cultural method to
"prove" whether they are living in an "animate" form or in a "vegetal" form.
Our current culture doesn't have the capacity to contain this special kind of
life phenomenon. Neither can we tell how they are thinking, and what they
are thinking. Therefore-
Today we declare:
First, they are living in a Nono form;
Second, they are Nono lives;
Third, they make us feel Nono;
Fourth, they make us become Nono;
Fifth, we nono.
Applaud to us! - We believe, today's applause will be filled with
Nono of high density, and then it will dissolve in Nono ...
Today, in the name of Nono and what follows it-a cluster of mean-
ings that are still vague but will soon become clear-we declare: with the
proposition of Nonoism, we will endeavor to broaden the boundaries of cul-
ture until the culture acquires a profound understanding of what we today
call the Nonoist living form and the Nonoist thinking form, until we see that
this cultured world and cultured mass again abound in Nonoist vitality and
Nonoist value.
Nono is an overall, principal category that includes the object, form,
content, method, process, and result of precultural thinking. It is also an
essential description of the original picture of the universe. Nono is not "not."
When things and human spirits have undergone a "precultural
reduction," nothing in this universe is not Nono-any sound, when it loses
its meaning, is Nono: it contains the power of Nono, causes Nono syn-
dromes, and realizes various degrees of Nonoist value. Beethoven was
Peter Larkin 169
good at mobilizing the Nono power generated by sound, and his works are
exuberant with Nonoist thoughts, causing great Nono syndromes, realizing
Nonoist value. A point is Nono; a plane is Nono; an impulse is Nono; a
taste is still Nono; the sky is also Nono; the earth is also Nono; one moon
is Nono; two moons are even more Nono; a diamond is especially Nono;
but a peach is Nono as well. After a precultural reduction, linguistic mean-
ing and culture are lost. The screen of consciousness that was blown up
by the networking of culture and language is now like a lone sail, drifting far
away. What's left in this world are only free-flowing intuitions. In the face of
intuitions, everything is Nono, including intuitions themselves; the riddle of
the universe is now reduced.
*This neologism is a translation from the Chinese fe; fei, which means literally "no no,"
a double negative.-Translator
(Translated from Chinese by Yunte Huang)
Peter Larkin
Innovation Contra Acceleration
What are the ways in which innovation will bear with us? Can something
be asked of innovation, rather than compulsively innovating the terms of
any question put to it? I want to ask what sustains the innovatory, and is
what fuels it something freely or unfreely given, if the given is the sum of
our resources in some way? Should we think of finding a place for innova-
tion? If this is to misconstrue its role, is that very misprision at least as
important and productive as anything within innovation itself?
Poetic innovation usually presupposes linguistic change, and to
that extent is a matter of history for American Language poetry. In Britain
poets like Anthony Mellors and O.S. Marriott have pointed to the difficulty
of applying a loaded term like innovation to language: attempts to liberate
language from spurious or repressive norms of registration still beg the
question of what can or cannot be commodified. But if poets like Bernstein
and Perelman or Watten have been saying that language can escape from
a received identification with commodity, it looks to me they have been
deploying a notion of reserve, bringing to the fore some linguistically non-
standard registrations to induce a greater structural awareness of what is
acted out in language. But how far can a defamiliarising contortion go in
displaying the syntactic frame? For myself, I find it unhelpful to suggest
170 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
that innovatory poetry gets as far as laying bare syntactic and ideological
frames so as to re-empower the reader, since what is going on operates
like, and is to be valued more as, a fantasy of structuration more ambiva-
lent in its capacity for interaction. I suggest it is fantasy which both does
the work of innovation and simultaneously occludes its product: something
gets to be value-added beyond exemplary technique, something arrives to
answer and burden the material of innovation, and that something is the
absorption of innovation into an answerable poetry. If Language poetry has
succeeded as enactment and is not reducible to formal representation of
itself as a condition, this is the only way it could happen. If the formal goal
of the innovatory is to relate us to some productive site of pure construc-
tion, the role of fantasy, by contrast, is to reconnect human and cultural
constructs to the fate of naturalisation, or to re-embed conventions as
inventions in what it is they can be given to be. Ontologically speaking, it is
to go on relating constructs to what it is co-structures them, and politically it
is to open writing to what can misrecognise or re-recognise it beyond the for-
mal provisions of innovation itself.1 I am not seeking to decry innovatory
techniques so much as wanting to embed innovation (at the cost of some
sacrifice of critical purchase) in a wider sphere of cultural negotiations. I take
the cultural to be a zone from which the constructed has to forego formal
identity in opening onto a richer but also more chastening field of pressure-
relations met with as one might meet with givens. The given is in the oppor-
tunity or the obstruction.
This means we have to ask not just what is the economy of the
new but what provokes the speed of the new. What is the new the renew-
able of? Where, in other words, is the naturality of innovation? The idea of
innovation supplies a trace of reformable commodity (and is a key concept
in business studies) but remains, as acceleration, tied to the processing
speed of commodity put-through, really the speed of communication itself
as spectacle of fulfillment. Is it possible, by contrast, to select innovation
for the values of restitution and conservation, that is, to loop the emergent
through the residual, both of which are versions of the nondominant in any
cultural phase, rather than simply oppose the emergent to the residual in a
purely accelerative way?2
Most of the cultural acceleration we see around, including cyber-
space transmission, remains within the sphere of predominance, a facility
for adopting the different as the future legacy of the same. If we believe in
schemes for a more radical form of innovation than this, I am left wonder-
ing what is the identity between the different on one hand and the novel on
Peter Larkin 171
the other? Could it be the novel as effect is only what is left after the other
is accelerated into the same? Difference, by contrast, may not need to out-
run the same, its alterity is not cumulative or susceptible (pace some
avant-garde procedures) to intensification.
Acceleration is the least troubling way of absorbing innovation in
contemporary culture. This is a contract which brings about the familiar tel-
luric retraction of the spaces of the world, an abolition of the resistance of
distance. It is a commonplace that industrial civilisation rests on an ever
more intense preoccupation with the process of permanent innovation,
divorcing the pace of technological growth from that of cultural evolution. If
a device goes quicker than its own time, speed emerges as paradoxically
older than time: the machine outnatures nature, but the resulting naturali-
sation of the machine reduces that machine simply to a means, it no longer
operates as a skill. For Paul Virilio the paradox of unabsorbable speeds
among life-systems results in a spatial desert and immobilism: people are
mobile only on the one reductively unified spot, cocooned as they are in a
continuous real-time but placeless interactivity which economises the body
to a few basic gestures.
3
What is distorted, Virilio says, is not subject!
object relations so much as object/traject relations: acceleration in percep-
tion may spark off an accident in the flow of the real, or what he calls a
"general accident", where the real as pure acceleration has precisely over-
taken transformatory change. The immobilism conjured up here is not a
contemplative stillness but blocks off all possible passages from the van-
tage of the nonplace of acceleration. The exhaustion of temporal distanc-
ing brings in also a "parking accident": if no meaningful or bodily locality
survives, the question of any repose (itself a form of stable flow) becomes
hopelessly redundant.
4
I should like to plead for innovation as a form of restitution, pro-
jecting toward a not yet reached future as a space in touch with material
localities of reinclusion rather than the already overtaken site of exemplary
redundancy. The celebration of boundless energy associated with some
forms of experimentalism has rightly been seen as a form of consumption,
pricing itself out of more modest though more sustainable modes of
becoming within the wider Iife-community.5 It is also possible to affirm the
fantasmic origin of most of our causal constructs, but rather than leading to
the usual postmodern neutralisation of relation with the world about us, this
can be understood as a fantasy precisely physical and concrete in
its effects.
6
Andreas Huyssen encourages opposition to a received post-
modernism of the "anything goes" variety, or the art of "blank parody"
172 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
(Jameson), and has called for women, green movements, and third world
movements to reconstitute the map of modernity.7 Virilio will also insist crit-
ical thinking must reestablish paths of memory built on topical spaces,
local experience, and shared discourses among what I take it would be
contiguous non-natives.
Poetic thinking is nothing if it can't afford room for variable speeds
of interaction, recalling groups that live at slower ecological rates from drift-
ing off into exclusion. Variable speed is what gives currency to flow, and
here we can tap into Michel Serres's inSight that flow is the norm for the
thermodynamics of open systems. In other words flow is the relatively sta-
ble form of both imbalance and invariance in what he calls the homeor-
rhetic, a flow which achieves an open sustainability in and around such
undesirables as stasis, redundancy, and disorder, all seen as interactive
microsystems rather than structural inefficiencies.
8
The American conser-
vationist Aldo Leopold related change (especially the self-induced variety)
to flow where change is not a disruptive throwaway discharge of energy
but tends to elaborate the flow-mechanism itself and lengthen its circuit.
9
This species of flow-change can be related to what Karl Kroeber sees as a
negatively capable competence whereby humans accept nature's transfor-
mative multiplicity as the essential basis for valuable cultural constructs.
10
It's the nonabsolute status of the construct, whether poetic or technologi-
cal, which enables it to be nature-directed, rather than its arbitrary standing
serving as justification for overlaying or ignoring the natural.
So what of innovation in terms of this wider, paracultural circuit? In
some versions of poetic minimalism it operates effectively as a form of
waiting or doing without, as if implementing Robinson Jeffers's vision that
the shift in power from builders to destroyers had already culminated in
modernism, and a fallow, though not a neutral, after-period is what is
needed. Lying fallow would certainly require an innovatory technique which
at one level is anything but natural. Where innovation remains caught up in
a more expensive mode of linguistic revisionism, poised at a differential
spring to launch itself outside the natural, this can still be understood as an
ecstasis which hollows out a species of articulation from within nature's
closure.
11
This aporia over the placing of language for me marks a scarcity
of relations, and scarcity in my own practice is the cue for innovation to the
extent it explores a way round both absence and excess. The natural is not
fully open to articulation, but the fantasmic folds crumpling any attempt at
encounter indicate both a scarcity of stable frame (because subjected to
flow) and a persistence of shared particle on the cusp of momentary inter-
Peter Larkin 173
action (the pleats are granular). Each moment is a moment of innovation
but in a context of sustainabifity. Flow, if it is to be more than naive organ-
icism, needs to be evoked by both flexible and brittle concepts: a nonac-
celerative flow should not be read as a pure liquidity, being composed not
only of what bends with the flow but also of what breaks into symbolic
obstruction amid the flow. 12
Innovation appears as what takes place within the scarcity of the
now, a product of excess possibility applying itself to a source of diminish-
ment, the momentary encounter with those few opportunities of being here.
I don't see innovation as possessing a key to some laterally infinite fount of
possibility beyond known formations of meaning: I stand more for a scarcity
of the continuable, a more minimal surprise of a "next step" (Cavell) from
within and across current codes of sign making, themselves already in
touch (in however contestable a way) with the reserves commonly avail-
able. An answerable innovation is one that respects the scarcity of funda-
mental resource opportunities out of which cultures can be remade and
does not squander them in some accelerated hyperconsumption of the
other. The other may persist itself only under the sign of scarcity. For me
this whole area pivots on the notion of "re-version", which opens to both for-
mal and aesthetic revision but also to an informal reverting to the wider,
more messily conforming naturals of our nonautonomous condition. It's a
way of risking identifying essential resources without being able to ground
them, but at the same time not abandoning or de-sourcing them. And
scarcity remains a matter of counting a thing essential to something or
someone else, it is not a view of some viral, transhuman plenitude of dereg-
ulation. It is a vision of exact need in the context of competing flows of nat-
ural energy, where the specificity of human need (by which we cease to
supervise the whole of nature) precludes any facile mimicking of natural tur-
bulence per se.
Harriet Tarlo has been drawing together the threads of what she
calls "radical pastoral" in recent British poetry, detecting some sort of com-
mon undertow among such diverse names as Thomas A. Clark, Barry
McSweeney, Maggie O'Sullivan, Richard Caddel, and others.
13
John Kin-
sella has also identified himself with versions of pastoralism. Harriet Tarlo
points to the double marginality of such work: it is heavily involved in non-
standard techniques but also committed to some sort of "pastoral" deploy-
ment of what is usually associated with an urban-privileging stance of radi-
calism. As such, it may be one of the strongest margins around, a poetry of
ecotonaf attunement, moving outside oppositional hierarchies, giving
174 boundary 21 Spring 1999
space and time for the settings of edge rather than staking everything on a
more assertive programme to set on edge. Radical pastoral is emerging, it
seems, with a new appreciation of the literal, holding in suspension what
must remain undecidable but not unaddressable. Innovation stumbles if it
rubber-stamps cultural formalism or any sort of formalism. It neglects two
highly significant forms of history: the nature which our history has dena-
tured, and the nature which constitutes our climate, in other words natu-
ralised history.14 Such consciousness of the nonhuman enfolding the
human is frankly utopian, as poets like Thomas A. Clark publicly acknowl-
edge, because it's a rarity of relation we are always in the process of find-
ing, and we need to innovate against losing the thread altogether. Certainly
in my own work innovation has a function to the extent it enables a poetics
of scarcity, understood less as minimalist exclusion than as the condition of
a passage to the future, of a persistence of local relation to plenitude
through a strict observance of the irreducible frugality of the now; also in
terms of the buffetting self-excesses of the now, with its costly projections
onto a future congealing the glimmering margins of the present. To the
extent that an innovatory language inherits this fixation on acceleration, it
also has within it the possibility of opening up to a more answerable
scarcity at the horizon of the burdens of the new.
1. See Anthony Mellors, "Out of the American Tree", Fragmente 6 (1995), 84-91.
2. For the terms residual, dominant, and emergent as competing modes of production,
see Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford, 1977), 121-27.
3. Open Sky, trans. J. Rose (London, 1997).
4. Virilio, 25. I turn to Virilio as a potent Cassandra of our times, without dwelling on a
proneness to repetition and unreflection in some of his work.
5. See Rethinking Technologies, ed. Verena A. Conley (Minnesota, 1993),83.
6. A point made by Teresa Brennan, History After Lacan (Cambridge, 1993), 116-17.
7. Quoted in Marjorie Perloff, Radical Artifice (Chicago, 1991), 10.
8. Quoted in Verena A. Conley, Ecopolitics (London, 1997),62.
9. See his famous essay, "The Land Ethic", in Sand County Almanac (London, 1968).
10. Ecological Literary Criticism (New York, 1994), 119.
11. See Greg Garrard, "Radical Pastoral?" Studies in Romanticism 35 (1996): 463.
12. Odd things happen to open systems once touched on at zonal edges: Horizonal
recession is less fluent, or the "flow" itself seems knotted and pitted, thickening into a
reserve or marsh which weighs on us as well as inspiriting us. But that reserve is one
of the resistances to acceleration.
13. Unpublished paper delivered at a conference on Literature and the Environment,
University of Swansea, 1997.
14. See Timothy Morton, "Shelley's Green Desert", Studies in Romanticism 35 (1996):
421.
Michele Leggott 175
Michele Leggott
Onset of pericentral darkness
The less sight I have the more interested I am in making visible what is not
seen. It's a matter of time. I find myself committed to finding every version
of every poem written by the New Zealand poet Robin Hyde (1906-1939)
in order to re-present her textual presence, to date limited to three collec-
tions published in her lifetime and one posthumous compilation (1952)
which was deemed sufficient to finish off the story. It wasn't; it isn't.
If you have linen women, raspberry women
Red and thick of the mouth, with dock-leaf women
(Little light foxy spores-mind them, such women,)
If you have green grape women, flour-bin women,
Amber-in-forest, wild-mint-scented women,
Trey-bit in church or drudging kit-bag women,
Little sad bedraggled wind-has-weazened-one women,
White bean women, perhaps anemone women.
And harp-like facing the starlight women,
Young Bronzey Plumage, what will you do with women?
A fragment, unpublished, 1937. But she also wrote the great "lost" poem of
our 1930s, dream and philosophy, sixty years unpublished. The Book of
Nadath occurs in verses like the Scriptures only better, sixty-nine pages of
typescript in thirteen sections without conspicuous authorial ordering I will
read as I wish beginning
The words of Nadath, the false prophet, written in the year 1937, in
a house that stands on a bay of New Zealand: a house of wood,
iron and glass, and with the sea outside.
When a sick man's reason leaves him, his dreams and visions go
in and out, mingling with the people who enter his room: and who
shall say which of them has substance?
So with a world that is sick: it cannot know the face of its truth.
She was living in a one-room shack, sick, broke, barbiturate-dependent,
visionary: Writing unsteadily, without hope of a word enduring, / I think how
others, the great ones, were in like case. And: a man who travels with his
dream travels with a dark torch. She is the prewar story we have hardly
started on.
176 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
Postwar what has dropped from sight are the experiments and jeux of that
sixties generation (too hard to teach, too much self-conscious Modernism)
which took the New American Poetry to heart with a sense of relief still evi-
dent in recollection and in productions of the day. The trace of their work is
there in the magazines and pamphlets, places of first publication that com-
pose a zeitgeist the anthologies aren't interested in. I'm not interested in the
anthologies. Dennis List, one of the Young New Zealand Poets, 1973: "I have
seen poetry as a medieval walled town, full of people looking for the town
hall .... There is great danger in reading poetry books. Whenever I have tried
it I have felt slightly sick." We could have instead a year-by-year account:
works and days. And so the stack of Xerox grows and shrinks and grows
again as we read and argue the content of a dream run 1959-75. Whole
poets arrive, untouched by anthologising hands. Mark Young, from 1969:
In Memoriam: Robert Desnos
J'ai tant reve de toi . ...
that
was the line I meant to start with.
Instead, I find my mind alive with other thoughts.
I did not intend to expose your mysterious woman.
Only in your poem do I know her. Only in your poem
in my mind do I come to realize the mystery of her.
No, Robert Desnos. Ours are different women.
This woman of yours-you knew her
though you had not met, though your arms
had not been linked in a walk down any street
& your mouths had not passed the closeness of any night
together. Yet you knew her till your death, & perhaps
met then. For your death was her death, & you were thus
united.
My poem was to be
of a woman who I had met, who I had done with
all those things you had not done. Yet one
who I cannot remember, & who, once forgotten,
becomes mysterious.
Michele Leggott 177
Whose body I should remember most,
for her words were confetti
that the wind caught & blew away.
& the smile of her eyes
less than a match struck
to be blown out a second later.
Who in walking with me seemed
no more than the passing of other
people in the same street.
Only later, together in a
room, the pedestrian became not
passerby but participant.
This the mysterious aspect. Did I ever
make love to her? I tell you, Robert, I
know I did: but when I try remembering
the course of our carnality, it is non
existent.
(Here I would echo your poem,
but shamed by the beauty of your words, I insert
the beginnings of my own ....
Inside the mouth
of my memory, your tongue is mayhem. Words
you once spoke have become as gibberish
in my attempt to set them right in time. The rims
of your eyes are as sharp as razors,
but the blue of them is blurred, like sky
behind a seagull's beating wings ....
yet the mouth
whose inside
i plotted
with my tongue
& the shudder
of her elbows
the moment
beginning orgasm
Young left for Sydney at the end of that year and didn't come back. A
decade's work in magazines and readings seemed to vanish. Two weeks
ago he sent a copy of a broadsheet from 1974 called "A Season in Hell":
Came down by abyssinian camel train
rimbaud riding shotgun & wearing a
sweatshirt emblazoned with the head
of de sade & the enscribed legend:
'voici Ie temps des ASSASINS'
178 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
So this is what I'm doing and wondering how to get it all done, and won't
without collaboration. Darkened eyes, filled with the latter darkness . ..
Take back the flowers from your dead pupils, and we have a garden for the
world. I hope not (dead pupils) I want living eyes in that garden on that
road, in that season and for that book. Nothing else will do.
Leevi Lehto
JUANITA AND POINTS OF YOU II
La sarie bilingue des LANGUES POUR TOUS permet un contact direct
avec les auteurs
atrangeres.
The scene is un-American.
"Sir," said the butler, turning to a sort of mottled pallor,
''that thing was not my sister."
Propaganda was another shock.
The same principles apply today as did in the days of Lamartine.
To the east and south, at right angles, were advancing two mighty walls of
flame;
at eight o'clock Wednesday evening I passed through Union Square, and
the surrender was complete.
And even though he never wrote for the piano, he opened the door to the
rich tapestry.
A special class, open, is specified to represent the expanded state-I
haven't
felt so uplifted since going to see the Stones at the
Buffalo Station.
No doctor ever understood her case.
Here's the finished translation.
Following Stillinger, 'Gif ye wol stonden hardie wight' is treated as
a separate fragment. If you are still having a problem with this software,
please read the following
section. Indeed, precisely because talent isn't abundant
in a minor literature, there are no possibilities for an individual enunciation:
the book
is funny
Leevi Lehto 179
and at times hilarious, but there is nothing saccharine about
the author's will.
He does that number with a tablecloth.
II
The first game is over now, but the canon is little affected. An excited
crowd gathers in the street below and gasps in horror when he
plucks the girl
from the room.
Luke said to Bridget: "Show me the kitchen garden."
"Why the kitchen garden?"
"I have a feeling for cabbages."
Bridget retorted sharply.
At 8:00 P.M. a murmur went through the crowd
as the Carpathia gradually appeared
out of the darkness and rain-throughout Italy-Enotria
or "land of wine" as it was known to the
ancients-on blanks provided ( ... ) to Adult Visitors ( ... ) in one magnifi-
cent, lavishly
illustrated volume.
My mind was miserably clogged with unsorted and misty warnings of Thai
taboos.
It is important to make sure that you have the most current drivers for your
video
and sound cards.
He is plainly seized with one of those maladies that both tortures and
deforms the sufferer.
As he reaches to turn off the last umbrella light,
he tips his head and wipes an eye on his shoulder.
A couple thousand users visit daily. A human puts fish on the rice.
These compromises should come as no surprise
as the market continues to
speak out and
Metric Security looks toward a kind of Automatic Teller Mall that performs.
180 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Jorge Lepore
1
Beyond the global configuration in which our beloved planet turns and
turns and turns, the circumstantial gray alternative is minimized, lending
virtual leverage to motivations in swaddling clothes, wanting to encounter
colored worms where there is only earth, black missionary earth; and it's
precisely with our hands plunged deep into this stuff that the giant screen
of the mediating Observer, or rather, to cut it short, the word running crazily
out of control lands on top of us at the exact glorious instant in which all the
lights go on, always the outside lights and occasionally the inside ones.
We say a word to the wise-psst!-in shadow and in an undertone: look
at what the cosmic essences of our Italian grandparents make us say. And
at the end the commentary, a gauze and/or dressing that covers the millen-
nial wound, or rather, since no fatal comet is coming ... Throughout all of
the inventoried regions, the writer's cartoon is a tiny globule distinctly sul-
fur: dissolve it in the mouth, chase it with a few mates, and forget about the
last frame because the next one's the only one that counts.
2
Carlitos Menem's kind of capitalism isn't on the shelves, honest to God,
because in this southern hen house crows the most formatted rooster
known to the Keynsian Galaxy, as a few truly prophetic so-and-sos say
with quarrelsome intent, the Mad Max of ersatz Patagonia, but it doesn't
do any good to try to overturn it: because not even the Andean condors get
off the ground, although they are unstable and volitional like no other ani-
mal we have. Obviously here some agenda pulverizes my unimaginable
expedition to the countryside on horseback, but there's not even time to
register it, man, before the disassembly line that takes apart all recogniz-
able contexts moves through these lands of deer, trampling on all of those
who were raised from tender infancy ... and this slides like melted cam-
phor, and it's very cold and our teeth chatter, and you won't even find con-
solation in the Nevski Perspective, of the good man-new man, who buried
the last of the last genocides a while back ... and it's hard to believe how
many corpses who can't believe how the hell they ended up dying without
leaving behind the calendar of those who have been executed, known
today as the Manual of Good Genocide, which, when translated to street
Jorge Lepore 181
talk, means: "Here comes the killer genome in uniform." And that leaves
the national state well and truly dead and under the bloodiest earth of
South America.
3
You're a sight for sore eyes, identity, because my eyes ... of course for
that there's no more effective remedy than Don Emeterio Cerro's Miss
Murkiness, because there's nothing else that joins the mixture of essential
herbs that there appear mixtified, triturated, and interpotentized by the rec-
iprocal fit of vitalist, naturist, and transpersonalist energies, to such a point
that there's no nerve that doesn't shriek, or rather, there's no artery that
can adhere to that tremendous internal passion. And one can see clear to
the meat of the matter, processed under a forgetful shamanistic control,
with almost all known toxic substances present, so that in spite of every-
thing 1 is cleaned and defatted to the very core, and all this for a special
price. If the skin reddens on the outside something apart from the liquid is
changing, and the formula sought with such sinking in of teeth is a weak
elixir with more collateral and secondary actions than nocturnal pollution,
and with such a look the death of the interior project is propitiated, and
when in doubt, remember: DON'T ASK. So tender are the stems that we
eat in these truly junior latitudes, and it can never be for less than its origi-
nal cost, because here things already come with a special surcharge as
they would in a Lost World of the Jurassic Park type, we're postmodern
dinosaurs who nosh on each other with the teeth of the Argentines' First
National Encounter, with a Huge Barbecue, Empanadas, and Red Wine,
the sung existentialist menu, and we'll come to terms with our digestion
later.
4
All the technological developments affect me, espeCially the hard science,
which comes with obligatory directions and only one hand, without that
quantum design that allows for a smoother arrangement and a silky pre-
tense on its outward face, indispensable for leaving the body in that state
of indescribable comfort that makes us put a good face on all the periods
of the year. It's obvious that this is not the only way to produce something
of permanent actuality within the milky biosphere that becomes poetic lit-
erature, not only because the secretion is abundant, accumulating rapidly
182 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
in the areas of the brain with the most static frequencies, but also because
of the fatal loss in which the drift leaves us, by the incantation toward the
practice of everything that is sold as disposable, thus becoming crystal-
lized in the use of the rubber in the frontal lobe as an efficacious defense
against the mercantilist virus that invades us.
5
Today clarity comes in extremely dry, propitious globules from emptiness
and the leakage of the human factor, perhaps because of the greater fluc-
tuating presence of the greenhouse effect that scorches even the most hid-
den and wholesome meanings, with which creativity and annihilation are
combined in a manner that is not coincidental, or rather in this season the
pavement is jammed with travelers in a never-ending line, condemned to
wander laterally from pizza to pizza. A possible horizon that impiously
chews to pieces whatever adhesive is in use, more because of magnetic
destructiveness, because there the end of the millennium releases its most
brilliant pearls, and what looked like one more of the thousands of virtual
sex toys available on the open market ends up being a Perlongherian lake
where we nod off permanently, allowing ourselves to be carried by the cur-
rent suspecting the leap of the bullfrog before the dawn. What remains to
us is life itself stuck to this page in the navigation manual before the final
impact, lost letters of the cosmic alphabet that emit sound like the pleat of
fat old Pichuco's bandoneon, riddled with holes, as it puffs and blows
between the panels of the oxbay, it too with its programmed voyage.
Jammed in the machine of the future we end up more than twice signaled
with emergency flares in the same license plate, the number affixed for all
our lives, believing that with a few shovelfuls of cinnamon everything will
get blotted out, but don't believe it because death's already at the door and
you were gone before you could say goodbye. We could use the Internet
as a magic carpet and open up fissures to voyage to the inside of the astral
body, to verify the date of beginning and the date of fatalism's victory, to
ratify the short story about nexus 6, and by way of the astrophysical high-
way to connect with the core of the TAO, and to give life through the great
dharani. Seized by progressive accelerations we continue plantificating our
much-feared desert, a chaotic prison of signs that gives flexibility to the
hiding of bones drying in the sun without the voice of the one who orders
the voted sacrifice, and without that mystery of the old magic that para-
lyzed the brains of the last five generations, all of which makes up a soft
Jorge Lepore 183
beat of tribal culture, a greeting before the final procession, a complete
group portrait for the family album, a warning sign or danger signal sent
out to other planets, perhaps ___ There's a vision of the mountain of red
salmon and the sound of a continuous, muted, intimate you, you running
through the vestigial interstices, and it is multiplied in the central columns
of memory, that facade of petrification of the species connected to the final
harmonies of chromosome 23 and a visual field without the illusionist
visions pressed into it for Columbus Day_
(Translated from Spanish by Molly Weigel)
Rogelio Lopez Cuenca
DU
CALME
POETRY MAKES
NOTHING
HAPPEN
Rogello L6pez Cuenca
Rogelio Lopez Cuenca
Steve McCaffery
aa.aaaasaaaaaaaaaaaa.a
a a 8 a a a a a a a a ~ e a •
....................
11111111111111'11111
IlIlllIIIII .........
if {< (( (f (, (" ( ~ . ( (f f,
.. .. . . . .. " . , . .. . . . . ,. . ".
, ' 'I , I,.
--------------------
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i • I I I I ' • I"
--------------------
.. , . .... . . ~ . . ... ~ .
j , " .' f
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f ' • , •
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f • ~ j
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· ., .
'( • 1
_ • ..' v. • _. * •
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_.. . - .
.. ..... .....
: J r
Emily McVarish, from Lines and Property
AS WE
LIFTS;
LOOK
OVER
LIKE
&.cK
ACROSS A
THE .EGINNJ:ttflaF
ROW
OF
INCIDENT
NIGHTS.
AT
NIGHT'S SLEEP
OCCURS IN
WE
MATTERS
ITS UNREST.
CONFIDED
TO
SLEEP
CON DUCTRt&b SKIRT THE DISTRICT.
STILLNESS.
WE SEE YET
THE THE
FAMILIAR FINE
tWiWSFORMED IN THE SWING
OF
THE PASSENGEIPF
ALL
FIGURES
OF
A
COURSING VERITY WROUGHT
THROUGH TO
TO THE PULL
STRETC HHE
AWAY
DAY'S

