Thursday, February 02, 2012


"It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd." (Alexis de Tocqueville)

Adam Gordon's strangely inconsequential life in Leaving the Atocha Station intersects with history on March 11, 2004, with the Madrid train bombings. About a year earlier, in February of 2003, Tony Tost published a poem that I have sometimes somewhat oversold as the "Howl" of my generation, namely, "I Am Not the Pilot". It didn't make as much of splash in its time as it did in my mind (at the time), but if I'm right about Leaving (i.e., that it is our The Sun Also Rises), and if Flarf turns out to be something like our Imagism, then "Pilot" may yet at least be our "Mauberley" or "Prufrock", or something like that.

I'm convinced that the subject—the focal point of an agency, if you will—that Tost and Lerner are making present for us has everything to do with our real or perceived incompetence. Not quite incidentally, a Google search for "I am not the pilot" [albeit without quotation marks] turns up a story about a pilot who announces to his passengers that he is "not qualified to land the plane". I am convinced that Lerner and Tost (and a number of other perceptive poets at this time) are feeling (whether they know it or not) that Tocqueville's warnings about "administrative despotism" have come true. Foucault, looking back on what Tocqueville saw looming up ahead, called it "governmentality". And a "governor" (L. gubernator) is simply a pilot: one who steers. We are acutely aware that we are not qualified to land this thing.

Gubernator non sum.


ayeh said...

the land must want the thing landed as well... right?

Thomas said...

Maybe that's what I was trying to say here.