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

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pierre Joris: From Notes Towards a Nomadics Manifesto (Part One)

[The following is 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. Its relevance to our ongoing project on “outsider poetry” should be apparent.]

"nomads-by-choice in the welfare of settled rings"
Allen Fisher, Dispossession & Cure

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.
. A nomadic poetics is a war machine, always on the move, always changing, morphing,moving through languages, cultures, terrains, times without stopping. Refuelling halts are called poases, they last a night or a day, the time of a poem, & then move on. The sufi poets spoke of mawqif - we will come back to this.
. A nomadic poetics needs mindfulness. In & of the drift (dérive) there is no at-home-ness here but only an ever more displaced drifting. The fallacy would be to think of language as at-home-ness while "all else" drifts, because for language to be accurate to the condition of nomadicty, it too has to be drifting, to be "on the way" as Celan puts it.

[Think through Heidegger's Abgeschiedenheit, apartness as the free domain or land where such nomadic drifting takes place. But that domain is always here & not somewhere else. It is the smooth space in D&G that deterritorializes all striated spaces.]

nomadics: the poet as comet. See Hölderlin's "In lovely blue" & thus to escape the metaphor of sun, center, etc.

10/25/94 If the mind is only the body's invisibility (Merleau-Ponty) then the poem is merely the unreadability, the non-transparency, the opaqueness of that mind. An opacity grounded in the materiality of language as much / if not more than in the viscosity of psyche. A turbulent opacity -not a monumental, laminary , marble-or-granite opaqueness.

Robin Blaser: "The muse requires a politics
where the tongue meets
In the thick of it
the sour sweat." [Cups, 1960]

If Empedoklean terms or reveries may be taken as valid, then the two major modes of poesis would also involve love (eros) & strife (nike). To see the poetics of the century thus would divide them between, say, Pound/nike and Duncan/eros. But somewhere else - here, now, later & beyond this fin-de-siècle identikit - eros & nike are both less & more than self-sufficient modes, are both simply that tiny deviation from equilibrium, stasis that makes movement, i.e. life, i.e. poetry, possible: they are the clinamen, thus in a poem from the early eighties:

One moment earlier
something had deviated
This is local fortuity
the clinamen exactly
& more exactly
deviation from equilibrium
the incline
______the streak of lightning
bars the clouds
immediately a shape happens
roughly (&) circular no need for more
a little hole around which people gather like bees
a dead body at center
a world where accident is rule

& now these five points:

1) that language has always to do with the other, in fact, for the writer (l'écrivant) is the other.

2) that there is no single other, there are only a multitude of them - plurality; even multitudes of different multitudes - hetero-pluralities.

3) language others itself always again -> nomadic writing is always "the practice of outside"; writing as nomadic practice -on the move from one other to another other.

[3a: the critic/theorist: the dog that barks as the caravan passes]

4) poetry is always, then, "on the way" -- yes, on the road, as Kerouac has it here in these States where, as Sun Ra has it, "space is the place." It is also unterwegs, (underway) as Celan writes, where I hear the unter also as under the Weg, the way. (& pace, the Schwarzwalder's Holzwege!),



under the way

a between-ness as essential nomadic condition, thus always a moving forward, a reaching, a tending. (I hear the need for both tension & tenderness). & an absence of rest, always a becoming, a line-of-flight [as against Being, which is always a veing-toward-death, stillness].

[4a: insert here a critique of Buddhism, of any spiritualism as quietism -- certainly Euro-Am adaptations of Buddhism are transcendental -- while only a truly immanent spirituality is viable. cf Janus]

5: Celan: "Reality is not. It has to be searched for and won." Replace "reality" with "poetry" or "millennium."

That is the fin mot, last words, toward the fin-de-siècle, or a poetics thereof. (Celan's phrase is the quest, as it includes the critique of the "society of the spectacle" -- & of the whole specular natures of our mis-takes on the real.)