..,AM .bllffTs
OF POSSESSION.
AND SHED
DARKER STREETS
.....,WUIlM,N.G.
Friederike Mayrocker 189
Friederike Mayrocker
from Magische Blatter
Of course I could just feed you a few slick theoretical phrases familiar to
anybody who has looked around in modern literature. And you would leave
with the notion that in order to do something well one needs to understand
it thoroughly and be able to elucidate it. I could tell you about the random
elements in my texts, about zones of esthetic condensing or diluting. I
could say that I charge my words, that I atomize and deform, that I fabri-
cate matrices for my images and motifs from extraneous material by piling
collage on collage, that I turn verbs into nouns, nouns into verbs, that I
summon an army of punctuation marks to function as attack, blast, aside,
lure, calming, or neutralization, that I use repetitions as leitmotifs, that one
of my main concerns is to harmonize the disparate, join opposing verbal
forms. I could tell you how I put together thoughts, experiences, impres-
sions, common themes, found and traditional materials, how sometimes an
overheard word, a headline, a "mishearing" or "misreading" sets something
in motion in my mind; how such minuscule, barely noticeable shifts and
estrangements start a chain reaction of constellations which hours of think-
ing and experimenting would not bring about. I could tell you about the
minutiae and imponderabilia of writing, but I ask myself: will it really tell you
anything about what was triggered?
: i am afraid we are like people who try, the morning after, to retrace
the complex, branching body of dreams, but soon give up, disappointed
and dissatisfied with trying to fixate what is vague. A few nodal points of the
dream one can reproduce, but the essential part, the vibrant, the far-spun
intensity, the fascination, the color could not be recovered; it cannot be
reproduced, it was there as a dream, we had produced it as a dream and
that was the best one could do.-
In 1978, I noted the following on this theme, on my own writing:
... just as he resurfaces (shouts) in my mind I reread Artaud along
with other poets in a past tense, in even proportions, a few lines
here, a few pages there, every night before going to sleep in the
hope of taking along through the dream and into the expectant new
morning what scratches blinding traces concerning the shape of
190 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
sorcery / magic / sleeping asleep / to scare off the deadly fear: NOT
TO BE ABLE TO RETAIN.
The use of excerpts! the feverish reading gathering checking!
open to the eclectic breath of inspiration, retracing the magic
names: BRETON! MICHAUX! LAUTREAMONT! JEAN PAUL!
ARNO SCHMIDT!-and examining other arts for their magic poten-
tial! What I recognize as it comes into my head (my eyes): while
walking seeing standing talking hearing tasting smelling feeling: on
dizzying heights tumbling / scrambling from one working hypothesis
to the next, determined, it seems, to avoid looking into the abyss:
breathless attention, calculated chasing after fertile irritations from
outside: ERRORS OF THE SENSES-and thus trained in gather-
ing up solitude I start again every morning to confront the translata-
bility of matter into language- -as if it were already enough to
disturb the rules of punctuation to succumb to a new magic devia-
tion.
In between there are, I suppose, the most important years of my life as a
writer: freedom from the need of pedagogic work which I had done half-
heartedly for more than two decades to make my living and the deliberate
dropping of any ties to conventions of external life; but also-let me not
pass this over-a growing inclination to withdraw from the world, to give in
to my rather elegiac temperament. In retrospect, it seems my obsession
with writing was domesticated by my unloved profession, which many prod-
ucts of that time show in an accusing manner as if I had all too carelessly
spent my creative substance. Here, in this framework, I want to say some-
thing which might cause protest from my women colleagues and will neces-
sarily show me as an outsider within the new sociological-emancipatory
system of thinking: with the exception of the important role of my mother
and maternal grandmother, I must confess that lowe almost everything to
the men around me, not least my long-standing confidant and fellow fighter
in the field of literature, Ernst Jandl.
: Which does not mean that I considered myself particularly femi-
nine, rather the contrary, though not quite that either: I remember that even
as a child I shied away from any emphasis on girlishness; on the other
hand I never tried to appear in any way masculine. It was rather a con-
scious early lack of concern about my gender or, as the preface to my
radio play, A Shadow on the Way to the Earth, describes the protagonist:
" ... almost asexual, though born female, she, the central figure, falls faster
Abdelwahab Meddeb 191
and faster into the ravine between the two rocks; and we believe we can
read the unstoppable course of seasons in the falling of this sun ... "
(Translated from German by Rosmarie Waldrop)
Abdelwahab Meddeb
Wanderer and Polygraphist
Perhaps my taste for wandering comes from my early involvement-age
ten-with the first desert Arab poets whose poems we had learned
in school in Tunis. These poets of the fifth and sixth centuries- Imru'
al-Qays, Labid, Tarafa: just to recall some of their names is a pleasure-
had already been presented to a European public by Goethe in his West-
ostlicher Diwan, with acknowledgments to Jones and Sylvestre de Sacy,
the English and French Orientalists who had studied and translated them.
These poets are among the dead I find it necessary to dialogue with
daily. They are my contemporaries in their very archaisms: from them I
have learned the cult of the trace-a trace that stays mute despite the
poet's insistent desire to interpret it, to make it over into a sign that would
return him to the path of meaning.
Such a trace signals displacement and witnesses absence. An irrev-
ocable absence, an interrogation without answer opening only upon the
memory of those moments when the gift of expenditure occurred along the
vector of a pleasure that makes the body quake and brings it to extremes
-annihilation, experience of nothingness, death and rebirth-in the inter-
val opened up by the love of women, the praise of wine, the crossing of
night and storm, empathy with the mount, horse or camel.
Thus the poem's engine starts up, following the evocation of the
trace, the stridency of the beginning: carried by the breath of the rhap-
sodic voice, the poem chains its sequences to the fragile pedestal of the
desert, perdu res despite its fragility, despite the effacement that lies in
wait for it from the very moment it is echoed on its ecological site,
metaphor of the white page. Faced with this metaphysics of an absence
that demands no reparation, I track the idea of the trace through the fate
that was its own in the distance covered by the Arab language. I take hold
of it again once it has migrated into the Sufi text transcribed in Baghdad
in the ninth century; there, through the mouths of Persian turncoats,
192 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
the trace assimilates itself to a saying destined to bear witness to the
moments of presence that puncture the weave of a world usually inhab-
ited by absence.
But the doubt remains. And the judgment of the spiritual speaker
keeps oscillating between the authenticity or the illusion of those moments.
Such skepticism doesn't dull affirmation's blade. And the experience is
brought back in the savor of the trace. It's the trace the spiritual wanderer
enjoys in his halts, tossed between contrary states, through alternating times
that rhythm his itinerary, between the excessive gift and the lack of presence.
Such is the double reference that founds the mythic table on which
I in turn inscribe my poetic saying. At the end of this century wanes the
anthropological reality that engendered the immemorial sayings constitut-
ing the palimpsest to which I add my own graph in another alphabet.
Assaulted from every side by the universalization of the Technological,
nomadism and sufism are truths that keep withdrawing from the world.
They are threatened by extinction, surviving at best in the folds of ritual or
in the entropy of repetition and veneration, outside any creative impulse.
It is in the passage through, and in the migration, in the in-between
they set up, that these energies can be actualized that had granted
nomadism and sufism the conjuncture of the Spirit. As in all displacements,
it is here too that form and meaning transform, are metamorphosed. The
textual memory that registers the concept of the trace unfolds what it car-
ries; subjected to a new lived experience and to a new space-time truth, it
consumes itself as trace of the trace.
The poet's stance remains the same; in the face of irrevocable
absence, the poet remains the guardian of Being, no matter that such a
Being would envelop the world completely differently. The incessant revision
of the interpretation of the world acts on the bodies and the imaginations.
But the principle of the mise-en-abrme of the known by the unknown invests
existence the same way. The darkness does not dissipate itself, it remains
all around, very close, ready to grab the advancing foot, the proffered hand.
Similarly, the cosmic coma remains unbreached, despite our lightning-fast
breakthroughs that have only shaken the constructions propped up against
the pretenSions raised by the worry for totality and systems.
The more the scene of wandering widens to take in the whole
planet, the more the poetics which enter in resonance with the locus of the
desert are verified, that poetics which does not try to mask the truth of
absence as expressed by the montage of the fragment, concomitant to the
instant.
Abdelwahab Meddeb 193
In the face of the disaster hitting one or the other of the places that
divide the world, in the face of the ordinary contamination gnawing at its
places and climates, the poet does not desert but is immersed in the reality
of fellow human beings without however renouncing the withdrawal needed
to fix his saying, that singular concatenation of words emanating from a
minute grain of the infinite that erodes the dead and the quick.
I say that the body registers. It is my way of being present to the
world, in what place reveals. Or in what is revealed between the conjunc-
tion of a body and a place. Thus does the wandering take on concrete form
through an actualization subject to the norms that disseminate us in order
to make us available to the discontinuity of our space-time.
A body that in a place tests the physiology of sensation and emotion
through what the eye, the ear, the mouth, the fingers, the nose register; in
the relation to the other body when all the senses are acted on; in the rela-
tion to the signs, to the architectonics that organize them and to the crisis
which undoes the link.
The dissolute images and figures lead to a pleasure of the traces
and vestiges, as if not to forget that the world resembles an abandoned
house, approaching which weighs down the shoulders and constricts the
chest of a body that remains marked by the abduction and the rapture pro-
cured by the intermediary hours when it gives himself to wine, food, flow-
ers, wild animals, birds of prey, each in their particular truths that conjoin
and concentrate to throw light on what gathers the poet's body and the
woman's body, when both are guests of the dragon, guests of a scene set
up in the interval separating the places and the moments.
I write this in Cairo, on the terrace of the sixteenth floor of the Everest, a
run-down hotel frequented by the modest young Egyptians and which sits
on Ramses Square; the giant pink granite statue of the eponymous pha-
raoh seems lost in the network of boulevards, viaducts, and highways that
straddle and double the urban weft.
It is the dusk of a holiday (the country celebrates the October 1973
war which led to the recovery of the SinaI). A day less busy than usual. Yet
the sound mass distorts one's listening capacity; and the mix of dust and
fumes emanating from the old cars makes breathing difficult.
To forget that I'm choking I contemplate a sky whose henna tints
spread a pink glow over the earthen walls along partitions of planes made
up of greys and yellows, whose pastel shadings rhythm the distance. The
Moqattam's screen of naked rock reminds me that this time I did not visit
194 boundary 21 Spring 1999
the tomb of Ibn al-Faridh, the twelfth-century Sufi singer of the bacchic
metaphor, buried on the flanks of the steep hill.
After the muezzins' call spat through a thousand loudspeakers that
distorted the amplified voice, I stumble upon the line of worshippers lying
prone on the tiles of the waiting hall of the railway station.
I jump into a black taxi that takes me to Bab Nasr; I make my way to
the fatimid city and the ai-Hakim mosque (10C)-a vesperal penumbra
veils the catastrophic effects of a botched restoration; the mass of pillars
and the succession of aisles and arcades remain impressive; the vast patio
constitutes a filter that removes the chaos of sounds and tempers the dis-
array created by the overpolluted atmosphere; the patio's emptiness sets
up a site of retreat for the poet; the curtain goes up on the spectacle of the
first stars inscribing themselves into the blue of the sky slowly turning
black.
In me the night person awakes. Instinctive and ferocious, the rush
to write is irrepressible. It charges into the abyss between the real and the
imaginary. My Cairo day has stored food for novel, poem, or essay. On the
roads of my wandering, there is enough to quench the polygraphist's
thirsts. At this halt, the privilege is given to the poem. I open the pages of
my mental diwan and add to the old notebook containing the Cairo Frag-
ments composed during my last visit to the city, in October 1989; I enrich
and correct them, here now, this evening of 6 October 1997.
CAIRO FRAGMENTS
(October 1989)
- Like a baby in his mother's lap.
-Like a corpse in the washer's hands.
The weight of the body-nothing. Body of dust.
Bundle of atoms, a star in each pore.
His liver is roasting; it is done to a turn-
the smell pleases the guests' nostrils.
To take it at the right time, extract it from the live
before it contaminates the body's temple,
black smell, walls of coal,
agape for the celebration of the (eeae) departing.
(word changed, Oct. 97)
Abdelwahab Meddeb 195
On the vibrating bridge-the sparks
in the clang of car horns. He splits the crowd -
light vertigo above the water.
His eyes transpierce the body's armor.
He sees the passion in each heart,
and every atom has a heart.
(October 1997)
His lungs-extinguished paper lanterns.
His chest-a wounded cave.
His throat sips from the yellow evil.
Thirst covers his face
at the edge of the river
the ear no longer hears the scream.
The desert in the city
the sand under the tooth
the stones in the mouth
he chews the wind.
On the banks of silence brother of exile
very close to the newborn crescent
in the round of strangers
as in the expanding orb
he meets the constellation of the migrants.
(Translated from French by Pierre Joris)
196 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Douglas Messerli
Carried Away
I tell two stories of my childhood. The first has to do with my sudden pas-
sion for theater at the age of eleven or twelve. While most of my peers
were memorizing the names and statistics on their baseball cards, I poured
over the Burns-Mantle Play annuals, memorizing the names of play-
wrights, directors, set designers, choreographers, and theaters and the
number of performances each play was given. From the town library I
checked out plays by Genet, lonesco, Anouilh, and Beckett, and read them
with great enthusiasm if not with complete comprehension. I was particu-
larly fond of certain Broadway musicals and bought original cast record-
ings of my favorites. The fact that in our home we had no record player
didn't deter me in the least! Every week I stole a few dollars of my paper
route profits to buy these mute documents to everything I imagined about
them. Through reading the Burns-Mantle books, listening to Bennett Cerf
and Dorothy Kilgallen occasionally discussing theater on What's My Line?
and from watching some few scenes from musicals on The Ed Sullivan
Show, I re-created New York's theater district in my imagination-it mat-
tered little that I had never traveled east of Ohio. In true metaphoric rapture
I was carried away! I no longer lived in Marion, Iowa, but shared the expe-
riences of New Yorkers, attending the theater of my imagination.
By the time I was sixteen, however, I was desperate to bring some
of that imagination into reality, to be literally carried away. I insisted my par-
ents send me overseas-anywhere! Intricately bordered by India, Pak-
istan, Iran, and Russia, Afghanistan looked interesting on the map. My
more practical parents chose Norway, and off I went to spend the very best
year of my young life. It was there I began reading seriously, not only
plays, but novels, and, on occasion, poetry.
I share these seemingly irrelevant memories because a similar pat-
tern might be observed in my later activities of writing and publishing
poetry at Sun & Moon Press. Indeed, writing and publishing are completely
intertwined in my life. I grew to love poetry in a graduate course taught by
Marjorie Perloff, and a few months later I began to write poetry and pub-
lished the first issue of Sun & Moon: A Journal of Literature & Art. Once I
had begun these activities I knew almost immediately that they were some-
thing I would have to continue. For like the books of and on theater and my
year overseas, writing and publishing were activities that took me some-
Douglas Messerli 197
where else. It was not long before I began publishing books,
and shortly after I published a clothbound volume of Djuna Barnes's sto-
ries. I had begun a publishing house. Or perhaps I should say, I imagined a
publishing house. Since I knew very little about publishing (and still have
little interest in the economics and history of the publishing industry), I
made things up as I went along. For me, publishing was not a business but
a kind of poetics, if you understand poetics as a way of conceiving mean-
ing and not just writing a poem.
Most of the writers I first read were international, so I knew my activ-
ity would eventually lead to publishing translations. However, I began with
a fierce determination and what I now recognize as a dash of hubris to
help save American writers from possible oblivion. Several of the writers I
published in the journal-Steve Katz, Fanny Howe, Michael Brownstein,
Russell Banks, and Marianne Hauser-had had books published by large,
commercial presses. Even the poet Clark Coolidge had had one collection
published by Harper & Row. Suddenly all save one of these writers found
themselves rejected by the commercial publishing industry. How were they
to present their work?
I imagined Sun & Moon Press. Drawing on my little knowledge of
European publishing houses such as Suhrkamp in Germany, Gallimard in
France, and Einaudi in Italy, and appropriating concepts of American
imprints of the past (their current manifestations often being something
quite different) such as New Directions, Grove Press, Modern Library, and
Knopf, I created a publishing house of the mind. My publishing house was
completely focused on serious literature without much allowance for eco-
nomic details. Money entered the picture only as a means; it had (and still
has) no significance as a goal. Since this was a paSSion, however, I learned
quickly, drawing from a few words of the publishing industry, a whole lan-
guage of the business. Out of necessity, I became a grantsman, a publicist,
and a designer. I learned type styles, how to "pasteup" a book, the different
paper stocks, the various kinds of case bindings, and PMS colors. I learned
how to negotiate contracts, to sell foreign rights. When I discovered I was a
weak proofreader, I became an employer. I even became an inefficient
accountant, entering miles of figures in spreadsheets to produce royalty
statements. In short, I became a sort of businessman, learning at least part
of the art of financial survival. Once again I was determined to take my
imagined world into the world we describe as the "real" one.
That is what a poet does, to make the world real. One thinks of
Shakespeare, who through his poetry became a king, son, daughter,
198 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
mother, mad father, clown, and jealous lover; of Emily Dickinson, who
through her poetry engaged in a dialogue with an entire theology. Whether
one attains the aesthetic heights of these writers does not matter as much
as the activity itself, the attempt through language to turn the mind into
the world. Whether I write a poem or publish a book, I am creating some-
thing which helps to give the world a reality. This has little to do with self-
expression. Since it entails language, which all humans share, and since
it is through language that we comprehend experience, poetry is an activity
always about the world at large. Emanating from the self, its focus is
inevitably upon all that is outside the self, the mind, and the imagination,
even as it expresses them.
It is no surprise, accordingly, that my publishing activities have
come to embrace international writing, that increasingly over the past sev-
eral years Sun & Moon Press has become a home for writers from many
countries. As I found a home in my youth in Europe, a place where I could
read and make meaning, so has the press attempted to serve as a home
for writers from other lands. As I expressed it in my recent introduction to
Mr. Knife, Miss Fork, our new journal of international poetry, "the poet's job
is to explore possibilities of meaning, which is to say possibilities of
thought." How can a poet do that in a closed room, in a closed society? For
good writing and publishing to occur, the doors must be opened and the
full context of human experience embraced. Only then can the miracle
happen, can the poet and reader get carried away.
Harryette Mullen
Imagining the Unimagined Reader:
Writing to the Unborn and Including the Excluded
The context for my work is not so much geographic as it is linguistic and
cultural. I write beyond the range of my voice and the social boundaries of
identity, yet within the limits imposed on my work and my imagination by
language and its cultural significance. The idea of identity informs my
poetry, insofar as identity acts upon language, and language acts upon
identity. It would be accurate to say that my poetry explores the reciprocity
of language and culture. My work is informed by my interactions with read-
ers, writers, scholars, and critics, as well as my interest in the various pos-
sibilities for poetry in written and spoken American English.
Harryette Mullen 199
I write for myself and others. An other is anyone who is not me.
Anyone who is not me is like me in some ways and unlike me in other
ways. I write, optimistically, for an imagined audience of known and
unknown readers. Many of my imagined readers have yet to encounter my
work. Most of them are not even born yet. About one-third of my pleasure
as a writer comes from the work itself, the process of writing, a third from
the response of my contemporaries, and another third in contemplating
unknown readers who inhabit a future I will not live to see. When I read the
words of African Americans who were slaves, I feel at once my similarity
and difference. I experience simultaneously a continuity and a discontinuity
with the past, which I imagine is similar to that of the unborn reader who
might encounter my work in some possible future. There is another kind of
experience I sometimes have when reading the words of authors who
never imagined that someone like me might be included in the potential
audience for their work, as when I read in Cirlot's Dictionary of Symbols
that a "Negro" symbolizes the beast in the human. When' read words
never meant for me, or anyone like me-words that exclude me, or any-
one like me, as a possible reader-then I feel simultaneously my exclu-
sion and my inclusion as a literate black woman, the unimagined reader of
the text.
A future reader I imagine for my work is the offspring of an illiterate
woman. A significant percentage of the world population remains illiterate,
the majority of them girls and women. An even greater number of people
have minimal access to books or the leisure to read them. In addition to
people who simply have no opportunity to be empowered by education,
the problem of illiteracy has expanded, as the late Paulo Freire pointed
out, to include nominally educated people who are unable to function as
critical readers. The disputes among what Hank Lazer calls "opposing
poetries" provide examples of the proliferation of competing poetics repre-
senting competing and alternative literacies, of which the proliferation of
illiteracies is a side effect. E. D. Hirsch's "cultural literacy" franchise offered
a panacea for the anxieties of the educated and elite classes contemplat-
ing an increasingly diverse and multicultural population, as well as for the
anxieties of minorities resisting total assimilation of the dominant culture.
What constitutes literacy has always been determined by the pow-
erful, while illiteracy persists as an attribute of the disempowered. Eco-
nomic and social policies in the U.S. that widen the gap between the haves
and have-nots inevitably deepen the divide between the literate and the
illiterate, with the illiterate increasingly consigned to the criminal justice
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ - - - - - - - - - -
200 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
system. The July 27, 1997, issue of the Women's Review of Books gath-
ered a collection of articles on U.S. prisons and activists working with
incarcerated women and their children, observing that, "As we approach
the millennium, prisons are among the country's biggest post-cold war
growth industries. Within the prison boom, women are the fastest-growing
population, a trend due primarily to the so-called war on drugs." One arti-
cle, "Literacy for Life," reports on the work of MOTHEREAD, a North Car-
olina organization that helps women in prison improve their own and their
children's literacy skills. In addition to the division of the literate and the illit-
erate, there is further division between the literate and the hyperliterate.
The illiteracy that MOTHEREAD targets is of a more abject variety than
that claimed by poet Sharon Doubiago, a college-educated white woman
with working-class roots, in an interview in Contemporary Literature: "I read
Helen in Egypt at eighteen. I've always said, self-deprecatingly, that I didn't
understand a word of it. I didn't know any mythology. I was illiterate,
although I was a Bible scholar."
I think I have a fairly accurate sense of the people who are read-
ing my poetry now, because I am already acquainted with many of them.
They are poets, critics, teachers, and students of literature. Some are
readers interested in the poetry of writers of color, or black writers more
specifically, or women writers. Some are readers who simply enjoy poetry.
These known readers are the people I see at poetry readings and literature
conferences, at art centers, colleges, and (more rarely) at bookstores. A
few others are people who only began to read my work because they are
my friends or members of my family. If they had not already known me,
they probably would never have encountered my books in their normal
everyday lives.
Aside from illiteracy, and the poverty that perpetuates it, which get
my vote as urgent yet insufficiently recognized issues for writers and
teachers of poetry, the major barriers to potential readers of my poetry are
availability and language. All four of my poetry books, so far, have been
published in relatively small editions by small presses and have been dis-
tributed mainly by mail order through the individual publishers and by
Small Press Distribution in Berkeley. My books are very rarely found on
bookstore shelves. When they are, it is usually a campus bookstore that
orders books because I am scheduled to read at a particular college.
These readings often occur in the context of a brief "residency" of up to a
week, which might also include a public lecture on poetics; visits to writing,
literature, and other classes; individual critiques of student writing; inter-
Harryette Mullen 201
views for print or broadcast media; book signings; and various receptions
and meals with interested faculty and students. Sometimes off-campus
readings at community venues are also included in the residency. The
variety of events, sponsored by different entities, allows more potential
readers to be introduced to the work, and pragmatically combines funds
from various departments and organizations to pay the expenses of travel,
accommodations, and honorarium. A few of my poems have appeared,
with or without my permission, on the Worldwide Web, which virtually
expands the potential audience beyond those who see my work in books
or periodicals.
For some potential readers, language is an even greater barrier
than availability. It is possible that my poetry might become more available,
but it is unlikely that my poems will become any more translatable. As long
as my poems remain untranslated, they are accessible only to those who
can read English, including those who speak/read/write one or more other
languages. It is not that I am a linguistic chauvinist, by any means, but sim-
ply that, as a more or less monolingual speaker of American English, I am
working within the language that is mine. With the exception of a handful of
prose poems recently translated by Mexican poet Pedro Serrano and a
few poems from my first book that were translated into Spanish for a bilin-
gual anthology, my work exists only in English. I have sprinkled Spanish
words into my poems, but never enough to make the work bilingual. My
poetic idiom is a product of American English and its vernaculars, including
those associated with black speakers of American English.
As I continue to work conceptually with specific cultural and lin-
guistic materials, rather than logical statement, linear narrative, or trans-
parent lyrical expression, my work gets closer to what makes poetry
unparaphrasable, and thus, untranslatable. While I can appreciate the nar-
rative drive of Homer and Virgil, the lyrical transparency of Sappho, or
Pablo Neruda, or Wislawa Szymborska, the democratic appeal of Walt
Whitman and Langston Hughes, and I certainly admire the qualities that
allow these poets to come across despite what is lost in translation, the
qualities that I aspire to in my work seem to be precisely those that resist
translation, that have to do with living, thinking, reading, and writing inside
a particular language.
My desires as a poet are contradictory. I aspire to write poetry that
would leave no insurmountable obstacle to comprehension and pleasure
other than the ultimate limits of the reader's interest and linguistic compe-
tence. However, I do not necessarily approach this goal by employing a
202 boundary 21 Spring 1999
beautiful, pure, simple, or accessible literary language, or by maintaining a
clear, consistent, recognizable, or authentic voice in my work. At this point
in my life, I am more interested in working with language per se than in
developing or maintaining my own particular voice or style of writing,
although I am aware that my poems may constitute a peculiar idiolect that
can be identified as mine. I think of writing as a process that is synthetic
rather than organic, artificial rather than natural, human rather than divine.
My inclination is to pursue what is minor, marginal, idiosyncratic, trivial,
debased, or aberrant in the language that I speak and write. I desire that
my work appeal to an audience that is diverse and inclusive, at the same
time that I wonder if human beings will ever learn how to be inclusive with-
out repressing human diversity through cultural and linguistic imperialism.
Of course my fond desire that my work reach every interested
reader on the planet from the present to the imagined future itself repre-
sents the imperialism of the poet's ego; and surely any poet who fanta-
sizes a globally diverse audience should write poems that can more easily
be translated. Nevertheless, my work continues to explore linguistic quirks
and cultural references peculiar to American English as spoken by the multi-
ethnic peoples of the United States, although the phenomena that interest
me are common to most languages. My poems often recycle familiar and
humble materials, in search of the poetry found in everyday language:
puns, double entendres, taboo words, Freudian slips, jokes, riddles,
proverbs, folk poetry, found poetry, idiomatic expressions, slang and jar-
gon, coinages, neologisms, nonce words, portmanteaus, pidgins and cre-
oles, nicknames, diminutives, baby talk, tongue twisters, children's rhyming
games, imitative and onomatopoeic formations, syntactical and grammati-
cal peculiarities, true and false etymologies, cliches, jingles, and slogans.
Whether in verse or prose poetry, I enjoy playing with the sounds
and rhythms of words, creating aural patterns of repeating phonemes,
using the devices of assonance, consonance, alliteration, rhyme, and vari-
ous echo effects. As a writer I sometimes practice a kind of linguistic
archaeology of the metaphorical origins of words, a resurrection of dead
metaphors that are buried in any language. I am curious about the "uncon-
scious" of language, suggested by the various indirections of metaphor,
metonymy, euphemism, periphrasis, and taboo word deformation. I am
equally interested in the materiality of language itself, the physical pres-
ence of words and letters on the page, so I am fond of word games, such
as acrostics, anagrams, paragrams, lipograms, univocalics, tautograms,
charades, homophones, spoonerisms, and palindromes that draw atten-
Harryette Mullen 203
tion to the manipulable properties of letters and words. I like the possibility
of scrambled words and syntax, of secret or alternative meanings, of words
hidden within other words, as in equivoque, cryptograms, and cryptomor-
phic riddles. Solving such word puzzles models the activity of different
readers decoding and comprehending alternative messages from the
same text.
Recently I have written a poem composed of what I call "aphasic
similes," another poem that gets its syntactical structure from a line of
African American folklore that I found in Vertamae Grosvenor's diaspora
soul food cookbook, and also a prose poem inspired by certain stylistic tics
of formula fiction writing, known as "Tom Swifties," after the hero of a series
of books written for juvenile readers in the early twentieth century. An
ongoing project is a poem titled "Jinglejangle," a catalog of over three hun-
dred items created by what the dictionary calls "rhyming and jingling forma-
tion," examples of the poetic process in everyday language.
Although I happen to be working in what is currently the global
language of international capitalism, or what some call "Imperial English,"
the quirks, contradictions, even the inanities, in the language of the declin-
ing Anglo-American empire are what interest me most. Writing in English
does not assure me that my work will reach the unborn readers of the
future (assuming optimistically that human beings and poetry have a
future) for whom English may well be as dead as Latin, Ancient Greek, and
Sumerian are for me. My poetry will not reach people who do not read
English, or people who do not read poetry, whether they are literate or
illiterate. Although some of my poems would not suffer if they were heard
but not read, others ought to be seen as well as heard. Video and audio-
tapes of me reading my work are stored in various poetry archives, which
would make the work available to anyone who can understand my spo-
ken English, but these media documents are quite as perishable as books
and periodicals.
Not when I am writing, but after I have written, I consider who
would be left out, excluded from the poem. Although it is not necessary or
possible to include everyone, I find that it is useful to me as a writer to think
about the fact that language, culture, and poetry always exclude as well as
they include potential audiences. One reason I have avoided a singular
style or voice for my poetry is the possibility of including a diverse audi-
ence of readers attracted to different poems and different aspects of the
work. I try to leave room for unknown readers I can only imagine.
204 boundary 21 Spring 1999
Bernard Noel
States of Air
we have just the view
the words of wind
this void the land
for Viera da Silva
here the deepening reverses
self-regard
making us leap into our eyes
always the go-and-come
the viewed and the not viewed
the graphing of not there
on that which is there
tantalizing passages
in ourselves opened
in ourselves passed
and the eye that travels
embroiled in the bait of air
each thing holds itself in that which it is
not the center
but central
all the body sees
and leaves behind the seen
like my back behind me
shimmers of air
strewn with pebbles of ink
the port that goes inside itself
mirror you are
our head inside itself
reentering home
by the pupil
this tiny black moon
....
in the sky of paper
air parts
pages for battlements
when thought volleys
blur of traces
blur among which
each returns to all
scales limp
under which planted with bone
the obscure
everywhere on the brink
just as in parting
the astonishment suffices
nothing arrests the open
save its surface
each limit calls
looking to pass
the head is over there
rejointing them
then in the ailing eye
the body sees itself come
in mental aeration
but here the Author in You in Himself
encounters affronted
the doubling of the world
a filter of air
the in finite
and this wall of nothing
where language is beheaded
next drowns itself in eyes
Bernard Noel 205
(Translated from French by Charles Bernstein)
206 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Original Poets
Original: Manifesto of Spring 1988
We object to localist and ethnocentric-in a word, nationalistic-writings.
Our writings are of the world (an open box): through writing, we hold con-
versation with contemporary global art and with Western art in particular.
We pay particular attention to the Chinese written character because we
know: it will grant us the right to a firm individuality. Therefore, we are at
the same time creating and developing a localist and ethnocentric, or sim-
ply put, nationalistic modernist art.
When the poet's consciousness shifts to language, this is in fact the
preparatory stage of modern artistic experiment. We think the first step of
such experiment is: only by starting with written characters (the code of
recording speech) will the exploration of human spiritual phenomena and
especially of individual phenomena be possible. Compared with spoken
language, written characters are less polluted and prejudged. We do not
avoid the phrase "word games," which already has caused great misunder-
standing. We even like it. "Game" (y6uxi) is a word that connotes the pro-
found, eerie spirit of art and philosophy. Because of our involvement, it
constructs the only cross during the last decade of this century:
We say: "swim" (y6u), the horizontal line. Getting in touch with real-
ity or linking with reality.
We say: "play" (xi), the vertical line. Coming from the soul or point-
ing directly to the human heart.
Nevertheless, all of this is related to the written characters, that is to
say it is practiced within the possibilities the written characters offer. The
intersection of these two hypothetical/imaginary/fictional lines is precisely
our concrete and perceptible poetic activity.
This is a type of real dream }
These two make up an antithesis
This is a type of abstract matter
Which is the "spot":
Original Poets 207
Our ideal poetry is an art abstracted from contemporary poetry and
then we put it into the place of abstract poetry-
We invent it!
Written characters are the labyrinth of the poet's home.
But poetry is by no means the movie theaters where readers enter-
tain themselves.
Change! Change! Change!
We are the poet who uttered the word in Parable of the Palace! With
head cut off, we come to you again!
Note: Parable of the Palace relates that the Emperor showed a poet around the
Imperial Palace, which was not only a palace but also the entire universe. The poet
recited a poem, which consisted of only one line or a single word, but also contained
the whole palace, namely the entire universe. The Emperor became furious, killed the
poet, hence all trace of the poem was lost.
The author of this parable (yityan) is Borges.
We do not need allegory (yit) only words (yan)!
(Translated from Chinese by Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas)
208 boundary 21 Spring 1999
Maggie O'Sullivan
red shifts
black / feathers / blue
flimsy
count / 'n / dance
breathing-in-breathing-out
tear of the wind
windfella
why d'who ails? ruptures crossing
hoove lost? -
rent - parture - t' tide
INEXACT
locutions
sutured, detonates
averting utt
err fasting
many. a sour suffix - wove, unwove-
FLED)
in the hand
hazeling
...,
Maggie O'Sullivan 209
slipper tint d'ye earing ellen's eyes he
hearing out
the waterflows -
buckled raved sheens -
breathing-in-breathing-
housing together, empt-y-ing out
dead shine
rook shrill -
or marked & swept -
mark afloat the tongue
dipping
gouged
heavying & freezy sank -
- own Breathes em - emerald - & the rents of
scolder
PRISMS
- ever kindled
or shone-
breath
of a running sore
pronged down
in a reeking
210 boundary 21 Spring 1999
suf-
thistle .. .
what .. .
threshing plume
mud e e e d-
- alit - on till i-lit-
indrawn intake inch
red / squawk / slaw / teared
paper boat
'n, but did -
sky wore a white swaying
sailed breath across my chest
did-IN,IN-
amber sag lornly
twen-
dreamdery ...
pennant flut
sure i sung all along the river for practise
moon for all the blanket just
<
Alexei Parshchikov 211
Alexei Parshchikov
If I'm to peddle stories, I'll strive to pick from my mind a tape that concerns
one tender airhead freak, my classmate, whose name was Arichkin. His
real name was Barinov, but it had been perverted by school teasers. He
had a father, a prominent boss of a very strategic coal mining factory, I for-
get just which one. In the single office in their six-bedroom apartment, which
had been built by German captives, an ancestor kept a revolver. Don't you
know what marvelous lead pistols at that time were available for moderate
prices at the private bazaars? Connoisseurs managed to cast them by melt-
ing scraps or lumps of lead. They were huge guns with cozy reeled maga-
zines and corks attached to the rifles. And these items were so attractive
that they easily snatched off your fingers in an occasional explosion.
The door to the father's cabinet was locked unto dead infinity, and
from it he generously treated us-it provided an opulent eternal feast full of
caviar and roasted rabbits, crammed down with dry Asian plums, and once
this flashy, carnal man who all the time licked his lips, this heavy-handed
Pluto, passed to us a hot, scarlet paprika, so when I swallowed it, I under-
stood the configuration of a thunderbolt in my stomach. The back of his head
consisted of layers, like those of the colonels who sold the Czech Republic
to the Nazis before the Second War, and you can find precise pictures of
them in documentary flicks like "Ordinary Fascism" by Mikhail Romm.
On the last weekend of August, which had been strummed and
sparked by the Holiday of Coal Mines, Arichkin together with his gloomy
friend, the brave scamp of their apartment block, decided to undertake a
stroll across Soviet Park, congested by ideological sculptures and pieces
of propaganda art and so on of the same ilk. The park was dedicated to
one Shcherbakov (I'm unaware of the origin of this name, but in sound it
resembled something involving cogs). During the scanning of the park, in
the very neutral landscape, the pair bumped into a passenger of the prole-
tarian genre who was sleeping under a bush. Nothing incredible, of course,
on such a night. Arichkin's abettor was a nonchalant guy, so he abruptly
kicked the sleeping man with his foot, and the head of the victim rolled onto
the grass and stopped two meters beyond the guys. At the first moment,
the latter felt nothing except impunity. This head had previously been
meticulously cut off and then joined back to the body.
But please forgive me for tormenting you with my awkward attempts to
convey the truth as I'm doing in English, but if there are mistakes to cor-
212 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
rect, still I can swear with a tiny reservation that I haven't strayed a bit from
my mundane style. But keep patience and let's take this further! I tell you
all this just for Eryoma's* sake, i.e., in light of his primordial method of
vision. Let's remain on the sidewalk; Arichkin evidently has been appalled,
he has taken a leak and immediately rushed to Aeroflot and bought a one-
way ticket to the outskirts of my vast country from which he has moved
along the globe until the expected straitjacket is found for him.
Why was Arichkin so bitterly frustrated?-that's what I have won-
dered about him. I have been surprised that Arichkin was surprised. We
were obviously durable cynics, fostered in particular circumstances that
approved even the violent outlines of our existence. For instance, in the
vicinity of my home, but on the opposite side of the Dnieper, construction
workers had built a vertiginous industrial pipe. From the beginning lots of
announcements came out that two bold artists had to be hired to attire the
top of this pipe with four letters: CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet
Union). One might have taken the dare to spend a week at this unattain-
able altitude and put the letters around the top of the pipe. The price was
enough to buy a jeep. Well, for a week the population watched steadily
how the letters were emerging along the round pipe wall. You know that
Kiev stands on a multitude of hills, as you can see in icons, so people had
a chance to contemplate the process from different slopes and inform each
other by phone about the status of this toil on the scaffolds. Because the
notorious letters were large it was possible to see only 1.5 of each from
anyone point at a time. When the task was completed, the slightly drunk
heroes decided to make a circle of honour around the edge of the pipe
without being fastened by their safety belts, and they were drowned,
soaked in the terrible crater. That sounded obvious and plausible, and the
local newspapers published an article in which a journalist explained the
matter of their death with very cool arguments. First of all, this bored writer
announced that the artists were dead just before their bodies reached the
bottom of the pipe. They had been crushed by the pipe's wall, which was
continuing to move together with the Earth, while the artists were marked
as free-falling objects. "We can recall the Foucault pendulum, a copy of
which was established in the Lavra Monastery in the middle of the nine-
teenth century," he had written, "it is OSCillating according to universal rules.
The original model can be seen in the museum of physical patterns at
Savres near Paris."
We were puzzled. Why was this standard of precision, like the Torri-
cellian vacuum, the pound, the meter, etc., held in some vague place "near
Alexei Parshchikov 213
Paris"? And how were we to get a visa to go abroad and comprehend the
notion and dignity of exact standards?
We are the springs of the now obsolete fashion of plural facets of personal-
ity, kids of nonlinear equations; we perceived the world as something that
tacitly nodded on its center. The running tanks of abstract curves reeled
across our fancy as an oblique barber's scissors over our protuberant
pates, in a choir addressed to the idea of expediency and rightness: if
there is curve, there should be a center. Expediency, that was an unex-
changeable concept even when it bore a derogatory hue. So, the world
had its center, which was reproduced all the time, and since reproduction
is a process that has its own rhythm, we could sit in the immobile zero
point of it and methodically look around. Eryoma did so, legs crossed in a
yoga position with a can of beer in his left hand. But I'll tell you how I expe-
rienced this expediency very directly; it's not a gory story, so don't tune
yourself to an anxious mood. You know that by a whim of fate I dedicated
three years to agricultural studies. Three years, my friend! In summertime
I had practice in: a) milking, b) artificial insemination, c) emasculation-
these were the indispensable subjects. Students were obliged to learn how
to milk cows just so as to be able in the future to inspect the workers, who,
if they were not seen through their milking, could milk the same cow later,
illegally and gathering for themselves the fattest layer of milk, the remains
of which floated at the top of the udder because of their lighter weight. We
were trained to know this skill as the blind knows his own five fingers. The
insemination was the tenderest lesson, when the catalyst of anticipation
had materialized and descended on the herds and they began mooing,
when the huge truck with frozen sperm had applied its brakes at the fence.
Castration was usually boring and probably a kind of entertainment for our
innocent girls, who roasted the loot of castration for dinner with scorching
spices, and it was tasty indeed.
We had an instructor, a local cow keeper, who gave us our lessons
in artificial insemination. He was a sloppy, smudgy, freckled old man, amaz-
ingly small. He had the appearance of an infanticide as well as of a Geor-
gian resident who has been hanging out unshaved and drunk for forty
days after the funeral of a distant relative. At dusk he led our group for-
ward to a special device that stood abandoned in the back of the stock-
yard. There was a wooden dry sinewy frame with crossbars and joints
within which the horse or cow might be fastened, fixed, locked, whatever,
but the animal should stand still. There were certain heads (items) of bulls
214 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
in the area and every drop of their hereditary information was extremely
expensive, extremely. The bull, when he takes the cow, becomes so excited,
irresponsible, crazy, uncontrollable, and so on, that he twists out of the cow
and runs away in an unknown direction in the vast wilderness where emo-
tions still overwhelm him. Therefore he spills the treasured sperm in vain,
meaninglessly.
Stop. I want to remind you of a line from a fairly popular verse in
which the right position of the bull has been correctly represented. It
sounds like this in translation: "The bull with the help of the cow looks at
what's going on over the hill." That's a good visual emblem: the infinite
pose of a couple is obvious here.
So the cow keeper has to figure out the exact moment when the
particular wave will rush up through the bull's body, the moment when
the affected biotype will be ready to give up all his future to the cow and
the development of the species is chasing after him, then the cow keeper
must seize the root of the bull's peniS and hold it fast, as if it were a rope in
the icy abyss, until the last drop of the bull's sperm can be passed to the
cow successfully. In our case the bridal paragon was muddy-white with red
rolling eyes and a nose ring, his long penis seemed to have its own inde-
pendent life, and the cow was brown without specific marks. The feeble
cow keeper leaped in between the two rhymed, applauding heavy bodies
and did his duty. How did he manage to survive? How is it he wasn't
squashed between the giants that had become obsessed with each other?
or when the animals disconnected and the cow keeper dropped ... , well,
when the bull was released from the socket, radiant and vanishing in the
golden fields to look at the mellow lights of a remote city and so on. But the
cow keeper dropped ... from what? You know, there was a special secret
space, the shell, the mandorla (an egg-shaped part of Eastern icons), cre-
ated by two semicircles, the cavity, constituted by the curl of the cow's
pelvis and the arched belly of the bull. That's easy to draw, and following
that model, I would like to say that there was a space provided just for the
cow keeper, a shelter, found room, the authentic place for the justification
of his existence and the Behemoth's and the Leviathan's together, where
he achieved his personal feasibility, the point where Providence had con-
ceived him and the space that he kept for himself as an instantaneous
bridging shot-since it was a pure autonomous shape, devised in the air
by the two agricultural Graces.
At the moment neither the cow and bull nor the cow keeper has any-
thing to do with this remnant shape. It lives sovereignly, trembling and on-
screen in front of me, as if it were a fresh plaster of pariS mask similar to
Jorge Santiago Perednik 215
one which the Swiss sculptor Erick Busslinger, a man of very fixed elegance
and taste, once cast of me. When he set it to dry thoroughly, I saw the
unknown inside part of my face, a countenance given for observation from
the center of my brain, and after awhile my reversed snow face suddenly
pushed toward me and turned into the positive, convex real face of me.
*Viktor Eremenko, contemporary Russian poet.
Jorge Santiago Perednik
FOUR P(R)O(BL)EMS
My idea is that poetry is relatively speaking autonomous from the context in
which it was written, the literary work relatively autonomous from the author
who wrote it, the author relatively autonomous from the life he led, the life
relatively autonomous from the era it occurred in, and the era relatively
autonomous from the planet on which it took place. Later comes the lesson
of the Staircase: the steps don't touch each other, but there are a lot of
them, and there are staircases. One is born alone and dies alone, and
some or all of us are the context of that one. This is the definition of culture.
I was a very happy boy
I wrote verses with a single meaning
I thought poetry's sovereignty
was untouchable
one day a guy came along
and as I'd feared he said the worst:
that the poem has an outside
and the staircase proves it
STAIRCASE
''the text
is not alone
there's a context
that resignifies everything"
216 boundary 21 Spring 1999
2
One of the most spectacular gaffes in the history of translating poetry into
Spanish has as protagonist a famous T. S. Eliot line, "April is the cruelest
month," translated unanimously as "Abril es el mes mas cruel." Listen to the
translation. Here's a line where all the words are sharp, when Spanish is a
language that tends toward soft words; this might be saying something.
Keep listening: there is more, and different, alliteration here than in the
English line, and, to my ear, the Spanish alliteration has a less agreeable
melody. The comparative sonority of English and Spanish in a line of
poetry presents difficulties that are at the same time specific to this particu-
lar line and common to all translation, which serves to introduce another,
more intricate problem, of what readers can comparatively understand. In
the Spanish-speaking countries of South America, of which there are quite
a number, April is a fall month; here, associating fall-or April-with cru-
elty has an impeccable logic: fall is a season whose particular weather
withers flowers, tears leaves off plants, and makes the sky cry. Therefore,
fall is the cruelest season. Belonging to a context creates habits; in this
case, the South doesn't arouse the suspicion that for certain readers with
another context-the English, for example-April signifies exactly the
opposite, that is, spring. It's not the Spanish translation that obstructs
Eliot's oxymoron, as Mexican or Spanish readers prove; rather, it's the
context in which it is read. South Americans could understand something
similar to what their English-speaking colleagues would understand only if
"April" were translated as September or October. But this would completely
discombobulate the hispanic readers of the North, who are equally slaves
to habit. If the question is what importance context has in poetry, I propose
that this be considered as Proof Number One.
3
text is an ugly word context is an ugly word word is an ugly word ugly is an
ugly word
I call this Proof Number Two.
call is a lovely word this is a lovely word proof is a lovely word num-
ber is a lovely word two is a precious word
I think this doesn't prove anything
4
Jorge Santiago Perednik 217
what I think doesn't prove anything
I call this Proof Number Three.
Context is the chance variable of the text.
Which plurality, to what degree,
how, with what effect
each unity of the plurality
affects the words for the reader
That which calls this chance is ignorance
that which calls this chance is knowledge
of the unknowability and the undecidability
of any unity of the plurality
or of its only partial and provisional sayability
To deny chance is to pretend to be an absolute master
the absolute master as a concept denies context
Oh illusory property, the juridical ruse
to believe that a paper a name a signature
can make things surrender or submit
that a thing could be mine a poem mine
Oh the magic of identity
to pretend that letters, numbers
can make of someone one
that there could be a one to which
something could be surrendered
For the poem or for the author, identity is the chance variable of
context.
Because there's language because there's a world
one's identity cannot be one
(Translated from Spanish by Molly Weigel)
218 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
Nick Piombino
Automatic Manifesto #7
How hard should I be willing to work to cause the machine to move? Cer-
tainly there must be a mode whereby whispering could be amplified into a
question of pitch. In this instance, acoustics take off from where the lighting
particularly goes dim, a valve which functions like a sprocket and a French
horn, in which arpeggios are frozen by an excess of pain, and melancholy
takes on a majestic air as if all along it had encompassed the invention of
algebra by means of speculative ceramics, hardening a concept into a con-
certo, filing it carefully under the heading of cataclysm, shortening its attitu-
dinal vowels by means of expanding its preposterous assumptions, which
themselves are gradually approaching taciturnity, turning its back on
morally absent overtones, shadowing its suspect grammar in the far-off
glittering beams of empty supposition which glides gently and slowly into
the waiting arms of abstraction, whose speculative hypothetical attractions
will never be sufficiently quantified or even humorous despite the ulterior
motives of the manifest dream content, sliding its negative transference
like a trombone, emptying its confessional syndromes into a grateful inter-
pretation whose arms grotesquely imagine the canon, a broad crypt for
encryption's silky significance, permanently imprinted on the broad brows
of history. In this context interruption's arms set around it like a gossamer
dress, whose limbs entwine even the coldest heart in any probable reality,
whose guilts can be tested by ear on the piano of solitude's tones in the
cool hands of the precious parenthetical.
Entrusting the whole future of humanity in a complete dependence on
words, language's bid for power quietly encircled the heart, blending
expression with the unraveled and the unintended in an involuntary inquisi-
tion. In any case, it is all a matter of breath, trying to run an adjectival or
metaphorical marathon across previously uncomplicated categories which
range themselves absently like comedians whose comprehension is
ninety-nine parts dogged will and one bright carnation of a thought which
plays its grainy rondos on a black-and-white TV, in matte soft sleep, airing
its tiny representatives in privilege and common law. In a sense, insight as
a form of kind rationalism is no defense against heretical and hedonistic
philandering or the pillaging inherent in the ravages of bigotry and hate.
The more hate the less love, the more love the less hate, with one excep-
tion. Those who find hate to be a kind of terrorist and psychopathic glee
Reinhard Priessnitz 219
are orphaned on the forces of castration anxiety and materialistic greed
and will forever rip holes in the fabric of restful repose and slightly sarcastic
conversation, in the late afternoon of a carnivalesque and boisterous
reconfiguration, vigorous, vainglorious, anticipatory, atonal, and abrupt.
Reinhard Priessnitz
heroine
the matrix suddenly stale, birds lame
the dull writing-hand, her lines wave
to spring forth in linear phases;
and littered with efference systems,
must set the regulation duller still;
no illumination puts her cramp to shame:
she faces self-applicability problems,
splashes and rocks, the images hasten.
was she not herself bird, once long and tame,
sinking down to soar up, herself to chasten,
to lie so neatly in the compulsion to repeat?
she is stirring still, yet already gone to sleep;
and one last time, feebly, hardly in swing,
pressing to the middle harbor, concept-ship.
(Translated from German by Tyrus Miller)
Tom Raworth
"Do you see your work in the context of a national state, or in the context of
international capital, or in some other context (including imaginary or imag-
ined ones)?"
NO
"Is identity an important issue for your work and if so in what senses?"
NO
220 boundary 21 Spring 1999
"What do you see as the most urgent, yet insufficiently recognized, or
addressed, issue or issues for poets at this moment?"
Their pitiful belief in their own publicity.
CAT VAN CAT
spontaneous activity reaches
possible multiple signals also
ridden hard in past episodes
along the edge of the harbour
yards: functions occasionally jam
tribal supporters take off
out and settle down
changing course surging over
building blocks to clear six feet
waves until that sort of engine
isolates fish ancestors
intent its information
go to the cerebellum
with its cultural limitations
leaking blood into panic
swirling held formed by echo
words open holes in
ripples of colour to draw
imbued utterances in a single hop
through tephra into natural light
historical sites familiar with traditional
patterns peculiarly patient
hooks mutating profiles
in the breeze from spinning radii
share events shaved close
of crop circle stubble chic
hard white chains stand out
across the supper area
rolling their links
derisively in a spiral
expecting hoist convenience to
spread out the local sheets
Lisa Robertson
If We
"Citizens asleep or separated by distance"
- Sianne Ngai
Lisa Robertson 221
1 The "we" is not lapidary. It tumbles toward us as sound. Its face is a tran-
sit expressed as syllable. It belongs to such vulnerable intervals:
It reclines on its threshold of pigment. It declines my attention. Then softly
it furnishes a pronoun. "Is it this?" So I give her the temporary poem. That
is the gesture I wish diligently to communicate for her to guzzle with mem-
ory's long artifice and that is the transit during which the remembered sylla-
bles which are translated so erotic so political, all ten of them, learn the
excellent culture of timeliness asleep or separated by distance the face
moving across.
2 Time is an artifice. It is composed. But this ambivalent composition faces
the drama of duration. So there are always at least two times in the work,
and the decisions composing their intervals and nodes place the work in
the everyday. Wim Wenders said of his filmmaking, in "Notebook on Cities
and Clothes": "Filmmaking should go along with eating, driving, making
notes, etc., carried along by its own curiosity." Later in the same film he
says, "You're designing time." I believe that the intervals of consciousness
touch the intervals of language. I believe it is possible to design practises
in which the seemingly causal relations between consciousness and lan-
guage or between memory and pronouns may be decisively reversed. May
I call this reversal "the everyday"? May I call it "love"? May I call it "the
city"? I believe writing is utopian, as curiosity is utopian, as plural pronouns
and cities are utopian, even though the singular world is not and I believe
equally that utopia is a discipline. It is going along. It is the interval of "if"
attended and extended into material choice. For me the poem can only
ever be this timely ambivalence, this artificial now, gesture given. Given.
222 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
Mercedes Roffe
Every phenomenon holds some trace of the contexts-local, regional,
global-in which it is produced. I can hardly conceive of the idea of a text
worthy of survival that does not carry the imprint of its time. Which does not
mean to say that I am particularly interested in reading or writing texts that
narrate fragments of their regional or global surroundings. There are few
places, in my opinion, where the Spanish sixteenth century is more present
than in Garcilaso de la Vega's work. But that century is not to be found
either in the predictable homage to the Duke of Alba or in the phantas-
magorical allusions to the poet's exile, or even in the effect that the inven-
tion of the printing press had on the poems' immediate circulation. It is in
the fact that the characters are nymphs and shepherds, in the use of the
ekphrasis, in the use of the lira and the sonnet, in the references to a very
precise mythological line that one finds Garcilaso's context: sixteenth-
century humanism. Furthermore, I would say, everything that this century
and this humanism sought to silence is equally silenced in the poem.
There are of course different degrees and different ways in which
context makes a place for itself in the text. What I suspect is that these
degrees and ways are far more capricious and unpredictable than one
tends to think: they do not necessarily correspond to the degree of control
that authors intend or believe they wield.
As far as the subject of control is concerned, certain discourses-
and poetics are particularly illustrative in this respect-suppose a degree
of "agency" on the part of the poet that experience does not always con-
firm. Poetics are but a reflection of an event that much of the time has
already been consummated-a collection of poems, an event about which
the poet has surely had a great deal less choice or control than is claimed
in the prose written afterwards. From then on, the programmatic/proselytiz-
ing force of the poetics winds up generating the subsequent corpus of texts
-and of acolytes. However, when the process of defending one's path
as one of many possibilities leads to claiming that path as the only legiti-
mate one, then this seems to me to go too far. Particularly when declara-
tion of one's own correctness is accompanied by accusations, often unsub-
stantiated, of collaboration ism against anyone who conceives his or her
work differently. In such instances, what begins as a reflection about a par-
ticular way of understanding the revolution of the word, and of the world,
ends up seeming far too much like a witch-hunt. In more modest terms,
what we are dealing with is the age-old slipping from poetics to precept.
Mercedes Roffe 223
I would situate in this context the question about those poetics
associated with identity issues. To some extent, identity can only be an
issue in contexts where any difference is seen as a threat. Again, anec-
dotes related to any specific group are not what I am most interested in
reading or writing about. However, I believe in the necessity of a global
society in which all human beings have the right to represent themselves
and to be represented with dignity, even when representation itself is prob-
lematic. The commodification, by certain sectors of power, of the works of
authors representative of certain minorities does not invalidate the legiti-
macy of the participation of these authors and minorities in the cultural and
political dialogue of our time. On the contrary, it is just the latest stage of
the same old history of the objectification of the other. Minorities, as well as
certain cultures, are seen only on the condition that they fulfill the stereo-
types assigned to them by a supposedly neutral gaze, by an identity which
sees itself as a sort of identity degre zero.
Nonetheless, there is a point at which, ironically, my position on
poetics associated with identity-including those which celebrate it as if it
were an achievement in itself, those which dismiss it as a sheer mirage or
those which proclaim it in constant flux-is similar to what I think about the
ways in which certain technological advances may affect or even originate
a new poetics. Even at the risk of sounding pedantic or pathetically naive,
I shall confide a cherished dream of mine: I would like to belong to a group
of poets neither more nor less affected by the technological revolution than
others were by the invention of the printing press, by the passage from
ideographic to syllabic writing, by the fortunate exchange between the oral
and written traditions, by the multiple phases of translation ad absurdum-
i.e., by certain conditions of possibility. Sappho, Catullus, Sei Shonagon,
the author of The Red Book of Hergest, Chretien de Troyes, Christine de
Pisan, St. John of the Cross, Sor Juana, Blake, the Omaha author of the
"Sweat-House Ritual," Borges, Saitoo Fumi, Pizarnik .... Even though
traces revealing diverse modalities of production and circulation might
have remained in their texts, they are not what makes these works memo-
rable. This is my history of literature: this fleeting continuum of sporadic
perfections. I am confident that what will come-mediated, no doubt, by
technology-will be just another link in this chain.
Regarding the possibilities and impossibilities of poetiC language
today, I will only mention a more or less recent uneasiness. The situation
has its roots in a positive condition: another advance of our age. I am think-
ing of the ever widening reach of education-a phenomenon that I would
224 boundary 21 Spring 1999
not quite call "democratization," but which, however slow and unequal, has
begun to show itself in certain latitudes. How does this affect the redefini-
tion of the writer's field and profile, and the thematic or technical possibili-
ties open to him or her?
Some critics have taken great pains to point out the substantial dif-
ference between the work of poets they respect and the deplorable aes-
thetics of the talk show. Some have even held up this aesthetics as an
exemplum vitando, and have adopted it as one of their criteria of evalua-
tion. I must confess that having never felt such an anxiety, upon reading
about it, this critical terror revealed itself as something entirely new. I even
tried to imagine a John Donne, a Milton, frantically editing their texts lest
they sound like the work of a preacher. I even considered the other
extreme: Cervantes's efforts to assure a place in his fiction for the priest's
and the barber's complaints. At the same time, I could not help thinking
how many equally renowned authors sounded more than once just like
these popular types, since they all shared some basic assumptions such
as their conception of women.
Nonetheless, at some pOint, this concern about talk shows made
me aware of another concern that I do recognize as mine, namely, how to
make sure that my writing is something more than what is produced by any
other literate person of my time. The task becomes more complex if I add a
second proposition: how to guarantee a writing radically different from that
which any person could articulate based on the mere fact of being literate
without, in the process, slipping into the grotesque contortions often result-
ing from the pirouettes of experimentalism. How to sustain oneself, then,
within this difference without falling from anxiety into the romantic/avant-
garde seizure so similar, in the end, to Don Quixote's capers in the Sierra
Morena to mime tradition. How to maintain this difference while avoiding
the pathetic gesture of the painter in Pasolini's Teorema urinating on the
canvas in search of a particular, not realistic and not prefabricated, shade
of blue: all of it so early '70s, so dated, so desperately seeking a place in
the strict, linear story of avant-garde movements.
The answer, however provisional, could not be more modest. Today,
as always, the greatest challenge still lies in being able to sustain oneself
in that sinuous cornice that writing has been since its inception; to know, as
poets, that we share with all other human beings the two basic compo-
nents of our teehne: language and life's experience(s). And in spite of this,
and because of it, to articulate something else: an art(i)fact of a sort that
the broad community may recognize as its own, shared, without ceasing to
Amina SaId 225
be inaccessible. Inaccessible in the making; communal and shared as a
meaning-generating force.
(Translated from Spanish by Kathy Kopple)
Amins Ssi"C/
I write
because there is a night a day
dawn dusk shadow and light
and because there will always be seasons to dream
I write because in the beginning
is this planet which welcomes us
I write because the heart's swell
I have never forgotten the sea's rhythm
I also write for love and for the secret place
that haunts us
the poem is a ritual of light
I write to find reasons
for our presence for our acts
I write against the absurd
and because in "ecrire" there is the word "crin-scream
I write on death's back
I write against time that makes us that unmakes us
that creates and uncreates itself
each poem is a thread tied to the tree of life
I write because I learned to read sand and water
shadow cloud and the flight of birds
226 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
I write to catch myself at the edge of the world
to catch my breath to stop to look to listen
I write like a lamp keeps vigil
on the reverse of night
I write without waiting for tomorrow
I write because time in the poem
clothes itself with eternity
each poem is a prayer
I write to save the real words
so that their gaze remains clear
the words which on the page
will illuminate those will come to our lips
I write because I am ferrywoman
of worlds
I write because the Chinese taught us
the secrets of ink and paper
I write to fill in the black holes of each day
I write to know why I write
and for the discovery the gropings
the lightning flashes in the poem
and because it is my way of being free
each poem is a thread tied to the tree of life
I write to translate amazement stupor
emotion distress fascination serenity
anger doubt indignation tenderness
and because writing is irrepressible
I write because there is the word "rire"-Iaughter-in "ecrire"
I write because I have never been able to listen
to a complete speech
I write because the world
is not a rumor behind the window
and because elsewhere nearby
men women children
are dying because of mankind's folly
I write because we inhabit one single earth
and because heaven is not our dwelling
each poem is a thread tied to the tree of life
I write to free my multiple voices
so that they may be breath and source
from the depth of my night they clear a path
to the dawn of the page
a wing crosses its shuddering silence
gardens reflected in blue mirrors
to write is to push back the boundaries of shadow
light is a promise it has no face
except for the fleeting traits of love
I write because I am
and to learn to be more
I write because the words know how to caress
Amina SaId 227
the image of our dream and the dream of the dream
I write because someone unknown one day started a poem
our words are fragile and yet they live
I write because I belong to the chain of beings
and because we have to remember that
228 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
each poem is a thread tied to the tree of life
I write out of respect for the most sacred elements
fire water wind
the star the stone the tree and the trace
of the free animal
I write to see beyond
and decipher the signs of the universe
I write because life time earth are stolen from us
because the city is the birds' last refuge
I write because the poet said
a poem is a sketch
of a world still to be created
I write because to live has always seemed to me
a path shaped like a question mark
to understand why
each poem is a thread tied to the tree of life
I write because I think in images
and because to write is also to act
I write to lose myself to find myself again
to lose myself again
I write as one smiles
like a castaway climbs ashore
I write because poetry and silence
are echoes and the work of my night
my true language the one that resists
the ashes forgetting that's how it is
I write because after the trial of birth
writing is one of the highest proofs of being
I also write I always write
because in me the child is not dead
I write because time in the poem
clothes itself in eternity
each poem is a thread tied to the tree of life
I write because freedom is a vertigo
in the mirror of anguish
and because this mirror already silhouettes
the image of our death
I write because for me there is no other place
than the place of the poem
Amina Said 229
and because tightrope walker I advance on a moonbeam
forced to it by the breathing of the abyss
I write to do the work of life
because human song
is the tree that raises us
and because nobody can do without
its fruits of light
(Translated from French by Pierre Joris)
230 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
JeromeSala
Poetry: What to Read
In Where the Suckers Moon: The Life and Death of an Advertising Cam-
paign, Randall Rothenberg tells the story of how '90s "postmodern" adver-
tising was born. This is the genre of ad that you see more and more of
these days which, in order to sell its products, trashes advertising itself,
and its long history of hype.
Interestingly, this style of advertising arises not so much from an
impulse toward irony or camp, as from a desire for a new, and realer, real-
ism. Ads like this follow the rhetorical strategy of "you've seen all the bull-
shit-now here's the real thing."
One of the most influential 1990s ads in this tradition (which can be
traced back to the birth of modern advertising in the 1890s) is one created
for Subaru cars in 1993, by the avant-garde Portland ad agency Wieden
and Kennedy (which has done many of the famous Nike ads). There's a
cliche among creative workers in automotive advertising that a car is never
just what takes you from one place to another; rather than a mere hunk of
moving metal, it's what makes you powerful, lovable, worthy of status, etc.:
"My Toyota, I love it." In their now canonical spot, Wieden and Kennedy
wrote against this tradition. Their commercial began, "A car is just a car-
and it's sole reason for existence is to take you from point A to pOint B."
Accompanying this text was a mixture of social realist and constructivist
graphics-glistening shots of the auto assembly line, accentuated by wild,
exploding type.
With Walter Benjamin's provocative insight in mind, that younger art
forms sometimes accomplish effortlessly what their ancestors struggled
violently to achieve, one can't help but wonder if there isn't something
poetry could learn from this strategy devised by its prodigal sons and
daughters (whom, cultural critics often argue, are squandering the riches
of their verbal inheritance in the foreign land of the commodity-that bar-
barian locale to which most poets deny their citizenship). After all, hasn't
there been too much inflated hype about poetry? And haven't its own pro-
moters, poets and literary theorists, been complicit in a sin any advertising
creative director will warn you against-that of the "overpromise"? Does
so much really depend upon a red wheelbarrow? Can it possibly carry the
weight of historical profundity you'd like to place in it?
Taking a hint from Wieden and Kennedy, I composed a mini-manifesto
Jerome Sala 231
which argues, in the form of a TV commercial script (appropriating liberally
from the Subaru script I mentioned), for a neorealist mode of poetics. Let's
show our readers that we've departed from the dishonest practices of our
past. Then, once we've got their attention, we can go back to being the
secret legislators of the world.
VARIATIONS ON A THEME BY SUBARU
AUDIO (VOICE OVER)
A poem is just a poem
and its sole reason for existence
is to take you for a ride from
the first line
to the last
with a little pleasure
in between.
It won't make you
more handsome
. . . or prettier
... or younger.
And if reading it improves your
standing with your fellow poets
VIDEOISFX
TWANGING BLUES GUITARS
ACCOMPANIED BY SCROLLING
TYPE.
NUDE BODY PARTS OF BOTH
SEXES. SHOTS OF RUBBERI
LEATHER FETISH TOYS.
PIERCED GENITALS MONTAGE.
SHOT OF YOUNG KATHARINE
HEPBURN IN SUNGLASSES.
SHOT OF MONTGOMERY CLIFT
IN AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY,
DAMAGED BIW FILM TO
CONNOTE AUTHENTICITY.
SHOT OF MICK JAGGER AT 50
DANCING WITH BELT TO
JUMPIN' JACK FLASH.
NEO-BEAT TYPES LOOKING
IMPRESSED, IN BACK OF
WOMAN IN STRIPED TURTLE
NECK READING HOWL.
232 boundary 21 Spring 1999
... then you live among snobs
with distorted values.
A poem is nouns, verbs, articles,
prepositions, adjectives and
adverbs.
"A small machine
made of words."
And in choosing one to read
and reread,
the question should be:
what kind of jolt will it
give me? Can I get a
comparable kick in less words?
NEO-BEAT TYPES FROWN.
WILD, EXPLODING TYPE,
A LA RUSSIAN FUTURIST
TYPOGRAPHY.
SHOT OF WILLIAM CARLOS
WILLIAMS, SMILING.
QUICK SEQUENCE OF
EXPLODING MUSHROOM
CLOUDS.
And do I like the way this machine KITSCH SHOTS OF '50S SF
feels when it races through my brain? ROCKETS SPARKLING IN
SPACE.
And what it looks like on
the page?
And in the end
with an absence of marketing
glamour about the poem
may the best poem win.
TAG:
POETRY. WHAT TO READ.
SHOTS OF CONCRETE
POEMS IN STRANGE SHAPES.
SHOT OF BARNES & NOBLE
BOOKSTORE EXPLODING.
LONG SHOT: PEOPLE
CHEERING AT A POETRY
SLAM.
LOGO. FADE TO BLACK.
Leslie Scalapino 233
Leslie Sealaplno
from Deer Night
"taught," is more being as a pet). One's 'contemplative' faculty is ridiculed
- by one even - and the absence also of that faculty occurring is sub-
servient (not having arisen - or occurred - at all
Lackeys fawning arise from pleasure, then
The leg flecking is in no suppression.
(dryly) Bifurcating customs - themselves - the weather is spring)
The curious even - when the leg flecking, in pain - seeing in
physical nature which is not existing therefore, not even on one's retina -
is not arising from pleasure or at all- hasn't social being, no experience
- as such; not arising, it's not 'resuming.' (Didn't leave off - or recur) as
one either
There it 'seems' to resume 'oneself' (no longer that, so no dura-
tion) - non intentional - without impediment. As if one follows, tracks,
something, resuming attention, itself. There is no one to interrupt.
(One lay on the table, the technicians flashing.)
(That's backwards.)
In crowd - being stung as insult, one without motive, by a cattle
prod; when one is not cattle. That other fawns on someone else then. The
one stung had been cattle before, simply - but not now. The person com-
ing up and stinging with the electric prod to hurt on the one who's hideless
- which is as if blind flesh (not being at flesh where there are eyes is the
flesh with the prod) - in excruciating pain there
(Distinguish physical pain from the mind. Cannot occur.)
Burning the tar at dawn on gorges - working on the roads on
gorges, foreigners as the only export - living there on the road - isn't
itself that life is nothing
dawn - that life is nothing
can't change one's habits which are corrosive - so that's going to
be the only thing there is? Whether one is there.
enervated - habit - is not dawn - either.
Note on my own work: I would like to do a writing in which 'cultural' [that is,
both outside one and interior] scrutiny can occur as being the process of
the writer's thought and recognition coming up to the surface.
In Deer Night I intended a double - that an outside culture as
234 boundary 21 Spring 1999
seen 'interiorly' by one be brought to bear on one's own culture, that 'con-
ceptualization' and 'experience' be at once apprehension and overt [as a
play, yet read in silence] illusion.
Deer Night was written during and after return from traveling in
Bhutan and Thailand; it is actually referring to many places, however. The
word their sometimes refers to the people in the other culture, and more
frequently to one's. I wanted to reiterate the separation psychically [here],
which would 'then' not be the cultural categorization, but the bounding out
of 'one.' 'One' is maintained.
As if 'iterating' conflicts inside one and outside at once - it is
motions'iIIusions.
'Their'/word has to jump into the bounds of 'their' location, as one-
self; oneself interpreted as being or through their 'here' [one's own loca-
tion] - one can be interiorly 'only' other than what one is.
not one
The gesture itself and observing is recognized as illusion.
The attempt to articulate [this] itself is the separation.
"Notion that conceptualization and action are separate - one is
as bounding out of one - not as viewing life as inferior
to realign their narrative in the sense of the writing being that sep-
aration - one is not one
as bounding out of one"
I wanted to use a particular tool: One, early, as a child, traveling
having the sense of having no customs that are inherent - and reacting
against one's own culture in its being obtuse force, and in its negating what
is really there.
In that one is conflict only just as such - it is mirrored as one's
interior.
It (one effected by conflict, and being that only - then) can't be
articulated as that language - of the outside here.
Silence is that inarticulateness, a particular thing.
One is not articulating for others who have been silenced - or
who are 'not heard' by 'history.' ...
Oneself is simply 'conflicts' or 'actions' as such. A surface. This is
a relief because it can be changed.
(Not having been taught customs yet - early - traveling - these
appear as only relative.) They have a spatial dimension.
The intention is that as Deer Night is a play yet the reader as one
[isolated and enacted by it] reads the written words silently, the actions
Ferdinand Schmatz 235
occur as if on its other side [as one sees the moon] - the actual exterior
events, people on gorges streaming from overpopulated origins as imme-
diate and past event, occur as a play's silent side only [occurring, enacted,
by its being read].
Silence and sound both are as written text.
Yet this work could be enacted [by actors] to make an exterior of
its own silent side. The events, as enacted, would have to be occurring at
different times from when they were articulated [where they come up in the
text] - a split - so that they would impinge on memory at the same time
as their occurrence as contemplative motions.
The text being 'viewed' whether it is being read or enacted then.
The silent reading itself enacts social voices 'interiorly' - as silent
motions ....
The 'memory' in reading and exterior enactment [together]
appears as if information, of events, though viewers will not have read it
[but hearing the syntax gives them the shape of reading, the interior expe-
rience of reading], and appears to be one's own memory by being outside.
- 'Outside being free'
Ferdinand Schmatz
Pro Domo
The disposition of problems in my work has changed. The crucial thing is
not disposition itself as problem, but rather the balance of problem and dis-
position. That's nothing new in poetry, but so what?
Put another way: what is to be written does not simply orient itself out-
wards or inwards, but rather asks which way the problem points, though it
must not stop there.
Problem:
This is a self-engaging theme with a procedure that emerges out of it. In
my earlier work, it was often the other way around: there the theme devel-
oped out of radical-intuitive interventions into language, interventions that
intensified from new word constructions up to the dissolution of meaning.
Nevertheless, I believe that I knew quite well at that time where my work
was leading. Whereas now that my texts have a more strictly conceived
236 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
method in which rhythm, sound, and meaning should, with equal right, lead
into one another, I can't precisely estimate how the result will look.
Result:
This develops from the theme as set forth. It is the process that the theme
has set in motion. Beyond this, the theme and result have nothing more in
common; but the juncture of result and process via theme is the text.
The theme is not a title (though it can also be this). It roughly outlines a
"surmised" complex, which it designates and thus makes into the object of
the work's proceedings.
Complex:
The complex is that which poses the theme as problem or that which may
reveal itself as a thematic problem. It can be introduced by the thought of
a word or a few words, by the perception of words read or heard, even by a
sign vehicle or sign cluster of a general sort, seized on by the eye in order
to evoke the idea (the thematically designated theme).
Indication turns out to be, paradoxically, the "floating fixed point" of this pro-
cedure, in which, between the word or sign and the laws played out in con-
sciousness or elsewhere, the assignment of meanings occurs. The man-
ner of reading these laws and that which I legislate, of reading signs,
signifier and signified: this becomes "my" text.
There's method here.
Method:
It takes into consideration criteria that seek to formalize the process set in
motion by the theme. By formalization, I mean a systematization in broader
semantic and syntactic frames (and not simply the strongly rule-like form of
an algorithm).
As already mentioned, systematization affects both the syntactic and
semantic sides of the text. That means: word fields, word groups, words,
syllables, or letters can be grouped or regrouped according to a particular
line or sentence construction, or by some other sort of poetic schema; like-
wise with whole sentences or parts of sentences. But limitation or expan-
sion of the significance or referential content of words is also possible. This
is dependent, accordingly, on the syntactically determined division of words,
Ferdinand Schmatz 237
as well as on the syllable or letter order that is immanent to the words, in
which I may also intervene along rhythmic or sonorous lines. This in turn
leads to new fields of meaning and consequently provokes new syntactical
processes-and these rebound against the criteria that I have selected
(according to the theme), entering into new connections or breaking old
ones. One thus arrives at a crisscrossing or interplay of semantics and syn-
tax with sound and rhythm, whereby a syntactical limitation may summon
forth a semantic expansion (vice versa), which in turn may conform with a
sonorous and rhythmic alteration or run intentionally contrary to it.
The text should reveal: how the form-meaning flux, methodically produced,
intersects with those laws that elaborate it.
The word:
The word, as the basic element of the sentence, is essential. That, too, is
nothing new. Nor is the fact that the basic elements of the word may be
constitutive for new word developments. These exert a syntactic influence
on me, insofar as I push them forward into transformations that affect the
construction of the sentence. The word is the germ cell of the development
and extension of texts, even if these occur in a fragmented space. From
the productive point of view of reduction, the word can even serve as the
theme. Its valence changes with the construction of other words with the
same orthographic material, with a semantically similar or associatively
linked meaning, or with a sonorously similar structure. Likewise it alters its
valence in being placed in the sentence, which once again, in accordance
with this changed constellation, opens new contexts. During this word-
sentence transposition, I observe in myself how the new text sequence
affects the laws which parse them, and I incorporate this impact into the
text. This may be expressed in a methodically testable mode of legibility or,
alternatively, may lead to a change in the text relations which a reader may
not always be able to retrace afterwards, a change which on the first
impression could be interpreted as the "intuitive freedom" of the poet. I will
attempt to show how this may be situated, and which function it performs
in the production of a text.
Intuition:
This is the pregiven chance. The constrained detour to the right word or
sentence along an unaccustomed, but not idiosyncratic, pathway. The intu-
238 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
ition is a sudden perception in the highest state of attention or in the sleeping-
waking condition of dozing off over the work, over a word or a syllable or a
sound. Waiting for this may further elaborate the theme into the idea, if the
theme can be constructively introduced into the work on the text. Even
deconstruction is possible. The idea is thus not "intuitive" in the traditional
sense; rather it will be codetermined by, for example, the word (see
above). The pathway to this codetermination is the text.
Pathway:
It is on the one hand characterized by a chance that is no accident. On the
other hand, by a system that is not "pure," but rather, by one based often
on the "lawful chances of the composed intuition." The pathway-from
"chance" to "sudden flash"- marks out the artificial creation of the text,
which fulfills the poetic demand of decoding and encoding: it requires a
reader to carry out a task of understanding (decoding), while at the same
time this reader will be relentlessly misguided (encoding) by the laws which
undergird the writer in the act of writing, if the method is not crudely
retraceable later (as for example the anagram, wrongly understood as a
formalism that gives evidence of inner processes).
Law:
It can be the object of observation during the work process, so as to reflect
the predetermined biological and intellectual events in one's own work in
language.
How do signs, letters, words, sentences, etc., light upon sensations, inner
signs, and images? In what relation do these stand to the pregiven types
or forms of experiencing, perceiving, feeling, and thinking? Are these types
actually (as asserted by cognitive science) the ideal contents, toward
which one must constantly adjust oneself, and which are supposed to be
sought for in the process of constituting external forms? What system, tak-
ing shape between language, thinking, representing, and perception,
enables the imagination and transformation which I inscribe individually on
the poetic banner? What steering mechanisms are given in advance, and
to what extent may they be disturbed, deflected, evaded, destroyed? Does
intervention into the morphological structure of the language, into phrases
and words, help in the creation of a new structure? Would the description
of the structure be the proper pathway? Does its alteration, transposition,
Ferdinand Schmatz 239
destruction, or its newly ordered coordination bring about a change in its
inner laws and hence in the individual's image of the "world"?
I pose these problems to myself. But the disposition of problems in my
work has changed (see above) ....
(Translated from German by Tyrus Miller)
Spencer Selby, from Problem Pictures

