To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bruce Stater: Anthologies & Anthrologies (A Letter in Response to a Letter)

Dear Jerry,

I've been reading w/ great continued & expanded interest your blog postings, practically on a daily basis-- & as significant as I've found them in the past, some of the recent additions have seemed even more resonant, provocative, & inspirational to me. I was particularly impressed, specifically, by the amazing & marvelous design recordings of the Shaker Poems or "vision gifts" as they are referred to, but also more generally by the powerfully insightful connections you make between & amongst such a wide range of visionary, politico-discursive, & innovative practices of poetics & performance. & it has seemed to me that your blog is a sort of Anthology of Anthologies, taking that term in its very best sense, a gathering of flowers, & the languages of flowers. Or perhaps, corroborating with the etymology in a different direction, an Anthrology of Anthrologies-- a human, meaning universal, poetics that is at once a rigorous logos & an enthralling mythos expounding upon what it is to seek, construct, & constitute meaning.

Although in large part I’m responding here to the “Outsider Anthrology,” I am also referring to the way that you’ve situated it among so many other sorts of gatherings, & to how these multiple gathering create a music of harmony & dissonance as they are sounded together.

One of the things that I've been thinking about as I read these pieces & your framing of them here is this sense I have of a movement from ideas of form & structure & other sorts of "object-metaphors" toward & into a discourse of practices & processes, of borrowings & exchanges, participations, movements, becomings, & passages where the dialectics of form-dissipation, structure-randomness, pattern-improvisation, & order-chaos constitute no more or less than energies which compel trajectories of venture, opening, & toward... &...

I find this movement particularly engaging for a number of reasons-- reasons that converge at those intersections of art & life, thought & action, memory & making.

Between 1999 & 2005, while I was "performing my madness" on the streets of New York & beyond, I generally had a preconceived sense of form, theme, & question--a potential discovery-- as I began a piece; yet the actions & work that resulted from these sets of inquiry, both the successes & failures of realized & unanticipated "happenings," were almost entirely the result of improvisation-- w/ other individuals, w/ social institutions, w/ manmade & natural environments-- always also working w/in & at (perhaps sometimes slightly beyond) the edge of laws & codes of social engagement, at the limit of my own fears, doubts, insecurities, inhibitions, anxieties, impulses. So profoundly, w/in this particular period of discovery, my focus was on process & engagement & communication (touching its resonance w/ community & communion) rather than aesthetics or craft.

& I think it has remained so-- though perhaps in curious ways-- as I've attempted to return to that period-- to become its witness & recorder.

I've just begun rereading Roger Caillois's The Necessity of Mind-- & I've found myself focusing on his formulation of the ideogram as common denominator, one could say structuring & organizing theme w/in automatic or lyrical thinking-- the idea that an overdetermined syntax of symbolic connections binds together even the most apparently disparate & arbitrary free association of ideas. In Caillois's description, as I read it, this theme-structure, this organizing order, the ideogram, however unconscious or opaque it may seem, acts as a sort of energy source-- gravity, propeller, vortex, furnace, or whatnot-- for the constellation of memories, disparate images, twists & turns, & apparent non sequiturs which congeal purposefully in the flow & movement of thought. Caillois's point is to demonstrate the mechanism of overdetermination w/in this apparently random flux, but I've been considering his thesis in reverse, so to speak. How in beginning w/ these common denominators of form, order, theme, & structure, one is lead into the play of indeterminacy, chance, randomness, happenstance, unpredictability, abandonment to the unknown, the unfinished, the delicate mystery that both holds the organization of thought together & scatters its pieces to the wind.

& so I've been turning this over, considering how it relates to my own praxis of re-membering, restoring what has been lost, reconstituting what can't be said, known, or comprehended. It seems to me that as I set up a constraint or method for a piece, or impose yet another organizing structure upon those already set into motion, that my intention is to scatter thought rather than hold, shape, or form it-- more like bits of bread for the clever ravens than as a trail leading out of the dark & mysterious forest. So that in enlisting many of the methods I'm using in this impossible work-- impossible methods-- or at least barely possible to me to realize completely-- plans, patterns of organization, forms, structures, & themes revolving around this or that content-- the only purpose that really matters to me, I am beginning to understand, is to elude, through exhaustion & exasperation, what I seem to already grasp & comprehend. Or perhaps not quite this-- perhaps rather to pass through that state of exhaustion into that which hasn't yet presented itself-- whatever is left in the still too difficult to say & think-- as one might pass through inferno or psychosis into second, more essential self.

& so from the material of that "impossible experience"-- those hundreds & hundreds of acts, performances, thoughts, & perceptions-- which I still can't even begin to approach rationally, analytically, objectively-- which at one time I took extraordinary effort to expel, excoriate, eviscerate, & erase-- I relive & reassemble them toward... & toward... again & again... from unexpected angles... always unsatisfied w/ the result.

The need to bear witness to even that experience is less a grasping & holding onto, a safeguarding of order, than it is a pushing forward into the still unknown, undiscovered, unnamable. Hence always this sense of pushing toward & into w/in the returning. In that way my continued dissatisfaction w/ my inability to capture & record experience is the necessary complement of that sense that something happened-- something that must & cannot be spoken. Dissatisfaction compels me to continue toward it, however further the experience itself recedes in doing so.

& I get a sense that your orchestration of the blog is somewhat similar, configuring these particular ways of working into unexpected clusters which produce new relations, new questions, new directions, new uncertainties, & new unknowns rather than than working from more familiar patterns of the catalogue-- the static & barren citation of the "new discovery."

In both cases we touch upon the need to bare witness to the lost, forgotten, excluded-- either to that which is most unique & personal w/in us, or that which belongs to all of us-- as companions & strangers, xenoi & barbaroi, to ourselves & the world-- to language itself.

I wanted to remark on that... that beyond my interest in the pieces you've been putting up, I've been even more engaged w/ the way that this Anthrology moves forward... ever into & toward the still unknown... ever transformative in its returns, rememberings, recollections... re-newing & re-membering what has already become the Book... what still may become of the mystery of the unfolding of the BOOK of BOOKS, the book of the memory of the book, the book of the not yet, the book of the distilled & thwarted return, the book of residuum & et cetera.

[An online version of Bruce Stater’s book-length poem Labyrinth of Vision was published by Ahadada Books at Excerpts appeared in Poems and Poetics on February 15, 2009 & an earlier letter in response to that posting on February 17.]

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