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 13, 2009

Pierre Joris: Notes Towards a Nomadics Manifesto (Part Two)

04/05/96 a nomadic poetics' method will be rhyzomatic: which is different from that core 20C technique, collage, i.e. a rhyzomatics is not an aesthetics of the fragment, which aesthetic has dominated poetics since the Jena romantics even as transmogrified by modernism, high & low, & more recently retooled in the neo- classical form of the citation -- ironic &/or decorative -- throughout what is called "post-modernism."

& remember that the romantic is the anti-nomadic par excellence, i.e. Wordsworth's "emotion recollected in tranquility."

A nomadic poetics will cross languages, not just translate, but write in all or any of them. If Pound, Joyce & others have shown the way, it is essential now to push this matter further, again, not as "collage" but as a material flux of language matter, moving in & out of semantic & non-semantic spaces, moving around & through the features accreting as poem, a lingo-cubism that is no longer an "explosante fixe" as Breton defined the poem, but an "explosante mouvante."

Useful in this context too is Charles Bernstein thinking about idiolects: "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." Replace "English" here with "all" or "any" & you have a nomadic idiolectal stance.

Not the end of man, pace the French twisted desire for disappearnce, but, possibly the end of the alphabet needs to be envisaged as a millennial scenario. As Don Byrd speculates:

The great poetry of the 1960's was created in resistance to the alphabet as a medium that had become dangerously fluent. By the 1970's, no one could resist. For the time being poiesis is in abeyance.

Now we gather the resources of modernism for the new medium as the poets of the sixteenth century gathered the resources of the classical tradition. Digital speech, musical sound, and image all merge in one grammar. The alphabet will continue in this mix for some time, but, in popular discourse, this obsolete mnemonic is even now largely decorative. It remains to be found out if IBM, Microsoft, and the Turner Boardcasting Corporation have already coopted the renaissance.

The alphabet thus done & over with. "We'll keep it for the sake of a one-day classicism." It belongs to a brief 2000-year history of parcellisation, hierarchization. It's most useful fringe, its last binge being the Mac Low/ Cage investigatory methods. The suggestion here is that our space rather than being visual is much more profoundly "haptic," sonorous.

The visual thus a special case only & to be revisited as such: The nomad eye of cubism (& dada/surrealism) as against the sedentary perception of perspective. As James J. Gibson (The Ecological approach to Vision Perception) suggests, motion is the natural mode of human and animal vision: "We must perceive in order to move, but we must also move in order to perceive."

Thus the usefulness of writing in painting, Cy Twombly, etc. Or for me right now, the work of Nicole Peyrafitte, her ink drawings, those shapes & figures crossing & recrossing animal & vegetal, human & non-human, combining in a wild metonymic grammar of desire, & through that pictorial space, these thin lines of near-microscopic writing, in red or black ink, traversing, circumventing, circumscribing, separating, piercing, splicing, connecting the figural volumes & the smooth space of the paper. The attraction of language, the desire to read the lines, pushes the onlooker to move in, to close in on the drawing in order to decypher the text. Her haptic performance of the drawings she calls "Riding the Line." The lines move freely & the reader cranes her neck, twist herself around in order to follow the contour of the lines of writing, then steps back to grasp a figure, moves in again to read -- & while reading can no longer "see" the organised, striated space of the figural volumes which themselves now dissolve into lines-of-flight. This constant destabilisation of view-point, this continuous eye-&-body-act of de- & re-territorialising the spaces of the drawing keep the viewer from ever being able to find that fictional single static point, that center outside the painting/drawing that would organize a fixed, rectilinear, thus hierarchical world & gaze, as was the aim of Renaissance perspective.