c..._
James Sherry 241
James Sherry
Ideology and Consistency
(from One Notably Inconsistent)
Since the advent of Modernism, there has been a tendency among artists
and cultural critics to valorize indigenous cultures and arts. Early Mod-
ernists imitated African and Cycladic sculpture. Popular music from many
cultures including jazz and rock music of America or Eastern European folk
music have been the basis of highbrow symphonies. And many of the
world's novelists have tried to artify popular genre writing from detectives
to science fiction to fables.
Cultural critics in the last few decades have extolled local cultures
in opposition to global commodified culture purveyed by transnational
media conglomerates. They credit a handful of transnational media compa-
nies with controlling 75 percent of cultural production worldwide. The limits
imposed by transnational media hegemony are viewed, by the likes of
Bagdikian and Chomsky, as a crime on a par with destruction of the planet's
biodiversity. In America, the indigenous cultures of immigrants, along with
traditional and even mainstream cultures, have been represented as trea-
sures that the transnational culture plunders for profit. The Disney version
of Peter Pan in book form, for example, does not credit J. M. Barrie as the
creator of the work, presumably because copyright has lapsed, and Disney
does not view it as important to acknowledge the creator of the writing,
merely to sell it. In contrast, these same transnational companies are in a
frenzy regarding international copyright and promote the divisive concept of
intellectual property over free exchange and use of ideas.
Cultural critics, for their part, support immigrants' use of their own
languages and cultures at home and in their communities in the same spirit
as religious freedom is supported by our nation's founding documents. It is
a right of Americans to celebrate Kwanza or Chanukah instead of Christ-
mas. It is the right of Americans to speak Korean or Swahili or Portuguese
at home. It is the right of Americans to eat their national foods and behave
in their national ways ... up to a point.
Why is this issue important? Neither the monoculture nor the mul-
ticulture establishes a consistent perspective, although arguments defend-
ing the universality or relativism of both points of view abound. From a sim-
ple point of view, if freedom is important to corporate culture, why
intellectual property laws-where exactly and by whom is this freedom
242 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
exercised? If many points of view need to be held at once, why are
ism, cannibalism, and fast food not accorded equal privilege in the
cultural pantheon?
Both corporate and multicultural views are inconsistent because
they do not promote consistency as values. They are ideologies, doctrines,
idle wheels without a driving force of their own that are meant to support an
unspecified or obscured source of values. They are necessary but not
ficient modes of operation for cultural structure. Their adherents, however,
represent them as total and capable of sustaining life without any other
pOints of view to support them. "All," for example, "you need is love."
In reality, however, both the ideologies of the cultural critics and
the transnationals require opposition to exist. The nature of political dis-
course fails to justify its own point of view independent of opposition. Free-
dom does not exist independent of its alternatives: the false choices of the
marketplace or the evils of (im)moral repression. Yet all ideologies by their
nature impose not only a false polarity but also a restricted set of choices.
The Right says it's appropriate for reasons of state to kill an adult (Orestia)
but not an innocent fetus, while the Left says it's appropriate for an individ-
ual to choose to terminate a pregnancy but not for the state to execute a
felon for a capital crime. One wonders why the other two alternative view-
points of the four do not have a well-publicized following. Of course you
can think of some reasons, but the pOint is that it is the nature of political
discourse to restrict alternatives, make a priori choices for followers rather
than present the real alternatives.
Why is political discourse so far from daily life, where we are con-
stantly forced to negotiate multiple conditions rather than dictate: crossing
the street (especially in Guiliani's New York), talking in turn, team play, the
corporate workplace itself, the academic environment itself, the political
arena itself? The use of ideology is opposed to what? And in a related
mode, if we value freedom and praise negotiation rather than oppression,
why do we seek artists to make decisions for us? How can we in good con-
science support a poetry that allows us to collaboratively interpret the
dition and status of the work? Poets' pOints of view, both the schools and
the individualists, are ideologies forcing a restricted set of values, and what
do they offer?
Poetry offers those devoted to it a life of impoverishment usually
ending in delusion and early death. Those who mix poetry with other disci-
plines such as prose, professing, or prosperity seem to achieve some sort
James Sherry 243
of balance. As they juggle, they garner the scorn of the purists (you might
read younger poets), who see their own ideology betrayed by the pres-
ence of alternatives in the lives of others. The purist's monastic devotion is
aSSOCiated with professionalism in the workplace, where to talk about your
outside activities is often considered improper and a sign of lack of com-
mitment, resulting in lower bonuses, fewer raises and promotions. This
should not be construed as a plea for amateurism but an effort to point to
the fact that the so-called purity of purpose of the poet is a false singularity,
a failure to recognize the varieties of experience and practices in the arts.
It is typical of essentialism and ideology. It is also an effort to promote non-
ideological approaches to poetry, if such a thing does indeed exist.
At the same time we need to recognize the value of ideology in
war (and we may be viewing a class war beginning in the disputes between
the cultural critics and transnational corporations); in single disciple arts
(where we are asked to accept that poetry, for example, can be construed
as an entire world and can be judged by its ability to include all the vari-
eties of experience within a limited set of techniques); and in lettristic and
language-centered poetry in particular (where the values of words are
defined by their characteristics such as font, size, shape, position, and the
various juxtapositions that have been defined as nonlexical meanings by
the writers to whom we allude).
Perhaps we accept the ideologies because we seek respite from
continuous negotiation and because we do like artists to make decisions
for us and confirm what we already believe. For as much as writing has
been promoted as challenging our assumptions, successful writers do so
only on a limited and polite basis to you gentle reader and from you oh
heinous pedant and other. Writing as it is constructed today participates in
essentially the same polar structure as any ideology. In fact most writing is
ideology. Here a history would suffice for several pages.
But when we are done how can we discuss our contemporaries
who claim a "reader-centered" writing, as does Jackson Mac low, that per-
mits the reader to authorize her own meanings and yet is so difficult to
read? And how is it that "language-centered" writing, where each reader
rewrites her own syntax in reading, persists in arguments to justify and
reassure its readership that they are really being allowed to reconstitute
reality in language? If it is true, why argue against the alternatives so vehe-
mently? Is it also merely an ideological perspective, forcing a limited
choice by false opposition? It is a curious thing.
244 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
Ultimately we are discussing our willingness to accept ourselves
and failing that to accept our writing and failing that to ask others to accept
us and failing that to ask history to accept us so that we can move accep-
tance back up the chain to ourselves. This structural self-denial may be
said to have been true for two hundred years, a product of the apparent
superiority of the machine, apparent from our failure or unwillingness to
distinguish between the different kinds of things we do. The machines
have been against us from the beginning, OOPS, except that their purpose
is to lighten our load. Is it meaningful work or rest that we seek? Well now
that I put it that way I want both. I shall now ask the machine to spit out the
seventeenth version of this document, more perfect for the alternatives I
have been able to develop. But in 1955 it took an average of two hours to
type a business letter. In 1995, with all our computing excellence, it takes
an average of 3 hours.
Aleksandr Skidan
The Resistance of/to Poetry
There is a certain classic manner of presenting poetic experience in rela-
tion to resistance, and Freud, who assumed that a sublimation of virtues
occurs, only follows a particular tradition in reasserting his still touching
faith in the power of consciousness and the expression of it, as if poets
had hidden themselves in their work in the name of unshakable clarity and
rational self-control by liberating themselves from some dark element or
by translating a vision that was given to them from heaven. However, if
Poetry (with a capital P) is understood in this way, it will die along with the
agony of the author of Les Fleurs du Mal (which does not mean, by the
way, that poetry understood in this way ceases to exist; rather, its sub-
stance when confronted with transformation ceases to be topical; it is
either totally in the past or it becomes an effort which simulates itself: a
falsification/counterfeit) .
In 1866 Baudelaire had a stroke; he lost his ability to speak and
descended into a progressively advancing weakness of mind. A group of
mysterious elements, such as the first syllable of the word mama or Maria,
or possibly also maya, confused calls into which the language of a dying
person disintegrates, could be considered as his last poetic act. Docu-
ments of this disintegration were found among his papers after his death
Aleksandr Skidan 245
and they could be seen as forerunners of the methods that were later used
by avant-garde poets. The composition of Les Fleurs du Mal is reminiscent
of the composition of Dante's Divine Comedy, the significant difference
being that the former lacks Purgatory, Paradise, and the lovers' heavenly
hypostasis. There was no place left for them. Instead, there is an over-
whelming amount of tribulation and languishing to a degree that poetry had
never seen before. Baudelaire's agony gives rise to the body of modern
poetry, its corpus. Bodily existence can only come into being at the price of
God's death (this could already be seen in the Marquis de Sade). A sover-
eign body in the being-unto-death-the existence horizon-and only there
is sexual language possible. According to Paul Valery, the voice of the
powerfully conceptual is to be heard in Baudelaire's poetry; it takes the
form of temptation, airiness, imagery, and lust. This conceptual being calls
for an era of sacrificial writing, for its stroke and its weakness of mind that
deny the divine halo and degrade poetry, bringing it down to the ground,
thus simultaneously consolidating its reality and its unreality. Public opinion
accuses it of pornography. The paralytic not only produces a new form of
aesthetic experience (and then the progressively advancing weakness of
mind is nothing but the development of a poetic method, and, even more, it
produces a masterpiece beyond comparison), it also depicts the unending
architecture of the "aesthetic skeleton." The place of aesthetics as such is
challenged.
When we read Baudelaire it is as if we were wakened from some
golden dream; in the same way, when we read Nietzsche we are wakened
from a noble philosophical two-thousand-year-old dream. In the last poem of
Les Fleurs du Mal, the dandy who has won Wagner's ecstatic admiration and
who identifies himself with a prostitute is heading toward death: Le Voyage.
An alternative, or at least a complement, to Baudelaire can be
seen in Holderlin. Contrary to Baudelaire, he turns away from contempo-
rary times; he does not want to be intoxicated by them. Hermetical exis-
tence in asceticism threads the path to our cradle, to antiquity. As Roman
Jakobson has pointed out, Holderlin's later poetry contains no "shifters"
that define the dialogical structure of the sentence, its orientation from the I
to the other. The I is wiped away by the sign of the pseudonym, the locus
of the other has been taken beyond the "here and now," into an atopia. This
makes it possible to speak about another time, a utopian, Edenic time. We
are all still left in the time of Hyperion: in hypertime. Hypertime is the myth-
ical time of the work itself, preceding the I as an instance of authorship.
The work demands with authority that the I be removed; it demands the
246 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
removal of every sign of life, that is, the habits of everyday language. In
entering the field of becoming poetry it makes room for the ecstatic wrong
side of the word, a kind of protospeech that should open up the genuine-
ness of the world-genuineness that occupies the place of the gods, that
creates the position for being away: in a way the voice of the poet reaches
beyond the heads of the mortals to the Olympus of the immortals.
The poetics of the late Scardanelli, in which the word is contained
in a protospeech from beyond time, can also be drawn to take its place
near language, but its version of "The Return of Eurydice" (Diotima),
whose name disintegrates into fog or is sacrificed into anagrammatic
secret writing, is only a panicky inversion of the same romantic fervor that
Baudelaire expressed. In other words, his poet(h)ics are the reverse side
of a reaction to the same stroke that seems to turn into an era and paraly-
ses history (later on Nietzsche died of a progressive paralysis; he hit the
keys, sang, and screamed the glory of Dionysus).
The face of Baudelaire distorted by the stroke, his confused yelling,
the exhaustion and destruction of his thought, or the hieratic whispers that
don't have a name but that still appeal to the real being of language: two
answers, or basically one and the same answer to the challenge that has
been thrown to us by the present time. The fervor with which the limits of lan-
guage are tested and which proceeds all the way to the cursing of oneself or
to a nostalgia for things that have always been there, the ashes of a voice, of
Hyperion burnt to ashes? The marks of sorrow at work can be seen here
and there. There is a third way out: histrionicism, a picturesque and comical
parade of masks, disclosing its desire for exhibitionism, succumbing to it.
(There is a name for this last mentioned thing, but it has been rendered con-
troversial through useless debates, and I allow myself to remain silent here.)
And there is also the gesture of Rimbaud, filled with a strange fatigue and at
the same time the power to enchant us; he preferred the bacchanal of
becoming rich to the "mixing of all the senses," and he exchanged the "vir-
gin's belt" for the "golden belt of a slave trader." ...
Thus language replaces god. Today, the reality of poetry, its
pathos, involves attacks against the limits of language, and it involves stay-
ing at its limits-as if there still were a living faith in something that tran-
scends language. Yet we remain within the confines of banality unless we
learn to test the strength and durability of these limits. This option has been
introduced without our participation, but it has to be shared between the I
and the other, the self and the self. To be precise, the limit has to be
shared/separated by itself: it has to be it. Only then will the resistance of
Aleksandr Skidan 247
poetry, which now has taken on the form of paralysis, be able to turn into
resistance on our part against poetry itself, its desire to resist the present
or to merge with it in an erotic and deathly embrace. What we have to be
against (and this is not the categorical imperative) is poetry itself in all its
forms. If the word itself-"poetry"-signifies a meaning such as "sharing
the limits," then all is lost again. Not to produce poetry, not to produce
meaning. One has to resist a poetic work in the same way that it used to
resist meaning by turning away from it into insanity or silence, while the
present rescued itself easily by providing meaningfulness from the per-
spective of Purpose-for instance, with nonsense or the absurd, as in the
Dada movement, and even more in the radical poetic efforts of the
OBERIU group.
But what if Meaning as such is only a phase of some nonmeaning?
What if the rational that has ruled for centuries still takes on a non meaning-
ful event by generating an aesthetic form, whether it be a "classical" work or
a post-Heideggerian work? By offering aesthetics the status of an indepen-
dent gesture, by retaining it at a harmless distance, by alienating this dis-
tance to its own advantage. Or by transforming a certain surface, "the sur-
face of song," as Aleksandr Vvedenskii would say, into an apparition of
depth. Whatever the case may be, Meaning, which is metonymically
replaced by "depth," "the secret," "the sacred," "exstasis," "gesture," always
produces expectations. Poetry will remain the other of the intellect, at the
horizon of the expectation of Meaning. Let us sing the surface of song ....
Resistance: it should not be given the features of ideas-not the
name of other poetry (for example, that of truthfulness), not the name of a
new meaning (there is no truth in itself, no meaning, there is only their rep-
etition and recital). No novelty for the sake of novelty (novelty caters only to
the consumer value of a product). But rather the resistance of Ito poetry-
and this insolvable dual meaning that we nevertheless share includes a
guarantee of a more demanding and possibly a more real failure.
1
1. A kind of absolute value of failure was mentioned by Wittgenstein in 1929 when he
spoke about the impossibility of expressing an ethical experience: "No description can
express what I mean by an absolute value; therefore I deny ab initio any description
insofar as it has a meaning. Therefore I now understand that the statements referred to
proved to be without sense, not because I did not select the correct (linguistic) expres-
sion for them, but because senselessness was their essence, and all I wanted to do to
them was go beyond the limits of the world, that is beyond the limits of a language that
has meaning" ("A Lecture on Ethics;' Philosophical Review 74 [1965]).
(Translated from Russian by the author)
Pete Spence
I
Misko Suvakovic 249
Misko Suvskovlc
conceptual Art, Political Art, and the Poetry of "CODE"
The group CODE (Slavko Bogdanovic, Siobodan Tisma, Miroslav Mandie,
Mirko Radojicic, Janez Kocijancic, Pedja Vranesevic, Kiss-Jovak Ferenc,
and Branko Andric) was active in the domain of process and conceptual art
in the early '70s (1970-1972) in Yugoslavia.
In its dominant manifestation, conceptual art belongs to the evolu-
tion of visual arts. Synchronous to the general line, part of the conceptual-
ist production also embraces domains of literary work, or rather the inter-
face of literary, philosophical (philosophy, linguistic theory, semiotics, and
semiology), and visual work, and the conception of the visual is manifested
through the current presence of different media (film, photography, theatre,
process art), and not only through painting and its history. Documents and
texts by members of CODE point to a complex and varied production of
theoretical objects in contexts of literary texts, artistic texts, texts as objects-
for-exhibition, and textual speech and behavioral situations.
There are two approaches essential for CODE: (a) intertextuality:
individual artwork has aspects of intertextual mapping in the field of poten-
tial and available types of discourse of various origin; and (b) a second-
degree approach: artwork does not begin as a first degree only to evolve
into metalanguage functions later; the formation of a second-degree frame-
work and first-degree realizations takes place simultaneously through the
creation of the group's context of activity.
Eclecticism and radical reexamination of different artistic, existen-
tial, and political contents and modes of expression, representation and
be,havior acted as a provocation (shock therapy) in a milieu of strong
bureaucratic "real socialist" structure which sees art as a moderate mod-
ernist superstructure of party (and thus also social) interests. The group
CODE explicitly raised doubt about: (1) moderate modernist values of
artistic production, both on the theoretical and the output plane; (2) the
bureaucratically set boundaries of art, culture, and politiCS, which it rela-
tivized through intermediality and intertextuality; and (3) the behavior of
bureaucratic artist, creator, and actor of socialist aestheticism and, later,
moderate modernism: CODE designed a new concept of artist in the
span of artist-theoretician to artist-shaman to anarchist who destroys
social values (family - commune, rational consciousness - drugs, party
politics - individual ideological and mythical worlds, institutional - non-
250 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
institutional, artist as individuality - art collective, aesthetic value -
existential value).
CODE, and in particular the work of Bogdanovic, addressed
essential ideological attitudes, characteristic for the art of the '60s, specifi-
cally a commitment to the democratization of arts, in other words, involve-
ment of the viewer in the process of conceptual completion of the work.
Bogdanovic sees the expansion of art not only in an expansion of the
media framework and open concepts of art but also in the reader's or par-
ticipant's active reception. Bogdanovic's attitude contains a utopian com-
ponent of optimism of '68, which speaks about the expansion of art toward
life, and a concrete dimension which sees text and text readers as accom-
plices in the interpretative community, while the term interpretation denotes
a transformation of the basic text.
Paratheatrical experiments and actions of the group CODE arise
from an appreciation of theatrical experiment (theatrical experiment con-
text of the '60s, from Grotowski to the Living Theatre), as well as from
nontheatrical events (happenings, fluxus festivals, actionism, body art,
performance poets, and visual art). A shift from work to act (action, perfor-
mative) is revealed. The sense of a work of art is not in its implicit or
explicit content or the formal structure of the produced work but in the act
of performing an act (action) which becomes the central ontological
aspect of art.
Political action ism and neoanarchism are the key terms of the
practice of the group CODE and its transgression of the boundaries of art
and existence. The complex appearance of political ideas, actions, and
attitudes of the members of CODE can be described by terms of the new
sensibility of the '60s, completion of utopia (last avant-garde), conceptual-
ist debate on ideological propositions of art system, actionism, and neo-
anarchism.
It concerns a new sensibility because their work is not determined
by party identification with the left or right avant-garde but by a nomadic
combination of the incompatible: rebellion, hedonism, irony, paradox,
provocation, and new-age spirituality. The members of CODE were familiar
with: (1) strategies of the Western new Left, (2) ideals of the movement
and the drugs revolution, and (3) aspects of revolutionary struggle in the
realsocialist countries. From the neorevolutionary sensibility of the '60s
originated the ideas of creating communes as radically different communi-
ties where all the essential relationships of emotional, sexual, social, and
possessional definition of micro- or macrosociety are transformed. CODE's
Misko Suvakovic 251
work has the features of completing the utopia in the sense that it is no
longer a projection of a possible future society (as a totality or example)
but an attempt to transform one's own life and microreality. One could say
that phenomena around 1968 mark the completion of great (Iogocentric)
utopias of historical avant-gardes, since their aesthetic, spiritual, and polit-
ical vision is understood as a program of direct and literal acting and
behavior. Codian work contains features of actionism. Actionism denotes
direct action by which existential, behavioral, and conceptual aspects of
the artist's life are placed in the center of the artistic act (practice, exis-
tence). The artist without a mediator shows himself as a symptom and
place of overthrow in art, culture, and society. The Codian neoanarchism is
a form of dissenting to the institutional bureaucratic order of moderate
modernism of a realsocialist society. The Western neoanarchism of the
late '60s and early '70s critically and through excesses confronted the aes-
thetics of high modernism based on the political autonomy of art.
East European neoanarchism, which also includes the activity of
CODE, was based on confronting the ideologically programmed, con-
ducted, and directed art which creates an illusion of modernist autonomy in
order to cover the functions of party and bureaucratic interests in the mak-
ing of everyday reality. In the late '50s and '60s in realsocialist societies,
especially in the Yugoslav self-management system, the explicit socialist
realism is replaced by implicit forms of modernism which incorporate the
intentions, calls, and responses of party interests. Whereas the Western
neoanarchism projected a potential world of political changes and then
transformed it into artistic and aesthetic values of the spirit of the epoch,
the Cod ian neoanarchism passed through three forms: (a) an attempt of
creating a free zone in culture through proclamations, (b) analysis of con-
crete social-political aspects of the Novi Sad, Vojvodina, and Serbian
scenes at the beginning of the '70s and (c) provocation as an aesthetic
and artistic action, i.e., provocation as the only means of resistance to the
stable institutional system of sense, meaning, and value.
The literary work of the CODE group can be described as concep-
tual poetry. Conceptual poetry is a poetic practice which researches the
nature of language and thinking about poetry, literature, and art by means
of intergenre text, poem, or theoretical text. Conceptual poetry is metalin-
guistic poetry because it speaks about the language of literature (poetry)
and art. The idea of conceptual poetry is derived from: (1) researching the
linguistic and conceptual structuredness of concrete and visual poetry, and
(2) textual research of conceptual art, where text is defined as meta-
252 boundary 21 Spring 1999
language (language about the language of art), which is in intertextual rela-
tionship with the languages of politics, sexuality, visual art, literature, film,
theatre, or music.
Conceptual poetry as a way from a particular art to conceptual or
analytical or meta-art not only led from visual arts to conceptual art in East
and Central European countries (like in the USA, England, and Germany),
but also from poetry to text as a work of art. From the analysis of the lan-
guage of poetry arise, for instance, conceptualist experiments of the Slo-
venian group OHO (Ales Kermavner, Iztok Geistner Plamen, Marko Pog-
acnik, Tomaz Salamun), Russian conceptualism (Dmitri Prigov, Arkadii
Dragomoschenko, Lev Rubinstein, and Alexei Parshchikov), etc.
The group CODE develops a textual practice or textual production
based on the reduction of poetic metaphors and allegories to tautological
statements and analytical propositions. A poem realized as a structure of
tautological statements and analytical propositions is of second degree in
relation to traditional poetic language. Therefore the poems or texts of the
group CODE are metapoetic constructions speaking about: (1) a poem
(text), (2) the subject of writing, (3) the subject of reading, (4) the linguistic
material of every speech as a formative material of an artistic act, (5) inter-
textual transposition from text into text, and (6) a poem (text) as the con-
cept of a poem, poetry, and art. Two approaches to poetry can be distin-
guished in the Codian production: (a) the early approach, the transition
from the '60s into the 70s, which leads from lyric to poetry and from poetry
to conceptual art (to metalanguage, self-reflexion, paratheatre, land art),
and (b) the late approach, of the late 70s and '80s, leading from concep-
tual text (metalanguage) to poetry (first-degree postmodern simulating and
eclectic language of production, expression, symbolization).
Roberto Tejada 253
Roberto Tejada
Limitrophe
1.
What does it mean to engage an advanced poetic language of authentic
interest and public imperative? Is it possible to further complicate the
forgery of statement as articulated by a "real subject" for a "real reader-
ship," designed to convey a "real message" of some sort? Is it viable to
establish a resonant paradox between a transparent quality still longed for
in the instance of art making and a multiplicity bestowed upon the text as
determined by the reader's response? Is pointed intervention necessarily
manifest and given-a social waiting-to-be-noticed-or, by contrast, cre-
ated elsewhere in the act of interpretation over time?
Advertently, writing as one of countless heirs to a manifold legacy
consigned by diverse individual and group inquiries (and not excluding
those of the last twenty years) certain questions, both old and new, surface
to threaten some of the presumptions unique to the positivist models of
progress imagined by the modernist enterprise, especially as recent devel-
opments in U.S. avant-garde poetry come to be historicized. Though in
debt to the disclosures of this specific project-whose achievements
include underlining how complex patterns and experimental relationships
can be animated in immediate or historic context between writer, text,
agency, and reader: making it inconceivable to feign innocence now
regarding the principles of cultural production and its means of circula-
tion-I accept lyric discourse as "the most sensitive register of social and
cultural change available."1
One intent of my current writing has been to stretch the limits of
subjectivity by employing the languages of "current events" and journalism:
pulp fiction, pornography, state demagoguery, advertising, the ethno-
graphic account, popular psychologism and the pathologies of violence
and massacre, as extensions of a self-"myself"-at boiling point by way
of sex and slaughter; to establish the cultural and political life of the senses
as a legitimate topic of inquiry; to underscore the private and collective
dimensions of culture by way of a body/mind caught between a will-to-
paradise and dystopian inertia, between the conflicting desires of where-
abouts and exile, between individual resolve and social peSSimism, ren-
dered through the historically contingent events by which a subject is
254 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
shaped. In short, to produce at the limit by welcoming cultural contradiction
and public ambivalence.
2.
• the NO-ONE-LiSTENS-TO of poetry-a condition fueled by the boundaries
imposed between poetic practice and culture as separate activities-
in opposition to the role played by available institutions and the "aes-
thetic democracy" to which they give way: inescapable components
in a continuing self-definition of the avant-garde
• the contested artifice of self-expression versus that of estrangement in
the material fact of language vis-a-vis the nature of the medium and
the aporias by which radical practice devolves into mere style
• a way out of the crisis of representation-the stable, centered self
ghosted through a repeatedly refigured subjectivity, or one forever
displaced by the fact "that the production of authenticity requires
more than an author for the object; it exacts the 'truth' of the author-
ial discourse"2
• the monolithic subject of Western history versus the new demands and
complexities of a postcolonial reality, including the debate con-
cerned with the autonomy or contingency of avant-garde writing,
and its status within the social realm
• the general "expansion of art"-and its fascination with the language of
newer technologies, materials of industry, design, communication,
publicity, spectacle, and mass consumption-as though in fear of
public forgetting and personal oblivion [Susan Howe: "If history is a
record of survivors, Poetry shelters other voices.'l
3.
Unsettled by the semidarkness of the undersea night, the velodrome and
stadium immense against the backspin of the phrases indistinct now as
immersed by the reef-cradle undertow, and marveled by these monuments
in place of the invertebrate culture unique to saltwater, rewarded as we
were with a glimpse into a landscape few of us will ever know, even with
Roberto Tejada 255
these spastic infant limbs, these urges you want to go away, modes of
guiding us down a current where-damsels, triggers, lion fish-high quan-
tities of oxygen help to break down the organic molecules into simpler
forms for chemical filtration removal, while maintaining an environment
conducive to the culturing of large populations of aerobic bacteria in refer-
ence to the future of the continent, or so he says, the fundamental problem
now being not one of self-recognition, not here or elsewhere, but of union,
the duty to combat isolation despite the economic and social difficulties-
or so we're convinced, of health and energy for the increasingly complex
functions of the state where women will comprise nearly 60 percent of the
country's technical force, hold jobs, earn good salaries, and be free and
less dependent on men than in a past where news of each house they built
was received here as good news, made us proud because we knew the
hardships they faced in the construction, truly very difficult for us all, the
town we had intended to build there, a project of great social benefit to
the entire population for whom pleasure is derived in being spoon-fed and
so benign that one may lead a normal life through the looking glass of
aquatic containment-Sargassum, Cabomba, Vallisneria-now that, to
counter silicates producing micro-algae growth and heavy metals causing
invertebrate meltdown, traditional methods will be applied, like those through-
out history in cases of highly dangerous diseases, namely the quarantine
of those infected, as in the case of cholera, leprosy, and so on, he added,
meaning a slow death, a couple of pumps to hum and gurgle in trying to
simulate an analogous system of life for those of us inhabitants still left.
1. Roland Greene, "Their Generation," in Comparative Literature in the Age of Multicul-
turalism, ed. Charles Bernheimer (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press,
1995),52.
2. Mary Kelly, "Re-Viewing Modernist Criticism," in Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthol-
ogy of Changing Ideas, ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (London: Blackwell, 1992),
1088-1094.
256 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Marina Temkina
Two Installations
1.
We will sewall the flags together.
Volunteer seamstresses/dressmakers
will start to sew in a cozy way, in a homey way, with a woman's touch,
while the guys, more handy with tools,
sit down in front of sewing machines-work therapy
for the fall of the triumphant Socialism.
We will sewall the flags together, those of all the nations,
big and small, even the tiny countries, and the really
minuscule neutral, independent islands.
And when everything is ready, we'll spread them out
on a football field on a clear day, so that the sun
may brighten the colors, while the clouds make the colors dimmer.
And then we'l/let the fans walk around barefoot in bliss,
let them scrutinize the stitches between the flags, recognizing the ones
they know and struggling to guess the origins of those which are
unfamiliar-
what are these flags we're walking on, sewn together in such a way, that
you can't even figure out where one country ends and the next flag
begins-
especially in those places where they've been imperceptibly joined by the
masterful female hand-those spots are totally confusing-but if it's a
sewing machine job, well then, that's a little more comprehensible ...
and the flags are lying prostrate, and the people wander about the field,
and there are empty rows of benches standing like a labyrinth open to
the spectators, so you circle it again and again, and you turn your head
all over the place, and your eyes, and what not, until, distracted by some-
thing
from the outside, you finally come to a stop.
And so we, too, enter, join in,
take part in the action, stare at the banners, panels, emblems,
straightening out the folds with our toes,
Marina Temkina 257
straightening out the stripes, the squares, the stars, the circles;
the lions, the crosses, the half-moons, the leaves, the vine, the wheat
ear ...
Until our time runs out,
until they ask us to put away the art, because
it's time for the football game to start;
then we'll roll up this circus rug, fold it
like a patchwork quilt, drag it to the warehouse
where they keep the inventory together with a
barricade of flagpoles with golden tops,
because the time has come to get on with the game:
the players, the fans all flock together, and all so angry, too ...
it seems, someone is really anxious to beat someone else.
2.
We'll get an old alarm clock and take it apart,
for it ticks so loudly, that you can't sleep, nor live with it at all,
so it's become a real nuisance to everyone. We'll take the little screws,
the wheels, the hands, the spring, and the tin face, spread
them all out on the table, and meanwhile turn our attention to the radio-
a captured German radio, if anyone's still got one of those, or a modern
transistor-and start taking it apart: the diaphragm, the tuning knobs, take off
the cover, the wood, the plastic, the pulleys, the LEDs, shake it a bit-
so parts
fall out-and in some places even make some effort and solder a wire or
two.
Then we'll take the table with all the parts and bring it outside, into the
fresh air-to let
things air out awhile, let them breathe a bit-put it in the shade in some
corner,
and, meanwhile, we'll start on the old bike, which we'll roll out of the base-
ment, screwing
out the handlebars, the rusty pedals, the chain, the seat, taking the wheels
off the frames,
the tires, the spokes, spreading all the parts out on the asphalt.
Then there is also the "Singer"-a pedal-controlled sewing machine-that
one hasn't been in use for a while either, only takes up space, since the
258 boundary 21 Spring 1999
time of homespun "cool cat" outfits is long gone (now you just put on what
the big designer has conjured up, what mass production has churned out).
The machine can barely be lifted, we struggle to carry it out, calling on our
significant other to help us: heavy industry, the ornamented sides are cast
iron-an eternal ornament, no doubt-but even here we manage to have
our way-the shuttle, the handle, the side-plate, then-separately-the
gear; take it apart with the help of all sorts of screwdrivers, and a few
knocks with a hammer, except for those parts that absolutely refuse to
come off-tied together in spirit-just keep 'em where they are, it's even
more interesting that way.
So, it gets you thinking, back in the old days they used to make the tools
intending them to last for ages, certainly to outlive the person who made
them; they used to put a lot into making them, and there is no winning with
them when you try to take them apart, you even feel a bit regretful that
their time's run out, and yet they're still indestructible.
Here my thoughts get interrupted: the gates open, and our steam engine
rolls in, makes a stop, lets out steam; with this one you can't get by with-
out some outside help-you need a professional for it; the conductors
dismount from the step and get right to it, taking the train apart. Of course,
this time a more solid instrument is called for, as well as a more rigorous
technical background, but, then, you take a look and you see the work is
coming right along: the wheels, the axles, the seating compartments, the
seats themselves, the windows with their frames, the doors, the toilets,
the sinks, the luggage racks, the bronze upholstery built-in ashtrays, the
lamps, the Klaxon, the exhaust pipe, the furnace, the oil tank, the coal
box-all of these we'll spread out in the yard, although it's already gotten
pretty packed.
After that we'll have to turn to advertising, make our appearance on the
radiolTV, put some advertisements in the paper, in order to find volunteers
who are willing to partiCipate in the project. Meanwhile, we'll call the neigh-
borhood kids, teens with their rock music and long hair, let them have
some fun, do some dancing. For them it'll be a visual experience and an
opportunity to palm the things for which their grandfathers gave their lives
away, went to jail, although some survived on the warm clothes which the
grandmothers stitched for them; the dissidents used these imperfect
devices to catch the "Voice of America" on their radios, putting their ears
Marina Temkina 259
right up to the speaker, and waking up for work to the sound of this terrible
fuzz and static. Let the young people also feel this, so they won't think life's
a piece of cake, let them take their appropriate part in this project, leaving
behind cigarette butts, empty beer bottles, gum wrappers, Coke cans, and
probably also forgetting to take a couple of their audio cassettes, hypoder-
mics, pills, condoms, and all their other multicolored crap.
And then, as a testament of the ancestors, I will perform the ritual with my
own hand: throw from a ship's window (or just take out in a pile) all the
paperbacks, textbooks, anthologies, published to forever remain on the
shelves of different houses and libraries; but now an end has come to
their eternal life, as it does for everything on this earth including poems
and pictures-so let the young generation gaze at the samples of the old
life-for educational purposes-while it's still not too late.
At this point the cars with the cement will show up; first, all of this stuff will
have to be divided out equally, a framework will have to be put down, then
some organization of all this old trash (arranged rather chaotically), but
don't worry about order too much and don't get too hung up on the
sequencing. And as soon as these walls solidify, new technology will
arrive-an aggregate from a chemical manufacturer with folded pipes and
remote controls-and it will flood this collection of objects over the top with
liquid plastic, to make it smooth on the surface and to preserve all the
details in recognizable form under the transparent cover-to make it easy
to see which detail comes from where, from which mechanism-just like in
a historical museum.
Because soon all of this will become outdated, give way to newer materi-
als, and at some point people will have to take everything apart. So, while
it's not too late and we still have the means, we'll start by charging an
entrance fee, and (if, of course, our yard becomes a major place of attrac-
tion) set up a ticket booth, hire a tour guide, open up a small business of
our own, because in this day and age it is hard for a poet to make a living
with his literary creations, not like in the old days, when writing was a
legacy for future generations, in opposition to one's own society and gov-
ernment, in heroic solitude, in isolation from the audience, either not
depending on the readers' market, or not seeing the need for bringing the
reader into the discourse. Even the government in ages past, though it got
in the way, nonetheless seemed to help the perpetuation of all this.
260 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
But as for us-miracle of miracles, would you just look at this-we simply
put our foot down, got our act together, and started writing for today, not for
eternity, for those living, like ourselves, those who also dwell in their
respective places of abode to the sounds of alarm clocks ticking away at
eternity, those who live right beside us, in similar apartments, some just
like this one-twenty-five people in one place.
So, if, for instance, you overslept, or fell into a deserved day off, where for
once you could sleep to your heart's content, the neighbor's alarm clock,
although quite unwittingly, will destroy any hope of such a lUXUry.
And those who put these clocks together according to scientific methods,
provided all the technical instructions, and put them up for sale must have
borne a grudge toward humanity, secret conspirators against the public's
peace and well-being, who thought only of themselves, egoists, never of
their neighbors, so the whole world has to wake up along with them, all
their male counterparts, all the women, and all the children.
Habib Tengour
Undesirable Witness
-memory fragments-
(Translated from Russian by Alexander Stessen)
1. The poet is responsible to poetry, that is to say no "superior injunction"
may be invoked to justify failure in this regard. 'The implacable redness of
Cain" cannot sober up the muse from her sacred drunkenness.
But to know this, and to adhere to it, while sharing Goethe's formula
according to which lito demand intentions and goals from the artist is to
ruin his vocation, "does not permit me to hide from view the murderous triv-
iality that is my country's daily fare.
For despite "inhabiting poetry, 11 J move about with a national identity
that anchors me in a political space. I don't want to, nor can I, get rid of it
despite the many troubles it causes me.
J am Algerian. A fact that's not at all extraordinary. After all, Baude-
laire was French.
Habib Tengour 261
"All those who fall" today in Algeria-much against their will, for
many of them-in a way bear witness to this circumstantial link to the
group of origin.
The tribe, jealous of its prerogatives, worries about the least out-
bursts from one of its own. "/" is a "We" that must not think "Other."
Up to him who experiments with walking on "untrodden paths" to
run all the risks; and he who imagined himself free as the wind-this child
"with hands full of innocence"-is suddenly called to account.
The tribunal before which his case is brought distrusts the "pen-
man's hand" that does not follow its dictation as much as the "ploughman's
hand" when it ploughs beyond its fields. All these hands are to be cut off in
a century in which light is waning while electricity has yet to extend over
the whole of the planet.
2. We are not without knowing the double anathema that strikes the poet:
undesirable troublemaker in Plato's ideal city, see how he wanders lost in
the vanity and delusion of his talk, God not having recognized him as his
spokesman.
Thus the Prophet joins the philosopher in condemning a fictional
poetic utterance as illusory and vain. The pretension of poetry-this "interior
image over which hearing runs its fingers"-to be a pathway to knowledge,
to know how to discover the world and find truth, in short, to produce funda-
mental sense amidst the perpetual din of ideas, can only lead to unreason,
the impasse taken by the bad angel imbued with his own brilliance.
However, as Kateb Yacine remarked so justly: "Mohammed had all
the trouble in the world trying to impose his qu'ranic tutelage on the Arab
poets . .. but these quarrels touch us little, poetry can never be banned."
That's why they are dead set on killing the poets or excluding them
from the community.
And yet I wonder about my dead friends:
-Wasn't Tahar Djaout assassinated because his antifundamentalist jour-
nalistic writings disturbed because they hit the mark?
-Wasn't Youcef Sebti assassinated because of his "consciousness rais-
262 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
ing" activity among the students of the EI Harrach National Institute of
Agronomy?
-Wasn't Abdelkader Alloula assassinated because he was a communist?
-Wasn't Bakhti Benouada assassinated because he worked at being a
link between "arabophone" and tlfrancophone" intellectuals and artists?
All, despite the differences of their aesthetic projects, were parti-
sans of a resolutely anti-Islamic "social contract" and had made their
stance public. It was their "political" struggle for a modern society many are
trying to eradicate that made them targets.
Literature and art hold such a minor place in the vision of the
"Islamic" world and of Algerians in general, that only the artist's social
activism and the most obvious levels of his art-i.e., its political, ideologi-
cal, and normative implications; its external, instrumentizable aspects-
are censored.
3. At bottom, what the group commands the poet to do, is to raise it up
high in his chant. Poetry has no other function than to comfort and exalt
the group's "ayabiwa."
This done, the poet is let free to play his favorite games.
The group becomes more demanding and "nervous" as its cohesion
diminishes and its preeminence over individuals vanishes.
The barely emerging individual demands that one wring the neck of
eloquence in order to be "absolutely modern." Such a one inscribes him-
self in the break.
It is true that colonisation had accelerated the process of disinte-
gration.
4. I notice that most Maghrebian artists are elsewhere, without, for all that,
having penetrated "the true life."
Could the Maghreb (and Algeria in particular) be carried by those
who have left it or aim to do so?
In which case the poet's wanderings, his voluntary or forced exile,
his expatriation would bear witness to the profound reality of his group of
origin.
By leaving the "circle of reprisals," he relegates his kin to the mar-
John Tranter 263
gins of the world. His voice would be critical if it also distanced itself from
the hotchpotch of this world.
(Translated from French by Pierre Joris)
John Tranter
"Too Far Away"
I dream a lot about little children these days. Sometimes they're strangers.
Sometimes they're my own children, as babies. They appear out of the
dark, and they smile at me, that smile of pure exhilaration that only babies
have, and they hug me around the neck. They laugh with happiness, and
they smell sweet and milky. I'm so full of love I feel dizzy. I'm at home, I'm
half awake, my mother's getting breakfast, the sun's just coming up; every-
thing is all right, everyone's alive and busy and happy. When I wake up
they are gone.
I think about waking from sleep. As I wake I find myself falling into
grief and darkness. I think about distance, about being far from home,
about wanting to leave and wanting to return, and the action we take to
remove or dissolve distance, that exhausting action we call travel, or flight,
or escape, or adventure, or homecoming. When I try to understand the
contradictions involved in all that, I see a pattern of equations hanging in
the air in front of me: patterns derived from reflections, mirrors, transla-
tions, and cancellations-what was not said, letters that were not written. I
see a boy grow into a man. I see myself fading back into the past, a once-
familiar country which has grown strange and distant, which has somehow
been obliterated. The gift-I desperately want to grow up and live my
life-has become the curse-I don't want to die. I think about my father.
He's been dead for most of my life. He didn't want to die, but he drove him-
self to it.
My father was born in the Australian country town of Rylstone in
1914, the youngest of five children-three other boys and a girl. His father
was a wheat farmer, and-so the story goes-he couldn't afford to keep
all the children at home. When my father was born they gave him away to
his aunt-his father's sister-to bring up, in Moruya, a coastal dairying
town three hundred miles away in the bush. The aunt had no children. She
was a nervous, anxious woman. My father hardly ever saw his own par-
ents. How could they have found the time to leave the farm and their other
264 boundary 2/ Spring 1999
children and travel to see him? It was too far away-the roads then were
dirt roads, dusty and corrugated. In the 1920s they may have had a tractor,
or a truck to help with the farming, but I doubt they had a car to drive about
in. And after all, they hardly knew the boy.
My father worked hard at his schooling. He is a rather sad figure,
as I see him, with few friends. He wins a scholarship to a state-run agri-
cultural boarding school. It's three hundred miles away from both his real
parents and his adoptive parents. He's unbearably lonely, for the first year.
He gets over that, he graduates from school, studies, becomes a teacher,
and marries.
He worked hard as a teacher and rose to be deputy headmaster
at the school. He saved his money, borrowed some more money, and
bought a farm. Then he was asked to choose between his teaching career
and the farm. If you were a schoolteacher, you couldn't have another job.
He loved teaching, but he threw it in. There was something driving him: he
had to have a farm. He went into partnership with a friend, borrowed some
more money, and bought another farm, then an adjoining farm. He worked
harder. Then he bought an abandoned cheese factory, borrowed some
more money, and turned it into a soda pop factory. He worked harder still.
The farms did okay, in the good seasons, and badly in the bad seasons; I
remember a terrible flood that washed away the bridge into town. There
was a savage bushfire that destroyed many things. The factory did well.
He was a kind man, but he was always preoccupied, and he never said
much to me about what he was thinking or feeling. He was driven by a par-
ticular purpose, but I only worked out what his motives were in my forties,
when he'd been dead for twenty years, slowly, by adding things together,
and I wonder whether he was ever conscious of what drove him so hard. I
realised that he wanted to show his father-his distant father, the father he
loved but hardly knew, who had abandoned him-he wanted to show his
father that he had done well at last, that he had learned agriculture, passed
his exams, and made good as a farmer, just like his own father. He was
worthy of being loved. Too late, too late. When he was about forty years
old he took a breather, and invited his parents-his real parents-to visit.
How long did it take them to travel there from Rylstone? A couple of days,
perhaps, over the mountains, through the silent bush. I dimly remember
them as a pair of shy strangers-the man tall and thin and grey, the
woman plump and grey-with nothing much to say. I guess my father
must have felt the same. In my memory I have a picture of the two men-
my father and my grandfather, the stranger-leaning on our front gate,
staring at the landscape. The hills there are covered with thick eucalypt for-
Cecilia Vicuna 265
est; the bush stretches, virtually uninhabited, for hundreds of miles. A
leaden river crawls along the valley floor far below. The sky is a hard blue.
The sun burns down. In this memory picture they are just staring, not say-
ing anything. What is there to say? There is nothing to say.
Cecilia Vicuna
UR gent
The most UR gent task
is to ask
how to name, not maim the real.
The name is nourishment, alimento
the ration you got, your duration in time.
As the web of life falls apart, do we feel her break?
The UR gene in urgency speaks:
"Love in the genes, if it fails
We will produce no sane man again"
George Oppen
The poet is "He who keeps alive"
in Egyptian terms,
What is kept alive?
Think of the glee, the speeding ee, the feeding frenzy of those in power,
naming the world to keep it as is.
"LA POESIA ES LA VIDA DE LA VIDA"
what's alive in life, creation itself.
In ritual reversal the poem infects
flicts
fluences
time.
Vicente Huidobro says,
(The planum temporale in the brain
where words reside)
You embody disorder, to bring back "order",
266 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
ordiri, the warp threads in a loom.
The order of the phrase sustaining another version of the world.
Past and present coalesce, space and time are fertilized, and life can go
on.
To ask is percontari, preguntar, to throw a hook to the bottom of the sea.
The seas where life began and where death now resides.
How do we ask, speaking back to the force in the sea?
How do we speak when no one hears?
In Peru there is a cleansing ritual:
everybody speaks aloud their worst fears, their
worst crimes. They do it all at once, so no one hears.
That's the cleansing.
Maybe it is our heart the world craves, our silence, not our words.
Words with silence within.
Consciousness is knowing with,
to join and to cut,
being alone and together at once,
a collective being touching our lips.
Rosmarie Waldrop 267
Rosmarie Waldrop
Who speaks when a poem says "I"? I hold with Keats: "the chameleon poet
... has no self." None. Or a multitude. Not just Goethe's "two souls alas,"
but a whole bundle of them, activated as the situation demands.
As Musil knew, "identity," "character," "qualities" are what is most
impersonal, is what is reinforced from the outside. If I cannot erase them I
can at least try to take my distance.
"Identity" for the poet: baleful, restrictive, rather than allowing the
full play of potentiality.
Langston Hughes complained to Arna Bontemps about "the curi-
ous psychology that our white folks have that everything written by a Negro
has to be definitely colored colored." (see A. L. Nielsen, Black Chant)
Keats again: "The mind should be a thoroughfare for all thoughts."
We can't escape our situation: nation-state, international capital,
the language we write in, all that.
But for my work I'm free to choose my own working context which
cuts across nation, language, times. Blake as much as Queneau and
Dickinson; my contemporaries as much as Musil, Kafka, Mallarme.
268 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
Catherine Walsh
from City West
accretion of
caesurae
listening to
many
symptoms
danger
heart
less
and thinking you've
ah well in a letter
unable
notional mausoleum
studio
all put
upon you can't collect
your
though throes
there's never enough to be found
having attempted
to spell
out
inherent
music
than
now
been
writing beyond
institutes
without
Catherine Walsh 269
originals in use
released from position
being gradually
though English is spoken here
[derisive cadencing runs through 7 step weave
(don't live there now either
that's not true / having only seen it happen once
[cyclical intent of monotonous air
there you are brief spot
less
lot
thinking
letters
might words pal
huh they are
[with care analytical assurance
270 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
respecting
usage
of all
form
relevant precedents
structure
employed
feebly
in lieu a proxy deployment for
rOiling over on top of your stretched
back wide-mouthed fine thighs whitening
smooth
I have all the numbers
well, enough
20%
upon
you chance
absconding
context
loony toon strips
haven't you?
it's always
in the beam
leaving
the job of usher
holding place
pointing out
moving back
knowing more or less
(
Darren Wershler-Henry, from Scars for Kathy Acker
272 boundary 2 / Spring 1999
Oswald Wiener
from The Improvement of Central Europe
truth and reality and language.
very often one mixes up "reality" and "truth."
truth is an element of society, ruse of political anaesthesia; reality is pri-
vate, the prosthesis of the individual. the meagreness of both these con-
cepts.
on the other hand the pragmatism between screwing and world-view
founders today on the 28th of february on its *"r.n-wr -' semantics,
which is there to ground it:
world-fact-thing
consciousness-thought-concept
language-sentence-word.
unambiguous and reciprocal. here we have the cornerstone of philosophy,
the whole misery of your dribbling knowledge, parallelism and analogy
already in the statutes, ontology ....
A is of course an idealist and individualist.
B is an idealist and collectivist.
C is a realist and sensualist.
o is thomistic and scientistic.
E calls himself a monistic anti positivist.
F is a christian existentialist and rationalist.
G is a spiritualist and universalist.
H is a neopositivist and materialist.
I is a neopositivist, interested in mathematical logic.
J is a metaphysician and historian.
K is an idealist and deist.
L is an irrationalist and communist.
M is a neokantian and sceptical empiriocritic.
N is a vitalist and liberal.
o is a mechanistic-progressive intransigent anarcho-syndicalist.
P is a psychologist and nominalistic subjectivist.
after all it's clear that they have it tough. they have it that is to say fright-
fully tough ....
Oswald Wiener 273
linguistics.
science of language, speechifying bungling botching my chance on a
finallyl new world.
one reads and says yeah go boy, go go go!, impatiently; but it moves no
one. these here are all completely scientifically retarded.
one can only criticize buddhism in pali, to each gibberish its religion.
if independently from me w. v. humboldt found out a little of what I here
prescribe with exemplary impudence and sniffed-i can't help it.
if one of your stipended scholars grasps how formal logic idealizes a
mother tongue alas! and remains stuck in it like an abortion-it's only the
local patriotism of the specialized discipline.
1
always a funk of reality, yessir, the division, the catalogue, method: a
sweaty-footed fatality.
mr. whorf for example in 1940 called for "the linguistic research of many
varied languages, so as to arrive at correct thinking and to avoid errors
which an unconscious acceptance of our language background otherwise
brings with it." blind with science he ran into the categories and thoroughly
overlooked what incompetence has recently done to language.
2
the motive is most of the time the instinct to safety hardened to method,
and in no way the other dissatisfaction with what exists: what exists is
almost always what has been achieved.
limitation through language is one of the unfreedoms that max stirner did
not yet feel at all.
3
when this mr. whorf noticed that his fucking classification belonged to the
very compulsory acts, imposed by language, on which he imagined himself
to be on the trail-what was left for him to do than to hang "his own self" up
on his bonehard garden gate and indeed by the neck .
. . . it is my desire to explain one thought to all those who, beyond the pres-
ent (1942) crisis, could be compelled by events to playa leading role in giv-
ing new shape to the human future .
. . . through its language, western culture has achieved a provisional analy-
sis of reality. if there is no further corrective for it, the whole world would
hold decisively onto this analysis as a definitive one. but the only correc-
tives lie in all those other languages that have achieved, through eons of
independent development, totally different, though equally logical and
equally provisional analyses.
a letter.
dear whorf! you have science on the brain: for that kroklowafzi will serve
274 boundary 21 Spring 1999
you little. the corrective of foreign language will get you nowhere for you
are tainted.
dear whorf! you will adapt the dozen primal experiences or you will have
done with history. whorf! old boy! the outcome is different if compromise
occurs, or if you already have the golden middle in the program.
it's not a question of correctives!,
it's also not a question of borderline cases, it is purely the private rebellion
completely without purusha.
constructive ones are needed: they create fuel for burning;
look-even i am creative: i make myself suspicious.
1. remarkable, that for g. frege, despite all an intelligent man, his "conceptual algebra"
bore the same relation to everyday speech that a microscope had to the eye, and
indeed as if the microscope could even function in that world without eyes.
2. is it not thought-provoking that in a world in which linguistics takes as its task to
deduce universals of language, literature works to disintegrate them?
is this linguistics not finally the linguistics of classical literature, the written language,
and does it not by virtue of its authority repress our authentic tradition, which is after all
certainly much broader than goethe?
3. he of course "couldn't": interest in language became public only after 1850.
(Translated from German by Tyrus Miller)
YlCun
A Poet's Remark on a White Bird in Winter
a poet at the window
sees a white bird
the poet is moved
Vi Cun 275
in winter, he believes this is a queer bird related to poets
so, sitting down to write some remarks about the white bird
he writes:
I see the shadow of a white bird
a black cloak, in the sun
flying over your roof
the poet is thinking, which school does this bird come from
romanticism. realism. confessionalism. postmodernism.
every school takes pains to raise a bird of its own
and makes a cage of unique design
the bird is inside, peeping at the sky like a cock
sometimes wants to get out and fly
at first like a cock. then like a fighter plane
or a wild duck
as soon as it rains
the bird disappears
back in the cage
still a bird
but the poet who writes for a living
doesn't have a bird. at the window
he sees a white bird flying over the wood
fancy running wild, a sort of ancient leaves
in the feathers of this bird
he sees some thoughtful faces
his own face
other faces
merge together
losing conspicuous individualities, originalities
just as our speech has lost intonation, responsibility, and poeticity
leaving only some sentimentality about the moonlight
when going home across the snow
take another look at this white bird
after a dashing flight
276 boundary 2 I Spring 1999
it halts in the air
the poet motionless. the bird motionless
looks like a diaper hung upstairs
in the sun, a smell of infants
enrages the poet
he feels this bird
is no longer a bird
the poet immediately writes the following lines
this bird must have gone insane
neither fish nor fowl
a hybrid
spoiling the sky
but the bird
suddenly deserts the poet
the wind blows through its wings
the bird's feathers
float down
the poet's hand
feels cold
the poet thinks, maybe he shouldn't have written remarks about a
white bird in
winter, when he throws the pen onto the desk, the bird falls from the
sky
(Translated from Chinese by Yunte Huang)
Copyright © 2003 EBSCO Publishing

2 boundary 2 / Spring 1999

points of contact that in their constellation suggest if not an international postmodernism then a cross-national network of affinities and a contemporary intersection of possibilities. My intention has been to broaden, without vitiating, the lines of interest articulated in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, the magazine I coedited with Bruce Andrews from 1978 to 1982; my earlier anthology of poetry, 43 Poets (1984), published in boundary 2 in 1987; as well as a 1989 forum, Patterns/Contexts/Time, which I edited with Phillip Foss. In addition, 99 Poets/1999 comes immediately on the heels of the remarkable world anthology Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modem and Postmodern Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris. In many ways, this issue extends the work of that anthology, providing a set of poetics that parallels the poetry and commentary in the Rothenberg and Joris collection, just as it echoes the increasing international focus of Douglas Messerli's Sun & Moon Press and indeed boundary 2's increasingly global perspective. This has been an intensively collaborative project. Beyond the contributions of the poets, and the editors and staff of boundary 2, I have relied on the editorial collaboration of Carla Billitteri, Stacy Doris, Johanna Drucker, Ernesto Grosman, Pierre Joris, Lyn Hejinian, Yunte Huang, and Tyrus Miller. Carla Billitteri edited and translated the Italian section and presents her perspectives on the work included in her contribution. Stacy Doris edited and, for the most part, translated the selection of French poetics, which includes excerpts from works by Pierre Alferi and Olivier Cadiot, Emmanuel Hocquard, Katalin Molnar and Christophe Tarkos, and Christian Prigent. Doris also designed the format for this section, in which the four works translated, two of which are collaborations, are printed in one of the four columns on the first two pages of the section. Each of these essays then jumps to its continuation in one of the four columns of each subsequent two-page spread. Johanna Drucker assembled a minianthology of visual works, which she discusses in her contribution. Ernesto Grosman edited the Latin American section, which features Fabio Doctorovich, Reinaldo Laddaga, Jorge Lepore, Jorge Santiago Perednik, Mercedes Roffe, and Roberto Tejada. He also worked with me and Regis Bonvicino on the related Brazilian section. Pierre Joris edited and translated a set of works by Adonis, Gennady Aygi, Nicole Brossard, Mahmoud Darwish, Edouard Glissant, Abdellatif Laabi, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Amina SaId, and Habib Tengour. Lyn Hejinian assembled, and worked with the translators of, the Russian section, which consists of contributions by Arkadii Dragomoschenko, Nina Iskrenko, Julia Kunina, Alexei Parshchikov,

Bernstein / Introduction 3

Aleksandr Skidan, and Marina Temkina. Yunte Huang edited, and in his piece details, a selection of new poetics from China. In addition, Tyrus Miller not only translated several works from the German but also worked with me on the selection of Austrian poetics.

In inviting the poets to participate, I indicated that I wanted the issue to reflect the range of styles and forms possible for poetics. To this end, I have asked the editors of boundary 2 to bear with these poetic texts, leaving the grammar, punctuation, and forms of documentation as close to the submitted manuscripts as possible, with the belief that standardizing the diversity of styles in these works would undermine a central commitment of the collection. I realize that not everyone sees significance in the style of a footnote, but, after all, many of the poets presented here explore the space between the significant and insignificant, between uniformity and eccentricity, and I am reluctant to limit the terms of such an exploration. (I have made a concession to space by eliminating, where possible, blank lines between paragraphs. ) The selections included here were written specifically for this issue, unless otherwise noted. Several contributors wrote in English, even when this was not their first language; rather than "fixing up" these works to make them more fluently English, my policy has been to keep as close as reasonable to the texts submitted. The issue is arranged alphabetically by author, with the contributors' section also serving as a table of contents. There is one exception: because the French section, which appears as the third contribution to the issue (alphabetized as Alferi et al.), interweaves four works, the contributor's note for each of the poets after Alferi refers back to this initial French section.

4

boundary 2 / Spring 1999

Contributors
Charles Bernstein's most recent books are My Way: Speeches and Poems (1999) and Log Rhythms with Susan Bee (1998), and, as editor, Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word (1998). He is David Gray Professor of Poetry and Letters, Poetics Program, State University of New York-Buffalo .