We can still use notions such as Burroughs "astronaut of inner space," or Dorn's "inside real and outsidereal," though we must be aware that for the nomad-poet, the NOET, even those distinctions have to be abolished. There is no difference between inside & outside at the poem's warp speed. We can still use Olson's statement that the need is to move, instanter, on -- but no Interzone for us, no Idaho, in or out, no Gloucester hankering for a more perfect past.

NOET: NO stands for play, for no-saying & guerrilla war techniques, for gNOsis & NOetics. ET stands for etcetera, the always ongoing process, the no closure: it stands for ExtraTerritorial, for the continuous state of being outside (not a margin that would be always definable as the margin of something called the real (territory). ET stands for Electronic Terrain, where the poem composes, recomposes, decomposes before your eyes, de- & re-territorializing at will or chance -- without there being the ability to tell which of those two determinants it is.

(The WE here is not-I, or if you prefer, the Wild East)

As far as moral or social values are concerned, total miscegenation is the only goal we believe in. Purity is the root of all evil.

We will make good use use Nate Mackey's sense of a DISCREPANT ENGAGEMENT.

From Pound we will retain that a poem has to include history. And we will add that a poem and its poet are included in history, which he forgot.

We will keep all of Valère Novarina's theatre for its ludic nomadology of names that dissolves character into a fluidity...

We will keep Robert Kelly's notion of "ta'wil of the first line," the poem as nomadic/ rhizomatic extension of some given or found beginning, but a ta'wil reduced to immanence, to a "writing through." As he tells it otherwise in A MY NAME (RA 185) "This chant was my first news of the Great Trade Route along which scarce and isolate merchant-poet-nomads carried goods from tribe to tribe, over the mountains and under the sun, bringing the only news."

We will reread Melvin Tolson's The Harlem Gallery & ponder it's "bifacial" multiphasic poet Hideho Heights & ponder Tolson's statement on the poet's place, a statement which still startles: "The most violent revolution in the world is taking place -- not in Russia, not in China, but in American poetry."

We will remain breathless before Gertrude Stein’s nomadic syntax, an endless trace multistepping through this century’s desert geography of anybody.
We will meditate on Henri Michaux's drawing-poems, scribe of the post- semantic nomadic condition which is ours.

We will meditate on Henri Michaux's drawing-poems, scribe of the post-semantic nomadic condition, which is ours.

We will always again read & learn from Kateb Yacine’s multiple life-long text Nedjma, his Nedjma metamorphosed into poems proses plays, and meditate on that major Maghrebian figure Kateb brought back into the people’s consciousness — La Kahina, the Berber nomad warrior queen who fought the first post-Roman wave of imperialist invaders, the Islamic armies of Sidi Oqba.

Of Rothenberg's work we will keep everything, because his immigrant/emigrant nomadology of translation, poetry-making, anthologizing is an exemplary process at this end of the century.

We will attend to Don Byrd's Nomad Encyclopedia, he'll lead us through what he calls the "mesocosm -- the dense locale of the common, that is absorbed by the exaggeration of symbolism, on the one hand, and by mere biology, on the other."

We will reread Maurice Blanchot again and again & think through, among other things, the following of his reflections on the idea of exile and exodus as a legitimate movement: "If Judaism is destined to take on meaning for us, it is indeed by showing that, at whatever time, one must be ready to set out, because to go out (to step outside) is the exigency from which one cannot escape if one wants to maintain the possibility of a just relation. The exigency of uprooting; the affirmation of nomadic truth. In this Judaism stands in contrast to paganism (all paganism.) To be pagan is to be fixed, to plant oneself in the earth, as it were, to establish oneself through a pact with the permanence that authorizes sojourn and is certified by certainty in the land. Nomadism answers to a relation that possession cannot satisfy."

Right here 78 pages of commentaries on the century have been deleted to be summed up now:

From the 20C 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.

[to be continued]

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