The nomad poet, the NOET, gives allegiance to INDRA the warrior god as that is the point of entry to break open the unholy trinity that, so Dumezil, has ruled the Indo-European organisations, from Asian days to Xtian America. If Varuna and Mitra, king and priest, constitute the double points of power they need Indra to consolidate the static state (of everything) -- but Indra always escapes, exceeds. Write D/G: "Indra, the warrior god is in opposition to Varuna no less than to Mitra. He can no more be reduced to one or the other than he can constitute a third of their kind. Rather, he is like a pure and immeasurable multiplicity, a pack, and irruption of the ephemeral and the power of metamorphosis. He unites the bond just as he betrays the pact. He brings a furor to bear against sovereignty, a celerity against gravity, secrecy against the public, a power (puissance) against sovereignty, a machine against the apparatus."

One of the new machines of a nomadic poetry -- & we are not afraid of technology, all poetry has been techno-bonded from the beginning -- one of the new machines is the computer. Interestingly enough, one of those investigating cyberpoetics -- one incarnation of nomadic poetics -- is John Cayley whose ongoing work is called INDRA'S NET. Here is what Cayley has to say concerning his project:

"Indra's Net pieces employ generative algorithms and semi-aleatory processes and the composition of the algorithm is seen as an integral if normally invisible part of the composition of the piece. One of the unique facilities offered by the computer in this context is the ability to set up a feed-back loop. 'Experimental' texts can be generated and the results reviewed quickly and painlessly enough to allow the processes to be modified and improved. Once distributed, the pieces 'run' and generate text for a reader. The reader can interact but does not choose pathways between words directly in the way that she might choose a pathway through the spaces of hypertext fiction. However in my most recent distributed piece, readers can alter the work itself (irreversibly), collecting generated lines or phrases for themselves and adding them to the hidden given text so that eventually their selections come to dominate the generative process. The reader's copy may then reach a state of chaotic stability, strangely attracted to one particular modulated reading of its original seed text. [NB] Work in progress is towards a series of '(Plastic) Literary Objects' which will be both generative and responsive, triggered by as many as possible of the program- and user-generated events which are accessible using a standard computer system. This latest object will be a far cry from the average web page."

THE NOET AS INDRA AND INDRA AS PACK, AS MULTITUDE or multiplicty, lays to rest another fundamental misconception recently inherited from France. Barthes' doleful sense that "the author is dead." Were it so, that would only tanscendentalize him or her, for who else is god but the dead author, deus absconditus? The binary on-off logic of Descartian discourse haunts even the most sensible of the French to this day. No, what has happened is that the author has multiplied, has lost its his her identity as singular subject. Rimbaud accurately said, way back towards another fin-de-siecle, "I is another." We now have to say: "I is many others".

A nomadic poetics will thus explore ways in which to make -- & think about -- a poetry that takes into account not only the manifold of languages & locations but also of selves each one of us is constantly becoming. The nomadic poem as ongoing & open-ended chart of the turbulent fluxes the dispersive nature of our realities make inevitable.

This French Trouble, which has colonized English departments in the American University, needs further & ongoing critique from the NPLF, the Nomadic Poetic Liberation Front. Here's how, in a forthcoming book of essays, Don Byrd & Jed Rasula deal with, and "détournent" (to use that tactical situationist word), among many other things, just such a sacred cow -- the Lacanian axiom according to which "the unconscious is structured like a language:" "Lacan's attempt to make the unconscious homologous with language is a bid for escaping the vicious circle of representation by affirming a principle of unconscious as all surface. Where Lacan says, 'the unconscious is like a language' we might well substitute: the unconscious likes language. The libidinal hunger, the drive or Trieb that Freud finds lurking as a primal disposition of the unconscious, thus assumes an amatory/predatory relation to the constitutive grounds of consciousness as such." This opens up the possibility of thinking the unconscious as a nomadic war-machine. Freud's hyper-cathexed erotico- thanatosian one-way "drives" have been refirgured as what D/G call "affects." These represent the ability to affect & be affected rather than a personal feeling. An affect is "a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body's capacity to act." "It is the active discharge of emotion, whereas feeling is an always displaced, retarded, resisting emotion." Amatory/predatory affects are nomadic lines of intensity having to do with ways of moving between different strata such as consciousness/ unconsciousness, etc.