Jeremy Adler, born in 1947 in London, made his first calligraphic poems in 1966 followed by typewriter works, stencil poems, and cycles. With Bob Cobbing, Peter Mayer, and others, he was part of the London Group of Experimental Poets and has extensive contacts with visual poets internationally. He has produced over fifteen volumes of poetry. Adonis, born Ali Ahmad Sa'id in Qassabin (northern Syria) in 1930, moved from Damascus to Beirut, Lebanon, in 1956, where he cofounded Shitir (Poetry). He has been based in Paris since 1985. The text reprinted here is an excerpt from a 1992 interview with Jean-Yves Masson, from La priere et /'epee (1993). Available in English are The Pages of Day and Night (1994), a volume of selected poems translated by Samuel Hazo, and the major book-length essay An Introduction to Arab Poetics (1991). Fernando Aguiar, born in 1956 in Lisbon, has been making visual poetry and installations since 1972. He has published thirteen books of poetry and had twenty-two solo exhibitions. Since 1983, he has been involved in poetic performances and sound poetry. Pierre Alferi's most recent titles include Kub Or (1984), Fmn (1994), and Sentimentale journee (1997). Together with Olivier Cadiot, he edits the Paris-based Revue de litterature generale. A translation of his work by Cole Swenson, Natural Gaits, was published in 1995. His contribution to this issue, a collaboration with Cadiot that begins "... Unidentified Word Objects," is excerpted, with permission of the authors, from Revue de litterature generale 95, no. 1 (La mechanique Iyrique) and 96, no. 2 (Digest). Nelson Ascher was born in Sao Paolo in 1958. A literary critic for Folha de S. Paulo since 1984, he founded Revista da USP (1988-1994). His poetry books include Ponta da Lingua (1983), and Sonho da Razao (1993). He has translated poets from Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Joseph Brodsky, including a collection of modern Hungarian poetry. He is coeditor of Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain: New Brazilian Poetry (1997). Gennady Aygi was born in 1934 in the Chuvash Autonomous Republic, some five hundred miles east of Moscow. Although writing mainly in Russian, Aygi is regarded

Contributors

5

as the Chuvash national poet. There are two English translations of his work by Peter France: Selected Poems 1954-94 (1997) and An Anthology of Chuvash Poetry (1991). The texts included here come from the collection of essays Conversations distance, translated by Leon Robel (1994).

a

Josely Vianna Baptista was born in Curitiba, Brazil, in 1957. As a poet, she has published AR (1991) and Corpografia (1992). She is also a translator of Spanish poetry and literature and writes a weekly newspaper culture column. With visual artist Francisco Faria, she created a visual-poetic installation for the 5th Havana Biennial, Cuba (1994). Renato Barilli was born in Bologna and teaches a course in the phenomenology of style at the University of Bologna. Some of his works have been translated into English and published: Rhetoric (1989), A Course on Aesthetics (1993), and Voyage to the End of the Word (1997). Carla Billitteri's undergraduate degree is from the University of Catania, where she wrote a thesis on Oelmore Schwartz. She now lives and teaches in Buffalo, where she is completing a dissertation on the phenomenology of meaning in the work of Laura Riding, Charles Olson, and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry. She has translated Gianni Vattimo, Nanni Balestrini, and Gianni O'Elia. Robin Blaser grew up in Idaho and has lived in Boston, San Francisco, and, for many years, Vancouver. His poetry has been collected in The Holy Forest (1993). A collection of his essays is eagerly awaited. Regis Bonvicino is author of Ossos de Borbo/eta / Butterfly Bones (1996) and Remote Identity (forthcoming), and coeditor, with Michael Palmer and Nelson Ascher, of Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain: New Brazilian Poetry (1997). Manuel Brito is the editor of Zasterle Press. He lives in the Canary Islands, where he teaches at the University of Laguna and is working on an anthology of American poets. Nicole Brossard was born in 1943 and lives in Montreal. She writes poetry, fiction, essays, and in the space between. Among the many English translations of her work are Picture Theory, translated by Barbara Godard (1990) and Typhon Dru, translated by Caroline Bergvall (1997). Alexandr Bubnov is a contemporary Russian poet, head of the Society for Palindromic Work, and editor of its main publication. He lives and works in Kursk, Russia. Olivier Cadiot's books include L'art Poetique (1996) and Futur, ancien, fugitif (1993). He has also written libretti, lyrics, and theater pieces. He coedits, with Pierre Alteri, Revue de litterature generale. Charles Bernstein's translation Red, Green, and Black was published in 1990. Cadiot's contribution here is a collaboration with Pierre Alferi.

Wellington. and fog s. has appeared in Exact Change Yearbook. cris cheek is a British-based sound and language composer. Cairo. Recent works . he has always lived in Sao Paolo. Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1942 in Palestine. Born in 1929. Parataxis. Austria. made his first visual poem in 1942 and has been a leading figure in Britain in pursuing visual poetics in creative work and research. translated by Ben Bennani (1995). die aphorismen (1992). Collected Essays (1989). Haroldo de Campos was one of the founders of the international Concrete Poetry movement. Brazil. in the outskirts of Bologna. He teaches American literature at the University of Auckland. His poetry. in English translation. and also Marcel Reich-Ranicki: Eine Kritik (1995). and is one of the founding members of the Original Poets group. New Zealand. although the scope of his work extends to other poetics and to other areas as translations (Pound. the Bible). Fifteen volumes of his collected poems are currently available as well as the selected poems Bob Jubile (1990) and Bill Jubobe (1976). Netherlands. His statement published here is taken from some of the interviews gathered in the volume La Palestine comme metaphore (1997). Her books of poetry include La Direzione della sosta (1982) and Dentro Fuori Casa (1995). Her short stories have been published in Narratori delle riseNe (1992) and Racconta 2 (1993). mono lake (CD. Mallarme. He earns his living from performances of his work. and a range of poetry styles. Joyce. Amsterdam. and after 1982. 1996). essays. and other Arab cities. Bob Cobbing. to Beirut in 1972. 1997). where she still resides and works in a public library. His critical work Die Shreibhand (1997) has as its subject the poem of Reinhardt Priessnitz published as part of this issue. Robert Creeley's Selected Poems (1991). Collected Poems (1982). translated by Ibrahim Muhawi (1995). Mara Cini was born in Sasso Marconi. and Tinfish. born in 1920. and the City Gallery. His works in English include Memory for Forgetfulness. He teaches in the Poetics Program of the State University of New York-Buffalo. New Zealand. His most recent publications are Songs from Navigation with Sianed Jones (book and CD. Franz-Josef Czernin is the author of natur-gedichte (1996). to Paris via Tunis. In 1973 he joined the Palestinian Liberation Organization but resigned in 1993. skin upon sKin (CD. moved to Cairo in 1971. Wystan Curnow's most recent book of poetry is Castor Bay (1996). and Psalms: Poems. He lives in Rettenegg. his most recent work of art criticism is Imants Tillers and the Book of Power (1997).6 boundary 21 Spring 1999 Che Qianzi was born in 1963 in Suzhou. China. and Collected Prose (1988) are published by the University of California Press. He curated The World Over / Under Capricorn for the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. forthcoming).

alphabet history. most under the imprint Druckwerk. His collections of poetry include Good Science (1992). He is the editor of Postypographika.3. where he lives and edits Anterem. Germany. Argentina. born in 1952. His contribution in this issue is from his introduction to Ante Rem: . has been printing and designing typographically experimental work since the early 1970s. She is an editor of ProFemina and lectures at the Center for Women's Studies in Belgrade.600 Weekends (1993). and has written in a scholarly mode books and essays on visual poetics. and is now director of Reality Street Editions. an experimental poetry Internet site (http://www. in 1946 and has lived in Leningrad/St. Violence of the White Page (1992) and. which he cofounded with Silvano Martini in 1976. born in Gibraltar in 1950. and is engaged in performance. She has published several collections of poems. Johanna Drucker. from which the poem included in this issue has been translated. Serbia. His most recent book of poetic prose is AntJitz (1994). She writes poetry and essays. and translates. postypographika. the Nature of the Woman (1989). He is one of the founders of Paralengua. have been published in the United StatesDescription (1990) and Xenia (1994). with the permission of the author. with Norma Cole. typography. Arkadii Dragomoschenko was born in Potsdam. teaches. He has published a novel and five collections of poetry. where he still lives. He was editor of the journal Reality Studios (1978-1988). Fabio Doctorovich was born and continues to live in Buenos Aires. Two of his books. Twenty-Two New (to North America) French Poets (1997). and lives in Belgrade. and Glissando Curve (forthcoming). Flavio Ermini was born in 1947 in Verona. translated by Lyn Hejinian and Elena Balashova. She has produced more than two dozen of her own editioned works. Dubravka Djuric was born in 1961 in Dubrovnik.Contributors 7 include Galaxias (1984) and Metalinguagem & outras metas: ensaios de teoria e critica literaria (1992). Stacy Doris's books include Kildare (1995) and La vie de Chester Steven Wiener ecrite par sa femme (1998).com). A translator himself. has lived in England since 1966 and in London since 1968. his versions of works by numerous American poets have appeared in the famous "underground" publication Mitya's Journal as well as in anthologies. D'Elia was the founder and director of Lengua (1982-1994). and artists' books. Gianni D'Elia was born in Pesaro in 1953. and CosmopOlitan Alphabet (1995). including The Nature of the Moon. Croatia. She has coedited two magazine anthologies of new French poetry: with Emmanuel Hocquard. most recently Congedo della vecchia Olivetti (1996). Ken Edwards. and the author of Land of Scoundrels (1995). Traps (1995). Petersburg since the 1960s. the Argentinean experimental poetry movement that started in 1989.

New York (where he is Distinguished Professor of French at City University of New York. Hatherly has also published scholarly research in the field of visual poetry of the Baroque era. she is now working on a book-length translation of Juan L. Glissant resides alternately in Paris. and since 1958 has published many books including poetry. Ana Hatherly was born in 1929 in Oporto. Allen Fisher is a poet. Edouard Glissant. Her books include The Relative Minor (1993) and Rough Bush (1996). Ortiz. Bill Griffiths was born in London in 1948. Schematic Development of Tradition. Milli Graffi was born in Milan. painter. a movement started in Lisbon in the 1960s. and Novel. and Martinique. and major theoretician. together with the Chilean poet Cecilia Vicuna. visual poetry. where she is an editor of BOO Magazine and publisher of Tsunami Editions. he started Pirate Press. he founded the Front Antillo-Guyanais. He has edited and published SPANNER since 1974. and Open Letter. where he runs Wild Honey Press. and in 1967 founded the culture and research center Institut Martiniquais d'Etudes. He is the editor of The XUL Reader (1997) and is presently editing. Flame. of the Poesia Experimental Portuguesa. British Columbia. and published by Diana's BiMonthly (all in 1977): The Dilemma of Being High and Dry. and art historian working in London at the Roehampton Institute and from his studio in Herford. teaches. born on Martinique in 1928. where she lives. Helmut HeissenbOttel (1921-1996) has had three works translated by Rosmarie Waldrop. Portugal.8 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 Scritture di Fine Novecento (Ante Rem: Writings of the end of the twentieth century) (1998) and is published here with the permission of the author. Randolph Healy lives in Ireland. She is a leading member. His books in English include Caribbean Discourse (1992) and Poetics of Relation (1997). and translates (Lewis Carroll. and Gertrude Stein). Deanna Ferguson lives in Vancouver. Translator Kathy Kopple has a doctorate from New York University. which was outlawed soon after. most recently. He has published five books of poetry. and. including Rana Ranaf. Her contribution in this issue was published in its entirety in /I Verr. moved to Paris in 1946. Arbor Vitae. and essays. Her books of poetry include L'amore meccanico (1994). Ernesto Livon Grosman is an Argentinean poet who lives and teaches in Connecticut. and is published here with her permission. Charles Dickens. In 1959. a bilingual anthology of five hundred years of Latin American poetry. He has over one hundred publications documenting art performances and poetry. Her work has also appeared in Essex. a small press that published many pamphlets of his work as well as his extraordinary translations of premodern poetry. A collection- . In the 1970s. Matrix. A substantial selection of his work was published in Future Exiles: Three London Poets (1992). Graduate Center).

She has published two books of translation of Arkadii Dragomoschenko. is from lecture 3 of the Frankfurt Poetics Lectures (winter 1984-1985). and an essay collection. Maurice Blanchot. Central Park. translated by Michael Palmer and published as Theory of Tables (1994). Yunte Huang was born in 1969 in China. The two translated poems are from Odipuskomplex Made in Germany: Gelegenheitsgedichte Totentage Landschafen 1965-1981 (Stuttgart: KlettCotta. . He is completing a doctorate at the State University of New York-Buffalo in the Poetics Program. he has been on the core faculty of the MFA Writing and Poetics Program at the Naropa Institute in Boulder. Ernst Jandl was born in Vienna in 1925. The Language of Inquiry (forthcoming). Lyn Hejinian lives in California. The Cold of Poetry (1994). Stein. 1990). published here with his permission. all of which appeared in 1991: ILl (Or). The Right to Err. Edmond Jabes. OXOTA: A Short Russian Novel (1991). Huang's work in English has appeared in Prairie Schooner. was born in Helsinki. Huang Fan was born in 1963 in China. Finland. which appeared in The Opening and Closing of the Mouth (1985. After sojourns in Germany and the United Kingdom. Creeley. and Katya Olmsted." Anselm Hollo. A Border Comedy (forthcoming). Emmanuel Hocquard's many books include Theorie des tables. and Kurt Schwitters. is included in the French section. Nina Iskrenko was born in 1951 and is the author of three books of poetry published in Russia. published with his permission. and others. was published in 1995. He is founder and director of the Bureau sur I' Atlantique. He is a member of the Original Poets group. an excerpt from Blank Spots (1997). His Shi: A Radical Reading of Chinese Poetry was published in 1997. 1981) and are published here with permission of the publisher. where he has now lived for thirty-two years. Renowned as much for his performances and radio plays as for his many books of poetry. and Tinfish. Patrick Henry. Boyars (also in 1977). Her collections include My Life (1987). She is a member of the poetics faculty at the New College of California. he came to the United States. a collection of her work in translations by John High. the translator of Paul Celan. and the coeditor of Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry (1995). His most recent book of poems is AHOE (And How on Earth) (1997). The selection here.Contributors 9 Texts-has been translated by Michael Hamburger and published by M. which begins alphabetically with "Alferi. Colorado. Referendum (in collaboration with Yu Brabov). poet and literary translator. he has also translated Cage. Nina Iskrenko died of cancer in 1995. Pierre Joris was born in 1946 in Luxembourg and is the author of Breccia: Selected Poems 1972-1986 (1987). Since 1989. He teaches at the State University of New York-Albany. His contribution in this issue. and Neskol'ko Siov (A few words).

Leevi Lehto is a Finnish poet. Centre for English Studies. He is the author of two musical plays.D. Richard Sieburth.html. and Web-page deSigner. and Jim Kates translated. playwright. . Argentina. University of London. in 1942 and is a poet.bath. has been translated by Anselm Hollo and is available at http://www.10 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 John Kinsella is an Australian poet whose books include ErratumIFrame(d) (1998). The Radnoti Poems (1996). He has been a regular contributor of the journal XUL and is the author of several books of poetry. The Finnish original. His essay here is a shortened and revised version of a paper presented at the Sub Voicive Colloquium. Kunina's works. and Genre (1997). Her books include Reading Zukofsky's "80 Flowers" (1989) and three collections of poetry. She is finishing a Ph.edu/souffles/sommaire.swarthmore. he founded Souffles (http://clicnet. appear in Durer at His Mirror (1996) and New Freedoms (1994). DIA (1994) won the 1995 New Zealand Book Award for Poetry. Ie poeme (The poem beneath the gag) (1981).fi/li. which she. Abdellatif Laabi was born in Fez. 1997. Translator Molly Weigel has a doctorate from Princeton University and has written about North and South American poets. and his latest poems.) based in Sichuan. His latest book is EI desierto de ceniza (1997). Michele Leggott was born in 1956 and teaches at the University of Auckland. In 1966.substanssi. translator. Because of a degenerative retinal condition. Morocco. Reinaldo Laddaga is an Argentinean writer and scholar who lives in New York. Le Spleen de Casablanca (1996).uk/-exxdgdcllynx. in comparative literature at New York University. Estudio al estilo veneciano (1995) and Balasar Brun (1997). "Juanita and Points of View II" is based on his poem "Juanita ja nakokulmia" and composed using mainly (native or translated) English language sources.ac. also a collage. which together influenced an entire generation of Maghreb's progressives. Peter Larkin is a librarian at Warwick University (United Kingdom) and runs Prest Roots Press. storyteller. China. Sous Ie bail/on. Kunina has translated Susan Howe and John Suckling into Russian. Julia Kunina was born in Moscow in 1966. Poems 1980-1994 (1998). Jorge Lepore was born in Cordoba. and human rights activist (having himself been imprisoned for almost a decade for "consipiracy against the state"). October. Cambridge. The original version may be accessed at the Web site "Lynx: Poetry from Bath" at http://www. He is editor of Salt and a by-fellow of Churchill College.html) and Anfas. He is one of the founding members of the Nonoist School (1986. Among his published books are Pastoral Advert (1989) and Parallels Plantations Apart (1998). She is currently preparing Collected Poems of Robin Hyde. among them Blabla Dalgo (1986). her eyesight is gradually deteriorating. Lan Ma is the pen name of Wang Zhigang. translator. His major works include L'ecorche vif (Skinned alive) (1986). novelist.

His books include A/ong Without (1992) and The Walls Come True (1994). She has recently completed an advanced course in artists' books at Camberwell School of Art and Design in London. The excerpt from Magische Blatter (1995) is published here with the permission of the author. born in 1965 in California. . such as Suhrawadi's Recit de I'exil occidental (1993). He studied literature and the history of art before taking up a teaching post at the Ecole des beaux-arts in Paris. Katalin Molnar's books in French are poemes/ncorrects et FRS~V8jBQ. has exhibited his visual poetry in numerous contexts throughout the world for over the last three decades. Friederike Mayrocker was born in Vienna in 1923.RSRfB chantsTranscrits (1994) and Quant a je (Kantaje) (1996). He lives in Mauguy-en-Haye. translated by Beth Bjorklund. Los Angeles. and With Each Clouded Peak (forthcoming). Messerli edited two magazines: Sun & Moon and La Bas. and she often collaborates with Ernst Jandt.Contributors 11 Rogelio L6pez Cuenca writes from Spain: '0 cease being held hostages I to this double kidnapping: I fear and hope I hope and fear. she was associated with the experimental Vienna Circle. which is based in Los Angeles (http://www.com). Her work has been exhibited in the United States and the United Kingdom." a 'heoretically" ongoing environmental typestract project. Phantasia (1986). born in 1947. Muse & Drudge (1995). In the 1970s. where he lives and edits the magazine Dedale. and the author of twenty volumes of poetry and criticism. He is the founder and publisher of Sun & Moon Press. Douglas Messerli was born in 1947 in Iowa." Steve McCaffery. She edits Poezie Proleter with Christophe Tarkos. 1. began printing letterpress works in 1990 and established her own shop and press in the early 1990s. translated by Rosmarie Waldrop. 1987). Her works in English translation include Night Train (1992). In the 1960s. He is the creator of "Carnival. Magritte (art criticism). as well as translations of classic and modern Arabic texts. She teaches creative writing and African American literature at the University of California. Emily McVarish. Tyrus Miller teaches comparative literature and English at Yale University and is the author of Late Modernism: Politics. S*PeRM**K*T (1992). 1997) and is part of the French section. Tombeau pour Ibn Arabi (1987). Abdelwahab Meddeb was born in Tunis in 1946. Tarkos and Molnar's lexically effervescent collaboration is excerpted from Poezie Pro/eter (no. His works include Talismano (1979. Trimmings (1991). Heiligenanstalt (1994). I Fears hand hope I hopes add fear. He is currently on the faculty of York University in Toronto. and the Arts between the World Wars (forthcoming).sunmoon. Bernard Noel is the author of thirty-five works including Le Syndrome de Gramsci (fiction). Fiction." Harryette Mullen is the author of Tree Tall Woman (1981). and La Chute des Temps (poetry). France. which begins alphabetically with "Alferi.

excerpted in the anthologies Moving Borders (1998) and Out of Everywhere (1996). and Michael Palmer. in 1954. Singapore. after living for a brief period in the United States. translated by John High." Tom Raworth was alive when he answered these questions. including Take It or Leave It (1976). where he studied at Stanford. Nick Piombino is a poet. Germany. mainland China. and Light Street (1996). Huang Fan. founded in 1988 in Nanjing. Jorge Santiago Perednik was born in Buenos Aires. which begins alphabetically with "Alferi. Alexei Parshchikov was born in Olga Bay. From the Other Side of the Century. His work was a crucial bridge between the Wiener Gruppe writers and the contemporary avantgarde. cummings and Charles Olson. The Boundary of Blur (1993).12 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 The group Original Poets. Reinhard Priessnitz was born in Vienna in 1945 and died in 1985. including In the House of the Shaman (1993).e. Blue Vitriol. His most recent book is Selected Works (1996). He edited the review TXT. He has translated many American poets. among them e. Jeffrey TwitcheU-Waas. who has taught at universities in the United States. Zhou Yaping. Lisa Robertson is the author of Xeclogue (1993) and Debbie: An Epic (1997). His work has been anthologized in The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book. The Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative American Poetry. The poem published here is translated from vierundvierzig gedichte (1978) and is reprinted with the permission of Droshle Verlag. Far East. Russia. In the American Tree. His books include Poems (1988). and Close Listening. Maggie O'Sullivan lives in West Yorkshire. Michael Molnar. and Dum pendet filius (1997). Vi Cun. Petersburg) and currently resides in Cologne. He has published on modernist poetry and contemporary Chinese literature. and psychoanalyst who lives in New York. She works in Vancouver with members of the collective of the Kootenay School of Writing. includes Che Qianzi. and others. Argentina. . The manifesto appeared in Parataxis and is reprinted here with the permission of the translator. He is the editor of the influential poetry journal XUL. She is also editor of the widely acclaimed anthology Out of Everywhere: Linguistically Innovative Poetry by Women in North America and the UK (1996). China. Hong Liu. Translator Ray Federman is author of many works. He is an associate editor of Kommentarii Joumal (Moscow-St. Prigent's contribution here-an excerpt from "What Use Poetry?"-is part of the French section. fictional and metafictional. the United Kingdom. and. essayist. She has thirteen publications. He is the author of EI fin del no (1991) and EI Shock de los Lender (1986). was published in 1994. presently. The Politics of Poetic Form. A quoi bon encore des poetes? (1994). Christian Prigent's many books include Ceux qui merd Rent (1991).

and Paul Auster into Russian. He has also translated Charles Olson. He edits Transkatalog and teaches aesthetics and art theory at the University of Arts in Belgrade. He lives in Vienna. He is a doctoral candidate in American studies at New York University. Misko Suvakovic was born in 1954 in Belgrade. Two books of poetry. and a selected works titled Green & Black (1996). California. Susan Howe. Spencer Selby. She edits 0 Books. has published and exhibited his work internationally. He has published several books: A Prolegomenon for Analytical Aesthetics (1995). Jerome Sala's most recent book of poems is Raw Deal: New and Selected Poems. Christophe Tarkos has published a number of books. EI tapiz (1983). Cai (1997). and Four For. Oui.Contributors 13 Mercedes Rofh~ was born in Buenos Aires and has lived in the United States since 1985. Amina Sa'id was born in Tunis and lives in Paris.gedichte. most recently Our Nuclear Heritage (1991). Aleksandr Skidan was born in Leningrad (now St. a collection of essays titled Objects in the Terrifying Tense / Longing from Taking Place (1993). have been published in Russia. including Feu d'oiseaux and L'une et I'autre nuit (1993). including Processe. She has also published a number of translations from Arabic and from (Philippine) English. Camara baja (1987). speise. Ferdinand Schmatz is the author of dschungel allfach. where he teaches at the Hochschule fUr Andewandte Kunst. born in 1946 in Australia. Her collections include Poemas (1978). Defoe (1995). and La noche y las palabras (1996). Delirium (1993) and Critical Mass (1995). The Postmodern (1995). born in 1947. Her works include The Front Matter. He was among the founders of the Belgrade conceptual art Group 143. . He is the editor and publisher of Roof Books and president of Segue Foundation in New York City. and sprache macht gewalt and the editor of the works of Reinhard Priessnitz. Yugoslavia. 1980-1994 (1995). He lives in San Francisco. and Asymmetrical Other (1996). His most recent books are No Island (1995) and Malleable Cast (1995). Pete Spence. He works as a writer of direct-mail advertising. which is a sequence of visual poems. James Sherry is the author of ten books of poetry. and has produced his own work in a number of editions. Petersburg) in 1965 and lives there still. She has published eight collections of poetry as well as two volumes of stories. as well as a volume on poetics and the philosophy of writing titled On Second Reading. Leslie Scalapino was born in 1947 and lives in Oakland. He coedits POl§zie Proleter. began making visual work in the 1980s. Dead Souls (1996). has curated many international exhibitions of visual poetry in Australia.

His work in English translation appeared in Exact Change Yearbook and Parataxis. From 1987 to 1997. The F/oor of Heaven (a book-length sequence of four verse narratives) in 1992. an EnglishSpanish journal. Western Algeria. He is the editor of the free Internet magazine Jacket. His selection in this issue is translated from die verbesserung von mittie/europa. Rosmarie Waldrop's books include Another Language: Selected Poems (1997) and. John Tranter has published twelve collections of verse. Currently a student at the State University of New York-Buffalo. roman (The improvement of central Europe) (1969) and is published here with the permission of the author. Her books include Short Stories (1989). including Selected Poems in 1982. His major books are La Vieux de la Montagne (1983). His first collection of concrete and visual poetry. is a writer and critic who lives and works in Toronto. he lived in Mexico City. Marina Temkina was born in 1948 in Leningrad and moved to New York in 1978. is forthcoming. He is a member of the Original Poets Group. Rhode Island. and /dir Eatortha and Making Tents (1996). most recently. The Watch Tower (1990). who is from Austria.jacket. from which the selection here is taken. Cecilia Vicuna is a Chilean poet and artist who lives in New York and travels frequently to Latin America. Sultan GaliEN (1985). born in 1966. Pitch (1994). Darren Wershler-Henry. was the first work published by the newly rejuvenated Coach House Books. Well Well Reality (1998). and En algun otro lado (1992).zip. where he edited Mandor/a: New Writing From the Americas. his first collection of poems. he has lived between Paris and Constantine. Habib Tengour was born in 1947 in Mostaganem. L'Epreuve de rArc (1990). Vi Cun was born in China in 1954. Her most recent books are Qu/POem / The Precarious Art and Poetry of Cecilia Vicuna (1997) and Unravelling Words and Weaving Water (1992). Cottonwood Smoke. Ireland. at http://www. with Keith Waldrop. Since the 1960s.au. She is coeditor of Burning Deck Press and translates and publishes German and French poetry. Her poetry collections include Observatoire Geomnesique (1990). Gasoline Kisses in 1997. an anthology of twentieth-century poems on Mexico written by poets from North America and the United Kingdom. and Late Night Radio in 1998.com.14 boundary 21 Spring 1999 Roberto Tejada was born in Los Angeles in 1964. Catherine Walsh was born in 1964 in Dublin. NICHOLODEON: a book of /owerglyphs (1997). . She lives in Providence. and Gens de Mosta (1997). where he teaches sociology. lives in the Canadian Yukon and teaches in Germany. and. Translator Alexander Stessin was born in Russia in 1978 and immigrated to the United States in 1990. Oswald Wiener.

from Pythagorean Sonnet Sequence .Jeremy Adler.

poetry may no longer be anything but a simple variation on the first text. Truly original poetry will once again be dismissed as delirious language. the alphabet. Isn't this then not also a founding sign showing that the Other is the present and the future of the Self? Cadmos keeps on looking for Europa. governed by didactic and rationalistic concerns. Poetry risks becoming yet again an instrument in the service of technological or religious truth: we are going to witness an unprecedented return to the originary text. whose name means "Orient. It will no longer be called upon to create meaning. as something fixed and not as something moving. To save itself. You know the legend: how Zeus." set out to find her. How will poetry face these dangers? I don't know. I think that the danger threatening poetry in the future will be even greater than the danger it was exposed to by the ideologies of this century's totalitarian systems. so that time may again adhere to eternity's meaning. but also that most profound element of its identity. a past which more than ever will be that of the sacred texts. in relation to the land to which I belong. kidnapped the Canaanite goddess. a founding sign indicating that the Other. the Greek. Orient and Occident risk walking toward the future in the footsteps of the past. gets its name from the goddess Europa. meaning's eternity. carrying with him the alphabet. Isn't that a first. poetry will need to progressively espouse the unknown internal truths and refuse again and again to . as I do. who came from the land of Canaan. but will be used as caulking for the fissures of time. madness. And yet he gave the alphabet to Europe. as geographical locus.16 boundary 21 Spring 1999 Adonis from A Language that Exiles Me Europe. as if he wanted to celebrate the meeting between our Orient and your Occident. to found it on knowledge and the sharing thereof. You also know how her brother Cadmos. But I can try to sketch something that is beginning to take shape in me. something dreamlike that wells up from my imagination and experience as if it were given me to live in the next century. meaning being considered an a priori given. a political and ideological return toward a stadium where. It will no longer be tolerated as a questioning but only as an answer. was one of the dimensions of the Self? Especially if one remembers that this Self gave Europe not only its name. But he did not find his sister: her body had vanished into the occidental earth.

the poem will be transgressive.Adonis 17 be regimented from the outside by any kind of ideology. the structure of poetic language will have to open itself to more movement. . From a more traditional standpoint. The original finality of poetry is to embody this relation. a fount of answers. Poetry will focus always more on desire and pleasure. of wonder. an intermediary between the reader and the unknown. The poem would then become a node of energy leading the reader back to his own innateness. science and the dream will meet. Indeed. the ancient and the modern. so. and a highly refined sense of beauty. The poet will try to always go deeper into his innateness and to explore the dimensions of his language in order to better particularize the identity of the talking self and that of language. like the head of Orpheus. The shards of history and of the world will collide in the poetic text: poetry as the crucible where places and times. poetry is seen as an ideological tool. science. in order to escape ideology. the quivering of the body. and the questioning of reason. before being a simple relation between words. Just as the traditional concept of poetry has already broadened to exceed the limits of traditional forms of speech. philosophy. the poem will navigate on the river Universe. Drawing. history. Perhaps the poet will infuse the poem-to-come with various elements from the theater. in order to resist the utilitarian goals which nearly strangled it this century. the novel. and of death. with pleasure. architecture. Manipulated by the two great machineries of technology and religion. or institution. poetry-the supreme expression of the human through language-is a relation with the world and with things. Poetry will be like a sea gathering all the rivers and folding in their waters: loaded with desire. And yet. a profound and authentic vision. the media will continue to increase their hegemony. things themselves and what's beyond them. of questioning. But faced by this double oppression-technological and religious-this traditional view of the poem cannot survive. system. it would force him to ask and to answer his own questions. and music will perhaps combine in the poem-tocome to create a total theater for all things and all languages. and move always more toward a concept of the total poem. it will have to be transformed in its very structure. while poetry will have to advance by exploring regions the invader cannot reach: the regions of the heart. this asks of the poet a perfect knowledge of the world. Poetry will create unprecedented upheavals in the system of language and thought. Such a development would inevitably lead to an ever growing polarization around a focal point located inside and not outside the human being. totally contained in the body of language.

poetry is a question for the future. is poetry. so much so that the future itself belongs to poetry. The time that would see poetry die will itself be just another death. Without poetry there will be no future. Poetry does not have a time: it is time.18 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 Hegel said that art was a thing of the past. It pleases me to say: to the contrary. (Translated from French by Pierre Joris) .

Fernando Aguiar .

indicating the few still unexplored zones. Or even a "blank spot. Arrest on the image. tempting. becoming little enshrined votive offerings.. The Hunting of the Snark) 2 .20 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 Pierre Alteri & Olivier Cadiot. Unidentified Word Objects are literature's first prize: they fascinate. the maps are completely colored in and the explorers are replaced by tourists.My generation will probably be the last one to have seen the "blank spots" on maps of the world where the countries and colonial empires were colored in red. It is in poetry more than anywhere else that the ideals of the arrested object and the exception are achieved. to overestimate them. Baroque affectation or Expressionist exaggeration.. in an equally pat Expressionism. Emmanuel Hocquard. in at least two ways. brilliantly summed up in Claude Royet-Journoud's title Objects Contain the Infinite. blue. green. the con- . there is a whole world between the metaphors of Symbolist poetry. then. to inflate them like floats. 3 . A modern accomplishment by means of condensation. Their monstrousness. Christian Prigent . Of course. instead of fueling the machine. they lend themselves willingly to overcultivation. harmonization. what do I see as the nature of this contribution? I'm tempted to reply: a rip. Or a hole. Katalin Molnar & Christophe Tarkos. Exhibited like pearls. orange.When I speak about the French translation of contemporary American poetry as a contribution to contemporary French literature. It is easy. in a complacent Baroque. There remained a few blank spots. Surrealist linkage." OCEAN-CHART (Lewis Carroll. can be flaunted in its own right. and Objectivist fragmentation of the Blank Spots 1 . precocity. Through prettification. They are the stamp of virtuosity in the prose of stylists.For me. It is not for nothing that the more or less acknowledged dream of these types of literature. Today. Or through languagey aberration. is poetry. they lull to sleep.

the need for salutary plenitude. . It is said these days that things are going badly for literature. even more so for poetry. wi. tha plac hwer. ya. however. this recoiling seems to have removed from meaning the very idea of meaning (the meaning of our presence in the world and our destiny)-yet without. bat. Some twenty years ago. This retreat. we gat ta get ta hwer we se wi we rit hwat. wi. bakaz. Roland Barthes already warned that in our world. Of course. the need for determination and clarity is present in the same proportion as it is missing. one could ask if things have ever gone well for poetry. literature should try "to save its skin. ta get tatale sichawatad. redin ) and [ foddagraf of maan warin andarpantz standin on flar hod'n a (gas mask?) ) wi.Alferi et al. which is in crisis and even threatened with extinction. we gat taform at. 21 deskeshen betwfJn What Use Poetry? [ foddagraf of lade standin on cher wif baskat on hed. we gadajastafi it. The need for meaning. 0 wana ravyu? o ya. ya. as in all worlds in want. bat wadaOmen? we got a sichawashan. Consequently. use? tha plac dazn jast sho up on itz on. There is no longer any possibility of grandiosity beyond our present and our immediate future. anguish persists in this human world of ours. we gat taform at." One can wonder what it would mean for poetry to be well: when and where was poetic literature ever sold and read? When and where was poetry not in crisis? When our world tries to reflect on itself it tends to whine about the meaning that has been taken away from it by the failings of the great progressive or revolutionary utopias. we gat t constrakt it. preventing the search for meaning. ta sichawat arsefz.

ya. itz jastafid bi itz kohirans. itz. dialogues. 2) expressing that distance. hwa iz it? izit. communication in short.. bat hO dO we wana tel it to? ta hO? ta hO? ta as! that itz. itz. Today.22 boundary 21 Spring 1999 tribution of translations of American poetry to contemporary French literature consists of: 1) creating a distance within a space-time in the process of incessant narrowing." 5 1/2 - bekaz far hO? i men. padagajikal menz it menz thatz hwat we r. but rather an initial space of observation and reflection. . itz jastafid bi. itz. itz. itz. 3) reinserting "blank spots" within the general coloring context. thatz hwat we want. war runin inta prablams im fargetin. ya.I also remarked: "My real pleasure is reading American poetry in French. exchanges. that itz thar. padagajikal? no! no! itz. evan bi. itz parfick far padafiz. discussions. no? ya. My satisfaction could be expressed in these terms: no French poet could ever Besides.. And definitely not a ground for meetings. Q rit it. influences. I didn't mean to say that French literature is enriched or augmented. Not for selling or building. where the phrase 'in perfect American' rings strangely like a displaced echo of the expression 'in perfect English'? ya. Q rit it bekaz. a grafete. 5 . Q can rit it on a wal. but rather that its surface area is expanded into unexplored zones. . bi itz intrinzik bOte. at lest its ritan. 4 . write this. itz far hO? Q sa: so-n-soz an as. that ifyarit: so-n-soz an as.When I wrote that contemporary American poetry in French translation is a contribution to contemporary French literature. bat then. Noman's-Iand. Q jast rit it. Unowned territory. padagajikal dazn men far padafiz. to translate American poetry into French is to gain ground. what sort of language is it.

Ponge's game-things. or pockets of resistance. In a larger sense. how to invent urban or desert states of infrapersonal equilibrium: spleen.Alferi et at." Reason why. Or it can become a radical new method of concretization: trip to Michaux's personal zoo. poetry opens such spaces only to use them as a sanctuary in which to await the apparition of the Exemplary Object. But it is always a question of little devices disunited in the service of an ideal Object. one can understand that our contemporaries show little taste for what does not bring comforting clarity or stable knowledge. zones of indistinction. that undermines the formality of comfort. In such a context. experimental poetry). Not surprising that our contemporaries try to avoid the kind of writing that does not satisfy itself with the representations that official discourses offer of the world. Poetry has often recognized the threat posed to it by arrests on the Object: self-mutilation. monstrous. It knows. And this is how true "literary space" should be determined. knick-knack or monster. But there is a tendency to relegate these types of poets to a marginal inaudibility (since no one listens to them): they do not correspond to the demands of the world. it can assume the inoffensive form of memorable moment or well-turned aphorism. This poetics of the exception can be summarized in one pose: Char-ism. Stefan's scissorings. But more often than not. Cingria's cyclotourism. hieroglyphs to decipher. selfconfinement. apathy. more or less. better than any other genre. only those who write in this perspective can be called poets. the eccentricity of their language makes them appear unreadable. 23 The present political situation offers numerous spectacular and often terrifying instances of this. the kind of writing that erodes the certainty of actual knowledge. In the affected neoclassicism turning up everywhere you look. the sublime singularity. they are considered "errors of nature. Not surprising either their disdain for "difficult" literature (especially that which is labeled. void. that does not essentially propose meaning but provokes anguish about the very conditions of the production of meaning. today. Reznikoff's minutes. they are inadequate to the logic of spectacle and commerce. The procedures reflect and almost mechanically reproduce this . one readily declares that this activity literal. Poetry devises escape routes by inventing indeterminate open spaces. Or it can deeply affect the structure of language itself.

that poetry is dead. Therefore. far hO we wana start a ravyO? far hO? i dano. it saz samthin. such as Guy Debord and Jean Baudrillard. hwat we lik. itz a manafesto. bekaz a ravyOzz a postar. yO war sain. The language of everyone is no one's language. us. no.24 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 ya. 2. bat borin wi? simple bekaz tha don no hwat thar sain. i ramembar. that ya kep on redin. yO wer sain that yO wantad a plac far as. even tend to think that there is no more literature worthy of that name in France. but alive. (the poetic activity) has no future.. A number of rather well-placed intellectuals. bakaz tha prablam wif a ravyOz that thar borin. that menz that we pablish staf we Iik. it shoz a wa of sein. spectacle. it shoz samthin. Let me explain: One could begin by asking a crude. no bat wi? i dano. A nonwritten life (nonsymbolized in a personal manner) is a wretched life. ya. naive question: Why is there poetry? Why is there STILL poetry when everything (commerce. butif. often contradictory. or for that matter the same can be said of art in general. tha on Ie intrast of a sichawashan Iik this iz hwen it noz hwat itz sain. and deeply rooted in the anguish proper to mankind-anguish of language. than. yO. ideology) wishes there would be no more poetry. And yet poetry continues to exist in varied forms. one must respond to the shame of being subjugated and of being without a language with a defensive gesture: by an action on language. ya send samthin. consequently one must ''find for oneself a language" in order to articulate what is intimate (and which positive ya. ya stik z postar on tha wal i navar put up a postar.I . ya send samthin. nd hwats tha wa of seiin? its Os! . a life subjected to a false language. ok bat its tha sam thin. This is what I believe: 1. n that we tri ta mak it intarasin. ya.

25 ideal of exception." etc. Without even being able to speak of exoticism. since exoticism is itself a matter of habits. Little formal models. you see. And the poems are stubbornly presented as quintessential exceptions: flowers. not only disjointed but also mounted on pins. lyriCism "Perhaps my dilemma about whether this expression is American or not is exactly the pOint. The arrest of poetry: an old story. enamels. Reznikoff's Manner"). How to retain the precision of the poetic mechanism without sacrificing speed? How to efface the icons without deactivating them? If it is a question of soul supplement or purring engine. In this corner. This hunting scene can also be a shop of horrors: the sanctification of gore is just the flip side of precocity. This distance. 7 . upholders of forms and know-how. varnished painting or abrupt juxtaposition. cameos. Beyond the complacency that lies in wait for it. metered. assonant. four-leaf clovers.The distance between habits and politics. It's still the topiC of the day. But not political like the neo-noir French novel. it would be interesting to try to find out why the .Alferi et al. The distance between what can be written directly in French and what can only be written indirectly. Or: what unarticulated pOlitical intonations does the translation of American poetry suddenly articulate in French? What politically "blank spots" suddenly speak through our habits? 8 . or purposely elliptical. fast becoming a farce. the ex-iconoclasts who either redigest a "modern" destiny or go reconvert themselves in ordinary prose. the Arrested Object presents a limit (a limitation?) for poetry." 6 . Perhaps the same thing can be expressed this way: "No American could ever write this. (Incidentally. through translation. From Ducasse's Poesies to Denis Roche's visit to the theatre.Political in what way? In the way the American detective novel is political.No.Finding oneself in this strange situation. "The Eloquence in Question. 7 . since its ambiguity puts Reznikoff's relation to the language (American or English) and the men in question" (Benjamin Hollander. In that corner. passing through "performance"'s more nuanced forms of avoidance or the rejection of "literary" poetry in the name of "the real world. for example. through reflection. the fetishistic artisans. trophies. it's on the contrary strangely familiar and at the same time so strange.

26 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 discourses cannot account for). The driving force of writing has been so often thought of in negative terms that a sort of Vulgate of "lack" has developed with reference to literary France. "correspondences. This Vulgate reinjects transcendence. poetry is ineluctable. "Poetry" is the site where this contradiction (this dichotomy) which structures language is exposed. etc. "lyricism" is a primary affectivity that gives tension to writing. frees us from the world at the very moment when it pretends to give the world to us. on the bourgeois stereotype of inspiration. Far from what constituted these concepts' force and pertinence the Vulgate of "lack" reduces them to a Single grandiloquent thematic in order to re-create an illusionistic scene of writing. inexpressibility). one must find a form that can record this sensation (a rhythmic is nowhere to be found." echolalia. 6. something escapes the mechanical disman- . and piety by misappropriating grand negative concepts rigorously elaborated under specific circumstances (impossibility. prosody) can account for the sensation of discontinuity of things and the meaninglessness of the present (the unnameable reality). on the one hand all we have to do is push this wrenching from nature to the extreme. Therefore. and on the other to seek a new alliance with the world. It is remarkable. on the contrary. This produces on one side DICHTUNG (that is to say. and sentiment against its form. Vagueness gives rise to its every hope: since the writing originates in radical negativity. 3. The paradox is that language. how this diffuse ideology falls back. rhetorical condensation and the desire of hermetism). Neither the atonic block of prose (the continuum of thought or narration) nor the melodic metronome (that is to say. Therefore. in the idea of a sublime elsewhere. and on the other side the exchange of metaphors. 4. "Lyric" designates the energy of the literary mechanism that changes form into content and vice versa. For this reason. Of course. expression can be played off against technique. limitation. S. inseparable from the mechanism as an act from its conditions. mystery. Rather than a particular tone or affect. it is by definition subversive. harmonies. And the anatomist can be accused of not finding the spirit. which makes us human.

hwat lidarachur iz.Wittgenstein's Rhinoceros: any child can understand that he crosses the room. 'cors not. tha. itz jus evrethin we fik. Jackson Mac Low's chance-intentional language blocks. while we all too often content ourselves with pronouncing on or against.. Charles Reznikoff's recopyings. reflakt. That doesn't imply that today's American poets are particularly involved in actual political struggle. Gertrude Stein's grammar. 9 . hwat it iz. far lidarachur. hwat we fik. Holes. Jackson Mac Low. 27 majority of French translations of American detective fiction sound so fake. The will of language as a key to a different political space. go tha adar wa. It simply means that they situate political reflection. it hwat we rit iz lidarachur. radically. Armand Schwerner's tablets. Its strength in place of its power. And can extrapolate from that consequences for life. in the field of language. se. if.Rips. I wan. ya! itz hwat we fik. giv Idez hwen we get am nd.Political.atz it. we start a ravyO. Ilk 6 lidarachur. it showz hwat it saz. so. bekaz I ramembr yO war sain: I wan a plac fa Os. hwet daz that dO? it it givz matieal ta se. sugjest stat.) Political like Gertrude Stein." 12 . k6hiren hau? itz hwat we fik! yar not gana te me that hwat we rit 'z ITk evrethin Is. jarminat. an Iwaz sain. yO se? yar not gana hav a miks s6 miksd that yO cant tel hwat it iz. go wOn wa. 10 . evrewan kan se hwat it iz. then itz a k6hiren objakt.The political force in question is equivalent to the force of language. set tha limitz. dapendin on hwat war lukin far. a plac hwer we kan think. . itz jus hwat we fik! ansted ot evar sain hwat. the Objectivists. and so many others. 1b. bat wif an Ide. David Antin's spoken poems . Any child knows how to play with these things. 13 .. ya. mOv araund. not like Kenneth Fearing or Ezra Pound or the Beatniks. the L=A=N=G= U=A=G=E poets.Alferi et al. the speshel thin iz that it saz. "Blank spots.. ya we ned a plac to matamorfoslz. in other words political consequences. America blank on the map or the re-embarking of Rochambeau.

fatally. "Melville: la lettre blanche"). place of locution lacking a subject that allows himself to be perceived in the traces of his speech . etc. better yet. 15 112 . A space without a subject (a "no-man's-land") where the speaker is missing: . "The Whale places the object at a distance. As long as it remains the unknown in the equation. Then an empty place. like a painting without a faked third dimension. 15 . insist that Jerusalem should be their capital. The gearshifting shows up in the writing by means of a concurrence of voices: a voice manifests itself through its registernarration. A comical project. The thematics of lack produced flat texts that had to depend on their place in the shade to take on depth.Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem for their capital..Political in place of metaphysical.. discourse.. If one group. A relief appears. But if you focus on the writing. for opposite-that is to say identical-reasons. That will constitute a loss in terms of the abundance associated with the unspoken or. Charlton Heston receiving the tablets of the law in the Cecil B. poeticoccupy by turns the foreground of a single text. there is always a remainder from the operation. The title enforces an estrangement. in terms of the richness of the not-yet-spoken" (Claude Richard.28 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 tling of texts. But if both. as long as it is not hypostatized into a religious object. Neither this whale nor that whale. and vice versa. The backers of the City of God cultivating the art of blabbing about the unspeakable. DeMille movie. That would be comical if it weren't for the deaths. remainder = x... A hole in place of a lucrative building. there's no solution. A discourse that. Their space was still the space of illusionist perspective. insists that Jerusalem should not be the capital of the other group. for its own reasons. But it's not elsewhere. establishes itself. at the bottom of a well. an unoccupied spot. then fall back behind the other lines they covered over? Through braiding: a line locally overlaps another line that seemed to hold it behind. . How to produce reliefs on the very surface of writing? How to reinvest the surface with energy to score it? How to maintain a constant gearshifting effect with a thousand discrepancies of consistency and registers of writing? How to let certain lines of phrasing-descriptive. actually an abstraction of the whale. all you see is a surface. it is not considered to be lacking. it is part of the operation itself. narrative.No politics without animals. then is reabsorbed in the surface because there is no background.-or through its phrasing-rhythm. tone 14 . theatrical. will do violence to both language and to the language.

but against poetry. sOm separashans widin lidarachur.Alfari at al. yO sa. It subjugates us. Twan tha old store: wer wOn famale ovar. it seems to me. or the obscene tautology of the talk shows (the reality shows). in unpredictable forms-forms that must at the same time undermine the search for a "true" language while insisting that there is no "true" languageforms that propose not to create fullness but rather emptiness in the false language that surrounds us and fills the space around us. that evrewOn IOvz evrewOn ovar. It obstructs the real for us with simplistic representations. in poetry as a form of disappearance of poetry. The derealizing flow of images drowns our vision. an exigency of poetry.thatz it. an lhatzz 01. o ya. Tramembar. an we kritsTz nathin. iz we one pablish pomz. 29 sOm. It teaches us to approve dumbly what is there . bat tha prablem iz. we one pablish pomz in tha ravyO? onle. ya. speshel no insaltz isO. Not for poetry. Poetry has this discovery as its objective. an artificial happening detached from meaning). wOn mOnf far igzampal and wOn mOnf. our lives. in the murder of poetry. as if naturally. yO chanj. our conscience. som daz yO donfe Iil< it. ovar.thatz it. itz ok. there will be. far. no insaltz far. no bat tha prablam iz. yO ramembar that? ya. What are the forms of representing the world that today parade before us? The fugacity of the spectacular.ovar. that is to say as long as there will be some speaking beings. bat. of course. some anguished human beings. As long as there will be this.thatz hwet itz far. tada. Tdon se yO don fe Iil< sain bad thinz abaut tha adarz. schema that obeys no fixed rules a priori. if som daz yO fe Iik it. and we sa bad thinz abaut tha adarz. And. the onrush that makes the real vanish in the frivolous and jovial bric-a-brac of trashTV. at least this. to the ascendancy of represented things.

M.For days all the radio and television stations have been boxing our ears with this high philosophical debate: should daylight savings time be done away with? Should the winter or the summer hour prevail? At what hour does the sun rise? Etc. I think this story is very edifying. Their hunting grounds presumably extend over a radius of several dozen miles.kaz. everyone is happy. capital of Israel.30 boundary 2/ Spring 1999 why can't Jerusalem be. I've never seen a falcon over Paris. at the same time. 16 . even if I had. Now. with no interferences or connections.no. That way. Personally. (Translated by Stacy Doris) . Iik. At the fourth beep the time will be exactly eight o'clock is nO. if yO bald a ballldin. but apparently about twenty pairs of falcons live in Paris. & c. It shows that two territories that are unaware of one another can exist in the same space. capital of Palestine. about the falcons.kaz. T. Based in the capital. 16 1/2 . nesting in certain belfries. where they have supposedly been reproducing since the Middle Ages.kaz. And. if. yO don star bi kritsizin tha baldin nekstdor -K. Jerusalem. I would have taken it for a quick pigeon. they evidently seek their daily sustenance as far as Royaumont. I assume that the majority of Parisians are equally unaware of their presence. Any child can understand this. the capital of both? Jerusalem.kaz.I don't know for sure.

a difficulty which resists the flow of time. discontinuous dialogism of the novel loses its significance. autocratic. does not inevitably lead literature to smooth linearity or to abstraction in the service of pure textual materiality. Some vanish in passing. Literature's specific material is not language as such. is relayed by another.-. by contrast. of beings. and. 31 before our eyes gorged with icons. without pause. because the strange. when it seems to lose itself. threads back through the mike. melody-. On the contrary: this statement tells us lexicon. rhetoric is not the name of an ornamentation or of a brilliant performance of expression. poetry is nothing more than the name of another appropriation of reality. then is covered over by another. Rhetoric is the name of the technique that hardens this resistance and makes it last. a braided voice whose ideal is maximum integration and continuity at once: several voices in one. Prose could be considered. dominates the other voices for a while. A prose that piles up the registers-rhythm section. in German). Poetry is another name for realism. Confidence in the surface. Petrarch used to say: "I don't want my reader to understand without effort what I myself wrote with effort. into time. Many effects of relief result from the circulation of these heterogeneous objects. overcomplicated. in a way that includes certain poetry. the speed of surging and vanishing visions in Dante or Rimbaud and. of constitution and of dispersion of meaning in the duration-the duration of writing as well as the duration of reading). Similarly. etc. linear idiom of poetry and the relativising." One should not interpret this statement as an affirmation of esoteric elitism. A line is launched. loops: feedback. the crystallized slow motion of Mallarme. Facing this thoughtless and alienating onrush. takes off. A prose whose clear line doesn't blur the contours of poetic objects. Lines of voicing move parallel to each other at different rhythms. but always objects already both complex and dehierarchized-Unidentified Word Objects. Rhetoric is the name of this other functioning which creates a complexity. a density (Dicht-Dichter.Alferi et al. keyboards. of thoughts. Above . For instance. others persist. multiple cut-up of poetic writing imposes another functioning of meaning (another rhythm of apparition. which is simply confidence in form. The opposition between the unique. resists the disastrous vanishing of things. yet obeys the exigencies of a continuous phrase.

" Batame "Ia part maudite" (the banished portion). moral. poetry confronts the present. It is rather what Kafka called "the negative. the hatred of modernity. Loving and . To see one's time as an obstacle to time and to take momentarily the initiative over time. Antonin Artaud said. is ambivalent. Its particular functioning is to attempt to speak the intimate-"individual modulation. Beckett "the unnameable. personal (what lyricism tries to express).32 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 that poetry is the name of a chance given to the reader. in the slow-motion thickness of deciphering. Difficult literature. The love of its own time is its subject. its senseless on-the-spotness)which painfully frustrates the desire for meaning." Intimate does not mean only subjective. what communitarian discourses that are subjugated to the positive (politics. nothing other than the present because it refuses nostalgic maceration." That is to say. or in the densifying of polysemy. Modern literature is an ambivalent love of the present. science) cannot take in charge. Unlike history and unlike prophesies. and prophetic alignment-nothing other than the entire present (its tragic space. is a search for ''true'' language. as all love. caught in the vertiginous precipitation of prosody. But this love.

tailoring itself to fit a genre that becomes its object. Mumford cleverly showed the role of the be/fry-clock order in the birth of capitalism. The external breaks in by force and is suppressed as background. L. But also between us. 18 112 . 33 all. but exposes. a certain surface imposes itself on another and coats it. I didn't. effect of telescoping or corrugation. This transcription effect is closely linked to heterogeneity. to the forced entry of an object into a code which wants nothing to do with it: surprise sound effect on the written. some are reabsorbed at a certain reading speed. "The Eliminator is a clock that doesn't keep time. its referent. I could have translated Sun as "Solitude. the word was (and remains) one of the great poetic plagues. between one language and another. which can't happen without a degree of irony. viewed from a certain angle dictated by context.I arrive at a perilous and let us say disreputable passage here. for example. Overt irony when the text declares itself a fake. from another angle. fortuitous or highly calculated. but loses it. and let the others live life at their own pace? In the '50s. whether of external observation or frantic imitation. the spoken on the written. Strangleholds of the written on the spoken. When the spoken interrupts the flow of the written. But the attraction of strange objects can also be understood literally. Objects. not a piece of information. but reemerge at another speed. The issue is not of greater or clearly a command. unintentional literary effect. the system of hours and time zones is good for one thing: differences in time in different zones.' The Eliminator orders negative time as it avoids historical space" (Robert Smithson. Before deSignating a fashionable social plague.Alferi et a!. Why should the whole world go by the same time? Wouldn't it be enough for those who have some business to take care of together to synchronize their watches like before a holdup. One of those words that should be retired from the language and disinfected before being allowed back in circu- ." Of course. Still. exerting such pressure on the writing that it raises objections. create a disturbing relief which the text does not smooth over. the written on the written. Covert irony in the case of a referent imposing itself upon nonfactual writing. "The Eliminator"). The intervals between the flashes of neon are 'void intervals' or what George Kubler calls 'the rupture between past and future. when recognized in their strangeness and violently employed. The necessary lag between a voice and its echo.

and the malaise which speaks the truth of this singular rapport of speaking beings with the world (speaking beings that Artaud called "departed beings": the separated ones. Therefore. dragged along by the narration. Sometimes a book unfolds from a single refractory nucleus and passes through all the genres (theater." suspect or paradoxical. indeterminacy. this empty spot at the heart of the constitution of meaning. Relief requires mixing and mixed techniques. This brings to mind "multimedia. our bodies) falls. The goal of poetry is as much to fix this non-sense of the present as to produce meaning (to say the world clearly). those wrenched from the immediate animality of experience). that is to say embracing the present passionately.. in a text that disobeys the laws of genre. poetry confronts in-significance because the meaning of the present is located in this in-significance: in this impossible framing of perspectives." "poet. or theater. for example. but of negotiation with that object.34 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 hating. in its very own difficulty. to justify the nonlinear arrangement of words and the persistence of sound. poetry incarnates senselessness. as it is said. The question of style. and transforms into a poem. How. of the writing's authority and thus the writer's posture. in this leakage of significations confronting our discourses and our beliefs. the outside world. the mise-en-scene installed through typography in the mise-en-page. in this wavering of knowledge. into "obvious meaning"and thus literary language becomes the aestheticized reflection of this fall-or else it remains obscure (absolutely aside from meaning) -and as such literary language takes this into account: its given ineluctably becomes this in-significance. which necessitates a plan of attack. In a novel. Poetry accomplishes. gives way to more modest considerations. only to forget them again. it can impose itself on a text at any point. the effect of poetry (in a sense extended to any form that calls attention to its own contours) is always gripping: suddenly we dwell on the words themselves. Or to put it differently: either the world (the present. essay) in an attempt to set that nucleus in motion. . things. narrative. "novelist. with the "reality effect. At other times the motion of the description or narrative slows before an image. an event." etc." but the mixing need not be systematic. the logic of this speaking lesser realism.

I'm talking about solitude. And utterances. but because they can be spotted only in a rarefied space. No individual subject (no writer). That they could proceed only as a function of their solitude. "It was my role as a professor to reconcile them with their solitude." I'm sure that translation has a lot to do with utterances. utilizes it when he tells that his role as a professor was to teach students (in search of communication because they feel lonely) that they should be glad of their solitude. I would say the same thing about utterances as Olivier Cadiot has written about poetry: "(they) are in the language." When I say that translation seems to me to have a lot to do with utterances. a no-man's-land. you gather them when you find them. Gilles Deleuze. Because utterances are rare. for example. they do not form links. a space without a subject. 35 lation. as great as he may be. like (genuine) mushrooms. Not because there are so few of them. aren't cultivated. By this I mean that they do not communicate.Alferi et al. that they are without connec- . has ever invented or produced the slightest utterance. It suffices to delicately disengage them and then make a mold of them. And utterances are solitary. aren't manufactured.

for example. the work of an idiot. their stitching reappears. the flow of sentences weakens and melts the dense formations they sweep along with them. (Translated by Stacy Doris) . Multiplicity of readings for the multiplicity of writing. The contours of a foreign body in a text can dissolve to reappear more clearly later-an interplay of angles and rhythms. or taking time to let exemplary objects rise to the surface. All these effects of relief. But they beam like idiots. precipitation. To survey the changes of consis- tion. even if there are several of them on a page. In traditional poetry. ungluing. A book often functions like a particle accelerator for the unidentified objects it contains. by stitching or fusions. Digestion is a kind of velocity. Translating Sun or writing Theorie des tables. enjambment is an accelerator that forces a nongrammatical skeleton out of the sentence. and reliquification suggest in every case a specific literary treatment of the material: digestion of word objects by the block or by phrasing. We read at different speeds.H. intermittence. first blurs their contours. but on a slower reading. has helped me "reconcile myself with my solitude.36 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 Pebbles in the stream: to varying extents. The acceleration provoked by the machine of repetition separates the ear from the text. for different forms of enjoyment: panting to keep up with the rush of a new discourse. striation." -E. double justification. The redundant accumulation of sentences from elsewhere.

in the na"ivete of utopic visions. a homologous obscurity (homeopathetic?)-and it is in this that these works give the effect of truth. it would be a submission to the lure. Jarry. Mallarme. -c. In fact. and through language the wrenching away of human beings from the mute stupidity of the world. (Translated by Ray Federman) . It speaks the loss of the world in language. for poetry. 37 being. across from the world's obscurity. artificial. an admission of the world.Alfen et al.p. Artaud. Thus Baudelaire. poetry has as its goal to draw this void and this wrenching (with abstract. Beckett. a betrayal of the effort toward truth. nonnatural rhythms). or in the homogeneity of fictions which articulate time) would be. To offer a readable world (as it is done in the coherence of explanatory systems. and many others did not seek to render the world readable: their works constructed.

(Translated by Stacy Doris) . &0. -P. To elaborate a form where genres and registers realign themselves in full swing.38 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 tency.A. C. observe the contamination through contact of materials taken from wherever. research the most minute material differences.

In contrast. first of all. its soap operas. It is worth remembering that.S. a quarter of a century ago. perhaps. spent many years in Europe and in the U. Brazilian culture is so easily misunderstood abroad that. A single example should suffice: a European leftist (say. So a country as large. work for the main TV network. most foreigners who try to understand Brazil and its culture end up missing the point completely. despite being considered our own "evil empire" by the national Labour Party (the cultural leadership of which obviously is also employed by that very same network).Nelson Ascher 39 Nelson Ascher Being a Poet in Brazil Brazilian intellectuals do not have a real sense of how strange their country is. our not too bloodthirsty (at least not as much as its Spanish American counterparts) but sincerely modernizing military dictatorship was openly fought by. people would rather give it up altogether. for instance. not the least because they rather blindly stick to categories which. Thus their conceptions become all too easily misconceptions in a non-downtown country. not even to mention common readers. But the explanation. both political conservatives and Communist Party cardholders. faced by its lack of transparency. a British Labourite) trying to interpret Brazilian literary life according to accepted standards of left and right would arrive at laughable results in a place where many first-rate intellectuals. of all possible institutions. should apply but in the case of Brazil need some crucial translation. movements like land reform through. And it is amazing to look at the sheer number of lost opportunities. This is an institution that. as it seems. but did practically nothing in . Twentieth-century Brazil's most important prose writer (Joao Guimaraes Rosa) and two among five of its best poets ever (Vinicius de Morais and Joao Cabral de Mello Neto) were diplomats. has become in recent years a kind of bulwark of some important aspects of democracy. if that is possible. who would imagine it?. or the decodification of at least some of those complexities WOUld. and varied as the whole of Spanish America remains more like a blind spot in the minds even of knowledgeable American and European intellectuals. up to a point. Like fish (to use a strikingly innovative metaphor) they thrive in their own unawareness of the fact that the cultures of most other countriesWestern countries. at least-breathe differently in another medium. populous. our left-of-the-center Catholic Church. and has backed. imply an effort by/from the Brazilians themselves.

one could easily tell anybody's political leanings from the singers he listened to: traditional Stalinists. Nonetheless. modeled on the French original. the pop song. without discounting the native rhythms. who not only was the most innovative writer this country has ever had but may also be considered a kind of "lost link" between Laurence Sterne and Jorge Luis Borges. is almost 100 percent American). one should keep an awkward fact in mind: Brazil has its own Academie de Lettres. In the meantime it became for two generations of Brazilians the mirror in which a newly developed urban middle class tried to recognize its country and its place in it. Literary modernism and its developments are basically beyond dispute everywhere. quintessentially modernist. as the main public art at a time when it had left its "folkish" character behind but still was not wholly an industrial product. but was founded by a writer called Machado de Assis. Anyway. . was a personal friend of people ranging from Ungaretti to Jorge Guillen. had a tremendous influence. this did not further the promotion even of his own poetry abroad. a couple of things should be stated clearly. Our great expatriate poet. Followers of Lukacs and Adorno in the universities. in the newspapers or the electronic media. There are few countries so deeply unmodern as this one in which high international modernism met such a remarkable success almost from its beginning. Guimaraes Rosa. it was Vinicius de Morais who. in this century. in which lyrics written according to the precepts of modernist poetics were put to a music that. for instance. that most kitsch of "cultural" institutions. of course. It never became anything resembling a true literary establishment. It is our national enigma that with every new generation. opened itself to the influence of jazz. died of a heart attack. while Trotskyists backed Caetano Velloso. Brazilian literature and particularly its poetry are. be it in the universities or in the few anthologies. as well as avant-gardist poets outside them. Murilo Mendes. when it began losing steam. any attempt by aesthetically conservative writers or artists in general to establish a foothold has been repelled again and again. at the high tide of its influence in the '70s. the great avant-gardist novelist. lasting a quarter of a century. Incidentally. who settled in Italy. created with a small group of friends what could be called our highbrow pop song. in the pop song or the movies. debated the pop song hotly and.40 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 terms of developing cultural contacts. On the other hand. Maoists preferred Geraldo Vandre. As Brazil did not and still does not have anything like a strong theatre or cinema (our cinematographic memory. loved Chico Buarque. into the '80s. in the late '50s.

the other begins to sound not as my own. in these circumstances. I hope. the victory of modernism in all branches of cultures is not in question. something I have learnt to do (if I ever did) through the study both of the poems translated into Portuguese by our concrete poets (Haroldo and Augusto de Campos. Dacio Pignatari) and of the poetry of Portuguese and Brazilian high Modernism. But archaism is archaism and not less problematic because it lives side by side with modernity in the souls of a large number of influential individuals. what is in question are the unmodern. never reached the murderous consequences that became commonplace in the part of the world from where my parents came. was the British Penguin Modern European Poets series. or economic group. Eliot. Brazilian archaism. no policy of extermination has been conducted in these lands against any ethnic. though stemming from the last Western economy to have slavery abolished (many would say: in theory rather than in practice). if I may call it such. Whenever I get closer to one of these languages. and notwithstanding much real violence. and Hungarian. mainly Fernando Pessoa. In other words. There have been many literary polemics in Brazil. in which I all too often dream. for they consist mainly of somewhat petty personal disagreements. but also all the others (and nowadays I see Concrete poetry as the third generation of our Modernism). To complicate things further. in which I write my poetry. I am a native speaker of two languages: Brazilian Portuguese. Thinking and translating are for me almost synonymous words. namely. My spoken and. In spite of our ever growing politically correct rhetoric. but this archaism has seldom been their subject. my written Portuguese (which I really appropriated as my own language through listening to the above-mentioned singerscomposers in my childhood and teens) retain a vague accent of the language in which I used to talk to my parents and in which the past of my family has been coded to be stored somewhere inside my brain. Pound). And I am not talking here of politically conservative modernism (as that of Yeats. but of the opposite kind. but as a foreign language only recently learnt.Nelson Ascher 41 overwhelmed by the emotion of being accepted in that same Academy. Eastern Europe. (It is only natural. most poetry I have read was originally written in or translated into English and the single most important collection of books for my formation. religious. Whatever I have listened to in one tongue is a large portion of the raw material I use to write poems in another. archaic loyalties rooted deep in the heart of hearts of many great and not so great writers. that .

to be as far as possible "practical. The first reader to have approved my poems in this language was Nazim Hikmet.} Being a Jew. . as a real "rootless cosmopolitan. Gennady Aygi 1) from "A Few Remarks Concerning My Poetry" Much in my aesthetic formation is clearly linked to Chuvash culture . but I cannot say that I do not derive some pleasure from it. inside Brazilian poetry.Concerning the Present "Consummatum*" / Preface to the Polish Edition of My Poetry / You are called: Letter and Spirit Cyprian Norwid I am writing these lines in a forest hut." also in the spirit of Norwid. when I did not yet know that this was called "poetry." and I would like to believe that my patron saint is that greatest of all (to borrow George Steiner's expression) "extraterritorial" writers: Jorge Luis Borges. irrevocably.. and the fact that I speak neither Hebrew nor Yiddish takes any linguistic possibility out of my Jewishness. I have translated five or more. destined to Polish readers. 2) A Little Something . where I spend my long nights of insomnia-this time-in the sole company of Cyprian Norwid. Thus I may say that I work. in contrast. and I would have liked this meditation. obviously.42 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 most of my work consists of translations: for every single poem I wrote. What has marked me before all is this: that for me poetry is. Since 1960 I write in Russian. in my short-lived Walden (my already ancient "Thoreauism" has indeed remained an unrealized dream).." I have observed all around me exactly that one of its functions. one of the tongues of the murderers. Later I strengthened this thought-that said function was necessary in order to "work with the spiritual forces"-without excluding {to the contrary: by also including} the need inherent in it to "put in evidence and sustain brotherhood" among mankind. my choice. the type of "action" and "linkage" best expressed by the words "sacred act:' Since childhood. who earlier had counseled me and Pasternak to switch to Russian. This situation was not. prevents me from feeling really at home in Hungarian.

no matter the importance of the prob~ lem in whose service it was used / poetic art is never renewed in a "thematic" manner / . everything that gathers men "into a brotherhood" in this house-like world becomes anachronistic / ." set about to create another representation of time and space. Roman Jakobson called me "an extraordi~ nary presence in today's poetic avant-garde. More than once have I tried-in despair and without result-to speak of the need for a present "resurrection of the Word. essentially and for a long time." I attach much importance to this great scholar's words. It seems indispensable for me here to somewhat specify my own position "inside" today's poetry. Khlebnikov's "radical verbocreation" renewed Russian poetry. but the Verb and the Doing turned in a new way "with crackings" by the Master~Builder / here I am once more in com~ plete solidarity with Cyprian Norwid I . To say "it is language that makes the poet" is to say nothing." "incising itself into the skies. "A certain" poetic system has come to an end. was the attitude toward lan~ guage: its autonomous force was doomed to oblivion. Malevich's famous "square. In his Letter on Malevich.-"eternal" romanticism has degenerated in our time into a private and alienated liter~ ary personalism / not to be confused with theological personalism I . In this case language easily fabricates versifiers / no matter how clever and dexterous they are inside the inertia of a sonority that moves by itself / . what is important is to define what." considering it one of the manifestations of creative force that exists in the "universality" of the unity of the human and the "other" / which goes beyond us / . been seriously diminished and not only in the space surrounding me. Poetry does not create an inert melody preserved in language. poetry seems chockablock full of war poems-war of men among men. The "poetry of sounds" / once more I recall Norwid / exhausted itself a long time ago. though it still retains its scale of lifeless bel canto feeding the immense ocean of versification and personalist rhetoric. Two great Poles-Norwid and Malevich-had that "universal language" (I say this without forgetting the profound "Russianness" of the great Kasimir). and it does not mat~ ter here if it was "traditional poetry" or "contemporary free verse".Gennady Aygi 43 It is indubitable for me that the contemporary Poetic Word has. its language remained shallow and insignificant. I do think of . in this system.

" But our concentration on something essential? . Present-day manifestations of ''the Russian avant-garde" seem to me to be unconscionably conformist in their aspiration. faking it with invertebrate "meditations. To all appearances. by specifying very carefully its aesthetic and philosophic new ecclesiastical elaboration I I see a grandiose example of this realism in Andre'i Platonov's The Foundation Pit. to begin with Innokenti Anneski. people will raise their prayers for good toward something Very-Serious when they are caught in a definite ecological trap where they will be surrounded by their own crimes." I don't see it as abstractly spiritual I the word spiritual is presently in Russia an ersatz designation for a vague feeling of goodness and all gradients of "sentiment. which stands there towering like a Unique Word: so that we can speak not only of a desired future for such a tendency. but tragically-&-personally-religious as a new ''turning-point''. For a long time we have lived without poetiC thinking. This said. in poetry this demands from the "poetic receptors" the reestablishment. I have more than once pointed out that there are two concepts in the Russian avant-garde I do not accept: its scientific utopianism and its religious eclecticism. of their links with the Universe-house and with the Brotherhood-life as in the ancient-old-deep intensity of what was called Truth." And I permit myself to say frankly I there remains so little time for everything I : the future "resurrection of the Word. with a ludic aim of "arranging" a civilized hell lone may be obliged to live in hell but that doesn't mean that one has to accept it as something necessary and indisputable I.. the renewal of contemporary poetry is impossible. an existential realism. From a "purely literary" point of view one could call this a realism of the essential..44 boundary 2/ Spring 1999 my constant aspiration to give poetic language an extreme sharpness as being avant-garde. the first existentialist "manifest" in European poetry I. but also of its rootedness in Russian literature. under new conditions.-no matter how emphatic this may sound. Be that as it . Here I cannot resist the desire for a little digreSSion." nor as pseudo-existential I continuing henceforth to automatically fragment man I . I do not doubt that many people I no matter if they were heard or not I have more than once started to speak of a neohumanism. Without making conscious the New Function of the Word. rather than in the midst of wars explained through the hostility of "others.

the "consummatum" is the synthesis of the "Letter." which is the antithesis ("Unsaid"-"Complement. and the "Spirit. always similarly I and in all ages I indefinable. The current complexity is brimful with a prolixity that costs nothing I which is. in the name of a renewed acceptance of life." which is the thesis (of an "uncompleted" work. but I've known for a long time that what is least understood today are the so-called banal truths. with no hidden meaning). Repeating this I state the obvious. near Leningrad * According to Norwid (1821-1883).Gennady Aygi 45 may." "silence"). while "Simplicity" always remains the same miracle. the principal characteristic of contemporary European poetry I. 14-15 August. (Translator's note) (Translated by Pierre Joris from French of Leon Robel) . we will have to seriously address-in a large and vast communitythe question of the new aesthetic of skeptic humanism with its new experience. by the way. in the village of Sosnovo.

gaze: so many sunny days over our nude bodies. your face submersed.46 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 Josely Vianna Baptista UNTITLED (with South Coast Brazilian landscape and metal scene in an expanded field) Destitute of sky and land. The sun tropic. The soft raw linen declothing us. false are the distances the wind signals. in clear glass or tiles of tides-under the southern wind-. unveils the one-sense body on its reverse. the enmeshing of fish in the silence of nets. sweat in bronze threads from men under the sun: glossy exuding in a world beyond the world. destitute of nearly everything. d'incroyab/es F/orides. and the trees it whips. J'ai heurle. on those skyless clouds. in the skins that darkens the inside of reflexes (burning look. jade lagoon. organza. savez-vous. adrift in darkness and winds. absences are anchors rust erodes. . Your face in a submersed. in the fever of an embrace).

Josely Vianna Baptista 47 * I dive deep and into isolated seas I clench to the body as to language the body brings up to the surface. . Distant glare: the color of the buoys among porpoises. mushrooms intermingling with whelks: florid furor (chiaroscuro) hats amid the buzzing of mollusk legends. beyond the sea. * Time suspended by rosin bird lime. beyond the love one will go on loving. On the loosened leaves of metamorphoses (if poets' predictions are to be trusted) I drop my anchor. beyond myself.

On the swaying. like a fish) half-open-oyster. the falling of garments. fossil. the imaginary embrace of a distant love. Over the beach rare little animals revolve in the shallow waters and among your fingers. and the gaffs of a shredded scallop in the sun on the dissected wings of a sea elytron-disaster of forms.48 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 Virgin pages kisses unveil. calcareous rays briefly touching another skin. on my damp eyes your hair. (Translated from Portuguese by Regina Alfarano) . the moving of bows. the lips (breathing the sea through folds. the water stirring its persienne-gills. opaque calligraphy on the ethereal opaline of the sands. the humid entangling of face curls. another estuary. gongoric-golden sea. promises of folds-corals bleeding in pale crepon. Fugacious cartography of pi/grim images. virgin. temporal pages. island of stars amid foam: red galaxy the sea inscribes in rouge baroque over the beach.

" but commodities are not only objects: we should not overlook the presence of linguistic commodities. For instance. Pagliarani. the poetic researches of the Futurists as well as of the other historical avant-gardes took place in an exceptional climate with the intention to epater /es bourgeois. Surrealists) do not have time for the good traditional conjunctions or for any other grammatically correct connection. However. of words designating this overflowing panorama of things. Giuliani. in the spirit of open provocation and exhibitionism. they also opened the way to sound poetry with their famous declamatory practices. the Futurists initiated a trial against the typographic apparel of discourse.Renato Barilli 49 Renato Barilli The Italian avant-gardes in this century have moved in synchrony with technological development. if not flaming nature. the 1960s are character- . almost as if poetry was an athletic competition. marked by an increased production of goods and a parallel growth in access for the consuming masses. even though they keep in touch with what is brought about by technological progress. international horizon of consumerism. Regional dialects. Furthermore. and the acquisition of occasions for naming them. The work of / Novissimi is in fact the acquisition of a broadened lexicon capable of designating the growing population of objects. Porta. are neglected. Marinetti and the Futurists abolished punctuation and the inflection of verbs. Commodities have become "popular. including the usage of technical jargon and of foreign languages. From this derived a certain Titanism. Theirs is the poetry of advanced industrialized societies. The second wave of the avant-gardes. characterized by a hot. the linguistic instruments of a peasant universe built upon abnegation and mental narrowness. adopts a decisively "cold" approach. a burning protagonism that accompanied the events of the first experimental wave. or rather the neo-avant-gardes gathered around the Group 63 and in poetry around / Novissimi (Balestrini. Dadaists. I Novissimi (as already the Futurists. In parallel with the poetiCS of / Novissimi. The poets' protagon ism comes to a halt with these democratic poetsspokesmen of the common reader. judged to be a constrictive encumbrance. in accordance with the enlarged. Sanguineti). thus in the progressive "speeding up" of linguistic expression. and considered both hindrances to the thrust of poetry. Words and phrases are added together according to a collagelike criterion. Taken by the urgency of mastering the new overflowing semantic possibilities.

" In poetry there is an opening which will later bring forth the Group 93. are then connected to the equally stereotyped idiom of verbal consumption. The 1970s. the "soft" prevails over the "hard. show recessive traits. Berardi. In poetry there is the attempt to recover a Simpler and more sentimental form of communication with almost post-hermetic inflections (consider the anthology The Enamored Word 1 published at the end of the decade). sonorous dimension. its oral. the restart of technological progress. that the poetic research was bound to move in the direction of its intraverbal levels.50 boundary 21 Spring 1999 ized by another interesting experimentalism that pays attention to that world of visual commodities belonging to the sphere of advertisement. This flow on the thread of sound baffles the traditional boundaries that limit the semantic radixes to being intermediate linkages between prefixes and suffixes. and Caliceti) exclusively practice intraverbal neologisms: for their repertoire employs a certain plurilinguism and the recovery of regional dialects in order to expand the expressive possibilities . In 1981. Berisso. A climate of mode retro is in place. These images. rigorously popular and stereotypical. and can be combined in unusual manners. in Italy and elsewhere. This trend corresponded. Ottonieri. The new electronic technology has contributed to a definitive shaking of the word out of its written-or worse: typographical-attire. tabloid papers. a rebound from the innovations of the previous decade. It is the triumph of the elastic and the ductile electronic. Frixione. The different acoustic parts become autonomous. Cepollaro. and this time no longer in the name of the "mechanical society. allowing the recovery of its primary nature. Frasca. In fact. Voce. Gentiluomo. and magazines for mass consumption.2 I theorized this very same possibility. The book also included an anthology of poets that already were experimenting in that line. This is the work of Lamberto Pignotti and Eugenio Miccini and the current of "visual poetry" in Florence. with the citing of forms already stored in museums and history textbooks. This is a procedure that James Joyce had masterfully executed in the prose of Finnegans Wake. The 1980s mark an awakening. I cannot say that the poets of Group 93 (Bajno." whose gestures are always stiff and awkward. giving birth to a wealth of neologisms. in my book Voyage to the End of the Word. in the economical and technological fields. separate. to the gasoline crisis that menaced the Western world with a loss of velocity and a return to past positions. the end of stagnation. we are getting more and more used to consuming verbal messages through audiotapes rather than printed texts.

Cini's interests include all aspects of writing: linear. As above. psychoanalysis. but a concurrent. dialect. imbricated appeal to all possible resources. we can discuss a final aim. (Translated and abridged from Italian by Carla Billitteri) Carla Billitteri Five Italian Poets: Some Brief Introductory Remarks For this issue. La parola innamorata: i poeti nuovi. and concrete. chirographic. Not unlike contemporary American avant-garde combination of the "intraverbal" (Barilli's words) and sound/semiosis of language. portioned and blended with all others so to create a pOintillist mixture. three frequencies of thinking-and politics-of writing: (a) Ideolect. I have selected and translated five Italian poets: Renato Barilli. and sound poetry. Babel was once feared as a sign of confusion. Today. capable of expression. but with some experimental inflections (Cini). 2. Ultimately. against which the prior rights of a unitary language were upheld. . graphic. a going toward the babelization of languages. 1978).Carla Billitteri 51 of their writing. Milli GraffL These authors highlight three schools of thought. 1. 1976-1978 (Milano: Feltrinelli. Mara Cini. and ideological realism (O'Elia). we are trying to overcome the lack of communicability caused by the different regional forms of Italian through a simultaneous usage of each linguistic possibility. O'Elia's concern for realism is the vector of cultural and political critique. Barilli). Flavio Ermini. In this sense we can say that poetry nowadays is written as a universal language that does not imply the victory of one language over all others. linguistics. Gianni O'Elia. and (c) Ontological-post-Heideggerian (Ermini). 1981). After Pasolini. Not in favor of abstract linguistic experimentation-yet yielding the most interesting and interwoven poetic results because of its undivided attention to the changing laboratory of the "linguistic chorality" (in O'Elia's words) of the present. visual. instead. Viaggio at termine della parola (Milano: Feltrinelli. Translated by Teresa Fiore and Harry Polkinhorn and published in 1997 by San Diego State University Press. Graffi's main areas of interest include semiotics. Barilli's main area of interest and research is aesthetic theory in art and literary criticism. (b) Experimental avant-garde (Graffi. overcoming all restricted specialized codes.

the degradation of the philosophical notion of an end to history in Francis Fukuyama. and the endangered democracies here and abroad. I also think about what Christopher Hitchens calls their "styrofoam Round Tables. political right recognizes and moves to curtail. bronze soldiers. clothing. (The current culture had best take some care with its down-at-the-heel sense of elitism. I turned to look up the hillock where Ross Perot placed his traditional. and health for large numbers (Hannah Arendt). lest it lose the ability to think through the vast effort of human consciousness to find meaning here and .' she tells us. and Panama." I watch their fake wars over the Islas Malivinas. of course. say. shelter. for example.. "in the sense that it doesn't comment directly on the war. Cuban and Latin American policies. especially those I've not yet written -just now. dual citizenship by birth in the United States and by responsibility to Canada. the serious or ramshackle poet in us hasn't a chance at being apolitical. I do not see my work in the context of a national state.. yes. whose uniforms and weapons are mute in the shadows beyond Lin's shimmering thought.S. whereas Hegel actually argued that a CUlture is a judgment on itself.) My sense of democracy-so new and little understood. religious." This is. I worry about nationalisms. where I have lived and earned my living during the last thirty-two years. Grenada. No. political poiesis. with conscience. though I hold. another bushwhacker. according to the amount it can sell. and philosophical-we wind up with.000. I look into my poems. governments are vicious manipulators of matters imperial. so fragile-is that it is first devoted to social justice in matters of food. whereas both have always entwined in human consciousness. (There is no real quarrel between popular culture and "high"-only commercialism says there is.52 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 Robin Blaser out of the velvet-the denim-the straw of my mind. On the record. which the pernicious. even if the elf of his or her language wishes to be. apparent successes in pulling out of the air a popularity for nationhoods-their salvos. I marched and read with others against the War in Vietnam. a call for the death penalty for homosexuals in Texas. I've stood in daylight and nightlight before Maya Lin's black granite rampart-between the whitenesses of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial-the shimmering meaning of 60. "The piece itself is apolitical. moral. the affection of crows or a marvelous conversation with birds-and I know I'm a "word-child" (Amos Oz).. Oh. whom we may name according to the day each one died. their mythic destinies borrowed from religion. or with. I protest the corruption of U.

The challenge of syntaxis. my necessary exit from all that which denies the "existentially given" in the heart of things: The world of the happy and that of the unhappy. I do not understand how it is possible to come to terms with democracy and the government of it. of Capitalism-are on the public record-forgiving themselves again and again for the terror of this century. "Advertizing tells us who we are and presents a completely integrated culture. It is as if there hovered over them something like a halo. The one who is saved and the one who is lost have the same arms and legs. all the while joining the gobble of that reality. The just person does not reside in another world. What changes are not the things but their limits. religious under their skins. while teaching Lordship. The glorious body cannot but be the mortal body itself. I continue to write Exody. No government devoted to social justice is allowed to live under its capitalism or its privatization. and Love that sacrifices mortality for someplace else." How true! For my part. the actuality of parataxis. including the running about of my lyric voice.) I listen to our governments whine that they do not know how to manage global capitalism. I reject the apocalyptics of modernism and of postmodernismthese are borrowed from Daniel and Revelation. I have chosen a poetic practice of entangling discourses. a glory. I founder in the bitterness of Western metaphysics. Our language has other work to do. (Giorgio Agamben) Working the materiality of language- . the world of the good and that of the evil contain the same states of things. The cost of these Totalities-of Christianism. of Marxisms. a Totality that forgives us. with respect to their being-thus they are perfectly identical. Admiring the vast human effort of it and living within the "vast exhaustion" of it.Robin Blaser 53 about. Mastery. Someone said. A companionship of seeing through "the lack of meaning in our time and the lack of a world at the centre of meanings we try to impose" (Jean-Luc Nancy).

Oswald de Andrade's "Brazil-wood Poetry Manifesto" (1924) received some affirmative response in Concretism in 1956. and more or less bound together. Manuel Bandeira. Carlos Drummond de Andrade. from the musical viewpoint. even if only temporarily. Only the necessary chemistry. Exporting Brazilian poetry disrupts the condition of "being peripheral. raised issues that remain alive even today. by Mario and Oswald de Andrade. Besides "inventing" a Brazilian form of quality literary translation. Experimental. the challenges presented by Modernism. economy. found sound answers in the poetry of Raul Bopp.and even the independent poets-have sought to address. which restated the need for acting in an exploratory. and not only by Oswald. and in Tropicalism in 1967. the feeling was "never exportation of poetry." reflecting the idea that Brazilian poetry did not have a sufficient identity to create dialogue. good poets such as . a movement. and ballistics. experimental way as the main path for the creation of Brazilian poetry." Concentrated here are the issues that every Brazilian poet of each movement. Modernism. mechanics. Murilo Mendes. Without cultural meetings. and Joao Cabral de Melo Neto. Without comparisons for support . in the Tractatus: "The form is the possibility of the structure. launched in 1922." The first of these movements. Oswald advocated an international Brazilian poetry open to exchanging ideas with other poetries on an equal basis and was interested in the incorporation and reconstitution of foreign influences into an active and original Brazilian poetry. and later. in that of Vinicius de Moraes (creator of the Bossa Nova. "Form" here is understood in Wittgenstein's sense. Concretism launched." Still alive and essential. Without bookish reminiscences. Exporting Brazilian poetry meant-and still means-putting Brazilian poetry in active dialogue with the poetry of other languages so that it ceases to be only the passive receptacle of influences. A" digested. Poets.54 Boundary 2 / Spring 1999 Regis Bonvicino The Displacement of the "Scholastic": New Brazilian Poetry of Invention One of the characteristics of twentieth-century Brazilian poetry has been its organization in the "form" of literary movements. richer than Tropicalism). Later... Up to the '20s. Oswald: "Only Brazilians of our time. these challenges were readdressed by Concretism. We are practical.. echoing European and later North American literary and visual art vanguards.

Indeed. a movement that fused "high" and "low" cultures via pop music. late neo-Modernist. scholars." On the one hand. up until his untimely death. a myth that enforces "conservativeness" without acknowledging it. Ferreira Gullar." Torquato Neto (1944-1972) anticipated this crisis situation in the post-Tropicalist text "you call me up": you call me up / I wanna go to the movies / you bawl me out / and my love doesn't please / you love me / but that train's already moved on / how much time / that time's been gone. its discourse lost the vital "movement" content of group interaction. and a visual poetry of repetition).Regis Bonvicino 55 Haroldo de Campos. Tropicalism's significance began to fade as creativity waned. The lack of hope for a socialist utopia-for sOlidarity-was a second cause. critics. the dissolution of these movements allowed a space for creative individual responses-with the disadvantage that such responses had little visibility in terms of Brazilian poetry's identity as an inventive art. above all. The issue of a Brazilian exploratory art remained alive in the Tropicalism of Caetano Veloso and Torquato Neto. In any case. that is. developed/underdeveloped) had become frozen in the work of their creators. Almost everyone accepted this or that labeling under the umbrella of a poorly conceived and diffuse idea of "post-modernism. On the other hand. The issue of what it means to be Brazilian at this particular time in our history was never-has never been-addressed. Certainly. by the 1970s. the most consequential result of the lack of a collective and renewed "agenda" for innovation was the establishing of an authoritarianism in the public representation of the activity and thinking of poets. the collective proposals of Concretism (such as parting with the "romantic" concept of authorship) and Tropicalism (such as the rethinking of local/universal. it is important to note the differing consciousness that enfolds in the poem: a consciousness that is at first naive ( "I wanna go to . Augusto de Campos. these movements seemed to transform themselves into literary-musical schools with their own "standards. However. one of the causes was the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. the spreading of the myth that there was but a "single model" for innovation (Concretism). this allowed for a strong regrouping of the ever present conservative poetics that is opposed to social and aesthetic change (which nowadays is neo-Parnasian. As of the 1970s. 1 In this context. Afonso Avila-not to mention Mario Faustino.

56 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 the movies") and loving ("my love doesn't please"). {There are remarkable. the joy of recovering it. different from the ones proposed by Concretist and Tropicalist movements: anybody / some nobody / someone else / who / in turn / mirage / of mirrored reflections / point / of intersection of the real/it was / it is written. did they realize. the actors could hardly look at each other. the emptying out of the vanguards. a poem published in leminski's second collected work.)2 The "certitude" that "that time's been gone" reappears in the '80s in "Traveling Theater" by Duda Machado (1944-). Only later. which have become consumer products." The perception that "that time's been gone" and that now there is an emptiness echoes the sense of many younger poets in the 70s and '80s about the state of Brazilian poetry. but then abruptly reveals. now with positive and complete inflection. arriving in the present time: "it is written. from the original play. with excitement. The subject abandons the mirage form (impossibility) or the mirrored reflection (copyist) to affirm. coincident similarities between l=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry-the language of the lung-and the texts of the dispersed Brazilian authors. among other things. a poem from 1979 whose strength reflects. the consciousness of an era (Concretist and "pop") that is over: "how much time / that time's been gone. Some of his lines. Polonaises (1980). in another text from the 1980s entitled "Happening. in a parody. The poem "depicts" the uneasiness caused by the "loss of the original" and. in language and content. may be read in this direction: let me vanish / let me melt / let me fall apart / until/after me / after us / after all / nothing but charm / is left." Resuming the innovation in tone-in a different way (in Brazil. more than the "anxiety of influence" there is the "anxiety of the influential")-was a constant in the life and work of Paulo leminski (1944-1989). the story of actors who performed for three years the same play and routinely and successfully became alienated from the original text. ironically. every scene. over dinner at the hotel restaurant. however. that they had followed every dialogue."3 Duda's poetry. extremely critical and bitter. There is. that synthesizes the tensions that I seek to address here about innovation and contemporary spirit from a Brazilian perspective of independence and dialogue: ." recovers the need for innovation. which reports. but now under the condition of its repetition or "school": "In the dressing rooms.

present in all Brazilian poetry of the twentieth century. So taut is its tension. however. in the last stanza of Leminski's poem. (We continue. reduced to masks.) are represented (ironically) by their authors (is Pessoa more important than Portuguese Futurism?). as short-lived. "after all. not only Brazilian. I quote Wittgenstein: "It is essential that the thing be a constituent part of a state of things. The poem foregrounds issues of imitation and provincialism. only to be. unsheathing into song." to have a strong poetry but with ineffectual worldwide dissemination. Portuguese Futurism. as flowers.Regis Bonvicino 57 once I we were going to be homer I the work an iliad no less I later I things got tougher I we could maybe manage rimbaud I an ungaretti some fernando pessoa I a lorca a ginsberg an eluard I finally I we ended up the minor provincial poet I we were always I hiding behind the many masks I time treated as flowers. among other things. no one-giving clues for a new poetry." Literary movements. Surrealism. at last. that is. so living flesh its repertoire that. but a poetry of the present: EI Cante Hondo This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper Eliot More often than not cante hondo ignores this distinction: its most plaintive lament ends in an explosion. The awareness of the transitory nature of all "movements" is the touchstone of this poem-that constituting a new state of things displaces the "scholastic" and emphasizes the need for the permanent invention of an OTHER-anyone. movements that inaugurate new "standards" of perception (French SymbOlism. -Joao Cabral de Melo Net04 . Regarding this poem. on one aspect of Leminski's poem: that of the rescue-through denial-of the capacity for innovation and diversity that characterizes contemporary Brazilian poetry. it shatters the sheath and explodes.) I want to focus. as fragile. a capacity that goes beyond the militant discourse and rigidity of movements. etc. Beat poetry.

"EI Cante Hondo. & transpositioning ourselves with others' experiences & subtexts on a daily basis." in Museu de Tudo (Rio de Janeiro: Jose Olympio Editora. thought itself. This process is evidence of the possibilities for almost instantaneous communication our contemporary situation offers.58 boundary 21 Spring 1999 1. taking. I quote here the beginning of Hejinian's poem: "Summers were spent in a fog that rains. So the cosmopolitan nature of our immediate reality is a determining factor when it comes to taking part globally in the media & services available to us at the end of this millennium. sharing. Manuel Brito Zasterling I have coined the term zasterling to describe the process of exchange & publication of cultural texts on a small island. Language is perception. but is the source of experience. in the traditional sense. 1997): "you call me up. I quote a passage of the introduction by Douglas Messerli to the anthology Language Poetries (New York: New Directions. ed. Regina Alfarano." trans. since the value of giving an aesthetic line such profile seems counterproductive to the inherent value of the work:' 3. a movement that refused to become a school or the idea of movement. I had claimed the radio nights for my own." by Duda Machado." trans. and Nelson Ascher (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press. Dana Stevens. Notice the coincidence of the text My Life. The poems discussed in this essay are in Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain: New Brazilian Poetry. Joao Cabral de Melo Neto. trans. For an approach to the concept of Language poetry. Ten million foreigners have visited the Canaries over the past twelve months & this leads the island's inhabitants not only to absorb other experiences but also "to read" what lies behind them." trans. . and in that context the poems of these writers do not function as 'frames' of experience of brief narrative summaries of ideas and emotions as they do for many current poets. "Let me vanish." trans. 34). since we are contrasting. That is why academic terms like intertextuality (Kristeva)." trans. 2. language is not something that explains or translates experience. Historically our position between three continents has implied regular contacts with other countries. 1985). or transtextuality are particularly meaningful in contexts such as this. 1987): "For these poets. and "Traveling Theater. 4. so that everyone in the family had a version of history and it was impossible to get close to the original" (Language Poetries. pantextuality (Derrida). and "once. Regis Bonvicino. from Portuguese by Guy Bennett and Regis Bonvicino. Michael Palmer. Regina Alfarano and Dana Stevens. The tricontinental character of our geographical position also plays an important role. "happening. There were more storytellers than there were stories. by Lyn Hejinian." Or still: "Language is not a movement in the traditional art sense. Living on an island as small as Grand Canary forces its inhabitants into constant transpositions. Robert Creeley and Regina Alfarano. Regina Alfarano. "Traveling Theater.

especially if people persist in thinking they live on the periphery & would like to move to the artistic or literary centers.Manuel Brito 59 Zasterle is a press not exclusively related to the reductive space of an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. & after the publication of twenty-nine more titles. The global nature of our situation throws up contrasts & allows us to evaluate our cultural posi- . the hermeneutics of the dialogue with authors & their work make it clear that we are constantly met with possibilities rather than fixed formulas. But technology & the worldwide structure which map new analogies so rapidly make us conscious that we become defamiliarized with what we believed more stable. Nowadays geographic location only serves to assign to the book its corresponding ISBN & not its identity. Perhaps political & moral arguments exist within transposition. Molina has described Spanish poets as a group of whining mourners buried in their own traditionalism & social neorealism. Cesar A. So we have the evasiveness of the text & the uncertainty of geography somewhat akin to Rilke's conception of life as something approximate & vague. with issues which are debated in other countries & with some of those we see arrive at our airports every day. with flexibility of interpretation rather than the reduction to the univocal. This hackneyed poetry has ignored Modernism &. The poet explores & sails (again a necessity for the islanders) through language in search of limits-limits on both the language & the world. This monotony & mannerism suffocated us to such an extent that once obliged to sail new seas we prefer other continents & contexts. Wherever it is published the modern text demands that the reader should fight against what is considered the CUlminating work. the value of this series of publications lies in the fact that by having some concept of the whole business of making literary productions one is able to more acutely perceive extratextual issues. In general terms. only speaks about the visual in nature & the epiphany of young bodies. In fact. boringly. that is. Spanish poetry is the closest reference for the Canaries & perhaps this is another reason to explore other literary worlds. Nine years after sentenced he gives a shape by Tom Raworth. all the while engaging in endless navel gazing. Like many others before us we have become involved in debates & forums at the global level & we choose to engage ourselves in a dialogue with the contemporary. an island that catches almost at random a conglomeration of texts & even more signs to be interpreted. The decision to edit an original manuscript by a poet from an almost unknown location plays with the ambivalence of geography & the individual imagination of that lost place in the ocean. Spanish poetry is characterized by its lack of critical rigor & its inward-looking nature.

Despite the ever present monolith of scientific method to arrive at scientific truths. of course. The desire that . The variety of writers who have published in Zasterle conveys a certain ambivalence though this has never been an objective. And. I'd prefer to speak about the joy of being one of the first to read works of international literature as I edit the manuscripts that come to me & the satisfaction one gains from offering the work to different individuals & different cultures. metaphors. Nicole Brossard I like to say we and look elsewhere make of language turbulence catch up with me in my tradition in the sentence's duration pleasure softly spaced out catch up with me in my difference 1 I'm a woman of the present fascinated by the history that enters into the composition of the words with which each generation bears witness to its anguish. invents its hope. I imagine the passion of the language that is allowed to escape from this. The ephemeral or transcendent nature of Zasterle books throws up ambivalent values. In a real sense they have come along with the very process of publishing. from the simplest title to the accidental situation. The turbulence that cracks open history. all the authors who have worked with us have celebrated the text & how it produces different meanings for different readers. I identify more closely with the idea of multiple possibilities. theoretical and stylistic attitudes. is not always uniform since we also find dissatisfactions & missing links generated when comparing situations or ideas. with the constant uncovering of the potentialities that lie dormant within the material text that will come to life throughout the world. modifies the collective tale. I am interested in what confines each generation inside themes. The new position that the poetry I read has taken up involves originality & the work displays new forms which suggest to us ways of finding the essential elements of our contemporaneity. With this comes the process of transposing ourselves & articulating different forms of our contemporaneity. Going from the autobiographical to the monumental. though great. Its influence. Those writers have sent their texts through the Atlantic (apparently unconcerned about where the Canaries lie) to communicate their aesthetic experience. to almost intuitively respond in some way to life & literature.60 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 tion.

ardor. Key words. rebelliousness. Literature is the fruit of a displacement of belonging into a belonging that invents its own horizon. of a lowering of the volume of ambiant nOises. I always displace myself starting from the words of my belonging. Turbulence takes up residence: grammar and syntax adapt themselves. lucidity. spark(le)s in language in a singular manner. for me Montreal will always be a July city. As I have stated repeatedly in numerous essays.Nicole Brossard 61 consumes the common places. bulldozer words starting with which we trigger tornadoes of meaning. a summer city with a tiny opening onto October-an October of rebellion. . honesty. No matter that winter lasts close to five months. moans. rightly or wrongly. Not that I want to be done with writing. but it seems to me that what works best in us is that which vibrates. so do I want to satisfy my penchant for silence with words that have a strong sensual resonance. Similarly. or stance. It is said that identity as quest or self-affirmation often acts as the engine of writing. Thus. for me. I speak from a place. we work well with what resonates in us. is significant in a life: desire. I tend to make a synthesis of my reality by reducing it to its most simple expression. 24 February 1998. the Montreal I view as mine will be a desirable and exciting city. literary connotations. For me. It seems important for me to recall here how I marvel at that period between 1974 and 1984 when I had to play it close to the vest. I imagine the interior urgency that forces the liquidation of an era's truisms. style. lesbian) qualities of creativity. and passion. difficult to designate. for sure. To the contrary. passe-partout words. the words that carry me away. that is to say I had to invent and practice writing rituals. I always project onto the group to which I objectively belong (woman. to a vital formula which incorporates the essential of what. This may be true. cuts. intelligence. so as to exist as a female subject. but from which the words would organize themselves in such a way that their choreography on the page gives an impression of silence. intensity. in language. As others satisfy their desires with daring gestures. and philosophical depth. noises that are not always depth sounds. thus: from there where I feel a strong desire to be silent. 2 Today. Around these words. we create microclimates. compares. I answer the question from where I speak. speed. that is to say with what has the property of extending the duration and/or the intensity of the value we attribute to certain words. are before all abstract or strongly symbolic. sometimes called theme. In effect. with these words. that stimulate me.

. 1. it is certain that I am subjected to a strong linguistic stress because the rift between the written language (reflection) and the spoken language (life. I have to say first of all that I am part of a generation that takes it for granted that it lives not in the province of Quebec. if one takes into account the constant intrusion of English and of that other language born from the forced association with English: joual. I am moved and touched by this belonging. It translates well this feeling of strangeness and ambivalence which we still experience in relation to ourselves. Alice Parker. "Writing as a Trajectory of Desire and Consciousness (Rituals of Writing). Linguistic contexts which proceed from political contexts are carriers of tensions and semantic excesses which energize literature. Editions Ecrits des Forges/Orange bleue. Meese. French Kiss (etreinte-exploration). in the quotidian and as a scenario engaging a future in which I is less and less an other and more and more completely other. that is at the very limit of I exist and the poem. From Elle serait la premiere phrase de mon prochain roman / She would be the first sentence of my next novel. it seems to me. 2. Since always I love to keep myself elsewhere. ed. daily experience) is major. A further stress: to inject feminine subjectivity into a language which discredits the feminine. 1977. As a Quebecoise. Alice Parker and Elizabeth A." trans. fought and survived that struggle of/with meaning.62 boundary 2/ Spring 1999 As far as my sense of belonging to Quebec is concerned. 3. its North American energy and of course its linguistic drama unfolding through memory. the quotidian. What I have tried to inscribe before all into texts such as Sold-Out (etreinte-illustration). It is before all in our relation to the French language that this effect of strangeness comes to the fore. is the Montreal of modernity. Philadelphia: John Benjamin Publishing Co. Every writer who is subjected to linguistic stress records those malfunctions of meaning which enter into the composition of her mother tongue and transforms them to her profit. Toronto: Mercury Press. trans. 1992. (Translated from French by Pierre Joris) . The Quebecois frequently use the expression nous autres (we others). though this emotion has never been the core matter of my work as a writer. It is in L'amer(1977) and in my novel Picture Theory (1982) that I have best. but in the fictive and virtual country called Quebec. 1998. in Feminist Critical Negotiations. I love to keep myself in the untranslatable. This linguistic stress can be seen at work in my novel French Kiss (1974). Susanne de Lotbiniere-Harwood. From Vertige de I'avant-scene.

Tolpe Teplo (crowd/warmth) .Alexandr Subnov.

both being masters. etc. it's the "one. I would transcend the phenomena of poetry and march directly toward the essence. Their different methodologies have become two different facts. Because if so. it is unchangeable! What changes is the particular method of writing poetry. on the one hand. The destitution of the essence of poetry largely results from our excessive attention to the phenomenal part of poetry. when the content was overemphasized. The art of poetry. they are the themes that the poet is concerned about. The essence of poetry is not the so-called legends. On the contrary. The abundance of the phenomenal part of poetry has caused the essence of poetry to fall into a state of destitution and almost disappear amongst phenomena. An obstacle has thus formed: facing the blank page. but different routes lead to the same end. In some cases. It is more abstract than form. Repeat. they don't differ essentially. should be the attribution of the particular writing methods. it should not lead to the assumption that poetry has . And most of us who are now interested in form have arrived at this interest by way of a revision of the past. Because the "end" must be "one. with mature conditions and enough talent.64 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 CheQianzi The Destitution of Poetry What we know about poetry is not too little. if standing on either side of the extremes. and more concrete than content. What are phenomena of poetry? Simply put. cannot possibly develop in any significant way. can't we then say: Form is the essence of poetry? The phenomenal part of poetry is a whole that includes content and form. they only adopt different methods of writing. as poetswriters currently at work-we know too much about poetry." Whatever doesn't lead to the "one" is. neither could it be redesigned or reconstructed. This is not exact. it is due to a misunderstanding of the "many. but the essence of poetry is the ideal radiance that shrouds the whole structure. To me. It can be said that contemporary Chinese poetry has many different routes that don't lead to any end at all. various methods that he uses. like the atmosphere enveloping the powerless earth. As the essence. not mature enough. Instead." The "many. yet seldom get to the point. The difference between Goethe and Pound lies not in essence." I believe. it's the telos." This "one" is the immutable essence of poetry from time immemorial. we lack the most direct feel of poetry. on the other hand. it is thought that the phenomenal part of poetry is just the content of poetry. meander. as a poet devoted to the revolution of form.

Base. . What is the essence of poetry? Above all. (a conversation between Local and Inter-r-e-gional. for example. without ambition. odious. Put there. produce 'results'. DOing what? "To show I'm still taking buses and everything in the garden of the aspirant bourgeoisie is not simply lovely?" I doubt that. interested in the signifier. Pursuits.. I am used. What's registered? Who's what. what needs to be overcome is the destitution in our understanding of the essence of poetry. (Translated from Chinese by Yunte Huang) cris cheek Local : note . Nation too comfy. it should be defined as a game-a process in which the soul experiences pleasures or pains. Local leads) : Too prescriptive. Only so can it overcome its destitution-in fact. if you push me to take on that role. Correctly speaking. filled with initial curiosity and surprise. to whom? : I'm standing at a bus stop. How about regional? Keep to the left. Neither does it support the notion that essence = sub-essence + sub-essence + sub-essence . One thing is to take notes. overlooks the phenomenal part of poetry.International : 'quote' Distinction . : Waiting.. reading.cris cheek 65 many kinds of supreme essences. to the largest extent. It should be innocent. as in English.. it remains as it is. in this writing. The genuine art of poetry. the essence of poetry can never be destitute.

The wind. has blown a piece of yellow paper.66 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 'Cause. when I say I.and that fragment has . I also haven't mentioned yet. Presumably I'm standing somewhere close to where the road runs by? : I'm asking you to trust me. or reminder of some kind . : What I mean is on the other side. as if 'standing at a bus stop' will do 'the trick'. : What I'm engaging with is performance? : As engagement is performance in and of itself.. I fully realise how tall that "bending down across the road" might make her seem. that I. make that best-selling book jacket. from a plural distance. It isn't raining by the way. to tell you the things you need to know to understand what interests me enough about this 'performance' to want to tell you about it. or reading this will autonomously imagine their own bus stop scene. on a chat show on tv or on my nestsetting. : Especially if they haven't ever met or seen me anywhere. torn from a larger sheet. they might think I'm really a good looking person rather than that stand-in that does all of my public appearances for me. : There it is then. everyone hearing this or reading this will place themselves instead of me. I'm looking at the figure of a woman bending down across the road and picking up a piece of paper from the ground. As if everyone hearing that. when I'm standing at that bus stop .. As if. : Yes. : A note from a bottle. standing at the bus stop on a partly cloudy day. I've not defined anything about the site yet. It ain't exactly bright and sunny neither. to make a bookmark or a stray address. like even if they've seen my picture in the papers.

: Stillness. but strong enough to gently turn the pages of an open book. born from fluttering arrival. in conformity with one's will is practice? That an opaque. sees me. a sense of the romantically sculpted in nature. stopped. and fleeting page has frames? There's a blur of. temporarily. Except not stopped. momentarily. and talking checks for oncoming traffic. : A woman bends to pick a local detail from the ground? : Although my note-taking has already moved through its initial process of mental registration and response phrase formation. That is. watching. Not strong enough to tear a piece of paper from one's hand unless one's grip was slight. : Looks up. a tumultuous accuracy being deferred here (holding the cleat around her shoulder whilst blowing on the trumpet. humanities. creating a momentary pocket of stillness that this. : Light wind. : A moment that I want to 'make a note of'.. who is now. walks up close.. a buckled melody of pockmarked brass) moving. has caught the eye of this woman. bending to pick it up. lines. I press 'record' and speak. drawn down the spine unlace a body from a bag . as I reach for my dictaphone. muttering "what's the big up"? That space articulated on the body as on a mobile. in a field the scene where. I can't see what has caught its flow. and crosses . among groups of players feasting on a carcass that appears remodelled so as to epitomise. 'Sweeps this distraction home'. I'm sort of bored. cows. Perhaps the angle of the wind bounced.eris cheek 67 been caught somehow. registers. one might say. a kind of 'natural' choreography of err.

Typing. Not only that. Walking across the harbour bridge at night. An act of translation. To feel intruded on frequency. politically charged spaces? Is all that they have in common the convention of 'between'? Are the between words. . The uncertain. how much does such a note tell 'us'? The bus stop. any more than the sign 'This Is A Heritage Site'. resembling. is a copyright problem. there's that sensation of erm being on the motorway. for the sky!" (btw there's that copyright problem I mentioned) pumped so that a smudge undocuments. even partly forgotten it. compelling and inert. Pink underbellies of seagulls caught in gantry lights. : Heard said in a head and then altered..68 boundary 2/ Spring 1999 : What we have here.. a gift. a clearly navigational tool. Decaying bricks won't lodge complaint. Who knows how many in Dar es Salaam and Hong Kong are tuning in right now? Looking out. Note the detachable. Projected onto the walls of a heaving. providing models of linkage. constructed to make of the map what a society can. lines that. Listening to take Rant Score. a form of collaboration between what goes out and what comes back. of a confrontation between Cromwell and some Royalists in 1643. torn from modification. Bulk precedence to begin "unbound". in the fold. If that's a blunt attached 'officially'. as distinct from the certain its preferred domain. in the context of a monument to writing. Such an inflated commodity. Writing. a hand. distracted by . from a connectable ''fiction" of scriptible samples.to blur elisions between such socially. An interdisciplinary. 'Writing. the between frames not each other? Who speaks to whom? 'so. sweeping the home of distractions'. the bridge and the Score . and then re-created it as pleased but unsure what had come to. the between lines. or stalking The Scores in a fog. This complex ontological system. we're broadcasting. I've bitten my lips to bleeding with the anxiety at the mere thought of public speaking you know. a conversation. interregionalising practice. "reach. a process of interactions. From one articulated architextonic space to another. direct to screen.

eventually they mock me. citations. of focusing reality and memory. writing is a labor that proceeds through options and aggregations. indeed. during the day. was unavailable. in the free territory of poetry mastery decants for a while. in lumps of ready-made locations. the names of things are inventions with which i gamble. this is not about telling this or that other story. physical too. which I think is vel}' encouraging. in strings of low language. she carries a folder with plenty of papers. between the page and the skin. evel}'thing considered (Kafka). the breath. writing is to find oneself again in the company of that lady who after all is also a graphomaniac . thingswords are burning. in the meanwhile. but the wind is not the wind and the leaves are not the leaves. even if it is the direction of rest. and. things written drip from a stratification of linguistic sediments coming from different areas: fragments of experience. shreds of information. sometimes as glittering as epiphanies. then also the consciousness that every answer is patrolled by its contradiction. . a rattle (whence from? from myself? from who?) that i do not know how to bring to the page. this is not about opening one's door. that i do not know how to drain. embryos of stories. writing is a modality of reflection. questions. writing is circumscribing the substance that stands between the puis ions and the objects. much more. nor leaving the key in the lock. transitory configurations. what frightens me is the duration of this tension. two or three minutes. the grip on words produces unseen architectures of saying or otherwise hides itself in the tritest common senses. yet i've always thought the other slope.Mara Cini 69 Mara Cini Writing One day i had to write: the wind here has amassed a heap of leaves. writing is memory selection. things demand to be named to set off in their direction. reality production.. sometimes becomes possible only if i attempt these restorations of writing. they are launched again in new. pens and pencils. in my sleep). writing is to be in possession of a language of references.. or solidify. and now even more. not to be eluded (in the morning. that of the unnameables. drawing a rail from which we lean forward into the exterior of the internal (into the interior of the external). are cold. microscripts. some half an hour for the quotidian gestures and all the rest is in the deaf recall. they crumble. writing is tracing a line of transit. and i do not know where it will flow.

to remark that the act of writing takes place in a circumscribed and thus vaguely controllable locale). to cease belief be navigator and sail to lay claim and master a sail to belie facts to lie to build up speed inertia wind to waver to hypnotize do. no keys: one room after another. contiguity. with the help of a trap or with laser beams. there is in literature this astonishment of seeing again all that we have already seen.70 boundary 21 Spring 1999 the problem is not whether or not keys exist: if we didn't have doors we wouldn't need keys (Perec). bottles. . identity informs words as the seism informs its trace. many of my words and terms come from geometry (a lack of orientation forces me to delimitate with line and angle the page.. do up to resemble to seem wind and sail . discloses the identity (be it a mask or a transitional livery). with no doors. pitchers. is the spot of ink or the luminous recall of a video. to capture. oftentimes the word like predominates. decorative drafting or symbolic cypher. in succession . soft as animal fur or elusive as a mark on the sand. similarity. to detain. many of my mots-cIa are containers: cups. as a term of comparison. thus: not words-explanations but contiguity between named and names. the prey. a certain ethnicity of vocables.