The NOET learns & then writes in foreign languages (real or made-up ones) in order to come to the realization that all languages are foreign. Do away with the prison-house of the mother-tongue, or, as I have written elsewhere:" … why does one have to write in the papa-maman, the mummy/daddy language, why should that oedipal choice be the only possible or legitimate one, why should it not be my own sexual choice, that moment of one's discovery of the other, that moment when it is our sex that speaks and not that of our progenitors. So now the mother-tongue will have lost the m and have become the other tongue but that other will also now lose it's hairy, impronouncable, "the" & gain a lamda & a little victory- sign and become the lover's-tongue. As if the vowels somehow stood steadfast while the consonants, like my continents, kept on drifting. The lover's tongue then." 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 scène de famille. Which also brings to mind an unfinished project -- I'm offering it here to anyone who wants to pick it up -- I had concocted in the late seventies with my sadly departed old friend, the Swiss-Italian poet Franco Beltrametti (another true noet): an anthology to be called BLOWS AGAINST THE MOTHER-TONGUE & which would gather the work of poets who had written nomadically in a language that was not their mother-tongue: from Ovid, say, to Anselm Hollo.

Jerome Rothenberg & I have over the last six years put together a large work called POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM. Talking about it in Chicago some months ago I said: "Sometimes I say I. Sometimes I say we: Jerry may or may not agree. We are two authors but already an anthology in ourselves. To quote Deleuze & Guattari at the opening of A THOUSAND PLATEAUS: 'The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together. Since each of us were several, there was already quite a crowd.'" The authors are, pace Blake, both in eternity & in time. And that vast assemblage we called POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM, & which on the face of it looks like an anthology edited by two poets, should maybe better be seen as a nomadology in action, an event authored by us, which means the two multitudes that Jerry & I are, plus the multiplicities the poets in the book are.

But if it is all flux, all nomad wandering, when & how to write. How not to stop & yet do the poem? At the beginning of this text I had referred to the poem as a poasis, an poem-oasis, i.e. a stop in the moving along the nomad line-of-flight. Recently the Tunisian poet Abdelwahab Meddeb brought my attention to a term used by the 10C Sufi poet Niffari who introduced the concept of "mawqif" into his poetics in order to define what the poem is: The mawqif is the pause, the stop-over, the rest, the stay of the wanderer between two moments of movement, two runs, two sites, two places, two states. Writes Meddeb: "It enjoys a rest, raises itself upright; between two durations it scrutinizes briefly the instant when from its heighth it confronts the vision or the word exteriorising itself."

Of course this notion of the stop-over, of the resting place or moment of the weary nomadic traveller between two travels or travails gets hypostasized in Christianity as the stations of the Cross and in the medieval imperial church reduced from a nomadic line-of-flight to a circular, domesticated movement -- the procession -- inside or around the church or cathedral. (Just as in official, imperial Islam the nomadic line of flight gets domesticated into the circular movement, the circumambulation of the Ka'aba). Fascinating to note that one of the early text of modern poetry, along the noetic line-of-flight of blasphemy & comedy, of universal convertibility of all principles, goes straight for that corralled hypostasis of the christian stations of the cross, liberating its movement in a belly-laugh of the blasphemous & absurd. I am of course referring to Alfred Jarry's THE PASSION OF JESUS CONSIDERED AS AN UPHILL BYCICLE RACE.

The mawqif has to be conceived as a tension, a movement of a peculiar kind, & not as some static resting point -- not Wordsworth's tranquility-- it is a momentary, moving placement on a smooth space, metonymic in relation to before & after, and not a resting place, metaphor for the final resting place, that transcendental parking lot, above or below. It is a (momentary) stance in relation to & with space, the horizonal, thus active, in motion, even if of a different motion than that before or after. A whirling motion, making for the connection (rhizomatic) between today's & tomorrow's nomadic moves, whirling dervish, or that dance/stance, as Charles Olson once put it: "How to dance / sitting down."

This "mawqif," or station or"poasis," this moment of movement- in-rest, of movement on another plane or plateau, between today's & tomorrow's lines of flight. Niffari, in the 10th century, worked this one out, be it in relation to something called "god."