Mara Cini 71 to avail not the notion of battening life to batter to buffer billowing sea (Translated from Italian by Carla Billitteri) .

72 bOundafY 21 spring 1999

Bob Cob

• tram oomestlC Ambient Noise bing

Robert Creeley

73

Robert Cree/ey

Old Poetry
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down! Long has it waved on high, And many an eye has danced to see That banner in the sky; Beneath it rung the battle shout, And burst the cannon's roar;The meteor of the ocean air Shall sweep the clouds no more. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Even to speak becomes an unanticipated drama, because where one has come to, and where it is one now has to go, have no language any longer specific. We all will talk like that, yet no one will understand us. When I was a young man, I felt often as if I were battling for the integrity of my habits of speech, my words, my friends, my life. W. C. Williams had put it most clearly, and with the expected emphasis of that time: "When a man makes a poem, makes it, mind you, he takes words as he finds them interrelated about him and composes them-without distortion which would mar their exact significances-into an intense expression of his perceptions and ardors that they may constitute a revelation in the speech that he uses." In the furies, then, of the war and the chaos of a disintegrating society, I felt a place, of useful honor and possibility, in those words. As though one might dignify, make sufficient, al/ the bits and pieces one had been given, al/ the remnants of a family, the confusions of name and person, flotsam, even the successes quickly subsumed by the next arrival. And after that, the next-and then the next again. How would one ever catch up? There was no identity, call it, for the poet in my world. It was only in my mind and imagination that any of it was real. "Only the imagination is real," Williams said. It felt particularly American to have no viable tradition, no consequence of others seemingly sufficient, my elders contested if not dismissed. Yet, paradoxically, we were exceptionally chauvinistic, felt finally a

74 boundary 2/ Spring 1999

contempt for the poetry of that old world, the European, which nonetheless still intimidated us. All the arts, it seemed, fought to become dominant in whatever scale they might be weighed in-Abstract Expressionists vs. the School of Paris, John Cage vs. Benjamin Britten, Louis Zukofsky vs. W. H. Auden. Already that person as myself had become an insistent we, a plural of swelling confidence.

They say you can be sure of three things in America, in any company, and you can always let them be known without fear of social reprisal. One, that you know nothing about opera. Two, that you know nothing about poetry. Three, that you speak no language other than English. Is that true?
Rene Thom somewhere speaks of poetry's being like humor. It stays local because it uses its means with such particularity. Just so, a friend tells me of a friend of his, a fellow student who is Japanese, saying, "What the Americans think is interesting in Japanese poetry misses the point entirely. They miss the essence, the kernel, the substance of its effects." Another friend once told me he had written a haiku whose second line was a measured one mile long.

Nation of Nothing but Poetry . .. " Who owns it? "He is the president of regulation . .. " How did that go? How is it (ever) far if you think it? Where are we? It was poetry that got us here, and now we have to go too. "I'll hate to leave this earthly paradise . . ." Is there a country? "Image Nation . .. "
Despairs since I was a little boy seem always the same. No money, not enough to eat, no clothes, sick, forced out. No job or identity. Years ago, driving back to San Geronimo Miramar from Guatemala City in the early evening, I caught sudden sight of a body lying out into the narrow road, so stopped to see what had happened. It was a man, drunk, trying to kill himself in that bleak way. He had spent all his life's accumulated money in one day's drinking, and had lost his identity card as well-and so he no longer actually existed, in any record. I kept trying, uselessly, persistently, to help.

I~

We will keep ourselves busy enough, working with our various procedures and values. There'll be no irony or blame. Whoever we imagine it's for will either hear us out, else leave with a sense of better things to do. Better we learn a common song?

Wystan Curnow 75

Seventy-two my next birthday and still feeling good, still pouring it out. Hardly a day goes by that I don't think of something, either to do or to be done. Stay busy seems to be it. But most it's like coming back again to childhood, dumbly, even uselessly. When I saw myoid school chums at our fiftieth reunion, I realized I hadn't seen them-Fred, Marion, Katie, Ralph, and Patsy-since we were fourteen. Now we were over sixty, all the work done but for whatever was left to tidy up. It was a great, unexpected relief not to have to say what we had earned, merited, lost, or coveted. It was all done. So now for the bridge, as in music, carries one over-Trust to good verses then; They only will aspire, When pyramids, as men, Are lost i' th' funeral fire. And when all bodies meet, In Lethe to be drown'd, Then only numbers sweet With endless life are crown'd. - Robert Herrick

With love, for Herrick and Zukofsky.

Wystan Curnow

A Brief Description of Poetry in New Zealand
I'm reading Kendrick Smithyman's Atua Wera (Auckland University Press). And helping Leigh Davis with his Station of Earth-Bound Ghosts. Kendrick's book-he was a friend, and a colleague-I'm only now sorry to say getting around to, came out last year, two years ~fter his death. Atua Wera is a sequence of nearly three hundred poems concerning Papahurihia, or Te Atua Wera, a nineteenth-century Nga Puhi tohunga (leader) and the first of the Maori prophets of the contact period. I'm about halfway through. One reviewer, a New Zealand historian by profession but also a sometime poet, wasn't sure whether it was poetry or history so close is it to the bits

76

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and scraps of record and recollection out of which both are ordinarily falsified. As for Station of Earth-Bound Ghosts, its inspiration are the Hau Hau flags associated with another, somewhat later and more famous, Maori prophet and rebel, Te Kooti. Flags also figure here and there in Atua Wera: Papahurihia had the message: I On Saturday run up your flag. Yet what I flag was it? Was there only one? II Flags held power. Masts were powerful. I Each settlement had a flag of its own. I When people were to join together I for especially (Sunday) service I A white flag was flown. II White is good (Flags, 32). Leigh's poems are appliqued onto twenty-eight flags (1.5 x 3 m) and will be shown (flown) in Auckland's Central Station two months from now. This I suppose grand nineteenth-century railway station is disused and deserted, part of a property parcel sold some years back to the Ngati Whatua in part settlement of a very long-standing land dispute, and now awaiting 'development' by Magellan Corp.-yes Magellan-from whom we will rent it. Later the flags will come out (fluttering) in book form. Leigh Davis is best known for his 1983 sonnet sequence (ninety-nine of them) Willy's Gazette (Jack Books), and his editorship, with Alex Calder, of And magazine, which taken together are seen to represent the turn to language in the recent history of our poetry: 'He's [Willy's] lined up, like his writing, on small, coded, printed rails. There is a sense also that Willy is an editor of his own combinations, that he doesn't come from nowhere, that he's never got an empty page' (Note, Willy's Gazette). Subsequently Leigh went into finance; Mark Williams can't have been the only local literary historian who hoped he'd take up Anglo-Catholicism. Two of the most impressive and influential works of history to be written here in recent years-Anne Salmond's Two Worlds: First Meetings between Maori and Europeans, 1642-1772 (1991) and Judith Binney's Redemption Songs: A Life of Te Kooti Arikiangi Te Turuki (1995)-indicate a broad context of current investigative writing into which Smithyman's and Davis's projects can be placed. Binney, it happens, wrote the entry on Papahurihia for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and reading her book sparked Davis's interest in Te Kooti. However, Salmond's and Binney's books also beg or uncover questions concerning the poetics of contemporary history writing, which Smithyman and Davis can be seen to take up. All these books (not the flags) get mentioned in the just out 890-

(Feel the weight. 'Back to the Future: Into the 1990s'. a new patron emerged and revived it under a return-to-centre management. Denis McEldowney's chapter. . the Press has published two collections by Leggott. wrote the chapter in the Oxford on contemporary poetry.) McEldowney directed the Auckland University Press.. notebooks 1976-1991. and Splash (1983-1985) and reaches its apogee with a brief takeover of the mainstream Landfall during Michele Leggott's poetry editorship (1991-1993). Patronage. and outbreaks of hostility occurred' among writers of and on poetry. Sidetracks. Since her arrival.Wystan Curnow n page Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English. his successor there. so perhaps it is no surprise she takes a more friendly view of the 'postmodern'. These anthologies and histories. but departs from it in noting how 'evaluative principles were unstable. and Murray Edmond are working on a collection-they won't call it an anthologyof poetry from the late '60s and early '70s. postmodern poetry was dealing with 'difficult and urgent questions about the very nature of language itself' brought home by global Capital's media capture of the word. Michele Leggott.) Unlike the first 1991 edition. And. boasts a new section called 'Rise and Fall of Post-Modernism' in which a supposed 'rise' is represented by poets associated with Freed (1969-1972) and later those with Parallax (1982-1983). I'm working on two exhibitions. Major New Edition. 'Banished from Landfall . Alan Brunton. (Feel the antagonism. which aims to rescue the period from the worst of 'drive-by' narratives to which it has been subjected. Landfall's publishers pulled out. this update exposes diverging views about recent poetry. 'Publishing. Sport (1988-). Her update. and in tracing the strong growth of Maori and Pacific Island writing and women's writing. one glances back-through a sequence of . ' concludes McEldowney. follows received wisdom in lauding the pluralist and populist turn registered in Ian Wedde's and Harvey McQueen's 1985 Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse. edited by Terry Sturm. and this year will bring out its second Loney volume. by arguing that far from being a fad or fashion. What toppled it was a new magazine. Literary Magazines'.. and by pointing to the failure of Oxford's 1997 anthology to question the 'canon' and to its neglect of 'experimental poetry'. Bill Manhire's creative writing course at Victoria University and the Victoria University Press. which saw to it that the 'new literary movements . they loom so large in a small culture. and they drive the poets wild. [were] assimilated but presented in friendly and accessible form' (680). Elizabeth Caffin. postmodernism later 'took refuge in Alan Loney's [magazine] A Brief Description of the Whole World'. .

is clear with words like encompassing or knowing? What could enlighten this romantic vision (pursued by Novalis and the Schlegels. In the light. and some poetry-it features Alan Loney's new long poem Mondrian's Flowers.78 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 four two-week shows-at the art of the '70s. or in the darkness. Or.. if at all. but possibly also by Shelley when he calls the poets the "unacknowledged legislators of the world")? How. . and in any case not of our times? How can this vision be turned into the knowledge that Robert Musil calls "brightdark". Of painting's past and present. is also a refiguring. any work of poetry manifests itself as something that compels experience and knowledge of all things and their contexts.. and they are not less dark and seem to ask that one looks for still other words. of that vision. Dear Mondrian. stripped of its poetical aura. the Fear of Abstraction. depend. even of the smallest grain of sand. Darkness and Light. Franz-Josef Czernin Context. down some main and not so travelled roads. . Something these projects share with those of Smithyman and Davis is a critical passion for the detail upon which all pictures. so every work of poetry should encompass all aspects of language in such a way that it encompasses all things and their contexts. every poetic work (and every poetics) can be seen as a more or less meaningful representation of these questions and also as a more or less far-reaching answer to them. context means . obscured. knows all places and times. so can the word context: in this context. if they are to be of use. could this vision. But what is not obscure about that sentence. even of the smallest grain of sand. for example. the Romantic Every word can be seen as dark. a knowledge. which could also be called poetry? According to that romantic vision. what. or finds something in the world that would explain them. The other. * Just as God-for some of those who believe in him-encompasses everything. not seem excessive or even absurd. In both I believe I'm motivated (over the hill) by entrenched generalizations. and then one looks for other words. so that a work of poetry will know the place and the time even of the smallest.

and (in another way) for Henri Michaux. or understood as. then any individual work of poetry (and also every individual poetic) determines the scale of significance of all things and contexts. but-in the name of that romantic vision of encompassing.Franz-Josef Czernin 79 * If a work of poetry encompasses everything and even compels the knowledge of everything. For Bertolt Brecht. if it creates points of departure close at hand but leads to things and contexts far away. In contrast. Every work of poetry-and the poetics corresponding with it-seems to show that it is in the first place this or that and much less this or that than something else. something. the poetry might be mainly in the letters or sound. experiencing. And so one cannot mean literally any statement of poetiCS that says that poetry is to be seen as this but not as that. (With poetry. wouldn't every work of poetry and every poetics be . this other way of looking at things means that every work of poetry. If a work of poetry puts this or that in the foreground but something else in the background. then it creates a gestalt and therefore something that has spatial and temporal qualities. somewhere on the way or at the end or in the background. or is illuminated in the foreground. For some poets. the poetry was for some time mainly the representation of social contexts and at the same time the social context itself. What for one work of poetry. For the early Pound of Imagism and for Surrealism (but in a different way). has certain points of departure from which any other points may be reached. in the dark. is at the beginning of the way.) * With this romantic vision in mind. it might be mainly in images. and knowing everything-poetry must also be seen as an indefinitely long series of things and contexts. is. a certain series of incidents. So every work of poetry appears as something or wants to be seen as. For a poet like Paul Valery. poetry might even be the expression of some nationality or region or gender. Such statements of poetics can only be understood as static representations of experience. one cannot believe that a work of poetry is exclusively this or that but not something else. Its experience involves spatiotemporal movement. For some Dadaists. it is not as simple as with Wittgenstein's famous example of the figure that can be seen either as a duck or a rabbit but as nothing else. poetry might be the representation of mental states. According to that romantic vision. for another. and with it every poetiCS. and its poetiCS. then there is nothing a work of poetry cannot be seen as.

and in a similar way.. Tieck. in the poetry and the poetics of Novalis. then this brings into being what we call literary history (the temporal aspect) or a geography of literature (the spatial aspect). but sometimes also the letter and sound and at the same time the rhetorical artificiality. This image of poetry requires that any poetic epoch or region-no matter how far other pOints of departure may lie or how veiled and dark they may beencompasses every other one or represents the best way to every other epoch or region. those points of departure in the early poetry of Goethe were given up for certain mimetic and expressive. . context means . to the smallest grain of sand? * If the literary points of departure change. for baroque poetry. According to the romantic vision. and the Schlegels by a concept of the poetic symbol that in some ways goes back to the baroque concept of semantic structure. in turn. If. but also idiomatic. from which one cannot wake up? But if not one literary epoch or region shows the best way to the experience and the knowledge of all things and contexts. a series of partial solutions. Then there can exist only a labyrinth of inappropriate attempts. or regions. which are founded on the assumption that certain phases or epochs or certain regions can be understood through a number of similarities and be distinguished from other phases. In this context.. qualities of language. and with them the temporal and spatial roads from thing to thing and from context to context also change. only to be replaced. one point of departure was the intrinsic value of the semantic structure. epochs. then there also is not one single poetic work that can show that way. and so can the word context. How difficult it is to believe this! Wouldn't it be much easier to see literary history (and not only "real" history) as a Joycean nightmare. and then one is satisfied with this radiant revelation (Kafka). which not only mocks the romantic vision but also mocks all things and contexts and every grain of sand. time after time one gets from each of the named points of departure to all things and contexts.80 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 the expression or representation of what for it is the best road to the experience of things and contexts? Poetry's way of trying to follow this to the end. * Every word can be seen as lucid. or increases the clarity of this word through finding other .

Thus my postulate that every subject. It is up to the poet to produce a personal aesthetic. History awoke a sense of irony in me." inside delimited space and the historical moment. (Translated from German by the author and C. a simple borrowing? Or is it. so that Palestine not limit itself to Palestine. the homeland will feel constrained in it. And History cannot be reduced to a compensation for a lost geography.Mahmoud Darwish 81 words. when all is said and done. to the contrary. In other words. An opening allowing me to inscribe the national on the universal. if the poetic project does not contain its own aspirations. If this aesthetic is open enough. despair incarnating itself? The answer has no importance whatsoever. is finally an alibi.) Mahmoud Darwish . but that it may found its aesthetic legitimacy in a vaster human space. risks transforming itself into a poetiC cemetery if it remains locked inside its textuality. It is also a point from which to observe the shadows of self and other. I discovered that language and metaphor are not enough to provide a place for the place. Is that just artistic cunning. is but the accomplishment of poetry itself. Which brings us back to the fundamental question: where does poetry live? In the subject it addresses or in its aesthetic independence in relation to its subject? I believe that the theme of Palestine. it will set a horizon for the homeland.. The geographical part of History is stronger than the historical part of geography. I believe that it is not only Palestine that is a poetic alibi. I tried to find it in History. inside the limits that are the "self" and the "Other. This lightens the weight of the nationalist worry somewhat. I discovered that the earth was fragile and the sea light. and it doesn't seem necessary to find something in the world that would explain them. A homeland cannot be reduced to what . its own proper object. B. if it is too narrow. Every subject is an alibi. which is simultaneously a call for and a promise of freedom. Unable to find my place on earth. and a passage from the relative to the absolute. which. What matters is that I was able to find a greater lyrical capacity. And so one sets out on an absurd journey. graspable in a more complex human journeying.. even that of a sanctified Palestine.

I am a poet and I am before all the poet of the familiar human details. my obsession is to write that which is simple. This does not seem like a contradiction to me. even in that of the epic. definitive. already known one. through the narrative of a birth which no one dreams of denying. By this I don't mean the myth proceeding from another. With the disappearance of our country we suddenly found ourselves relegated to a pre-Genesis. In hailing distance of a finished. It is a cycle that moves from ordinary dailiness to the mythical. Given this. A Creation narrative that has become one of the sources of knowledge for humankind: the Bible. Today we find ourselves in a hybrid place. in the most simple human questionings. But I have never stopped arguing with the consecrated version of Creation. without historians. familiar. For one has to be aware that Palestine has already been written. at a median point between the historical and the mythic. banal. our very existence partakes of both. I am trying to humanize the Palestinian text. Here it is but one aspect of the cultural struggle to write the same place. . This forces the Palestinian to traverse the myth in order to arrive at the familiar. An argument that has forced me into a mythic writing of the quotidian real. but the one born of the poem's construction. the poet has to create his own myths. The one that transforms concrete language into the language of poetry. Not always. We Palestinian poets write in close proximity to the Book of Genesis. Even when I refer directly to the myth. it therefore had to equip itself with all the necessary baggage needed to defend its right to exist. Maybe we will find our way in an aesthetic of the quotidian. Our situation. And so our poets have had to write our own Genesis starting from the mythic one of the Other. Myth is not always the enemy of man. on condition that the poet be able to take it there. and which can be accomplished only by a return to its origins. of the Palestinian present. and consecrated myth. partaking of its own form and universe. The Other has done it in his manner. without anthropologists.82 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 it is objectively. how could we have written a less mythic narrative? The problem of Palestinian poetry is that it set out without extra resources. Our lyricism can move in the space of myth. In order to achieve this. Because poetry opens the homeland onto the human infinite.

of the liberation of poetic language toward epic horizons. for human beings are finally the product of this tragedy crisscrossed with absurdities. History would serve as a scene through which peoples. depite all its brutal attributes. (Original translation from Arabic and Hebrew by Elias Sanbar and Simone Bitton. it is with irony that I watch the emperor pass by-and continue my story. S. civilizations. Eliot Brazilian poetry. will not dominate the earth again. I don't know where this quest will lead me.Haroldo de Campos 83 My last four books of poems are part of an ambitious project I hope I'm able to complete. poetry comes up against cultural racism and rejects any culture based on purity of blood. like some mythological heroes. adapted and translated from French by Pierre Joris) Haroldo de Campos The Brazilian Jaguar The couched Brazilian Jaguar -T." but also a gifted lyricist. Aren't we the children of a region that from time immemorial has been the theatre of interactions. It was born already adult. I draw my strength from it because I look through the prisms of past and future. I am one of the inhabitants of the suburbs of Rome. both positive and negative? I have found a terra firma saturated with history. I am on a quest for my identity according to the laws of crossbreeding. Rome. of the shock and cohabitation of all identities. operating (fluently speaking) a universal code: the Baroque. wrote in Portuguese and Spanish. Thus the present appears less fragile. It's the project of a lyrical epic. when I observe something tragic I also see its temporary aspect. In such a project. a very sophisticated and elaborate language. Standing on said earth. I want this hymn to take root in the open space of history. Our first great poets were Baroque and multilingual: Gregorio do Mattos Guerra (1636-1696). never had a true infancy (infant. one that cannot speak). but I know that its origin is the multiplicity of cultural origins. more like a passage toward a more certain history. Botelho . including in some of his poems African and Indian words. a virulent satirist nicknamed "The Mouth of Hell. and cultures could circulate freely.

I should like to say a few words on Brazilian "Concrete poetry. Joaquim de Sousa Andrade. in order to enrich and enlarge our patrimony of forms. the Jesuit Anchieta (1534-1597)." Our best Symbolists were Cruz e Sousa (1861-1898). a distinguished lyricist. in order to create frames for the apprecia- . Spanish. the year of Eliot's Waste Land. a mulatto from Bahia." an Afro-Brazilian poet. Differently from other foreign "Concrete poets. Italian. Joyce's Ulysses. the "Black Swan. Since the very beginning of the movement. under the influence of both Italian Futurism and French Cubism. Spanish. Our literature arose under the sign of polyglotism. being influenced by Pound's "make it new" conception. and Tupi Guarany (he was the author of the first Tupi language grammar). After this very brief survey. In contradistinction to Spanish-speaking countries. and Vallejo's Trilce. and Pedro Kilkerry (1885-1917). author of a long epic as well as dramatic travel poem (the scenery of which is both South and North American. In contrast. descended from Irish stock. His "Wall Street Inferno" (a section of this long poem) was located in the New York Stock Exchange and melded quotations in several languages. who wrote poems and mystery plays (autos) in Portuguese. in the diction of Claudio Manoel da Costa (1729-1789). Brazilian "concretists" developed a programmatic translation (''transcreation") activity from several languages into Portuguese. Brazilian Romanticism produced an extremely singular poet. Brazilian Modernism's "philosopheme" by excellence was the Anthropophagy (Cannibalism) of Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954): a metaphorical proposal for devouring foreign influences and reelaborating them from a Brazilian differential viewpoint. using a kind of "montage technique. Brazilian Modernism (Avant-garde) started in 1922. In contradistinction to Hispanic American literatures. French Surrealism had no significant influence on the Brazilian scene. who had a remarkable gift for languages and was an admirer of Mallarme and translator of Corbiere. Sousandrade's poem has anticipated Neruda's Canto General and Pound's "Financial Hell Cantos." a movement that started in the early fifties. A critical and theoretical activity was also intenSively promoted. Sousandrade (1833-1902). one of the best representatives of that period.84 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 de Oliveira (1636-1671). founder of the City of Sao Paulo. Our Arcadian (neoclassic) poets had reacted only moderately to the Baroque code: "cultist" features remain. Latin." the Brazilian poets were much concerned with tradition (a live tradition). from Patagonia up to Manhattan). Not to mention a forerunner. composed poems in Portuguese. for instance." In a certain sense. and Latin.

is already the first "Postmodern. Avant-garde movements have. north of Brazil). I have no longer written "concrete poems" in the strict sense. I don't believe in the end of Modernity and in the emergence of a so-called Postmodernism. neither to have forgotten the technical conquests of Modernity.Haroldo de Campos 85 tion of new trends. by a natural contextmotivated tendency. I have moved from the more limited conception of stricto sensu "concretism" to the larger problem of concretion (sign materiality) in language. in my opinion. Since the sixties. we suffered from a more than twenty years long military dictatorship (from the sixties up to the eighties). No nostalgic. with programming the future. After the optimistic period of the fifties (under the presidency of liberal-progressive Juscelino Kubitscheck. as W. To be a "Postutopian" poet working on the concrete materiality of language does not mean to have renounced the critical dimension of the poetical task. or. in other words: Baudelaire was the Modern poet par excellence. Brazilian Concretism had a deep influence being a sort of departure point for new developments throughout the next decades." So. and the promoter of the distinguished communist architect Niemeyer). the builder of Brasilia. . our new capital. and the world entered concomitantly into a phase of "ideological crisis. in a Jakobsonian sense. Furthermore. based on the urgent needs (either aesthetical or ideological) of the present. Even committed poems continue to be possible and necessary (as for instance my recent "The Left Angel of History. for instance. What is different is that I have substituted the optimistic-futuristic-millenarian project of the fifties with a more realistic and effective one. but still within Modernism (we may be called "Postmodernists" only in the sense we are still developing the possibilities opened by 1897 Mallarme's UN COUP DE DES. and also in order to rescue from oblivion inventive poets neglected by profeSSional literary historians (as. Benjamin pointed out. Sousandrade and Kilkerry). For these reasons. Mal/arme-the late Mallarme-in regard to Baudelaire. I think we are now in a "Postutopian" moment. an ideological and historical duration or tempo. Avant-garde has to do with Utopia. regressive orientation is being aimed at." protesting against the massacre of the SEM-TERRA/without-land in Para." and we are still exploring Maltarme's heritage).

for the philologists and academics. in the sense of narcissistically circumscribing the poetic discourse that makes us incapable of escaping from the paper-context of writing and its miserly gratification. Silvia Bre-published by Quaderni Italiani di Poesia Con temporanea. De Vita. Romano and Fortini. neo-slang. jargon. I feel a lack. Giovanna Sicari. or the Language of Things The context of poetry should be. Thus we have given space to the poetiCS of dialect. After Pasolini we must refrain from being poets. Scalia and Leonetti. Pasolini constructed his discourse on poetry by addressing the most impoetic and distant realities. and idiolect. To break free of the symbolist influence. With the magazine Lengua (1982-1994) I have tried. I believe we should no longer discuss poetry talking about poetry but talk instead about something else. Cucchi. the literary magazine of Pasolini and Roversi. strictly speaking. a realism of thought that continues the legacy of Officina (1955-1959). Perhaps my choice bears the trace of my political activism in the Italian New Left and my extraliterary intellectual formation. outside of ourselves. Scagliatini. we need to rethink the fundamental question of the referent. Caproni. losing sight of their task (to outrage) and their site (the crux of their epoch). Febbraro. We are all caught in the mythology of an absolute poetic language of symbolist descent. in the world. . I think of this as a response to the present state of crisis. that of its readers. What is then the context of poetry? It can no longer be poetry itself. writing for themselves. they have closed themselves in the literary ghetto of the hyperliteral.86 boundary 21 Spring 1999 Gianni D'Elia The Impoetic. together with other friends and collaborators. Oal Bianco. Viviani. De Angelis. and we have elaborated our conception of linguistic and literary criticism from this position. Yet. of dissatisfaction. Yet since the Symbolist movement. Deidier. critiquing the religion of poetry. to regain the sense of this ideological realism. For poetry exists. and Luzi as well as with some of the poets of the younger generation: Magrelli. in a dialogue with the living postwar poets: Loi. not only in poetry books. And the very young poets Nadiani. They have disregarded their grounding relation with the audience. poets have gone after the myth of an absolute poetic language. of impasse. immersing his thinking in the contradictions of his time. In Lengua we have followed and questioned throughout what I have called the linguistic chorality of the twentieth century. Antonella Anedda.

The contemporary avant-garde in Italy is a branch of academia and its literary magazines (Baldus. as already in the past we acknowledged the myth of the "real" as the extralinguistic and extraliterary. We also reconsidered. it must cut into the real. we must write in order to understand. Poets work on language. But what is written must nevertheless give something new. has brought about a preposterous codification and normativity (that Pasolini already foresaw). The avant-gardist pretense of substituting a countermythology of "quipuscular" language for the myth of the Word. within language-this goes without saying. The lan- .Gianni D'Elia 87 nowadays. and denial of the audience. In this way emotions create new metric bodies-which constitute the actual revolution in the use of language. In a recent piece published in Rendiconti (the poetiC journal edited by Roberto Roversi). our relation with the real. think it is only appropriate to insist on the ideological impact of the impoetic as a locution that can articulate the language of things. And yet. We must move on. of other voices that have the courage of saying that it is possible to move on to a different phase of cultural poetics. as the basis of our modern poetic tradition. We need to return to a physiological thought of form. carry on in solitude. must give a clear. I believe in emotions that become word. We do not need the avant-garde. and an antiform for form. passing through the body and thus marking with their own rhythm metric forms. delusional self-sufficiency. I contend that avantgardism is the senile ailment of classicism: both poetics run aground in intellectual aridity. What we write should be validated in a poetic form that is born out of reelaboration of-and sinking into-form. try to write about things that have actual sense today. and understand in order to write. the intersection of Dante's conception of /engua volgare (written language born out of orality) and Leopardi's conception of poetry as natural language (the "natural fantastically spoken"). depending only on our own labor. We should write without renouncing the myth of form and acknowledge its limiting influence. Thus the theme I propose for this symposium is the impoetic. sharp reading of the world that we experience and confront. I stick to the myth of "the real" rather than the absolute language of poetry. L'/mmaginazione). . L'Allegoria. In the initial issues of Lengua we discussed how Dante's terza rima or hendecasyllable defined the harshness of Dante's cognitive horizon-a condition which dictated the strictest of forms. Even though the "impoetic" does not exist in the context of the contemporary literary scene dominated by the sublime experimental poexcrescence. The present times speak a language of things that poetry finds difficult to grasp. in close referential relation to what was being said.

Name the imperceived new things of the world in which we're now immersed. and concentration..88 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 guage of things has changed. their memorability." (Translated and abridged from Italian by Carla Billitteri) . if you can. And to the arid chatter of the press. And all of this should be achieved without renouncing the communicative value of metric resources-what traditionally constitutes the efficacy of poetic texts. and so the language of words (poetry) should rethink the relation between text and context. exactness. the commonness you serve. for singing is duress of memory and sentiment and today nothing but the fragment seems to be given in the flash. without losing the poetry of the text.. to capture the interposed imaginary of media and technological reproduction. ideas. try it. as others have. Further Instructions "The impoetic: tell it to the lightning. questions). lasting a little longer beyond that wind . This is the most difficult task: to introduce a weighty proportion of the prosaic. of the impoetic (experience. this is the crucial issue for contemporary ideological realism -finding the relation between form and content with which we must begin again. This was the heretical example of Leopardi's La Ginestra and of Pasolini's poems. And let the verse be sensitive to prose.

Oubravka Ojuric 89 Dubrsvka Djuric Fragments on Writing Poetry in Postcommunism The castle is the whiteness of the screen poetry takes place between new technologies -new realities-VR-MTV-Postcommunism Poetry is the passionate body-Sex Screen Postcommunist reality in Serbia chokes the wish for poetic Eros it is hard to find a way out from the mud of the collectivism of One: One Nation. the Other is expelled from our Heavenly postcommunism The veil of lies waves on the wind she stood and thought this world seen in virtual reality of postcommunism is really wonderful the catastrophe is realized in tectonic dislodges that destroyed millions of human lives. corpses are an everyday image but no one is disturbed-because the future is realized in front of our eyes at the moment when we look at that reality on the screen . One Ideology Therefore a critic hates when the Other speaks the language of the One and inserts the language of the Other-the language of his/her (multiple) identities Identities are interwoven since the Politics of the poem is the politics that escapes the control MERRY critics are like MERRY POLITICIANS they control all space of the POETRY THAT BECOMES POSTCOMMUNIST OTHER The Other is sacrificed. One Religion. the Other is killed.

90 boundary 21 Spring 1999 butchered bodies. butchered minds that beauty of the decomposed. wind storms. discontinuities the things that disappear to turn your head around and to see waves. i is the writing and the language i is the geopolitical space: balkan: balkanization . of disease -but is there the reality that the West could read as the Code of East Europe This context that is empty. uncertain zero departures. i is the non-eye that writes. fires that endeavor (engender) small pushed angles at the end of all worlds and there are the names that in microcosmos of the place and time do exist or maybe don't the figures that build this destroyed contexts And where is there poetry if not in resistance I is the eye that writes.

Science and Poetry According to Clemente Padrn. even more. experimental poetry. Some post-avant-garde Latin American movements such as Process/Poem 2 and Poetry to Make and/or Realize3 revised the mecha- . in search of a communion and at the same time a reform in both fields of knowledge. Nevertheless. For example. indescribable. makes possible the development of cultural knowledge. 1 The concept of poetry as a means for the acquisition of knowledge. investigation of the indecipherable. avoiding its stagnation. there is no doubt that there is a strong component of investigation in "experimental" poetry. This is probably a partial vision: current science is based on a rational mode of thought while poetry must encompass other investigations beyond the limitations imposed by such reasoning. not only of rational knowledge but also of modes of life. the surrealistic mechanism of automatic writing is a technique of textual creation and not necessarily a device designated to generate readings: the accent is given on emission more than on perception. and the term experimental. by moving beyond the manipulation of established concepts. commented on. More than scientifizying art. Interaction A good amount of poetry created in this century is "private": it has been written to demonstrate the emotions of the author or as a tool of a personal search for knowledge-but not to be read. to base their work completely in classical scientific methods. 8euys did. and even read.Fabio Ooctorovich 91 Fabio Doctorovich from ENCAszTERS Progress. intend to match poetry with science. for example. Which does not prevent it from being published. That is why the term postypography seems to be more adequate than experimental to describe those changes that are occurring in literature due to the invention of new media. and invisible. of extensions of humanity beyond physical reality. and thanks to the conceptualization of the unknown. the center of the creation is the poet and not the reader. There is currently a prevalent tendency among many authors and critics to incorporate scientific precepts on their literary investigations. science should be reexamined from the point of view of art in the way.

auditory. thus generating a multiplicity of readings. Each module. The most obvious example of this is the intertextual technique in which module B employs phrases that make reference to module A. and not the mere sum of its parts (apart from sharing one or more topics in common). A certain ideological fanaticism. Multiconcept The progreSSivist attitude of the artistic movements of this century have been such that most works produced by those movements are generally "partial.4 compelled the authors to discard concepts from predecessor movements. and in such . the modules should possess appendixes that would function like fitting pieces. visual. The failure attributed to the avant-garde could be due." works that emphasize a single aspect or a sole poetic technique. slanting or overlooking the others. which concentrated their strength on a single fundamental concept that. spurred by the fight for legitimacy and consecration.) organized in interrelated-though separated-parts that would be assembled to form a modular structure. this would not be applicable when no phrases or words are utilized (as in some visual poems that make use of signs). trying in that way to demonstrate the novelty of their proposals and to gain an advantageous position in the artistic community." for the reader could order the modules in distinct possible sequences or could even add his/her own modules. included some related basic ideas. would not be necessarily represented simultaneously with the others. This would give to the modular project a character of "work to be assembled. from multimedia to audiovisual. With the purpose of producing a work that is a whole (though divided in pieces).92 boundary 21 Spring 1999 nisms of reading generation and intended to shift the center of creation (and so of emission) toward the reader. according to the analysts of the sociology of culture. at the most. etc. This was a first step toward the disappearance of the notion of an author-artist placed on a superior plane of creation-a notion that has remained strong over centuries and that has undoubtedly contributed to the construction of a barrier between reader and work. among other factors. However. Fittings (Encastres) An application of multiconcept art could be constituted by the production of works with diverse components (textual. to the monoconceptualism of the produced works.

In this way. We suggest a series of asynchronous autofitted modules: not only the work's creation but also its perception is realized at different temporal intervals.) may be fitted simultaneously in multiple combinations.Fabio Doctorovich 93 cases intertext should be extended to "intersign" or "intericon" (reference to a sign or image instead of a phrase or word). visual. The initial designer must sketch a map or diagram (linear. For example. Transitions: "frontier" works that mix aspects or techniques of each one of the modules to be joined. The concept of "finished work" does not exist anymore. like a book.or multiconceptual units (modules) are constructed that fit between them forming a three-dimensional semantic mesh. Timing Synchronization of all modules. The fitting pieces would be given by: Intertext: repetition or allusion to textual elements in different units to be fitted. for the notion of "artwork" unfolds from being something material and fastened. formed by assembled parts that can be fitted or unfitted a piacere. like in opera or other multimedia spectacles. mono. A hypertextual syntax or better a hyperpostypographic one replaces the lineal syntax of the written language. the work evolves into a dynamic entity. to a metamorphic gelatinous structure-a kind of "blob" forged by solid and virtual materials. Thus. Inter/action: application of modes of similar action in different modules. More than that. Intericon: ditto with mobile or static images. tri-. bi-. overfeeding the spectator with simultaneous visual and auditory stimuli generally induces passivity. similarly. to the transitions of computer-generated video. the different modules (auditory. The existence or not of these and the manner of combining them will be . the construction of blueprint-poems of virtual places that would be described or referred to in the text. or ndimensional) of the work that will serve as a guide to future authors and at the same time will indicate the spaces to be filled (modules or fragments to be realized). Moreover. etc. Interweave: structure that continues in the following module like a splice of cinematographic sequences. is only possible when the relation author/spectator exists and the mechanisms of the work are adjusted for that purpose.

p. Edgardo Antonio Vigo. Comedy is better than identity. translated by Harry Polkinhorn. 2. perhaps therein lies the joke behind metaphor making. Correlatives are fortunately nonobjective. Escenas de la Vida Posmoderna. Totalization is solely possible in the spectauthors mind and. Arte y Videocultura en la Argentina. he might have discussed Taming of the Shrew instead of Hamlet. of course. 1993. Comedy is a mess. author edition. Clemente Padfn. Espasa Calpe Argentina / Ariel: Buenos Aires. you can't really have both. even with cheating. 1990. English translation by Harry Polkinhorn. Speech given at the XI International Symposium of Literature. since it alleviates form. Uruguay. of homogeneity. . edited by Cesar Espinosa / NUCLEO POST-ARTE. 1994. it is different for each one of them. No things are ever commensurate. It is also prosody's perfect compliment. the best bet for poetry is delusional space.94 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 decided by the spectauthors. Clemente Pad!n. Semiotic Poem: The Beginning of the End of the Word in Latin American Poetry. If Eliot had had a different sense of humor. D. 152. that it comes into being. This would be in some way closer to the partiality of vision in real life. Uruguay. Poetry buckles under the weight of seriousness of purpose. Methodological Difficulties in the Examination of Experimental Poetry. And no. 3. In terms of geographies and nationalities. Refer to the subtitle Va/ores y Mercado in Chapter 4. to destabilize imagined consistencies. Montevideo. He might have rejOiced in the pure ridiculousness of domesticity itself. This would have spared Anglophone poetry generations of teapot epiphanies. That poetry takes shape. 1. Because poetry is there to reformulate placement and contexts. A disunity. in Corrosive Signs.C. Where the seams split. Any poetry that doesn't somehow begin in a realm of wild fantasy is not worth the writing. Intelectuales. Maisonneuve Press: Washington. From Poetry/Process to Poetry To And/Or Realize. In this way. Beatriz Sarlo. printed by the author. is reason for occasions of great mirth. Stacy Doris Those been the cokkes wordes and not myne. the work becomes an entity that can be only partially perceived in any temporal interval. 1993. The lack of comedy is poetry's tragedy. comedy enlightens or illuminates the genre. 4.

horrifying.. however. vice versa. Beyond memory. the structure of a sign that consists of a shadow or that fits into its own shadow." which in any case should not have been time but "its timeless nucleus. that is. "superfluous. poetry found itself at a place where "everything is understood" or. Having gone through a sequence of procedures in which it was simplified by aesthetics and pneumatology. only the memoryproducing machine is to be found. Thunder is neither the essence of lightning nor its signifier. and subsequently introducing it into the conventional bounds of "writing." Synaethesia is the forgetfulness of any definition. Beyond the bounds of a metaphor lies the next metaphor. or bitter we only reaffirm our helplessness before the speed of discord in invisible substances. its book-in other words. excluding it from the sphere of Great Literature. Yet it is difficult to describe adequately how popular it was in those times that in turn resituated "poetic conversations" in a class of phenomena only partially identifiable. Despite attempts at decolonizing poetry. one of the totalizing forms that offer the world existence beyond any "picture. Writing is concerned with such impossibilities of being." something that has fallen either to the lot of poetologists trying to extract some ontological root from ephemeral quadratures or to sentimental ignoramuses who should at some point have gone to police school).e. at worst. Translation is mainly its movement. That was at best. By calling time beautiful. it progresses by means of misunderstanding. The privileging of the momentous "now" in the age of representation and of the identity of word and thing established the manifestation of essence (ultimate indivisibility) as presence in that "now. just as beyond one word lies another. it arrived at a certain ideological space that represented it as an instrumental practice of language.Arkadii Dragomoschenko 95 When where am I is I. i. is not worth understanding. What could be funnier? Arksdii Drsgomoschenko On the Superfluous It is not particularly appropriate to speak of poetry nowadays (it has become unnecessary." while time ." it was gradually barred from naively questioning its own nature as well as the limits of the actual scene.

He marked a paragraph in red pencil. and in black. the process of description. and richer imagination.. the I that does not rupture the circulation of its language (Khoma Brut's chalk circle as . invulnerable plenitude. "Svistonov lay in bed reading. Let us compare this I with the outline of a hole-the outline of absence. The I unable strictly to follow the strategy of idleness.e. forms the language. writing. as for him they were the same. differentiation. Vaginov). But the temptation is most often irresistible. not-being. then it would be logical to assume that the inner space of the drama whose players we become at the moment our own history is born could be described as the space of noncoincidence produced by the machine of self-sufficient plenitude. and technology. entered its altered version in his manuscript.96 boundary 21 Spring 1999 emerged in that classic metaphysical perspective as notwnow. not-truth. i. The technology of idleness is parataxis. or. Idleness is much harder than labor. telos .. vision. durations of another sort. i. Simpler still. He did not care about the meaning of the whole and the coherence of it all" (K. If one admits the obvious. if one does not see it as a commodity involved in relations obviously separate from the interests of its writer and reader. which tends to expand its meaning. Which means that is the I that is the breach. that the culture in which we have been brought up-the one that takes into its body. of "reality"-that this culture functions as a metaphysical machine of perfection. ideas of ourselves (I) and the world around us.. Including that of the present. Vision is also a linguistic procedure.e. To give one case among many. It requires effort. of desire. The speed of conjunctions that lack momentum exhausts the possibilities of vertiginous stasis. and by our inherent insufficiency determined by the known finitude of existence. a written/published book can be viewed as an attempt at rehabilitating (or possibly justifying) a preceding book.. the gap taking on different names with apparent ease. Every voyage is a message to the past. One can only regret the fact that none of Svistonov's books have yet been published.

An error is always conscious." sobornost). of history and memory." or "the dream of Paradise. whether "four. fear of irreversibility). The picture is washed away in patterns of oozing salts and oxides. for the moment. On resemblance see below. . consequently. It is the same. It is the fullest absence (above all. they for whom the being (sushchestvo) of the other.Arkadii Dragomoschenko 97 described by Gogol in "The Viy") and. Experience tells us that a tremendous amount seems to have been done toward that end. Poetry does not err in any projection of its questioning itself because it is the unconscious of a society (a pre-organic growth): the fourdimensional landscape of an impeccable action. of representation). is rejected). even if somebody's notes don't tally (Pound). Everything is the residue of its own description. does away with idleness just like Protestantism. it abides (prebyvaet) beyond the past and the future and arrives (pribyvaet) at the perfect time of the present-(which "evaporates in its own shining"). which every day faces Hell. while the asceticism of labor. But all this is only wild speculation. which is so necessary for self-identification. Sometimes they represent completely different relations. where everything converges precisely. not "the way" it should have been done." Yet only the idle (prazdnye) set out on the journey (stranstvie)they who celebrate (prazdnuyut) estrangement (ostranenie) (and removal [ustranenie]) of their I. X. Meanwhile. loses its necessity (nasushchnost) . the desire for absence is accompanied by the insurmountable fear of transgressing the line that separates us from it. This is why such ''transgression'' never really transgresses (with balance caught at the last moment. the overcoming of one's own nature (read Aleksandr Etkind) that such an idea suggests." "green." I am not interested in the "how" or the "what. Perhaps the Russian national idea is contained in the idea of Paradise (a communal "body without organs. Sometimes an error is the result of extremely complicated. Later they easily claim that he/she resembles someone. but most probably. multilevel operations and calculations (Freud. The poet remains a badly exposed photograph in the album of his time. is doomed to failure.' but in the "why.

" Pan-European dialogism governs any narrative but not the writing of poetry. From which nothing actually follows. About how they speak. speaks of nonconnectibility. There is not certainty." is replaced by a different one: "Since my I is separate from my being-ness (sushchestvennost) the other in this case also loses his or her necessity (nasushchnost}. (Translated from Russian by Evgenii Pavlov) ." But the accumulation and subsequent transformation (is it really into its opposite?) of insufficiency again presupposes the growth of its critical mass and its transition to something akin to a residual surplus. nothing superfluous.98 boundary 2/ Spring 1999 The author's well-known dictum. absolute selfsufficiency and completion. Only speak or keep silent soundlessly moving their lips (the dream of a hand). Like speech. is also the pretext (I do not want to say reason) for our daily labor-writing. moisture and sand. etc. of being ruptured. The melancholy of speech as the state that precedes its emergence. If one so desires. its dissection-difference. with whose expenditure BataiJle was so preoccupied. or project. presence and absence-the shell that was once simultaneously the instrument of calling and the labyrinth of hearing. As usual. Or do both at the same time. the conjugation of examples. You and I. besides being the mystery of its very presentation. Because "poetry is always already different. or some other trivial occupation. the representation of patterns which are to strengthen that theme. nor quiet. noncompatibility. past and future. even if preceded or followed by another. its resolve not to disclose itself. reality consists of holes. Yet every word. It offers the trusting mind the theme of resemblances. It would appear that the simplest comparison of one thing to another gives evidence of the coherence of the whole. Perhaps the hidden nature of this rupture. and. "I exist because of the existence of the other. Whereas erotic rapture (rupture) represents the permanent destruction of the forming picture of balance. Is anyone seed the center of the field? The yearning for stasis. Of difference. Not signifies ways whose trajectories do not belong to any single design or trace. which in any of its respective rhetorical frames of reference can bear any of the commonly accepted names-is described by another metaphor as the yearning for death. One can sing a song or make a film. can be exhausted in the metaphor of the shell that rotates on a single axis the exterior and the interior. including publishing. Of endless beginnings. venture. Sleep is nothing but a combination of phonemes necessary at a given moment. Neither loud.

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and Darren Wershler-Henry (Canada). At the same time. But visual poetry. nonetheless there are often aspects of each individual poet's work which bear witness to their specific place within the terrain of current visual poetics. Few of the works in this selection of visual poetry are motivated by a concern with national identity. and pointless exercises I associated with the old Soviet regime. they were works of careful labor. France in the case of Lettrism) which de facto provide a specific cultural context to the work. Ana Hatherly (Portugal). access to technology. That stated. I have edited a selection of visual poetry by Jeremy Adler (UK). Bob Cobbing (UK). the continually accelerated pace of exchange facilitated by new media (initiated by older communications systems from radio to mail art) has disintegrated hard and fast borders of national identity as telling or determinative features of these artists' activities. Bubnov (Russia). Alexandr V. Steve McCaffery (Canada). Pete Spence (Australia). Fernando Aguiar (Portugal). frustrations. tedious exercise. Is this fair? My projection or his intention? Or neither? I was unprepared for his engagement-and that of literally dozens of other poets of his generation and background-with these extended palindromic exercises. Hand-drawn and elaborate designs on sheets of inexpensive paper. Neither stylistically nor in terms of content issues are any of these artists compellingly linked to national agendas. particularly in its more specialized identities such as Concrete poetry or Lettrism. I was immediately struck by the way his formal means and obsessive preoccupation with palindromes bespoke an almost extravagantly cliched image in my mind-that of the bureaucratic intricacies. Spencer Selby (US). in my first acquaintance with the work of Alexandr Bubnov at the EyeRhymes conference held at the University of Alberta in Edmonton in June of 1997. Emily McVarish (US). has had a history of appearing in localized centers of activity (Germany and Brazil in the case of Concrete poetry. programs. Sensibilities.100 boundary 21 Spring 1999 Johanna Drucker Visual Poetics: An International View For this issue of boundary 2. or mythic characterizations. While the differences which characterize each of the poems in this selection could not be mapped in any strictly geographical sense onto such a set of locations. and a sustained obsessive concentration unlike anything I had encountered in other areas of con- . a disposition toward particular poetic traditions and concerns-all of these are aspects of such specific sense of "place" as an identity within this work.

All of these poets are engaged in some way or other with the manipulation of the visible properties of language. Motivations toward the visual manipulation of the poetic text varied along a wide spectrum of political and aesthetic concerns. as in any other. letters. novelties like the renowned tail-of-the-mouse poem of Lewis Carroll. some of which dovetailed all too readily into nationalistic movements in the 1920s and 1930s. as much as possible. and many others. present their work within the context of their own statements and a brief. if not imitators. or commenting upon the terms of Modernism in its latest manifestations to creative investigations proceeding in advance of any clearly stated aesthetic program. some of which advocated avant-garde agendas of oppOSitional subversion or utopian transformation. the British Vorticist group. The single element which does unite this otherwise improbably disparate list is an engagement with the visual form of poetry as an element of linguistic meaning. general history of this field in its current form. While the term visual poetry has very little specific meaning beyond indicating an intensifed self-consciousness about the potential of these elements to be an integral part of the work. I will refrain from interpretation of the presentation of his work and that of the other poets invited here and instead. Modern visual poetics finds its precedents in the works of Stephane Mallarme. words on a page. and early twentieth-century experiments in Dada. Bob Brown. Rather than risk some misconceived interpretation in causal terms. One has only to think of bp Nichol and Steve McCaffery as the Toronto Research Group in the Canadian con- . and/or in combination with images. This is the same element which unites the work of the poets in this contemporary selection-who are otherwise as distinct in their poetic and aesthetic identities as were the practitioners of earlier decades. The aesthetic rigor of modern typographers Piet Zwart and Lazar EI Lissitzky can be sensed in the work of Pete Spence. Their reasons for doing so range from clearly articulated poetic principles extending. Dada and Futurist interests in appropriating advertising typography or mass-produced imagery are visible in the collage practices of Spencer Selby. distinctive individuals have also had the effect of galvanizing interest. e. critiquing. cummings. Futurism in Italy and Russia. there are established traditions whose concerns continue to be manifest in contemporary work. In this field.Johanna Drucker 101 temporary visual poetics. And Ana Hatherly's work is a direct continuation of the mid-century Concretism of which she was a part. and various Anglo-American Modernists such as e. But there is no unified link between aesthetics and politics-let alone nationalism-in the overall field.

a cut-up technique. Emily McVarish. I have deliberately tried to select poets working in every possible medium rather than emphasize only those who make use of electronic and/or digital new media." The adverb fundamentally reveals the full weight of convictions each of these poets reveals in forging the visual and verbal at the moment of conception of the work. Jeremy Adler. But poets also continue to arrive at visual experiment through idiosyncratic or individual investigations only to learn afterwards that there was/is a tradition within which their work has a place and (sometimes) precedents. stencils and ink. Fernando Aguiar. of Bob Cobbing. . She goes on. from the setting of type to its imprint on the page-and at every stage of set-up in between-spatializes and objectifies text in a way that acts as an extension of the collage technique with which my writing begins." or orientation on the page. hand-drawn letters on a carefully penciled schematic layout." or "point size. cut-and-paste materials. Ana Hatherly. Bob Cobbing. Lawrence Upton. For instance. Xeroxing and handwriting. Some comment on the source of their work within technological constraints. Thus each of these individuals has used different production tools: Steve McCaffery. and Pete Spence's found. Spencer Selby." his process is to fill a "damaged text with another that acts like scar tissue. a Xerox machine. Darren Wershler-Henry. and others forming the London Group of Experimental Poets.102 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 text of the 1970s. being a process of concrete construction. Alexandr Bubnov. Darren Wershler-Henry works in digital media to "photodestroy" found material (in this case. At the present the field seems to be gaining energy from the ready accessibility of highly varied technological means as well as from an interest in the visual life of language within the public sphere of daily life." Textual process is not always the primary motivation for these works-some are conceived within visual procedures. and/or the de Campos brothers in Brazil and Eugen Gomringer in Germany." At the opposite end of the production spectrum. a typewriter which assigns every letter the same sized space within a line. digital scanning and manipulations. to recognize how potently a few individuals can stimulate poetic investigation. Peter Meyer. a letterpress in characteristic overprinting. Desktop publishing has increased the sensitivity to once specialized notions such as "font. Conceiving of his process of "reconstruction as a scar that shouldn't necessarily erase the ravages that have been done to the original structure. my work explores the physicality of language in its relationship to the generation of meaning. a photographic pastiche. the obituary notice for Kathy Acker). "Letterpress. rather than after the fact. Emily McVarish states that "fundamentally.

finger painting. Steve McCaffery's "typestract" is equally process driven. lay-out marks. and equally dense with semantic value as a result. and sutures while Selby's layered pages stress iconographic and pictorial possibilities. Fernando Aguiar frequently performs the writing of his work in real-time productions. "The piece investigates 'vertical and depth syntax' and the potential of the typewriter to construct graphic accumulations"-in this case ''the systematic overprint and cumulative gathering of the alphabet in a vertical row of twenty characters. including computer. The plan is to use mechanical meansstencils-to create something human (and refreshing?)...Johanna Drucker 103 Jeremy Adler's Pythagorean Sonnet Sequence. where it is the basis of a tightly woven pattern. they serve as points of departure for a temporal.. typewriter. found material etc. etc." Similarly. from old magazines" and starts "pasting 'em down treating each bit as equal in value" working "with little interest in a semantic evaluation or evolution. new context and meanings" thus making "statements which are both social and personal . producing "a visual liberation through a graphic . schematic. "creates a visual sonnet including all geometrical shapes. though Hatherly's textual density reads through abrupt juxtapositions. but like Selby. reified by the shape on the page and the repetitious mode of making. Both poets take full advantage of the ready capacity for reproduction and transformation of tone and contrast in that medium. circles. and visually graphic as these works may be. a decipherable code within the diagrammatic. ruptures. but the aesthetic sensibility of the two is widely discrepant -Spence's work has a hard-edged clarity which suggests readability. from which the work here is taken. Aguiar is interested in the contrasts offered by differences in the historically specific syntax of images and texts. a fixed and reiterated meaning. like Kepler's model of the universe." The issue of semantic value is treated very differently in Alexandr Bubnov's palindrome. Spence gathers "bits and pieces of typography. Cobbing's eclecticism is mirrored in that of Pete Spence." He cites Michael Gibbs's idea of "semantic chords" as a retinal-cognitive effect in such works.." And Bob Cobbing's work. is a "variation" on the theme of Domestic Ambient Noise in which "any means of making marks [is] permissible. triangles. as it is for Ana Hatherly. vocal enactment. painting at a larger scale in bright colors. Spencer Selby "uses early to mid-century American low culture to create .. blocks. part of a dialogue with Lawrence Upton begun in 1994. " The Xerox machine is a major tool for Selby." Cobbing's work is intended for performance. Using ''visual languages with 100 years of difference" for "a language of a new century. and organized space of his page.

4 You could fix your gaze on it and then 3 Brilliant blue-green above. he uses visuality as an integral element of textuality. as long as the person kept his/her head still. both so familiar and estranging. birds being still. not as a decorative surplus or afterthought. City and 32 boroughs. so too was the concomitant sense of unknowing. once again. with vivid cobalt streak up back. white throat and . Gas falling. and did not try to answer the questions that started to cram the unaccustomed brain: how much space is there? compared to what? in which city. a sound wave. King of Trachis.104 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 suffocation" in a work which epitomizes the effective and performative quality of visual poetics. As in every case cited here. and if awakening out of and into this was pleasant. if it can be said to have an end? 8 Sirens gliss in the street.3 Moorish men at table. provoke the meltdown of particles. Ken Edwards Nine prose pieces from BIRD MIGRATION IN THE 21 ST CENTURY 2 1 Alcyone. daughter of Aeolus and wife of Ceyx. who perished in a shipwreck. bright liquid. the "settlement on the marshes". 2 London. The gods changed them into kingfishers. sat on clay of the Eocene tertiary. which calmed at their breeding time. imagined to build their nests upon the waters. before and after the winter solstice. that is. a sound world. if city this is?2 do I own this room? what is the country of my origin? which gender am I? how will it end. It happened the halcyon day1 began to open into the four walls of the world. utterly blue. whereupon she drowned herself in the sea.

12 6 And the A an octave above that. keep your eyes moving with it. The Chancellor rises. but he doesn't know what he means by that. frequency doubled (880 Hertz). the "devil's interval". all movement ceases. through Gibraltar. for you cannot see it with your inward eye:' 9 "Black Wednesday" (11 Nov 1992) to Mayday 1997. and it's as if the sound of it then also fades away. dancing through an electronic cloud of unknowing8 till they reach their destination. An auction of liquidated stock. 19 8 "By 'darkness' I mean 'a lack of knowing'-just as anything that you do not know or may have forgotten may be said to be 'dark'to you. He's far from home. a fax comes in. chestnut underparts. as movement has become stillness. 109 -10 11 KHz. the wave would come past. nor how the condition could be changed.9 Your father is dying/living/dying. cosmic rays at 1019 KHz and up. a train's whistle. 4 The invasion of AI-Andalus by Tariq-ibnZayyad. 5 Thus. Why are you daunted? And why should you not think? I . the blame is nowhere. 711 AD (89th year of the Hegirah). a fiction or contrivance. Be not afraid. operating as In the chromatic orbit of the computer screen.7 in the morning. the sunshine of lost days striking the counterpane. the A above middle C (submediant of the scale of C major). and then a funny thing happens. like the octave's really being the "same" note. indices fluctuate. It's as though the term were not equal to itself. Or you could go with that wave.6 In the distance of the evening. he flicks a wrist to send his encoded wishes across half the globe. visible light. because you're synchronised with its frequency5-the sound has become silence. the wave is absolutely still. 1012 KHz. infrared radiation. 440 Hertz (cycles per second). 7 Imagined as a downward augmented 4th or tritone. 10 KiloHertz.Ken Edwards 105 neck-patch. do duck & dive. caught in headlong plunge above water. monitored by thugs. overwhelmingly. very low frequency radio waves.

at his workstation in the very midst of the English language. this was the time before presets and frequency modulation. from the neon below. Work fitful. the radio repairman's namewhich may have been "Jose". try as he may. The waves lived inside the yellow light of the radiogram the man came to fix. pastel and primary. As for the wavelengths. The necessity of the terminology to understand this. 11 Spanish musical instrument consisting of stretched parchment over a widemouthed jar. understand all that. . but of course is an arbitrary signifier in the Saussurean sense. whose name was not. Visa. watching the colours play on the ceiling. as he'd thought. 24 So stood grasping the bars. a few frenzied hands go up.11 and the English sailors. hands moistened against the stick of the zambomba. And all of this may kill me. rather than "Timmy". the sine wave. 1o The siren. In the name of MasterCard. arbitrary. The economics don't work out anyway. The recession hits the book trade. a breathtaking scam. after all. Amen. 21 Which was his habitation and came to be the only one he knew. 12 Gibraltar in the 1960s. And men below in the street at Christmas. as though it were a fixed wavelength. drunk of course. rubbed by the moistened hand. swooping back from infinity.106 boundary 21 Spring 1999 fast as the profit thread allows. into which is inserted a stick. and accept it since I can't change it. and American Express. 10 That is. the smell of its glass against which moisture condensed. from Tony's ice cream shop.12 wishing the best of the new year to the stalled motorists as midnight approached and you could begin to hear the ships hooting in the harbour. roaring their songs in small groups stumbling on Main Street. after he learned it had been forbidden to go outside it. really.

though in imaginary time there are no singularities or boundaries. ahora somos todos hermanos. and the 15 001 mezzo. after the light changed? If there's an outside. will the excess words fall away? Where have the colours gone. what then. the big zarzuela arias long silenced in the Theatre Royal. 38 How much space is there in the room? And outside the room? If he contemplates it for long enough. or foretell. He was in his cot. jumping for joy in the place of birth and death.14 needles and cloth. at the start of the second half of his life (the midst). or impermeable? What if the lights were to fail? Is that it. and what is there about smoke that's wholly impervious.15 his thought burgeoned onto the computer screen in such fashion as to suggest. the radiogram in the sitting room.Ken Edwards 107 13 That is. . in real time. so called after the zarzas or bramble bushes native to the site of the 17th century Spanish royal hunting-lodge). 14 "Now we are all brothers"-line from a zarzuela (popular Spanish operetta featuring alternating dialogue and songs. listening to the sound-which room is this?-of the drunken sailors. the origin of the universe appears as a singularity. sliding paper. . then? 40 Some time in an era of great light. . the echo of a singularity13 coming down the aeons in the radio spectrum. what's inside it? Are these the photographs? Who's the other one? Why the smoke? Won't you give me a wave? If the world fell away in the smoke.

Family reunited. he was stabbed more than twenty times on the left-hand side of his upper body. look at all the lonely people. And to nudge back into the dynamics. Then the other. London 1971. In the hotel next door. father drafted into the Gibraltar Defence Force. Migration. 16 He felt love for his family. so the other sprang up. and the equations harden imaginary into real time. 45 The newspapers said the season had begun. which is why we're here. a man heard [the word]. I'll be there. early on Xmas morning 1995. Planck's constant is a certain value. the cuts slashing through the material of his sheepskin coat. that was what always had to be done. primed. Water does expand as it freezes. I'll always be there. So he searched through all the newspapers and all the databases for [the word]. Author born 1950. in Kingstonon-Thames. The newspapers said ah. 1966. shortly after midnight on Christmas morning. married 1947. sister 1954. he picked up a loaf of bread and left. said: [the word]. Three sons born to sister. . 1986. It was the bad 18 Late summer. for we're all still here and I guess we'll see. Twenty minutes later. 17 Mother evacuated to Casablanca in 1940.108 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 16 John Trinder. soon they would go their separate ways. He looked across the table. that knifed the bubble: his legs were in the way. his face contorted and coloured with rage. whatever that meant. where do they all belong?18 It was the other that did for him. before reaching his home. 55. and pinned him against the column. music played: it was the music of love. after drinking in the Rye Hotel. 1991. to see his friends eating food he had cooked.17 but it was not an easy thing. stabbed to death in Solway Road. East Dulwich. A century would begin some time thereafter. 1988.

And he wondered. and the family was nowhere. Because he'd locked love away in his heart. after all that. everywhere: it was a Winter Wonderland. And some months later. which he achieved by smashing something. After all that was said and done. and couldn't remember ever experiencing such cold.Ken Edwards 109 word. . So it was that the other finally set him free. or at least distant. snow fell and remained on the ground.

its initial potentialities of creating places and things. The new poetics also constitute themselves as a laboratory for a reconciliation of poetic and philosophicallanguages in a single illocutionary form. These modulations are the differences: 1. the figures of the limit document the characteristics of jagged terrains. We've so far suggested what is in common. calling forth a figural thought that acknowledges its inherent duality. In common is the destiny of growing at the margins of want and laceration. of looking at a poetical dimension where there is no space for the aesthetic. It manifests itself in the separation that gives birth to a new sense.110 boundary 2/ Spring 1999 Flavio Ermini Thought and Word: Reflections on Contemporary Italian Poetics And the amber has grown finely everywhere the joy has grown joy of those unable to speak aparl from knowing their own dark marriage with the sky and the forests -Andrea Zanzotto The new poetics active in Italy have many elements in common and also some differences. The nodal point of contemporary poetic research in Italy is constituted by the pulsion toward the inaugural word. the mutable and varied horizon of the world. ascension and fall. are intertwined in and contribute to restoring the originary possibility of the poetic word of being and of saying its wisdom. The poetic word is the hand that in leaning upon an object does not belong to the body from which it extends. In common is the borderline project that accounts for all those interior processes where the positive and the negative. shadow and darkness coexist. There are five possible modulations of this word destined to recuperate its aural capability of founding its own sense. ornamental vocation of the word. These liminal figures represent . irreducible to the cognitive habit: places of fall and loss. where beyondness becomes visible. a word capable of fully recuperating its primitive value. The inauguration of sense. departing at the same time from the communicative and expressive functions to which it has been bent. In complementarity and exclusion.

This is the leaning forward of being on the thought that intends being's containment. Osvaldo Coluccino. calling into play relation and difference. the word advances in liminal areas. Grasping the perSistence of this openness in contemporary thought-as the thought of its crisis-means to accept the questioning that the word incessantly promotes. Imperfection is founded here. 2. transparency. No and Yes. Persistent confirmation in the text of the immanence of textual knowledge. Poetic know/edge. In this intermediate reign poets weave their voices. Both situated on the shady margins of the teleological course of history. Francesco Marotta. in the form of a departure from sense which discloses the ancestral past of pre-sense. Marosia Castaldi. Writing is defined by the simultaneous action of two opposite movements. Cesare Ruffato. We confront areas withdrawn from the comforting clarity of consciousness and essentially unstable forms because of the distance between what already is in our minds and what does not yet belong to memory. Camillo Pennati. Eugenio De Signoribus. the relation is difference. Monica Larocchi. With a gesture that implies an uprooting motion before the advent of sense. Giampiero Neri. Rosa Pierno. Mario Cresci. Where other is yet another. 3. Fabrizio Breschi. The poetry of Giovanni Schiavo Campo. Poets say what exceeds the plain designation of things. 4. A silence destined to listen to voices. of the latency that unveils the route from one order to another. Fragmented truth. Sirio Tommasoli. They announce the revealing of sense where there is no protection and nothing is withheld in quality and computation. Gabriella Drudi. Whencefrom. In each deliberative act the word obfuscates the colonized view while casting light on what it founds. Its nature is nonfunctional and intransitive. unrelated and nonsublimated. And accepting that in proximity of the distant the recognized may encounter its form. as the desert is destined to experience movement. Toti Scialoja. Lucio Saffaro. Imperfection announces itself as a . Hardness. Marco Furia. Opacity. in proximity to the zero. Antonio Rossi. Governance lies in this fading. Michelangelo Coviello. Gio Ferri. Its achievements the consolidation of an atopia.Flavio Ermini 111 that access to silence that is seldom allowed. This openness is revealed via the graces of betweenness. both facing alterity and inhabited by the signs of a collapse of order. Mara Cini. The poetry of Giacomo Bergamini. Vito Giuliana. The responsibility of the word. Ida Travi. vibration. The poetry of Bruno Conte. united in an event that happens but doesn't yet have a name. Raniero Teti. Living through contemporaneity means to go beyond the limits of its internal frontier.

disconnections. Paolo Biadini. anomalies. Nanni Menetti. Mutation. Nanni Balestrini. Guido Ballo. Luca Sala. The persistence of the sign. Giuliano Gramigna. Davide Campi. Jolanda Insana. as a meeting point of beginning and end. Alberto Cappi. on the possibility of wording what has been forced into silence. or an advancement from tradition. Agostino Conto. It means to promote the unexpected in the linguistic event. Brandolino Brandolini d'Adda. Roberto Sanesi. Gilberto Finzi. Edoardo Sanguineti. The dialogue of contemporary poetics converges on that point in which voice and silence belong to each other. Perhaps the only thing that can motivate poets to find a final origin of sense is the constraint of moving toward a form of writing that forces sense to trace itself without certainty of result. 5. And yet. Andrea Zanzotto. Aldo Ferraris. consequences. how can a language be enunciated when it declines to articulate its thought within the grammatical net of reason? There is no method. Carrying on the research of a new language means to stage a scene that contains disquietude and doubt. bearing stylistic traces of impurity. dissyntacticisms. Franco Cavallo. Giuliano Mesa. In this place of the happening a radical experience of encounter with the other is proposed. crevices.112 boundary 21 Spring 1999 swerve from the codified. on the necessity to retrace the historical moment when the caesura between Yes and No took place. Or it may appear as a sign taken from the disorder that precedes form. it is an openness toward what no system can foresee: given in a glance that decomposes the false unities of the world and exposes disharmonies. because they are in becoming. illicit bodies. Magdalo Mussio. in which the notion of law takes shape in its absolute atemporality. Words move between persistence and change in nomination. Giovanna Sandri. Mario Ramous. The poetry of Claudio Adami. foundation. Milli Graffi. fractures. as a work intentionally left unfinished. The poetry of Vincenzo Accame. (Translated and abridged from Italian by Carla Billitteri) . Giorgio Bonacini. Conclusion. roughness. irreducible to hermeneutic clarity. Giancarlo Majorino. Imperfection is the element that is commonly amended or removed. Valerio Magrelli. A language different from common sense is found. Cesare Greppi. Falling on the outside of things. Domenico Cara. In unending waves. Here things are and are not. Fu"ness spills over. Cosimo Lerose. A language that lifts the edges of the unformulated. The five poetics I've presented demonstrate howthe literary research in Italy is moving toward this unthought. A language with no discernible laws. Here the origin remains a future and writing happens in decomposition.

Squire stood by identity swinging stale. Perhaps the subject fussed as his habitat was reconstructed upon a thoroughfare. Oneself telegraphing haltingly philosophy. parked in the space where a man preferred coarse. -Ed Dorn. mine a disfigured order. but is trying to calculate whether or not the people who are asking for it will be trustworthy on the land. the final ultra violent carriage weighs tired. Later came the project oh yes a sequence of chiefs at the barrel. Goods found bad in an arm chair down stairs for long the pavement. All the boiled scars are mine resenting paste of the harvest to impulse and graduates. To see the suspicion come into the eye of an owner of trees who does not care about the fruit. Otherwise to drink democratic transient by dint of old sermons against the we provincial generation of south-easterlies so that no matter what a holy administrator might of been. about to bring trial against. but not good. Cunning had reigned so long but there it was. Object-rub-reducing conjecture to invention. Interest support of pay-off to close a nostril. As if hours scholarships you to your rear. is an awesome thing. Swallow up for the weekly penetrating itch of the twin johns pyre and speech on on foremost. By the Sound Born not really manual. Brushed experience moves ease narrate or under ground of self lapse. As such flush in the church of the trailer. Once a medicine bent down to hear a misprevented beast signifying. the devil system is worthy and the desirable testament is grey. not fortune. As she tottered nausea in range. Truly described as . They are more cruel than those lands in which there is scarcity. or weather exaggerates urge on the born dull cinders.Deanna Ferguson 113 Deanna Ferguson Eight and a half conditions for the existence of restricted code Oh lands of abundance.

Canary honoured the terms. Thousand-million dogs of waste. A mate-unexpected. Perhaps a complete corkscrew situation. then. as the tax down the tube. Or one onion in the cartoon.114 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 touched and managed as atomized. . For the rest of intelligent life advanced as public bureau. Order down a rhyme and right then affection steps into nuisance and then the end is getting guilty and reduction is all extremely abroad. Can picket restriction if rapt in economical flotsam. Advertise in the short of detail. original interruption. Get one speck of confirmation. Sum of the spill plus the fleet is the may gain senate with the clue. It did. Inadequate destitution and squelched amplification no relief. Pricks at the circus such. Insufficience could be insufficient beach or insufficient obedience. Woman what working hedgey stockings '" Flower open my belly in saucy hopes the precise aforesaid cherry will invest care in this simple one who invented pain the colour of anywhere in the group. At least. If that's not going to be payable then the terrain should be free. Yield to short of sight might calculate lion diner. Are terms the act or honour death or tax. In anatomy combat is removed. death. to double over and do that in its mercy wholly. In any case celery is crisp. Delicacy interferes bellows. Looks like nylon settings buzzed me dumb hon all aflutter in situation. Shaft our spirit romance to index of synthetic blessing.

across disciplines. each project could be the resthetics of a different poetics. aren't projects always long projects? A project can be an unscripted notion or a precise plan. but this is a failure to understand the basis of aestheticisation. theoretical or practical. comparable resthetics become less strained and. at another level. ordered.Allen Fisher 115 Allen Fisher The Poetics of the Complexity Manifold Poetics encompasses all fields of each artistic endeavour. and lost. drawing. furthermore. The proposal is that the Complexity Manifold gathers the resthetics at all levels and all functions of a poet's production. across levels. just as a painter'S comprehension of the annual Cup Final affects that painter's interest in television as well as the local ball game. Application of one analysis on one project can be used on the next. for example. deliberately or incidentally so. and reading. eventually. A poet's attitude to and understanding of quantum field theory will affect that poet's experience of gravity. consciousness. Each project has a different schema. across genres. Project schema. Poetics.H. in this sense. disrupted. Let me enlarge on this preliminary proposal to the world in which a poet or painter perceives where they are. incidentally and substantially.1 Where the comparison is made between works of the same consciousness. what . This is not to say that crass generic comparisons are viable. The resthetics for one activity substantially contributes to the resthetics of each different activity. spins across the epistemological boundaries of scale and energy. Each project demands its own analysis and comprehension. and is responsible for what is gathered and held. held by ideas of resthetics and how consciousness is constituted. A worry leaps attention. How a poet applies an aesthetic stance interspins the poet's consciousness. both consciousness and product. better comprehended. but it may not work. Comparison across genres may be objected to as inappropriate. This interspins with the understanding that resthetics has a determined effect upon comprehension and evaluation. ethical or political. why do you need projects. can't you just write poems. To begin with. and their unifying function. consider the concept of the project schema. A poet's resthetics substantially contributes to what constitutes that poet's consciousness. retained. which affects that poet's capacity to be active differently elsewhere. Prynne compares his work with paintings by Willem De Kooning. both and either of these. a recent review of the poetry of J.

The activity of painting with the internal energy of the inconclusive research under way. from the constructivist idea of putting together as a process of production.116 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 is more. Clearly the ideas of project schema and conceptual programme overlap. The project may be differentiated from the conceptual programme by recognising that the latter concerns the machine or apparatus for each project. Each of the poet's projects has a different spacetime. or the half completed verse on the computer down the corridor. are our understandings as banal as that. What does "under way" mean. others are over many books or an entire exhibition. it may have been designed to deliberately not work. and this may result in extra works or large gaps in the main text. The idea of project is that its conception precedes its facture. one is extensive or scheduled to be abandoned. and sometimes that conception is instantaneous and sometimes it takes many months to plan. or does this lead to meaning that the process of facture. or a second voice. Sometimes this is a deliberate innovation from earlier work. in a process-showing method that quietly works through transformations of the pages already written. another concludes when the research and vocabulary analysis. Some of these projects are as short as a chapbook or single verse. A work may be undermined by additions and extractions. used as a basis for it. the complexity of facturing a poem with an unfinished canvas on the easel next door. does this mean that life is fractured and needs repair. Fracture and facture. Irrespective of the different schema and . and in the facturing process. A casual observation can be made. derives from materials that are in a state of oosthetic complexity different from the oosthetic state of the poet facturing? Each project is different in schema. one is planned against a numeric prefiguration. another is planned for breakage and damage after facture. A conceptual programme which relies on a prefigured structure clarifies the project schema. that we live in fragmented times. more than one project is under way during the same period. perhaps that's the overall aesthetic. Research. in another example the schema may be both diagrammatic and epistemological and its limits will be deliberately in a state of proposal and breakage from the proposal. a demanded breakage from the expectation. I use the term research for the work in poetry and painting that is carried out in parallel with work in the factory. to trip the self in its own stride. prOjected as an other vociferated by the poet. in the laboratory. Conceptual Programme. are exhausted. well there's a premise. sometimes this has to do with stance.

Sometimes this series involves planned breakage and incidental repair. In 1817 John Keats articulated "Negative Capability" as "being in uncertainties. followed in 1821 by his first conception of "field." In the nineteenth century a range of understandings of truth were discussed. two or more programmes of research may be under way at once. sometimes they feature differently in both. By this I mean that the facture of the text has been possible through a series of transformations. Conceptual programmes were . In 1804 William Blake painted Albion walking into the New Jerusalem carrying one of the glass spheres for making electricity to his partner. Project schemas had groundings in ideas of visual planning and geometric configuration that needed radical shift from ideas of Golden Section in Euclid and Vitruvius. comparable meaning (rhetoric). sometimes the work uses collagic disruption. without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. Transformation. 3 In 1818 Faraday published his essays in philosophy and cesthetics. disruption of meaning (poetic). and comedy). Such questioning had already started to promote radical change through the work of Samual Taylor Coleridge and eventually Gerard Manley Hopkins. Underpinnings: theoretical and practical. transformations may be used which deliver word links through the use of sound (rhyming). doubts. Fracture and facture. continuing what by then had become a tradition of questioning finite and golden concepts. The factured product is a consequence of the fracture which has been involved. for instance. At the level of words in the text. A metonym for broken civilisation or damaged social duty is not necessarily intended. of project schema. and damaged pasting (found in most genres including poetry. and lead into an overlap with the ideas of transformation addressed from a variety of levels. Fracture and facture thus overlap with the earlier proposals."2 Charles Olson was to paste this against Werner Heisenberg's 1927 "Uncertainty Principle" to clarify his manifolds in 1950 and 1956. Sometimes they deliberately feed each other.Allen Fisher 117 spacetime parameters. sometimes their parity is incidental. sometimes the pasting together of different parts simulates continuity. mysteries. conceptual programme and research. particularly in post-collage and in transformational poetics. In conclusion it might be useful to discuss some bases of these poetiCS. The factured product has thus undergone transformation through a series of fractures and factures. The initial facture derives from direct fracture of the research. painting. The results from the research sometimes directly feature in a poetry sequence or painting. Fracture may be considered a necessary and positive process.

5 All of these factors impinge on research. and others. It became apparent that process and development. each electromagnetic shock wave lost in observation of it. felt at each breath as altitude and thus oxygen affected each conducted bar beat. For example. Braque was reading Bergson and Nietzsche. In the 1970s understandings of gravity and its constraints on spacetime and existential form matched Rene Thorn's analysis of morphogenesis and biological development (promoted as catastrophe theory). Fowler. partly articulated an array of potential truths. that conceptual programmes needed to take this into account. The Engineering of Being: An Ontological Approach to J. c. and Dimension. Chance.H. Before the end of the nineteenth century Rosso and Cezanne had articulated the shifts in perception that understood shifts in physics. San Francisco. Birgitta Johansson. Monet visualised the amorphous nature of position and momentum in an age where report of the fleeting was part of the new science of phenomenology. Uppsala.4 "Catastrophe" marked each heartbeat. Lobachevsky. Charles Olson. published as Fractal theory. Grove. Mandelbrot. Sweden. are step-like or sometimes better characterised as phase transition activities. Ideas of order. Hilbert and Lorentz. 2. By the 1920s G6del had proven that truth cannot be demonstrated. D. Subsequently Mandelbrot's rambling analysis. H. 1977. 3. Bolyai. 1975. Rene Thorn. 21 December 1817. Electricity and magnetism became inseparable. John Keats letter to George and Thomas Keats. This is the threshold of the Complexity Manifold and the description has only just begun. . Baudelaire and Courbet differentiated between finished and complete.118 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 beginning to establish a difference from the ideas of proportion articulated by Fibonacci. Prynne. linking natural constants like the speed of light to indeterminacy in quantum theory. like quantum leaps. These factors also impinge on transformation. Benoit B. 4. 1997. Massachusetts. the ideas of ether and space and time were reappraised following the concepts of field in Faraday then Maxwell then Einstein. but human existence could no longer rely on the certainty that potential led to action. 5. In the second half of the nineteenth century Riemann. Structural Stability and Morphogenesis: An Outline of a General Theory of Models. For instance. Fractals: Form. Human Universe and Other Essays. each brush stroke. and others had demonstrated alternatives to the linear geometry of Euclid's Elements. 1967. Gauss. New York. Reading. trans. 1. planning and exact proportions were developed into ideas of complexity. as each sentence or phrase shifts with the step-like change in words. and indeed become part of the reading for that research.

-as the fact of an immense drama. tangency. connivance. more fragile.Edouard Glissant 119 Edouard Glissant from Introduction to a Poetics of the Diverse I speak and. but in sync with the chaos-world and the unforeseeable.ic thought-organized. thought-what I call systemat.. It means that in the present context of multiple literatures and of the relation of poetics with the chaos-world. To take my own example. an immense tragedy from which my own language cannot be exempt and safe. of this drama. simply. That is to say that I return and force my language not into syntheses but toward linguistic openings which permit me to conceive of the relations between today's languages on the surface of the earth-relations of domination. I write in the presence of all the world's languages. I write it in the presence of this tragedy. Though buttressed perhaps by the conquests of the human and social sciences. before all. erosion. Yesterday. of production and thus becomes eroded. I am permeated.I like to call it "continental thought"-has failed to take into account the generalized nonsystem of the world's cultures. or simply because its users disappear physically from the country where they lived-but we know that we write in the presence of all the world's languages. or because the language is no longer a language of peasant production or. absorption. it derives from a poetic and imaginative vision . in the days of the founding books and of all the literatures that emanated from them. poetically permeated with that necessity even as I have incredible difficulty speaking any other language than those I use (Creole and French). studied.. And therefore I cannot write monolinguistically in my language. it foresaw and ideologically framed the movement of the world it legitimately governed. One cannot save one language in the world by letting the others die .. oppression. threatened. languages are disappearing as their users are absorbed into a larger national community. projected these slow and imperceptible repercussions between languages. Today this systematic thought. even if we know none of them. But to write in the presence of all the world's languages does not mean to know all the world's languages. Many languages are dying today throughout the world-in Black Africa for example. Another form of thought is developing. I can no longer write in a monolingual manner. etc. more intuitive.

from the Aeneid to the Popul Vuh or the Chi/am Balam of the Native Americans. in terms of the question of identity." because the great books that found and root communities are in fact books of wandering. We have mentioned the great founding books of humanity. linguistic regions. one sees right away that these books are "complete" because while their vocation is one of rooting. from the Icelandic sagas to the Chanson de Roland. not consecrate exclusion. The victim and expiation allow for the exclusion of all that they cannot buy back. I say "not in themselves." as least as perceived from the outside. are islands-but open islands. This thought I call "archipelagic thought. from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to the Indian Bhagavad-Gita. new and contemporary epics.120 boundary 21 Spring 1999 of the world. It seems to me that a new. Or else they permit us to . inductive thought that explores the unforeseen of the world-totality and attunes the written to the oral and the oral to the written. contemporary epic literature will begin to appear as soon as the world-totality will begin to be conceived of as a new community. as we said. the sagas. is coming into a period when it will produce epic works. cultural regions. I believe that literature. All atavistic cultures. are constituting themselves into regions beyond national borders. This epic literature will also exclude the necessity for an expiatory victim. the great epic books that found humanity are books that reassure the community on its own fate and that consequently tend. to exclude the other from this community. Europe is archipelagizing. have known an epic literary beginning. will be given through a language that is multilingual in the very language in which it will be written. they also and immediately propose the vocation of wandering. And I believe that this term of "region" needs to be given some dignity. To live the world-totality from the place that is one's own means to establish a relation. contrary to the great founding books of atavistic humanities. not in themselves but by the use made of them. this being their main condition for survival. And if one examines the Old Testament." a nonsystematic. From the Old Testament to the Iliad. the Iliad. What I see is that today the continents are being "archipelagized. to the Finnish Kalevala. But then we will have to consider that this new epic. The Americas are archipelagizing themselves. as one sees them appear in the founding books of atavistic humanity. beyond the barriers of nationhood. the Aeneid.

. But. (Translated from French by Pierre Joris) . of all the possible becomings of the world. by the very passage it attempts between one language and another.Edouard Glissant 121 "universalize" abusively. between two individual languages. Just as the writer now practices this totality in the language he writes in. so it is for the translator who cannot establish a relation between two singular systems. What every translation henceforth suggests in its very principle. is the sovereignty of all the world's languages. The question of being is no longer asked in that profitable solitude to which the thought of the universal had been reduced.. in order to remain astounded by the imagination of becoming. confronted as he is by the singularity of each language. For this reason translation is both the sign and the evidence that we have to imaginatively conceive this totality of languages. of all possible existings. Let me end with some brief thoughts on what I consider one of the most important arts for the future: the art of translation. Finally. so does the translator manifest it in the passage from one language to another. except in the presence of all the other ones. just as in our chaos-world one cannot save anyone language by letting the others perish. such an epic literature may be able to do without the concept of being. The new epic literature will establish relation and not exclusion. powerful in his imagination. even if he doesn't know any of them. The universal has been upset and toppled by the diverse ..

with some surprise (Picasso: "I do not seek. obligations. What is left nowadays of the indications of the avant-garde? Where is the non-place that even in an improper alliance with the project of building future and better societies managed to ignite the possibility of finding sense in making art? The borderworker is someone who lives on the frontier and every day goes to work in a foreign country. the vertigo of facing inhibitions. The act of affirming the utopia jolted the artist outside the contingent. obscurities. an interminable research. an abyss. To perceive this non-place is to understand the foundational character of art (that is its future) and to formulate a judgment on the present. the terrible and conclusive second night of Blanchot.and underevaluations. inside yet faceless-admits the existence of art. frictions. or organizing a new kind of life-beginning with the renovation of art. find. tell.122 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 MIIIi Graffl Borderworker The utopian project of the avant-garde. Breton's unconscious}. Products would be found. and at the same time it drew him inside a reformulated present. He is at the margins of the institutions. eventually. and the term failure that is used to define the outcome of such a project is the unavoidable consequence of such an interpretative perspective. fears. I find") along the way. acknowledges the apparatus and tradition. technique as a triumph of the heteronomous) as well as inwardly {Boccioni's interior search. nightmares. the utopian content of any art theory involves areas that have nothing to do with politics. The only purpose of a literary project focused on utopia is the formalization of the potent fulcrum of poetry: "u-topos" is the nonplace. The non-place constituted a tuning with the organicism of research in art. but does not want to install himself in . or even just narrate: a nonexistent yet propulsive. dissonances. hindrances. In fact. This opening operated with the same force outwardly (through the acceptance of any material. of an "inhabitable world"-is commonly understood as a political project. over. the place that does not exist. the unknowable site where art takes shape. it hurled an opening that was a ravine. and this very consideration should caution against overlapping or homologating the spheres of art and politics. of bringing art into the quotidian. The avant-garde has put in evidence and indicated this non-place of art's geneSis as something that is impossible to define. ungraspable yet productive site. with the construction. the iIIocality of Emily Dickinson. in Breton's words.

imagine a cut a Maginot line of the newspepper mill in its pipsqueak total indiscretions highly upheld local loan of the sacred divine gift vigor wailings hollow horizons masculinate and for the women only the family romance with extensive offspring intrusive profitable and under forgetful of the arc that embraces and sustains clandestine of the desert threading the word with the needle I camel with lofty a turquoise headgear the position is that of an autumn of fruits ripened in complete hostility the voices of warmth pause undecided . yet it exposes the constraints of the institutions. Thus the borderworker manages to always find himself in the most favorable of ali situations: he holds in check the draining battles with the institutions and does not confound them with his own objectives: he shifts the conflict. But more importantly.Milli Graffi 123 the center because the non-place can never be at the center of a consolidation. Facing the non-place is the everyday. In this configuration. it safeguards the opening to new hypotheses of work. the institutions are left behind. The non-place that is the indispensable spur to the artist's dialogue with art will never be at the heart of the statutes. have become protective. This is certainly a diminished version of the utopia. Perhaps it is time to turn the traditional perspective on the avantgarde upside down and consider art's marginality vis-a-vis utopia rather than institutions. Marginality guarantees a sound distance that keeps art's critique of the status quo effective.

124 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 on the threshold of crystalline vanishing visions from the old flower comes the net of its coercions to live unthinkable absolute today you see the classicism of Arp the cuts on void nourish the full body and color everblue rosemary in the sea resins like the object in Darwin the work opens only above the pressure of whatevermillion thoughts constructing a shape of space old erosion self-naming and global Breton takes away from the I what covers it usefully he encounters it timely he finds it does not repeat the found and in the flash remains a suspended legacy to thread us down under I seek for the gorilla-word that in the chattering can rise tall and robust justly truncated and in its noise could absorb all the green buzz of light .

the psychologist rewarded with deviant actions in deviant conditions tells us nothing fundamental while promoting self-interest. poetry. copying. If the human and the human language can be viewed alike as flexible. Where does it come from? 'Poetry is patterned speech' would be my starting point. once freed from these preconceptions. The zoologist goading this or that species into universal aggressive or heartwarming famiiial pose is a politician. our commodity. There is no such thing as language. Only the preexisting values of the assessor. Speech as in colloquial speech. or special arcane vocabularies. inventing ahead. making biological policy. yes. Yet it is precious to us. for our definition of 'human' is a moral one and always means 'good or acceptable person'. with endless schemes of testing. that would be misleading to the point of anti-sense. The new human moist lightweight born ball is a blatant selfconstruction kit. We risk obstructing rather than assisting it with our obsession for human fixedness and zeal for objective genetic proofs. We confirm such analysis only to the extent that we believe it and act it. These generalities cannot be made to be exact and specific. then there can be no total basis for literary criticism.Bill Griffiths 125 but its frontal muzzle will be hairless a levigated pink mountain that can see for me mobile and acute the diffuse net of the forest of good-and-evil the first vowel will be a large nostril mother and sinner then the rest heavily faded against the black (Translated and abridged from Italian by Carla Billitteri) Bill Griffiths The Poetry Escape There is no such thing as a human. but only in contrast to the everyday. Pattern as in showing evidence of a short-length unit .

and lawful movement to his violent new world. But the effect is irritating. amusing. and once reanalysed in the eighteenth century became the framework behind Christopher Smart's Jubilate Agno. becomes the prototype of much writing since. extended to make the hexameter and other line units based on alternation of long and short syllables. Mediterranean poetics developed into measured lines. epic. popular song).126 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 of composition. and pattern came simplest from repeating or varying the stressed initial sound. and can imply anything from tight metrical rules to fairly free word assembling. but he also knew Egyptian antiquities and literature through Henry Abbott. The effect is slow. it is supposed rhyme developed to give line endings definition: the Christian Latin hymn. neat. magic. emphatic. but also effectively novel. narrative. Egyptian-Sumerian biblical verse already used a sophisticated arbitrary system of line units-the 'balanced line' in which the second half paraphrases. which might make it hard to clarify simple tricks of beat or sound. varies. or tones of speech capable of being used to create such a contrast. English hymnal). supposed to be based on the simple patterns of the foot in dancing. His basis must surely be the Old Testament. usually consonantal. Perhaps he took the two halves to signify dramatic roles: priest and congregation. dramatic. Native Northern Europeans used an alliterative verse. intimidating. The words are polysyllabic and capable of further extension by affixation. who have none of these qualities perhaps. when as a culturally unacceptable pattern it is brought in to disrupt a cultural norm. And so this grandeur is fossilised in Christian liturgy like the Te Deum.. it combines variation. convincing. or syllabic count (French verse. It is the good and bad of the ballad . emotionally intensive. The biblical Psalms share this approach. pompous. a perceivable regularity: but recall here. The type of pattern available seems to arise from the nature of the language spoken. Or popular. dignity. The ultimate root is thus contrast of short or long syllables in speech. pattern is not just repetition. This balance is also Walt Whitman's technique for challenging neat rhyme stanzas and bringing antiquity. exact.. but when it becomes no more than one dose of predetermined pattern it is switching to serve a society in love with exclusatory definitions and laws. As Latin metres declined with loss of spoken Latin. or opposes the semantic content of the first half. Sievers alarmingly assumed . Their language was accentual. as rhythmic pattern (blank verse.. with rhyme and stanza. The line is one breath or one thought or one shape of sound. self-deceptive. And such is the kudos of Greek and Latin that this has been extended to all modern European languages.

Is it something the nonmechanical individual can hope to encompass? The poet asserts the role of single agent. but not necessarily significant individual ('geniuses' chosen by birth or deity.' The alliterative effect is now seen as artificial and archaic. It is an attempt to relate poetry to a valid impermanence. in keeping with a more tolerant. patronage has been used to promote tired. formalities and exclusions as the basis of normality. in making the word human. of inventing the human. Sensitivity to the sound of words (Crabbe. Keats) is one response to fixed poetiCS. . . and only to be tolerated in occasional bursts. but what about no pattern? This is increasingly attractive as verse: a significant positioning of words that nonetheless eludes analysis as any consistent rhythmic or aural or semantic pattern. cf. The opening up (I have suggested) can be a contrasting new pattern. fixed societies. once and for all. it seems pointless to follow him: there is little arithmetic regularity to the Old English line. trite intellectual entertainments and to keep poetry safely in the hands of ostensibly nonpolitical 'trusties' (a word for prisoners who will not break the rules). we have sought to make patterns more flexible. thoroughly indefinable.Bill Griffiths 127 (for Beowulf in Old English) that this can also be analysed as a measured verse. and to reduce the emphasis on rules. broader view of what a human encompasses. M. and was revived by Wagner for his German libretto to the Ring. of renewing the human. Which survived into the fifteenth century. as though God determined the iamb in Eden. Hopkins. and in English by William Morris. rather as workers who do not need and will not advocate simplistic mass solutions. But the opposition to such a development can be bitter and merciless. less restrictive. This is not a critique of popularity.. but as a poetics has a swiftness and continuity (no end-stopping) and an awareness of word-sound (not just the diphthongs of imperial rhyme) that must have alerted G. but since alliteration is a function of stress not vowel or syllable length. prizewinners in a meritocracy). Chesterton's 'The rolling road . and that lies not in supporting a self-justifying society or code but in demonstrating the impossible range of the human. In England in particular.. and symbolic literature: in the microworld of individual word impressions the larger structure can in effect be set aside. Alternately. a challenge to or a relaxation of pattern.

(Jose Marti. "Poetics of the Americas. which stretch through space. may be said to dwell. humiliate the rival who stole his sweetheart. 1881) . The vil/ager fondly believes that the world is contained in his vii/age. national identity and its changing borders without lending to the discussion a centrality comparable only to the authority of essences? The responses of the Latin American writers who contributed to this issue of boundary 2 do not deny the importance of such questions but they avoid giving definitive responses. for it is in the resistance to any singular unity of identity that the impossibility of America. it exists. becomes necessary. North America) are expressed in English as being absolute. or the strife in the heavens between comets. In this sense. What remains of the parochial in America must awake. The question of "the Americas" is problematized in English where the plural is necessary to distinguish it from "America. Or Americas. devouring worlds. Is it not these very same difficulties which allow us to conceptualize such problems? Let us assume that home for you means tree-covered mountains and waterfalls. (Charles Bernstein. and he thinks the universal order good if he can be mayor. South America. in spite of the problematic noun." Geopolitical differences (Central America. The continent is therefore referred to in its dismembered parts." 1996) The response to the question of the whole is found in its parts. also.128 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 Ernesto Livon Grosman The Questing of the Americas America is impossible and for this reason. Our America. Sketchbook 1966-1971) Let us assume that we are not neither disappointed nor moved but rather curious about what this vision tells us about a certain order of reality. of a Poetics of the Americas. Where to find a vision that can embody the reflection about poetic practice. a poetics of the Americas is an impossibility. which. or add to the savings in his sock-unaware of the giants with seven-league boots who can crush him underfoot. Do you feel moved when you see similar mountains and waterfalls in another part of the world or are you disappointed? (Max Frisch.

in the intersection of common issues and different languages." suppresses the specificity of works that do not illustrate the idea of a literature that transcends regional specificities. it is less definable and predictable than the Latin American literary canon suggests. aboriginal languages. could be recognized as a shared moment. and which is written in great part in English. It is in that sense of encounter that Chicano literature is one among many opportunities to think anew the boundaries of national literatures. a kind of national literature for all Latin America. In the past we could think of other individual examples: Witold Gombrowicz in Argentina. As though the a priori that determines the Latin American program were a natural product and not yet another cultural artifact. in its most strict sense. One of the reformulations of this point of view arises in the United States in Chicano literature. attained at the exclusion of Portuguese. not their outcome or resolution. Wilcock in Italy. A case in point would be the connection between Thoreau and Guillermo Enrique Hudson or Waldo Emerson . and J. "a grand territory of great works. Instances in which some concerns.Emesto Livon Grosman 129 If a nation is defined by its culture. all writers who caused Spanish to intersect with other languages. French and Caribbean English and. The sense of unity that pan-Latin Americanism proposes was. Is it possible to think of a "Latin American literature" without Brazil? A different way of thinking of a poetics of the Americas would be. such a mutable concept. Copi in France. causes there to arise anew the discussion of the specificity of national literatures. the dialectal variations of Spanish found throughout the continent. And if Chicano literatures can extend the definitions of what is Latin America. A literature that defines itself from the start in terms of the intersection of cultures. as if it were not from the beginning and in all circumstances simply a possibility. so must Brazil. within and outside of the same language. even if those encounters have always been there. The conflict does not arise from the necessity of replacing canonical works with another reading that is equally definitive and hierarchical but in understanding that this monumentalist interpretation suppresses by definition the self-critical gesture out of which it constructs itself as though the reader were not dealing with a single interpretation among many. How can we understand the rigidity of national literatures except as a result of the institutional violence with which the university defends them? Why not consider literary study in terms of a practice of a pedagogy of limits? The monumentality that dominates Latin Americanism. This project limits the possibility of reading canonical works in relation to other works. then. up to some extent. other literatures. R.

it becomes more revealing when confronted with the obvious. owing less to their failure than to their success. A similar case could be made for the avant-garde in the Americas during the early 1900s. There can be no Weltliteratur if a whole set of concerns and debates is not universalized. and Canada has been strong enough to leave traces all over those literatures. In an excellent anthology of the most recent poets of Brazil. L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. we are left in the odd position of having to define Brazilian poetry by what is not. connected with other universes. The field of the Americas has been slowly claiming its space and. Works that carry out a displacement of the state's sovereignty toward the community's independence. There is a need to see that the conflictive political and cultural relationship between the United States. And among more recent movements when considering formal experimentation as political resistance as appears in magazines like the Argentine XUL and the U. Each one of them is. Thus. of course. poets from Brazilian Modernism on are unknown. including those of French. both of them committed to investigating a poetics in which meaning is better understood as process. They share a contact zone and. the Brazilian anthologers make their own genealogy while showing that: . but preferably acting through the whole. It might now seem inevitable to look at the Americas' vanguardism in regard to the way in which they try to differentiate themselves from Europe through their emphasis on vernacular language and mestizo culture.130 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 and Jose Marti. German. the better chance we have of finding contiguities and not just bipolar oppositions. Latin America. like any new field. proposing genealogies that constitute a line of transmission and recourse to an authoritative order with respect to Europe creates the dissatisfaction of having to justify them as a mere reaction. Nonetheless. writers who were dedicated to reading the landscape as a defining feature of the Americas.S. Not only have they created many individual sets of poems (though that is surely true): they have created a literary universe of their own. Russian and AngloAmerican poetry. (Bonvicino and Ascher. But in this context Europe is just one possible reference and not the only criteria that justifies the interest to establish an area of contact with works that have been written as a reaction to Europe. Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain. 1997) Still. the more we look into their many poetics. Regis Bonvicino and Nelson Ascher formulate the problem in relation to Brazilian poetry: Paradoxically.

Resistance of terror. Being so anamorphic makes up for a lot of wasted time in unperformed operations. and in addressing them one must move readily between historical and contemporaneous dimensions. .. so much wreckage and is all here. They develop a personal and textual dialogue. 'old' and 'new' worlds in a single textual artifact" (Roland Greene. It is not in the shelves. as it is the case when looking at the different registers of poets from the same generation. all of them part of the same state of affairs but evolving in different directions. I would add that several literary projects could also be seen as contemporary among themselves. You tell me how many languages you lost and I will tell you what we are not. an equally disabled history or a history of the disabled . Faith in history as a mechanical matrix with no chance of comparison except when they share same space and time as if we didn't have already constant coexistence in time and space . "New World Studies and the Limits of National Literatures. a path." 1996).. of institutional limits. Is that awareness? The Americas. Those fragmentations of Europeanness do not make for a whole. A crossing point. of the moment. The Americas: a list of instruments. national and linguistic registers. Unsubstantiated direction. As Roland Green would say. .Ernesto Livon Grosman 131 Europe Got-here Former/there Formal? Americas Less interested in establishing a hierarchy than in working on the collective perception of what happens locally in more than one place.. it has no shelf life. "New World studies often poses problems of these sorts. . who are they? Where are they? . my history is (also) your (hi)story.. a poetic position? Such a deep love for a long-lasting mistake makes room for an extended detour. a (the) history turned to thought.

On Baroque Typography .Ana Hatherly.

The Protestant Irish tradition. (In fact. could lead to permanent exclusion from a school team. yet his aristocratic outlook was distasteful to those who associated it with Britain. then lumbering up and down the field. led to a quietist mode. had . such a search has been so hopelessly compromised as to have become something far more interesting. Bear/a. Yeats's version of Ireland. literally mouthing. In order to be Irish one had to be free from any suspicion of Englishness.) The Second World War didn't happen. the Irish are perhaps too ironical to be good democrats. an Irish enough spirit. and a focusing on the rural. gibberish. (Not that we were such a superfit nation. Playing soccer. is a corruption of the word Bea/ra. the scaffolding of the world. The traditional method of playing Gaelic football involved smoking twenty Woodbines. though not actually dead. we had the Emergency. It is possible to misrepresent the historical context of logic as a search for truth. many professions were closed. The instrument of orthodoxy. The Irish language became the straitjacket to success. in our century. unintelligible nonsense. a "foreign" game. In a spirit of perversity. one might reply to the anti-intellectual bent of the above tenable caricature by investigating the expressive potential of logic. Irish language writers. and this tension allied to that of the obligation to feel guilty about writing in English. However. were in many ways formally and thematically more adventurous. it is. in permanent intensive care. That was England's business. while still our official language. Evoking an unmistakably Irish location became a primary aim.Randolph Healy 133 Randolph Healy Uncertain Questions In the wonderfully named Irish Free State. Instead. freed of these burdens.) Irish writers of poetry in English were thus in a tricky position. the Celtic twilight. became almost invisible. Maurice Scully pointed out to me that the Irish language word for English. the withdrawal of the British led to an identity crisis. However. associated with the ascendancy class. the disgusting language. downing a few pints. A wholehearted attempt to uncover the picture of the world. checkpoints being erected at every entrance to the tradition into which one could not pass without a certified "sense of place". was a major pull. One supported or played traditional Irish games. On the other hand. Any stage performer would be guaranteed a huge round of applause by referring to English as an drochtheanga. a harking back to a golden age. Without it.

if demanding. Thus Euclid's "Elements". Another point of departure from the closed lyric could be to address the field of information. Freed from its former dogmatism it was now available to poetry. In our society ideas wash in from a huge variety of epochs and cultures. . Since this celebrated number is itself a random sequence. Rigidly deterministic tones drive in from the Enlightenment. If a poem can be thought of as a model of the world.134 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 begun to collapse under internal pressures. While a model shares properties with its subject. One might even believe that it could be possible to address tortuous political situations without polemic. one begins with unassailably true propositions from which one deduces a series of conclusions in a series of absolutely certain steps. becomes a seamless unity. yet one's family tree expands. In other words. can be a hub of all sorts of cultural concerns. The rational enterprise has had to come to terms with incompleteness. paradox. Such reversals are by no means uncommon as one culture's ideas move through the minds of succeeding generations. to put it mildly. and uncertainty. random procedures are particularly apt in profiling this arbitrary richness in content. Take the axiomatic method. Even the most extreme opposites can turn out to be mirror images. For instance. this very emblem of order has become in our century an instance of the random. and there is no way one can know in advance whether a given idea will come up again in such a way. the number known as the golden ratio can be considered as a model of the process of evolution. What can be seen to evolve are finite patterns. The structure is also very rich in resonance and is capable of expressing some very fine nuances in irony. theoretically neutral. It takes a great deal of energy to stand still. or not. it can be made from entirely different materials. raw hormones pour across from more expressionistic sources. At the minor expense of absolute truth there has been an enormous gain in richness. This can be claustrophobic. Considered by the Greeks to be the most perfect of proportions. living together in alienated intimacy. a work in twelve hefty volumes. will any possible pattern arise? Are we just so much information which for some reason. Formally this is very exciting. however small in scale. The human population contracts as one goes back in time. According to this. branches are shared. every part connected to every other. it raises questions like: In an infinite random process. In a polarised society concepts of identity tend to be overspecified. is driven to transcribe itself inaccurately? It also provides a clear example of how a mathematical entity.

Helmut HeissenbOttel 135 Helmut Heissenbiittel Oedipus Complex Made in Germany Daddy has been ruling for about a thousand years the Oedipus complex of the German people is called NSDAP after that we tried it with Grandpa but that was not a permanent solution now we just don't know who can advise us quiz masters wanted who landed us in this stew Bild magazine wants to know Grandpa has been preserved in a glass coffin Daddy's representatives have their names erased as time goes by but have we forgotten Daddy we're still doing better than in the Third Reich that is not a permanent solution do they have Daddies in Washington or Moscow too our ersatz Oedipus complex is called Pankow Grandpa 0 mein Papa or in Rome Daddy's reign is extinct but bits of it still hang in the air it is the air of Berlin still that smell whose name was Josef what we demand is an end to Daddies and Granddads an end to Oedipus complexes enlightened as we now are enlightened as we now are enlightened as we now are enlightened as we now are grant power to the most rational why don't you just try that for a change Essay in Greek if I knew Greek I would converse with you in GreeK but I don't know any Greek Amery's sentence on the drive from Brussels to Waterloo 9-24-1975 rainy street Atlantic low pressure ran a red light threatening Belgian cops du machst mich an spoken in Cologne dialect you turn me on said Amery has purely sexual connotations telephone voice surprises I'm always on time rubbed in between thumb and palm glance across trees in a dream leaning against the hood nipples erect and .

136 boundary 21 Spring 1999 hard a long time look at me look at me look at me I have no Greek and difficulties with classical education all those Patmoses Lesboses Apollos Dionysuses the Greeks' antique nakedness is replete with ideational content nakedness without content our nakedness simply just naked to learn that nakedness instead of content say Greek woman wouldn't you be safer in your Greece but when pressure mounts there is increased danger of everything bursting even though pressure can lead to nice things maybe a little psycho who loses steam gnaws bones losing steam losing sense makes for a wrinkled pouch and a tiny pin wrinkly present wrinkly nature cutapplebrown the brown of cut apples in Greek I would converse with you in Greek but I don't have any Greek and you can't understand me sexual union means insight into the matter at hand not into psychology your rage your grunting does open you but not your psychology even when I can't stand it I hurl myself into gaping flesh into flesh which is definitively and in the most extreme sense facing me and I am not naked torsos half asleep incessantly interchangeable repeatable quartered backsides repeatable the bird quite clearly flown to Idaho railroad embankment Thoreau crumpled and gummed-up moon we have lived under this moon crumpled and gummed-up moon we have lived under this moon for a long time crumpled and gummed-up moon it may well be we have lived under this moon for too long a time my language is a noise (Translated from German by Anselm Hollo) .

to doubt it would be a crime against it Is happiness the name for our (involuntary) complicity with chance? No straight line the riddle set is settled and I am tempted to say. the hens. the pigs 2 Nothing for the magician is accidental All that could possibly happen to the magical prop is intrinsic to it and knowing "all that" (could possibly happen) to the prop is what constitutes a magician's knowledge The event is the adventure of that moment .Lyn Hejinian 137 Lyn Hejinisn Happily 1 Constantly I write this happily Hazards that hope may break open my lips What I felt has taken place a large context a long yielding incessant chance. rough circles hazards lips that only things can differ It's not not me I'm afraid saying this is thus I'm ambivalent-the artistic will being weak as well as strong about being seen heard understood We go out of control with happiness-anything could happen This is happening I sense that in stating my 'reason' It has existence in fact in that in context Whatever we perceive we come to coming to us in history Whether or not the future looks back to trigger a longing for consonance is 'unfinished work' to remember to locate something launched near us as a dilemma in time to come Surely a terrible thing whistling at the end of the rope is a very poor way of laughing The dull make no response Whether or not a buzzard sees a battlefield as mere scratches in context we reason in such a way as to make ourselves aware that it includes us Imitation claims the cows.

you know what I mean. into the frame of the world It is midday a sentence consists of history with a future Someone speaks it within reason The blue is sky at all high points and the shadow underfoot moves at zero point that is at midpoint In context to pass it the flow of humanity divides and on the other side unites Surely we don't want a reason that plows to authority 4 Launched? .138 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 If I were a fictional character thinking back she might be weeping in a hundred bedrooms tonight wanting to be good long after this depiction of wanting to have been good But what is it that Plotinus says-the 'good' will not be a guideline standing outside? It's the interior of the life that provokes compassion for it It is there that one must sustain the belief that one's existing is never to not-exist again Then it is not part of some metonymic chain.. some vernacular meant to bring us in. happiness. and so on and so forth Along comes something -launched in context 3 Along comes something-launched in context How do we understand this boundary Context is the fate that strangers among whom we may name ourselves find difficult to penetrate The context is completely mundane and should be viewed with cruelty and from this follows fear and then grief Madame Cezanne offers herself to it in homage with its various uses and does resemble an apple with her curve and blank stare And the most unexpected aspect of this activity dependent on nothing external is that it consists of praise Yet the context is completely mundane: coming by chance. viz.