Just such a nomadic poetics is profoundly at work in the great Beduin poetries -- the pre-islamic mu'allaqat or odes -- that are so often described as stilted, overdetermined, static poems because of their presumedly predetermined closed structures and monorhymes. In fact, these poems can be seen exactly as nomadic dérives, or as rhizomatic structures.

There are 10 -- in some more restricted canons only 7 -- poems, mu'allaqat, or odes that make up the established, examplary corpus of pre-islamic poetry. Of greatly varying length, the odes usually start in the same place (the atla'l, or meditation on the traces of an old camp the poet comes across in his wanderings), then goes on to a hymn of his camel (a moment of stasis & then precipitous movement) after which it will often laud the poet's lady, then his weapons & exploits in the manner of the praise poem, & go on to tell of the tribe's great feats. What is fascinating is the rhizomatic way in which the poem, inside that set structure, proceeds via series of images, moving from realm to realm, human - animal - vegatable - mineral, & back up, away & around & through, horizontal & vertical, taproots, transfers. Writes Jacques Berque: "This process, where one or the other series alternate, does not worry about coherency. Its most moving aspect, I mean its most mobilizing aspect, is the heteroclite richness of its calls [appels], much more so than their respective compatibility or their mutual cohesion. What is important for this process is, literally, to transfer. It takes the trope seriously, or at leats has not yet had the time to reduce it exclusively to a rhetoric. And that rhetoric is also present in some of these poems, permitting the outrageous, the ironic and the precious to come through, as well as the reflexive from the instinctive, the factive from the originary, -- it is that dérive, no, that perpetual hunt from realm to realm, from stadium to stadium, from genre to genre, that could appear as specifically Arabic."

The monorhyme scheme (something obviously impossible to reproduce or use in English -- though some dubb poetry tries something similar but with great constricting, limiting results) is interesting however for nomad thought. It is pure repetition & not pattern. One of these, & maybe my favorite, is Ibn Tarafa's Mu'allaqat, on which I worked with an Iraqi friend in the late seventies, & which has been much on my mind again lately. He is the most modern, rebel of the nomad poets, an early Rimbaud. And an examplary political poet, in Tarafah we witness the clash of the nomadic war-machine, its poetic line of flight & attack in this case, with the hierachical sedentary orders of king & governor, arbitrary law & executioner. Vide his VIDA (to borrow nomadically from the bio-form of later wandering-poets, the troubadours).

[The preceding is part of an earlier version of a manifesto that can be found in extended form in Joris’s groundbreaking collection, A Nomad Poetics: Essays, published by & still readily available from Wesleyan University Press. (The first part was posted October 17, 2009 on Poems & Poetics.) Its relevance to our ongoing project on “outsider poetry” should be apparent.]


David Need said...

as Vedic percise scholar person, I got to raise wrinkles about reading of Indra as leaky third in priest-warrior triad as misread of process since Varuna-Mitra just reconfigures later as Indra-Agni as these things are want to do & Indra is warrior pre-eminant...late year at a Vedic studies conference a large Brit linebacker of a young scholar guy almost drooling over talking 'bout how we should never forget Indra is a warrior (shades of 300)

so, if that is what nomadic you're thinking (like a Sequoia SUV mebe) I am too tired of yet another version of this baggy fantasy of endless rippling desire me

harsh I suppose & please take specific to this particular nub I compose my own thought back across

David Need said...

I suppose I want to add a note to this--I've been musing about the difference between what I call a poetics of light that is interested in bringing down light or adducing and moves towards the still and thus towards the pause and stillness and image etc, however rich fresh oasis and a poetics of shape-shifting that wants to bring shape-shifting into the ritual space and lattice-work by which the place or pause is extended, that brings difference right onto the ritual ground...

old Buddhist trope emptiness is form form emptiness read to say nowhere not changing form & thus even imagined image and light change (as Rothko put it or found it anyway)

this admits spear of imagination in relation and at stake