. militarism. tribalism. and poets of the continuous . German. Identity? "My 'identity' is MINE!" Born on the northeastern edge of Europe five years before the start of World War Two. Brecht.K.Anselm Hollo 139 Flaubert said he wanted his sentences erect while running-almost an impossibility Nonetheless. Haavikko. Zukofsky. Bunting. imposed or self-imposed (= ready-made) 'identities. Williams. Celan. suspicious of all manifestations of nationalism.. Stein.' All of these are too easily subverted by shortsighted individuals and groups motivated by greed. the sentence makes an irrevocable address to life And though the parrot spoke but said nothing this had the impact of an aphorism Are you there? I'm here Is that yes or no? Perhaps happiness is what we volunteer Without that nothing recurs The thing arrives-tightly the hands of the clock turn but other elements also must conduct logics of which we are becoming conscious when we experience the sensation that this is happening Anselm Hollo Context? The reading-writing in and of this life. David Jones. in the American Southwest. Reverdy. communities and places of choice. the "German-speaking Baits".' South and West have been the main directions. By elective affinities. and U. Saarikoski. Mina Loy. Bjorling. My life has basically proceeded along the lines of Guy Debord's derive-driftcombined with a genuine love of exile. the New American Poets of Don Allen's anthology.. my poetic education found its core curriculum in the great U. Swedish. so here I am now. New York School" and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets. French.S. I consider myself a "lower-case american" postmodern postnationalist writer. and with most of my adult life spent in the U. British Moderns: Apollinaire. though its punctuation is half hoping for failure. I am deeply. perhaps even paranoically. a descendant of an extinct cultural species. HeissenbOttel.e. Pound. Finnish. i. not predetermined by 'accidents of birth. on my mother's side.S.

participating in the same epoch only tangentially and under sexual compulsion and economic coercion . however. that world of yours?" If that 'world' should prove utterly eccentric-so be it. but also for a semblance of an answer to a question faintly echoing down the ages: "And what was it like. that toilers in the field of poetics oppositional to those dominant attitudes would bear in mind that they. as act or event. They came in all kinds of weird shapes & sizes. a bright young student-poet expressed surprise-tinged with what felt like moral disapproval-at his discovery that almost none of my works bore any classifiable textbook similarity to each other. Here comes favorite quote number three: Richard Cadders Classification System to be used when trying to a _ (Academic.. I wish. A In the Utopian Millennial Wish Department. Beat. Years ago.) poet?" There are 2 classificatory methods which . As Christopher Middleton has noted. Rimbaud . Those angles..140 boundary 21 Spring 1999 past/present who show an awareness of these and related literary legacies (Sappho. and even read again. often succumb to a corporate culture's desire to have everything (not just poetry) clearly labeled and classified. I foresee no great changes in general dominant cultural views of and attitudes toward poetry or any of the inventive arts. They still do.. respond to questions of the "Is _ L=A=N=G. etc.. personal or social. Arkhilokhos. loops and slopes are different warps of time in which people actually live.. (italics added) Another quote I cherish is this one from Pentti Saarikoski: I described my writing as 'democratic' or 'dialectic' because different notions were allowed to threaten one another in the work. I look for the un-paraphrasable and heretical. (italics added) A I write things I'd like to read. too. Even in a relatively coherent society the levels of human reality intersect at odd angles and are stratified across loops and slopes. ). Heine. I am guessing. to any significant renewal. Asynchronicity is the key. Villon.

pop the fox in the box. There are others. but they're both used for fixing things and we haven't got any more spare boxes. genetic coding: this is the linear descendant of taxonomic classification -you look for a fixed string of events or symptoms: when you get your match. Home and Exile will be identical: I don't think artists truly. Was Emily Dickinson 'at home'? Sure. actively. ~ In Utopia. but she was/is also totally elsewhere. She was not a romantic elitist outcast. SO FIX THAT BROKEN AXLE Then is it past screeches of the mighty "blood actions" Old Bird said pondering revolted let us insinuate another song "Art is my wife & myself" turn this music on for identity? slept all evening monotonous rush and purr summer hard with the dead The Edge surely lovely cannot be a bed "I am behind that grows a mind" was that a german joke? . assume that it does until evidence to the contrary emerges. everyone knows that string isn't glue. such as 3. and it's in that 'elsewhere' we meet her. She lived a life. you tick the form. convenience: look. 2. either. exist anywhere else but there. You can see the movie only in her poems. she read. she wrote. of course. not in some dreary New England town.Anselm Hollo 141 apply (on the whole): 1. Her entrancements left that trace. This is by far the most common method. consensoid: if it's asserted on 3 or more occasions that a shape fits in a box.

142 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 sad-sack protagonist depressed recluse of sporadic human encounters "may note down what he sees among the ruins. for he sees other things and more than others. and is the true survivor" (Kafka) but one is not that one is floaty yet anchored "balloon on a string" ship that sails both oceans and air elevator that rises through the clouds or keeps going down but no again it is a much smaller but truer universe . he is after all dead in his own lifetime.

We are no longer interested in renaming the world. But language has already wrapped around our neck like a scarf. If you find more pleasure in others' misconceptions or in drawing conclusions based on your own taste. The Chinese character (or language) is not a good medium. are trapped in language. because our eyes had been blurred and were not able to perceive what was behind language. We want to bring to the attention of more people the splendor of Chinese characters and to correct the fallacy that words derived from objects. then you are only wondering at the magic tool in your hand. We came to know one another through poetry. Only a few years ago. without much contact. Also. and principles have all been dissolved in the art of poetry. giving them a complete aesthetic order (which has nothing to do with image or intonation). or abusing language. it means . We are forever tired of poetics and let this bad habit spread among poets. Our firmness. abused by language. In this reality we clear the confusion of words. We then need the cutting edge of intelligence to help us straighten things out. clarity. nor would we have been able to see the visual shape. But we. This is the reason you want to strangle us to death. brushing past mistakes and noble derision. because sometimes dodging confusion and tolerating confusion are almost the same. There's a trick in this. since it can always lead you to more things than expected. It is in our poetry that language for the first time becomes the end itself rather than a tool. Your eyes are so sharp that you can always immediately see through language. if you try to use it to transport your interests in the world. you always feel so confused that you are unable to evaluate the work. Before that we were each confined to our own lives. with our eyesight weakened from the excessive toil of life. if.Huang Fan 143 Huang Fan Poetry's New Shore: Language We are willing to tolerate our own ambiguity. hear the sounding. it'll be a huge mistake. we were struggling for words. almost strangling us to death. we would have been unable to appreciate the beauty and the intrigue in the arrangement of words. This is the new excitement that language has brought to poetry. but our tacit agreement was amazing. or feel the new signification of these words. We try to pose elegantly while listening. but then turn around and leave the confusion to the speaker. whether simple or complex. and the flavor contained in it. Had we not been well-trained. for we are facing the plastic reality of language itself (instead of something behind language). looking at abstract art.

144 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 that you have a fixed idea about limitations. It seems that the problem lies in the arrangement of words. blocking what's behind it. However clear the language is (to others). It is worse in the case of writing poetry. forever spinning and collaging. it is confusing to us. you claim to avoid principles while secretly following some rules in writing. And our fault lies in that we are unwilling to ignore the basic facts that language presents us. We each have a particular way of combining words. we were all thrown into the mill of language the minute we were born. Therefore. But now you should learn to feel the new boundary of art. You always equate the search for the purpose of poetry with rule-governed writings. Language is as innocent as a naughty usher boy. and no one has really mastered any language. A slight change in the connection will produce explosive fractures. exciting us only by itself. Our writing is an unceasing effort to relate to or reach for the self-purposefulness in the structuring of words. But the acuteness in it almost crushes us. on the other hand. The maturity and flavor contained in the process cannot be reproduced by others. It is as adamant as a stone wall. Undoubtedly. On the one hand. And this ultimate seat is forever moving. you carelessly destroy the harmony in other kinds of poetry. to a position unpredictable to us. shining. We are used to blaming or whipping language because it acts (to some poets) like a retarded kid whose words can never convey his ideas. unwilling to deny in these facts what is pure. simple or complicated. (Translated from Chinese by Yunte Huang) . This is your intellectual dilemma. It always intends to lead us to itself. while in fact we cannot understand. The quality of a poem entirely depends on the formal metamorphoses of language itself and on the steadiness and harmony of these metamorphoses. So the ultimate question is language's recognition of its own purposefulness. we always think that we know what the other is talking about. deliberately leading us in the wrong direction.

"If I contradict myself here as a Chinese. said. or how the homogeneity. but to make clear and simple to common people what they had to teach. a homogenous China has always been an idea that takes hold only of people who are eager to foreground their Chineseness.Yunte Huang 145 YunteHuang Writing against the Chinese Diaspora Much of the current writing about the Chinese Diaspora is contingent upon the idea of a preexisting homogenous "mainland" China. The de-imagination of the language de-imagines a form of life that has been for centuries subject to scenic. who invented the Chinese written characters. he was fascinated by what he was told: Soketsu. Or when Pearl Buck delivered her Nobel lecture at Stockholm in 1938. for the latter I will only offer counterexamples. Easy to enter the stage and feel glorious. to which the Diaspora is fashioned as the antithesis. For in my imagination. the language which the novel used." said Ludwig Wittgenstein. . cases where deimagination takes place: When around the turn of the century Ernest Fenollosa studied Chinese from his Japanese masters. an eminent modern Chinese author writing in English. it is far more relevant to de-imagine the homogeneity of the "mother" tongue (and the "hostess" tongue) than to imagine it or stage a diasporic or exiled self against it. was not Chinese in origin but believed to have come from the West. orientalist imaginations. I am happy as a Chinese that I contradict myself. in the time of Emperor Kotei. Some of them were Indian. They put their religious teachings into common language. and because the people loved story. What is interesting in these writings is not how people live diasporically. but how they imagine themselves living diasporically. an expatriate Chinese writer. they took story and made it a means of teaching. They said frankly that their aim was not to conform to ideas of style of the literary men." Or as Lin Yutang." The willingness to contradict oneself is the willingness to de-imagine one's own imagination. What is important then is not to imagine but to de-imagine. but some were Chinese. but not so to exit when the imaginary audience is dozing off. To me. she emphatically de-imagined a "Chinese" novel: "Into this confined literary atmosphere [in the sixth century] came the Buddhist translators with their great treasures of the freed spirit. "To imagine a language means to imagine a form of life. has been imagined.

Where globalization reaches." It is an imagination that de-imagines itself. and Vi Cun)." The seeming contradiction finds its roots not in formal logic but in the word game (y6uxi). or simply put." Unable to de-imagine its own imagination. which connotes the "profound. diaspora or exile literature lives comfortably in the sweeping current of globalization and applauds or laments the dissolving or "containment" of the local. the polysemantics of the way it is perceived in different s~tuations. the local is imagined for the first time. The author Sincerely regrets that for this reason not a Single real objectbe it a material thing. or an artistic fact-occupies a marked place in the surrounding world and in this sense no object is of no interest to the artist in and of itself. the manifesto of the Original group declares their objection to localist. which in turn feeds on the imagination of a homogenous or totalitarian "mainland. Nina Iskrenko from Referendum An Address to a Supposed Interlocutor The author apologizes for rejecting the classical notion of eternity as a certain memorial museum where one can place one's name and the works marked with it. among the pieces written by Chinese poets that I have edited and translated (including also works by Che Qianzi.eerie spirit of art and philosophy. Huang Fan..146 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 In this issue. nationalistic modernist art. ethnocentric. or nationalistic writings while it simultaneously de-declares their objection as they continue to say that "we are at the same time creating and developing a localist and ethnocentric." Or as Lan Ma writes in "Manifesto of Nonoism. a cer- . Such literature only serves and confirms a reality that does not allow for the imagination of its own unreal ness. Poetry must be able to de-imagine this. In contrast to these de-imaginary "Chinese" writings. many others that have made their way onto the global stage continue to live on the idea of diaspora or exile. the ethnocentric. Nono is not "not. What is interesting is only the possible points of view on that object. a concrete individual. The concrete events themselves are merely the more or tess acceptable material. and the nationalistic.

the meaning of human existence. that there are events that are important and those that are unimportant. the end. anywork of art is just a trifle compared with some living grass. lead us through trials and tribulations and that life has a beginning. compared with any real manifestation of what we actually call life. the entire world and one of its minute parts. or being a veritable piece of junk. who "together with other old-fashioned writers tried to make people believe that in life there are principal and secondary characters. The content of a poetic text is not the reflection of the real situations taking place in it. close it. a middle. to be) simultaneously a human being and humanity in its entirety. a character from a Kurt Vonnegut novel. a tree trunk and a forest. recognize oneself (that is. while remaining ordinary. contrary to the established stereotype of the world of publishing. and especially not of their unequivocal evaluation. as physicists say). To see something through the eyes of different (in the classical understanding) people or under different temporal angles means not only to "live" the collected life of these various. but only the capacity to perceive an object simultaneously in all or at least several of its possible conditions or from all the points of view. does not believe her supposed interlocutor to be dumber than herself. as incompatible and contradictory as possible. that life can teach us something. but to feel. or somewhat sublime. does not care "about what" she is writing-the Trojan War. Johnny's love for Jane. It is precisely this understanding of the identity of the part and the whole that leads the author to feel a strong desire not to resemble a certain Beatrice Kideler. essentially. be something most important and simultaneously meaningless. and an end:' The author believes it to be self-evident that any particular thing on this earth can turn out to be the beginning. . often contrasting people. identical (they are invariants. or misfortune. the way. or the rusted mailbox with yesterday's newspaper sticking out of it. carries all the information about the represented object. the way a fragment of a holographic disk.Nina Iskrenko 147 tain system of coordinates. and in this sense they are absolutely indistinguishable. consequently. a human smile. The author. The author apologizes for the fact that she. and that every poem included in it in principle can open it. the annihilation of electron/ positron pairs. unlike a clipping from a photograph. It seems that it is for this reason that the author should offer the approximately eighth book instead of a first one.

our bodies. "he talks with his hands" does not of course mean "with his hands alone. each in a little bit different way. even when it is halfway composed of a thing which gives poetry its material. and she sincerely hopes that everything stated above will not detract the supposed interlocutor from reading the book. when we do it. Talk is made up of language and bodies." except perhaps in the special case of the deaf and dumb among us. talk is fully a matter of extrapoetic reality. so long as he can speak. "Somehow" is valid for poetry as a whole. So naturally a poem that deals in some way with talk is a poem that somehow also incorporates extrapoetic reality. in a spoken poem from 18 April 1957.. It is wholly a matter of extrapoetic reality. and who doesn't.. for each single one can do it only in a completely determinate way." I'll show you what I mean. but other extremities also.148 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 The author offers a thousand apologies for stopping at the most interesting place because she needs to switch off the kettle. The author (Translated from Russian by Vitaly Chernetsky) Ernst Jandl from Scenes from Real Life Talk. and so all of them taken together then do it "somehow. : talk blaablaablaablaa blaablaablaa blaablaablaablaa blaablaablaa babb babb babbbab babbbabab bababbb babb babb babbbab . the head primarily.

otherwise why did we learn it? Always doubled. with the meaning: empty chatter. "babb" being the invention and "blaa" being in the dictionary-but how? Always doubled. nonetheless. imitative of the sound: "das Blabla. maybe in Dudens German Universal Dictionary.Ernst Jandl 149 babbbab babababbb blaablaablaablaa babb babb babbbab blaablaablaa bababbb babb babb bababbb babb babb babbbab bababbb blaablaablaablaa bababbb You have noted that this poem is oriented toward conversation. "blaa." written together. is through and through poetic and not otherwise. one which ends with a vowel. after so long." one which can be found in your dictionary. expressions that say nothing. although the way that this occurs here. conversation as an extrapoetic reality. Langenscheidt's Encyclopedic Dictionary. the neuter noun. It makes use of an open and a closed syllable. and it must be this way with such a poem. I find myself almost completely outside any poetic reality and at the same time apparently exclusively in the extrapoetic actuality of language. I have it in my ear: "that's just blah-blah. from English." but it is not to be found in there. slang. but what a disappointment." and one which ends with a consonant. "babb. my big two-volume English-German dictionary does not have it. and I have it. for example: "The discussion was nothing but __:' But thank God neither Roget's Thesaurus . in there of course in German. If I now begin to spell out words. and one which is invented. I have never heard it any other way. with the accent on the second syllable. sometime or other there must be spelling. b-I-a-b-I-a. and I'll do some spelling now. for the first and perhaps for the last time in these lectures. Blabla.

and therein lies a decisive withdrawal from extrapoetic reality.. nor Daniel Jones's An English Pronouncing Dictionary . because of its monosyllabic character. probably regional verb "talken. blaablaablaablaa. as American slang." It also holds for the German. employ the written form b-I-double a-b-I-double a-b-I double a-b-Idouble a. Both here and there we find the beautiful English word blah-blah.. not of poetry.s a question. without its becoming in this way less clear. bragging. it would have always remained a mere extrapoetic thing . rather four times quadrupled. one additional note of corroboration of the unconditional necessity of the doubling: what do you make of "Bar" when you are thinking of "Barbar"? And what do you make then of a simple "Blaa"? It. were needed. merely doubled. .. in contrast to both. however often repeated. b-I-a-h-hyphen-b-I-a-h. not invented by me anyway. a word-cripple. and thus remains understandable without translation. it would only be by means of the syllable "babb. it would have negated the concept for me.. that it would be in some way a German poem. as I have never heard it. the repeated "blaablaa"-then I would have had to renounce the poem as a whole." but rather only as "blaablaablaablaa. But it also never appears. crap. since its concept for me was constituted by the doubled syllable. no differently than in my poem.. Besides that. but of onomatopoeia. and this is equally decisive. valid evidence for its origin in the English language. where the line perhaps can't even be sounded as "blabla-blabla." meaning the babble of a child not yet fully capable of smooth speaking. in Langenscheidt's Encyclopedic Dictionary.. according to Daniel Jones. with even stress. For the etymologists among you. Three dictionaries.. With the meaning entry: nonsense. never appears alone throughout the whole length of the poem. to return to our point of departure. and three times tripled. the mutilation b-I-a-h. or at least Austrian.. Or imagine to yourself that I had completely renounced the invention of the second component of the word.. fits better with the play of syllables that follows than would its German counterpart "gesprach. for me finally to find." written bumlaut-a-double b. The title "talk" of course fixes the English point of departure." thus to be spoken with suspended accent. With blaablaa alone.. and besides. blah. one of the possibilities of its realization . pitiful. which would be thanks to the "a" with two dots over it-even if. then. ear (not eye!) a resonance with the slang.150 boundary 2/ Spring 1999 . even stress. This uninvented syllable. not in the German: whereby I. suspended accent. it works across the borders of languages. leaves me in the lurch. in fact. on the contrary. undoubled.

not how it was spoken. the reverse "bababbb. were it not compelled to obey. the compulsory laws that make this poem the poem it is. Nevertheless. though thanks only to the poem. not subject to the laws of any extrapoetic reality at all." and without this syllable there would be no play. but paired in couplets. Nothing simpler: "babbbab. the reverse. in order to make this poem the poem it is. "blaablaa" retains all the power lent it by extrapoetic reality. yet always paired. four couplets. without contradiction. Besides that. "babbbabab. if at the same time it reflects this reality. and indeed it must. "babb" is the opponent of "blaablaa. However. if you sense movement in it." the other way around. it is free. but not a single time doubled in the manner of "blaablaa"-one does not want simply to imitate-thus never with suspended accent or even stress. rather always with a distinct accent. with the accent at the end. it has retained something of its natural-born freedom." appears in print simply as the inverse: b-umlaut-a-b-b-bumlaut-a-b-umlaut-a-b." the doubling with the accent on the forward syllable. the syllable "babb" belongs to twenty-two of the total twenty-nine lines of the poem. You will no doubt demand to know how this shifting stress. "babb" appears doubled ten times.] (Translated from German by Tyrus Miller) . appeared as: "b-umlaut-a-b-umlaut-a-b-umlaut-a-b-b-b". this sylla· ble is an inner poetic being. Also no poem. appeared as b-umlaut-a-b-b·b-umlaut-a-b. The tripling. [Jandt reads ''talk'' a second time. a question of balance. As something not taken from anywhere within extrapoetic reality. this displacement of accent. was actually achieved. and would be fully so. even in the two places where it appears tripled. rather how it was achieved on paper. what more could this thing ask in compensation? It is this that brings all the movement into the poem. that has already been emphasized.Ernst Jandl 151 In any case. and this is a concession to a thing that was once so free. It appears eight times in isolation. a poetry-immanent entity. not doubled. or fairness. the invented syllable has gotten a bit too little attention up till now. you already know that. at the beginning or end. within which it first came to be. it is free. always taking up a whole line for itself. how it was notated.

here comes everybody's eerie feeling that we've been here before. at least brought up short & shown up for the con it is-(oh no. it must be searched for and won.. Vico. we try to find ourselves in the old journals & magazines. (Kurt Schwitters) 2. hold-on-this-will-be-heaven-in-just-another-minute. & that the spiral draws tighter & tighter around our scruffy necks.-> ->A->H->E->A->D-> I am going towards a future that does not exist. I was very curious to see how they planned to bring me to life again. only the shadow of their absence. nostalgia always already being what it is. not by the official war artists. that it all is cyclical. Yet this century a certain kind of history was. Reality is not simply there. or in the immortal words of Yogi Berra: "It's deja vu all over again. (Rene Daumal) not because I could have been a wax archangel or evening rain or car catalogue (Tristan Tzara) 1. i. if not abolished. La condition humaine. may have been right after all. I felt dizzy." So it would seem Joyce's man. the linear soon-to-beover. SNIP-SNAP: We go on or back.e. only . is revolution in a far off country. & not by the thinkerers & tinkerers of the Polit-Sphere. (ism-sorter by Jefim Golycheff. by nerve alone. on rafts made of the skin of our teeth. nor by the Hackademic watchdogs of Kulchur)-namely. (Paul Celan) . flip the pages & all of a sudden discover that all the images have disappeared. You know what/who I mean: the various fascisms. the vatican.152 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 Pie"eJoris ->N->O->M->A->D-> ->C->E->N-> T->U->R-> y.. escha-teleo-Iogical time-machine. the leagues of protestant ball-cutters. etc. have been cut out carefully. & then went home & made the world over as state-subsidized museums.) It is strictly forbidden to touch objects in the collection. that our end is in our beginning. exactly that linguistic formula. macro & micro. the myriad totalitarianisms. leaving every instant a new corpse behind me. CLOSING TIME: As this century draws to a close. one man wrote..

collaged & decollaged. from Duchamp to Kienholz. Joyce. (Edmond Jabes) I am a line which expands and I want to grow in an iron tin pipe I say that to amuse you. I mean there. (Tristan Tzara) 3. i. proto-semantic. from Tzara to Kitaj. then.Pierre Joris 153 the ragged edge of their contours giving a vague indication of who or what was here. now. not so much as "collage" (though we will keep those gains) but as a material flux of language matter. from Schwitters to Pelieu. even when cut and rearranged. snap. Pravda & rewritten by the various collage & cutup avant-gardes. a rhyzomatics is not an aesthetics of the fragment. and yet is also graft. To try & think. it is essential now to push this matter further. which she defines as "a temporary articulation.e. & more recently retooled in the neoclassical form of the citation-ironic &/or decorative-throughout what is called "postmodernism. the heavenly tree grows downward in polarities we can no longer afford. trees as always already roots I trunk I branches. become animal once again. taught us a new history. if we ever could. again. Rolling Stone. from a to z: COLLAGE. Popular Mechanics. I mean here. It cut the time lines. but write in all or any of them. Does this look familiar? It should-the century has come back to haunt you. If Pound. as starting from what Kristeva calls the chora. & others have shown the way. syntaxed & parataxed. not just translate. The Saturday Evening Post. They are over there. for what it stood for & against. this matter as even pre-language. Die Welt. Its method will be rhyzomatic: which is different from collage. high & low. What is needed now is a nomadic poetics. GO to the treeless planes of the Pleistocene. become fox. Olson. montaged & demontaged. DO NOT turn back. which has dominated poetics since the romantics even as transmogrified by modernism. Get down on all fours & run. OPENING SPACE. HD. to show itself (up) one last time for what it was. No time left. Wandering creates the desert. say branches I trunk I roots.. rearranged. essentially mobile. . neither ascent nor descent beckon. EI Moujahid. its core innovation. A nomadic poetics will cross languages. cyber-mounted in the demonicmaniacal autobiography of this century "prewritten" by Time-Life. wolf. GO flat out at top speed across curve of earth is the only way. Paris Match. but taxed for sure. DO NOT RECOLLECT. Snip. Stein." Strawberry Fields Forever. a rearrangement of arborescent structures. foreseen by Lautreamont late in the previous one.

STATE OF. . very close to the relations of science. while the writer of prose. It is not a matter of using the results of science. this nigger-me." That's why I was much more interested in poetry than in prose-exactly because the poet is the one who creates his language. this creole-me. content. only so long as they are unsettled is there any hope for them. Most mornings I would be more or less insane. moving around & through the features accreting as poem. (Holderlin) . . uses language. of rhythm. a lingo-cubism. MEMORY BABE." And then to follow this flux of ruptures and articulations. this Caribbean-me. state are over. (George Braque) 5. The past century has shown that anything not involved in continuous transformation hardens and dies. All revolutions have done just that: those that tried to deal with the state as much as those that tried to deal with the state of poetry. this Martinican-me. what I have tried to do is to inflect the French language. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) 4. but of seeing that there is a meeting place between all the kinds of imagination. for our period. Poetry can provide that meeting place. in the main. (Aime Cesaire) Poetry is the promise of a language. form. to transform it in order to express. (Muriel Rukeyser) I have never been able to tell a beginning from an end. I lived in the first century of world wars. . We will forget nothing and we will forgive nothing. a lingo-barocco that is no longer an "explosante fixe" (Breton) but an "explosante mouvante:' The relations of poetry are. (Muriel Rukeyser) People wish to be settled.154 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 constituted of movements and their ephemeral stases. let's say: "this me. From the twentieth century we will retain everythingin memory. We will also remember that the twentieth century was the tail wagged by the nineteenth-century dog . moving in & out of semantic & nonsemantic spaces. The days of anything static. no.

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6. BAROCCO. We will write in foreign languages (real or made-up ones) in order to come to the realization that all languages are foreign. And those that are not are uninteresting in their self-reflecting egoism. All live languages are creolized by what Edouard Glissant has called the chaosworld. The first need thus is to have done with the prison-house of the mother tongue, i.e., why should one have to write in the mummy/daddy language, why should that oedipal choice be the only possible or legitimate one, why should it not be my own choice, that moment of one's discovery of the other, that moment when it is our body/mind that speaks and not that of our progenitors. The mother tongue will become the lover's tongue, the other's tongue. A nomadic language of affects, of free lines of erotic flight, that break the triangular (the strongest of shapes, as Bucky Fuller has shown us) strictures of the Freudian scene de famille and of its sociopolitical macroprojection, the nation-state.
We stand in relationship with all the components of the universe, as well as with the hereafter and with antiquity. Which relationships we will cultivate, which for us is preeminently important, and which should be realized, depends only upon the course and duration of our watchfulness. (Novalis) in the cerecloth of devious stratagems (Dennis Brutus)

7. WORLD. Here now to propose expanding Robin Blaser's beautiful saying It is an absent America whose presence is at stake to read It is an absent World whose presence is at stake. A world yet to be invented. Deja vu all over again must not win out. As I write this, March 1998, the Bible and the Sword (in the shape of that most reactionary of popes and that most pliant of U.S. presidents) are crisscrossing Africa, softening up the continent for the New Colonialism of the coming century. In the U.S. media the only voice I heard speak accurately to this condition was that of a poet-Dennis Brutus. Which brings to mind Helene Cixous's sense that ''the twentieth century, in its violence, has brought about the marriage of Poetry and History." History not dead yet, imagination, imagine, not dead yet, history is yet to come, we are all in need of becoming archaeologists of the morning after.
Un mouthed lip, announce, that something's happening, still, not far from you. (Paul Celan)

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John Kinsella The Hybridising of a Poetry: Notes on Modernism & HybridityThe Colonising Prospect of Modernism and Hybridity as a Means to Closure
Modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent; it is one half of art, the other half being eternal and immutable. -Charles Baudelaire

For me "art" is finite and entirely contingent. It has no glory, it is paranoid and self-satisfying. Hypermodernism is a millennial modernism-it is action without real movement, it is the flow and exchange of "data", and is entirely static in any natural sense. It subverts the laws of profit only insofar as it is useless, ephemeral, and the wealth it generates is illusory.
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In Australian poetry an awkward relationship with Modernism has had a dual legacy: it has led to a fierce rejection and conversely a desire to move "beyond". Australian Modernism might be described as a reflexive/reflective dichotomy: it is a field in which reflex is possible (put simply, reflex is a reaction that is impulsive and necessary). On the other hand, it is a general characteristic of the Western Continuum that much experimentalism is reflective: the present being examined through the past, rather than acting against it. There is a poem of Lionel Fogarty's that I'd like to note as a possible starting point for discussion: "Remember Something Like This". It concerns the nature of memory, the flexibility of time and space, and examines the specificity of incident. There is a communalising of the lyrical I taking place. The poem resists prosody and enhances a recolonisation by entry into the public place (as per the Western Continuum) as entertainment and art: Where's this and that, you know. So they find out where him came from by looking at the tracks. He's headed for the caves just near milky way. Fogarty comes close to creating something that is both culturally and linguistically unique. While reacting to the colonising of his Murri tongue by

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English he in effect colonises English, rendering it subservient to his inher~ itance, to his spatiality (time/space). He sees this as a natural and neces~ sary action. It is impulsive and decisive, a reflex action. If this sounds con~ frontational then I should emphasise that it is! Fogarty makes language a tool or even weapon of resistance; or even more, an offensive weapon. His is the most revolutionary of languages being used in Australian poetry. Freedom doesn't come solely by marking territory and occupying a con~ ceptual space, a space linguistic in nature. One must reterritorialise lost ground. This is especially true for a culture where the rites of naming are all-important in establishing a map of social and cultural identity. Where song is cohesion. In an article entitled "Poetics in the Americas", published in a recent issue of Modernism/modernity (3:3, 1996), Charles Bernstein interestingly notes: The invention of an ideolectical English-language poetry as a poetry of the Americas involves the replacement of the national and geographically centered category of English (or Spanish) poetry not with the equally essential category of American poetry but with a field of potentialities, a virtual America that we approach but never possess. English languages, set adrift from the sight/sound sensorium of the concrete experiences of the English people, are at their hearts uprooted and translated: nomadic in origin, absolutely particular in practice. Invention in this context is not a matter of choice: it is as necessary as the ground we walk on. While this comment is in many ways transferable to the Australian condition, there are differences between the American and Australian situations. Once again, turning to Lionel Fogarty-while his language is conceptual it is also exclusive. It does desire (and I use this in the fetishised sense!) to communicate to people other than his own, but only insofar as it will allow his people the space they had occupied and should still occupy. In a sense, this ironically makes it an incredibly utilitarian poetry, albeit as an enemy of a marketplace that actively seeks to deny his people's exclusive rights to territory. This is not to say that poetry can't be a universal and universalising mode of language, but rather that this is something to be wary of. Bernstein refers to the nomadic. By way of cultural generalisation, Fogarty is of a "nomadic people" (a cuttingly reductive collective noun when used from outside the discourse-and I am consciously divorcing it from Bernstein's context to highlight the point), whether they "wander" or not.

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They are classed accordingly, at least in certain Empire text books. His poetry does not work against the concrete experience of the Murri people, and I mean this in an objective and not subjective sense. Any use of the English base/standard, regardless of intent, is recognising, interacting with, reinforcing, and qualifying, a particular English historicity. The fringe should call the shots vis-a-vis its relationship with the coloniser!
*

I talk of hypermodernism as a qualification of a framelessness of the field of the page. I argue that hypermodernism does not, per se, issue from the Object as structure, that its forms-in a Platonic sense-are not plastic, but conceptual. In approximating this idea to the Modernist project one could look again to Bernstein: I would propose at least three modernist projects: subjective, objective, and constructive. By nonsymbological or constructive, I am referring to the fact that in many of her works Stein does not depend upon supplemental literary or narrative contexts to secure her meaning but enacts her subjects as continuously actualized presentations of meaning. Unlike Pound or Eliot, with their myriad literary and other references, or James Joyce with his etymological anaphora, with Stein you are left with the words on the page and Imaginary structures they build. For me, the imaginary structure is the page, as it would be, I imagine, for Fogarty. The page is a representation of a field of myth-thought, of songdream continuity, a place that refuses closure. Its imagined frame is construct. Language rendered as text categorises the breakdown and results in a loss of occupancy and produces closure. The word itself does not liberate in this written context. Hybridity in this sense is an attempt to keep language moving, though with the inevitable (and politically desired) result being confinement through qualification, and consequently control. The words work as double agents. I've referred to the kinds of poetry Fogarty and I write, from entirely different perspectives, as examples of "hybridising". By hybridising, I don't mean a mixing, or a production of a third-party alternative from a set of specific material. A hybrid is not a possible next stage in a developmental sense, nor a "dilution" of the component parts! Nor is it a fusing of traditions. It is, in fact, a conscious undoing of the codes that constitute all pos-

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sible readings of a text. It is a debasement of the lyrical I. What am I, I am this ... contradicts the certainty of the informed and/or plugged into the sensorium of the poet per the Western Continuum. Master of nothing, rather than Master of all surveyed. It is not a rejection of frameworks but of contents. It recognises frames for what they are: empty shells. Bernstein recently termed this my Trojan Horse theory of poetry-get inside formalism/Western poetic traditions and dismantle. It is not a homogeneous poetry that replaces certain demarcations, borders, divisions, and qualifications. In some sense it highlights these separations. I use the sestina and villanelle and sonnet. Though I doubt Fogarty does. The result is a denial that is cultural as well as linguistic; a refusal to accept that the component parts are relevant to the discourse. I use the word hybrid in a specific sense, outside regular postcolonial discourse. I mentioned an undoing of codes that constitute all possible readings of a text. I should stress that this is insofar as the author understands them. It stresses the distance between author and reader. It is a theory of unfamiliarity. In a sense it invites closure, but only in that an end means another hybrid might and should develop. A parallel fertility. However, it is process, not an end result. Though through its methodology one hopes for a political response. Once Fogarty has achieved his aim, his hybrids (will) revert to the continuum of his Murri tongue. That is not to say that they'll be reintegrated, as a hybrid is too much of a conscious break, but rather that the old tongue, now liberated, will appropriate them. They will become part of the land and its meaning. The work of the poem will have been done. There will be closure, and only then is it desirable.

and having violated the laws of nature. this is speech. endless day piercing the heart. are innocent in the garden of good and evil. Our games. lighting the face and hits home. game upon game. a threadless needle leaving no trace. this woman's voice I said she said I said drilling into the head. lensed through binoculars in reverse. speech.160 boundary 21 Spring 1999 Julia Kunina 1. And then we touch our tongues to the roof of our mouths and run down the three-syllable steps into the garden. you remember. In its white arc the shuttlecock erases any trace of place and turns into a contrail in the sky known only to dragons. reduces itself to a feathered speck. MY meadow and MY sheep on the meadow AND GET OUT OF HERE WITH YOUR FUCKING SHIT . In the long Baltic light of childhood. But as we must all enter the heart of the rose and emerge on the other side. speck of dust this is MY house. badminton. the sun never setting. widening into a downward cone. This white noise. driving you crazy. It will never come back. from there it flows. 2.

(Translated from Russian by Richard Sieburth and the author) .Julia Kunina 161 this is MY house. proscribed. hollowed of temptation. muteness. steel scratching sandpaper. the ongoing syntax of years. lips lingering on copper. MY fucking lawyer and MY paradise lost MY speech is you. I said. you. like a pack of piranhas. dripping with self-righteousness. a reflection This life is my life. like you. darkness. Erinys. which is why you have no extension These are but anaphoras in a fit of speech the stutter of shoulder blades. baring the skeleton like an X-ray. passing into speech. this voice of a total stranger. collarbone to wrists. cutting my voice short. passing into speech. eloquence. my impenetrable text plummeting from the final ramparts. standing for passion. arc weld. shot through the chest in a paroxysm of inversion you fly back into the sudden purple of caesura And then.

even if my life has been lived for a decade now in France with all that implies in terms of openness and universal processes. while. as if taken over by . I am not an Algerian but I feel mutilated by obscurantism. I am not a woman but I feel the humiliation of those who struggle for recognition as human beings. to lend my voice to the cries of rage and distress which emanate from it. but a text I wrote recently brought with it the revelation that I was an Argentinean. I have never set foot in Argentina. but I have labored for Palestinians to have a right to a country of their own. as an exile. my relationship with my own country has become.162 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 Abdellatlf Laabl I am a Child of this Century I'm the child of this pitiful century the child that didn't grow up The questions that burned my tongue have burned my wings I had learned how to walk then I unlearned I tired of the oases and of the camels greedy for ruins Stretched out in the middle of the road my head turned toward the Orient I await the caravan of Fools (Translated from French by Pierre Joris) from A Human Continent I can but speak from one particular continent of the human condition. problematic. my pen to the immense "book of grievances" it addresses desperately to the rest of the world. I am not a Palestinian. and how horrifying I find this gap which continues to grow to the point of splitting humanity into two worlds moving away hopelessly from each other. I lived through the colonial epic as a very young child but I carry its stigmata and cannot cease to denounce its repercussions. Even if I write in French. All this to show how unbearable the division between North and South is. to say the least. I am not a black man. I will not cease then to vibrate with all that touches on that "excluded third" of humanity. I remain a man of the South. but I retain in me the memory of slavery.

and thought also. apparently the privileged as well as the poverty-stricken. is not enough. What I want to assert here is that no one (South-North. the one that considers mankind in spite of its differences. of course. Now. For what is at stake is the rethinking of the world and of humanity in their unity. though depressing in many ways) represents a determining stage for the stakes I have mentioned earlier. to speak only of the great social movements (but don't they all go together?). Thus the fetishism of frontiers. to make its causes more explicit. For after all we live on the same planet or sail on the same boat. If the ship breaks in two. The shock of the collapse has been too strong and its echo is still deafening. . does seem to belong to a distant epoch. to return to the values that make man the prime preoccupation. showing for instance that this reality does represent all the components of humanity. To unveil this reality. is. It is true. can soothe some suffering here or there. The emergence of a new thought capable of integrating these upheavals and of proposing paths toward a reconstruction of meaning and strategies of resistance to the newly established order-before even thinking of counterattack initiatives-the emergence of that thought is slow in arriving. those that have nothing human left in them except the instinct not to live but only to survive. in its unity. But it cannot substitute itself for a true humanism. with its equal right to dignity and to a dream borne by hope. the resurgence of ideas that preach natural selection and purifications of all kinds. This is why I consider that the end of the era which is our own (while it isn't "heroic" in the usual sense. such an illusion is more rampant in the camp of the haves. One must go further. it would be useless to throw one half of the passengers overboard while hoping to save the other half. praiseworthy in its spirit. to say the least.Abdellatif Laabi 163 some merciless drift of continents. shaken. you have to admit with me that we are living an unrecognizable historic phase where the great movement of ideas. are at the heart of their adventure and more than ever they are enjoined to get as close as possible to the spirit of this adventure. Their faith in an operative humanity. Those who still remember (the generation that preceded us and our own) are for the most part helpless. master of its history. We therefore have to remind ourselves that the peril is at our door. Creation is urged once again to break its limits through a more meticulous exploration of its territory. Thus the particular brings me to the general. can build his/her future while ignoring that of the other. The challenges are such that poetry. for the philosophical and ideological edifice on which this faith rested has been shattered. desirable given these dire straits. rich-poor) can manage alone. The humanitarian ideal.

Facing this intangible reality of the human condition. ethnic. and cultural purifications. a few illusions whose loss can only serve to reinforce our remaining dreams. I would like to scrutinize it in other ways at this parting moment. It is the one that will gather and echo a small vibration of our cries and our tears. We have no right to loosen our grip. What is at stake is the survival of the breath and the spirit. of freedom that gives life back to life. to indicate. the only one that truly "belongs" to us. But even our losses have been compensated by an added liberty that we tend to reduce to the sole dimension of solitude. It is this century that will carry a minuscule trace of our loves.164 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 Let us not forget that among some of our dreams which have been destroyed. We have lived in it for better or worse. But what we can be sure of is that it will never be a lie which will add to other lies. there were. an ingredient of intolerance. For if we have disentangled ourselves from all closed systems regardless of their claimed generosity. And because we have a tendency to denounce it. Our speech was given to us through its birth pangs and its death throes. of our most stubborn dreams. even a solemn tone to my remarks. our revolts. Our eyes have opened on it and will close soon after it. we are even more committed than in the past to the emergencies that constitute the foundation of poetry. Evil is simply more concrete and more atrocious when it survives under our eyes and touches us head-on. reduce inequalities. Our poetry cannot resolder the planet. however. will not convert the predators of this world to virtue. have been better or worse off than those who preceded us and those who will come after us. the survival of the work that testifies. I don't know if we. The war of good and evil in man accompanies him since his origin and will thus continue till the end. Those of us who cling desperately to the center of this chain of love that is poetry. like the prophets of old. . prevent war. moral. women and men of this century. Let me conclude with these remarks: this atrocious century is also our own. What is at stake is a legacy of light without which no dawn can break through at the end of this darkness through which we stagger together with what remains of a humanity unreSigned to its own decay. we poets do not have the power to change the world and the course of history to "heal" man from the evil that consumes him. will not bring back life to a child trapped by a bomb he was caressing like a toy. the way to salvation. I cannot help but think that the century's drawing to a close is giving a grave. It hatched our conscience and consciousness. What comes out of our fingers will not nourish the starving.

of placing the voice and arranging oneself. If we write. a placement of the voice. a segment of language that presents itself as though it should be-if one wants to get what can be gotten from it. different. a fruit or a newspaper in the appropriate situations. source of beauty. a way of extending oneself. a way of placing oneself as somebody who requests in the moment of intonation. it is out of faithfulness to the dazzling dreams which visited us. One cannot intone (in reality or in fancy) without extending oneself in some determined way at the very moment in which one intones: without dealing with oneself as an extended thing. Do I wish to say that there is an intonation. another way of affectation. maybe. fraternal. Deliberately. which could be called "poetic"? I do not believe it is so simple. for example. I refer in this way to whatever discourse induces me or invites me to enact. But there are many ways of doing this. that of a humanity reconciled. But I do wish to say that the poetry of recent years (of these last decades) that interests me is that which produces hesitation in the moment of intoning it: that which induces me to ask myself. situated at each moment among extensions. Which is to say.Reinaldo Laddaga 165 heightening the cold dishes of intolerance. Or the way. But one cannot. but something-intoned. not everything. the share of a speculator deposited in the stock market of corruptions. without placing oneself in some determined way in relation to the world. "In what tone should this be said that which I am now reading?" (In one of the few but extraordinary. place the voice. some segment of language. in the sense . in all fairness. in which a discourse is spoken at a meeting. to imagine myself uttering it. among them. There is a character. intone. messenger of hope. it is out of respect for the pact of honor we have signed with ourselves since our awakening to conscience. that incites me or induces me to utter it out loud. in reality or in fancy. as an extension among extended things. (Translated from French by Edris Makward. adapted and with additional material by Pierre Joris) Reina/do Laddaga I call "poetry" (just for myself without the aspiration that this would become common usage) some discourse. a firebrand of hate feeding the brazier of hatreds. sower of love.

And this extension.. if that which in the endless want of shelter comes. "Crossed or crucified" is the extension in which this mode exposes itself.. at each moment. is finding oneself completely unsheltered." or "perhaps above all . defenses. "What is the tone of the person reading?") Put another way.." But the line. experiencing the pleasure or pain of this irritation. irritated already from the beginning. decide in respect to the following question. in a poetry that does not let me. in poetry. . These are the last lines of a poem of his ("Ah. Ortiz. offering a maximum of surface susceptible to that which comes from others. in this segment of discourse?" (How to arrange myself in extension. In which tone to read this line? This line-which goes on as if extending itself continuously-hesitating. for the invention of love . By . I am interested. or perhaps above all. That poetry is "the want of shelter without end. I choose to read it in this way: the poetic condition. if you wish." for example. This can mean." or even this repetition of "humbly.166 boundary 2/ Spring 1999 of pleasurable. that also impede pleasure. deprived of certain mechanisms bound to shelter. "How should the voice be placed. And exposed. is not crossed or crucified by something that is presented but merely by something which cries out. with respect to people and things?) What does this have to do with the question of context? An invitation to think about the question can be found in a fragment of a writer who composed. without finishing deciding. by endless cries and spread out humbly." or this. the want of shelter without end crossed or crucified. Hence this "also. it is crossed). or weakened. throughout decades. this also. this type of discourse that I have been speaking about which interests me: an Argentine named Juan L. mine or another's.") included in a book published in 1958 entitled Of the roots and the sky: Do not forget that poetry if it is pure sensitivity or inevitable sensitivity. . "Crossed or crucified" without deciding. in the last decades. the unformulated question of mine has been. before being crucified. causes imprisonment and pain (if finding oneself crucified) or pleasure and its multiplication (if. says without equivocation certain things. above all. at the same time... the condition of poetic utterance. "if you wish . or does not easily let me. humbly.. as if it had been uttered by someone who had yet to manage deciding which attitude of enunciation to adopt. of course. my friends.. you speak of rhymes .. very different things. even hesitating. experiences in listening to readings I have had.

or even more. in the endless want of shelter. upon going forward) "for the invention of love. a mode among others in placing oneself in such a way that the endless cries. unified. or identifying it. if it means deciding if he who writes in this case does so (believes he does so) in a national context." Is it a blessing or a curse. as though this "love" was itself singular. in any case. better yet that deafen. that prevents this language from stabilizing itself in a code and this culture in a vision of the world." But what does it mean. But anyone of these poems is intoned faithfully in the moment and in the place of this intonation by he or she-in the endless want of shelter-who extends himself or herself "humbly. (But is the endless want of shelter a context?) A poem is written in a language. just. or in some other context. become amplified. in whatever place. of an intonation. no matter what the place and what the moment. in recent times. Here is the context of a poem-of someone writing or reading. there are cries without end. if not enduring. inventing a way of being among others. or in the context of capital. of course. in whatever moment and whatever place. At the moment. Some precise affirmations could be deduced of what has been said if I had more space about the realization of the simple fact that there is poetry. which each and every one crosses and crucifies. Which is rather vague. interest me: the endless want of shelter. In context. hesitating. in a region of language. the endless want of shelter. "inventing love"? It is not. Whoever extends himself in this way does so without drawing attention to and without affirming himself. merely discovering it. if you wish. "Inventing love" means. is ciphered through the fact that. (Translated from Spanish by Kathy Kopple) . according to the formulation of the question organizing this selection. uttering a poem-of the poems that.Reinaldo Laddaga 167 "endless cries. in a certain sense. in a language and a culture. the mere fact that any of us may find himself exposed to cries without end? All of the distaste and the delight of being there. humbly" (the humility of this extension is what matters. that is to say.

We believe. Fifth. and they truly have been thinking. always thinking. when it loses its meaning. and what they are thinking. It is also an essential description of the original picture of the universe. until we see that this cultured world and cultured mass again abound in Nonoist vitality and Nonoist value. Third. that they have been thinking-it is what our thoroughly illuminated intuition informs us. today's applause will be filled with Nono of high density. principal category that includes the object. causes Nono syndromes. Applaud to us! .. Nono is an overall.. Neither can we tell how they are thinking. Beethoven was . Today. As long as we don't make ourselves completely nonchalant.168 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 LanMa Manifesto of Nonoism* (Chengdu. form. ThereforeToday we declare: First. Second. Nono is not "not." nothing in this universe is not Nono-any sound. Fourth. process. we nono. Our current culture doesn't have the capacity to contain this special kind of life phenomenon." When things and human spirits have undergone a "precultural reduction. is Nono: it contains the power of Nono. they are living in a Nono form. they make us become Nono. they are Nono lives. and result of precultural thinking. they make us feel Nono. method. in the name of Nono and what follows it-a cluster of meanings that are still vague but will soon become clear-we declare: with the proposition of Nonoism. The only difficulty is that up to now we still haven't found any cultural method to "prove" whether they are living in an "animate" form or in a "vegetal" form. we will endeavor to broaden the boundaries of culture until the culture acquires a profound understanding of what we today call the Nonoist living form and the Nonoist thinking form. China. and then it will dissolve in Nono . content. and realizes various degrees of Nonoist value. we cannot help but believing: they truly have been alive. 4 May 1986) In the midst of the ruins of ancient Rome stand those gigantic stone pillars: that they have been alive.

I find it unhelpful to suggest . an impulse is Nono. After a precultural reduction. two moons are even more Nono. But if poets like Bernstein and Perelman or Watten have been saying that language can escape from a received identification with commodity. it looks to me they have been deploying a notion of reserve. In Britain poets like Anthony Mellors and O. A point is Nono. Marriott have pointed to the difficulty of applying a loaded term like innovation to language: attempts to liberate language from spurious or repressive norms of registration still beg the question of what can or cannot be commodified.Peter Larkin 169 good at mobilizing the Nono power generated by sound. and his works are exuberant with Nonoist thoughts. rather than compulsively innovating the terms of any question put to it? I want to ask what sustains the innovatory. the sky is also Nono. But how far can a defamiliarising contortion go in displaying the syntactic frame? For myself. but a peach is Nono as well. *This neologism is a translation from the Chinese fe. the earth is also Nono. drifting far away.S. a taste is still Nono. bringing to the fore some linguistically nonstandard registrations to induce a greater structural awareness of what is acted out in language. linguistic meaning and culture are lost. What's left in this world are only free-flowing intuitions. the riddle of the universe is now reduced. realizing Nonoist value. The screen of consciousness that was blown up by the networking of culture and language is now like a lone sail. and is what fuels it something freely or unfreely given. if the given is the sum of our resources in some way? Should we think of finding a place for innovation? If this is to misconstrue its role. a plane is Nono. which means literally "no no. everything is Nono. causing great Nono syndromes. including intuitions themselves.-Translator (Translated from Chinese by Yunte Huang) Peter Larkin Innovation Contra Acceleration What are the ways in which innovation will bear with us? Can something be asked of innovation. In the face of intuitions. one moon is Nono." a double negative. is that very misprision at least as important and productive as anything within innovation itself? Poetic innovation usually presupposes linguistic change. fei. a diamond is especially Nono. and to that extent is a matter of history for American Language poetry.

including cyberspace transmission. I am left wondering what is the identity between the different on one hand and the novel on . to loop the emergent through the residual. really the speed of communication itself as spectacle of fulfillment. rather than simply oppose the emergent to the residual in a purely accelerative way?2 Most of the cultural acceleration we see around. both of which are versions of the nondominant in any cultural phase. something arrives to answer and burden the material of innovation. in other words. since what is going on operates like. to select innovation for the values of restitution and conservation. a facility for adopting the different as the future legacy of the same. remains within the sphere of predominance. What is the new the renewable of? Where. The given is in the opportunity or the obstruction. by contrast. a fantasy of structuration more ambivalent in its capacity for interaction. that is. and that something is the absorption of innovation into an answerable poetry. as acceleration. I suggest it is fantasy which both does the work of innovation and simultaneously occludes its product: something gets to be value-added beyond exemplary technique. it is to go on relating constructs to what it is co-structures them. tied to the processing speed of commodity put-through. is the naturality of innovation? The idea of innovation supplies a trace of reformable commodity (and is a key concept in business studies) but remains. If the formal goal of the innovatory is to relate us to some productive site of pure construction. by contrast.170 boundary 2 / Spring 1999 that innovatory poetry gets as far as laying bare syntactic and ideological frames so as to re-empower the reader. This means we have to ask not just what is the economy of the new but what provokes the speed of the new. the role of fantasy.1 I am not seeking to decry innovatory techniques so much as wanting to embed innovation (at the cost of some sacrifice of critical purchase) in a wider sphere of cultural negotiations. and is to be valued more as. If Language poetry has succeeded as enactment and is not reducible to formal representation of itself as a condition. Ontologically speaking. If we believe in schemes for a more radical form of innovation than this. or to re-embed conventions as inventions in what it is they can be given to be. and politically it is to open writing to what can misrecognise or re-recognise it beyond the formal provisions of innovation itself. I take the cultural to be a zone from which the constructed has to forego formal identity in opening onto a richer but also more chastening field of pressurerelations met with as one might meet with givens. this is the only way it could happen. Is it possible. is to reconnect human and cultural constructs to the fate of naturalisation.

or the art of "blank parody" . This is a contract which brings about the familiar telluric retraction of the spaces of the world. projecting toward a not yet reached future as a space in touch with material localities of reinclusion rather than the already overtaken site of exemplary redundancy. If a device goes quicker than its own time. The exhaustion of temporal distancing brings in also a "parking accident": if no meaningful or bodily locality survives. or what he calls a "general accident". the question of any repose (itself a form of stable flow) becomes hopelessly redundant. an abolition of the resistance of distance. cocooned as they are in a continuous real-time but placeless interactivity which economises the body to a few basic gestures. Virilio says. The celebration of boundless energy associated with some forms of experimentalism has rightly been seen as a form of consumption. pricing itself out of more modest though more sustainable modes of becoming within the wider Iife-community. It is a commonplace that industrial civilisation rests on an ever more intense preoccupation with the process of permanent innovation. where the real as pure acceleration has precisely overtaken transformatory change. speed emerges as paradoxically older than time: the machine outnatures nature. Acceleration is the least troubling way of absorbing innovation in contemporary culture.Peter Larkin 171 the other? Could it be the novel as effect is only what is left after the other is accelerated into the same? Difference. but the resulting naturalisation of the machine reduces that machine simply to a means.5 It is also possible to affirm the fantasmic origin of most of our causal constructs. divorcing the pace of technological growth from that of cultural evolution. 6 Andreas Huyssen encourages opposition to a received postmodernism of the "anything goes" variety. by contrast. its alterity is not cumulative or susceptible (pace some avant-garde procedures) to intensification. but rather than leading to the usual postmodern neutralisation of relation with the world about us. it no longer operates as a skill. this can be understood as a fantasy precisely physical and concrete in its effects. is not subject! object relations so much as object/traject relations: acceleration in perception may spark off an accident in the flow of the real. may not need to outrun the same. For Paul Virilio the paradox of unabsorbable speeds among life-systems results in a spatial desert and immobilism: people are mobile only on the one reductively unified spot. 3 What is distorted. 4 I should like to plead for innovation as a form of restitution. The immobilism conjured up here is not a contemplative stillness but blocks off all possible passages from the vantage of the nonplace of acceleration.

rather than its arbitrary standing serving as justification for overlaying or ignoring the natural. 11 This aporia over the placing of language for me marks a scarcity of relations. whether poetic or technological. but the fantasmic folds crumpling any attempt at encounter indicate both a scarcity of stable frame (because subjected to flow) and a persistence of shared particle on the cusp of momentary inter- . and a fallow. Variable speed is what gives currency to flow. as if implementing Robinson Jeffers's vision that the shift in power from builders to destroyers had already culminated in modernism. and shared discourses among what I take it would be contiguous non-natives. recalling groups that live at slower ecological rates from drifting off into exclusion. which enables it to be nature-directed. redundancy. In other words flow is the relatively stable form of both imbalance and invariance in what he calls the homeorrhetic. So what of innovation in terms of this wider. a flow which achieves an open sustainability in and around such undesirables as stasis. though not a neutral.7 Virilio will also insist critical thinking must reestablish paths of memory built on topical spaces. this can still be understood as an ecstasis which hollows out a species of articulation from within nature's closure. local experience. and disorder. and scarcity in my own practice is the cue for innovation to the extent it explores a way round both absence and excess. poised at a differential spring to launch itself outside the natural. and here we can tap into Michel Serres's inSight that flow is the norm for the thermodynamics of open systems. Poetic thinking is nothing if it can't afford room for variable speeds of interaction. 9 This species of flow-change can be related to what Karl Kroeber sees as a negatively capable competence whereby humans accept nature's transformative multiplicity as the essential basis for valuable cultural constructs. 10 It's the nonabsolute status of the construct. green movements. 8 The American conservationist Aldo Leopold related change (especially the self-induced variety) to flow where change is not a disruptive throwaway discharge of energy but tends to elaborate the flow-mechanism itself and lengthen its circuit. Where innovation remains caught up in a more expensive mode of linguistic revisionism. and third world movements to reconstitute the map of modernity. and has called for women. paracultural circuit? In some versions of poetic minimalism it operates effectively as a form of waiting or doing without. The natural is not fully open to articulation. after-period is what is needed. all seen as interactive microsystems rather than structural inefficiencies.172 boundary 2 I Spring 1999 (Jameson). Lying fallow would certainly require an innovatory technique which at one level is anything but natural.

detecting some sort of common undertow among such diverse names as Thomas A. As such. more messily conforming naturals of our nonautonomous condition. and others. Harriet Tarlo has been drawing together the threads of what she calls "radical pastoral" in recent British poetry. needs to be evoked by both flexible and brittle concepts: a nonaccelerative flow should not be read as a pure liquidity. moving outside oppositional hierarchies. being composed not only of what bends with the flow but also of what breaks into symbolic obstruction amid the flow. a poetry of ecotonaf attunement. where the specificity of human need (by which we cease to supervise the whole of nature) precludes any facile mimicking of natural turbulence per se. An answerable innovation is one that respects the scarcity of fundamental resource opportunities out of which cultures can be remade and does not squander them in some accelerated hyperconsumption of the other. Flow. The other may persist itself only under the sign of scarcity. if it is to be more than naive organicism. it may be one of the strongest margins around. 12 Innovation appears as what takes place within the scarcity of the now. I don't see innovation as posse