Sunday, July 16, 2006


This is one of the more concrete pangrammatical homologies I've ever constructed: the lens is to knowledge what the lever is to power. Both are instruments that focus experience. The first, by installing a very specific experience before the eye (an appearance), the second by installing a just as specific experience before the hand (a surface). These are installed as possibilities of, respectively, perception and action.

The instruments are supplemented by mirrors and screens (to define the field of vision) and walls and ramps (to define the field of motion). On this basis we can imagine two vast, connected but distinguishable, "equipmental contextures" or "Zeugzusammenhangen" (as Heidegger might call them): the apparatus of perception (a system of lenses, etc.) and the apparatus of action (a system of levers, etc.).

The apparatus of perception (surveillance) defines what it is possible to see, determining the structure of appearances.

The apparatus of action (leverage) defines what it is possible to do, determining the structure of surfaces.

It is perhaps unnecessary to note the connection to "media". But it should be added that intuition and institution, as pangrammatical elements, are defined as "the media of immediacy", i.e., that through which knowledge and power are immediately present in our lives. They are the sense in which experience is "given" to us, and the motive by which we are "taken" with it.

Finally, note that the traditional (i.e., Kantian) theme of philosophy is the transcendental logic of intuition. The homologue of this theme belongs to poetry: the immanent passion of institution. And this is why politics is to poetry what science is to philosophy.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

FlarfEmo is Dead

Does this issue seem familiar? (Note: you have to watch the whole thing; it's about seven minutes long.)

I don't know about you, but I'm learning disturbing things every day.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Tostian Item

I want to return to Tony Tost's "I Am Not the Pilot" because that is where it all began for me. Since reading that poem, and tracing its relations to what is happening in poetry today, I cobbled together this idea of the "antipalinurian" voice, which proceeds from the slogan gubernator non sum as though having fully overcome the melancholy of Cyril Connolly's The Unquiet Grave. Examples include Drew Gadner's "I Am So Stupid" and "I Feel I Am Searching", Gary Sullivan's "On Speaking in Public", Lara Glenum's "How to Discard the Life You've Now Ruined" and "The Manifestation of Male Hysteria", pretty much anything from Ben Lerner's Lichtenberg Figures, Cynthia Sailers' "Against Interpretation", and, of course, Tony Tost's Invisible Bride.

Reading Leonard Cohen's "Item" today, with Tony's sample from 1001 Sentences fresh in my mind, an important aspect of antipalinurian writing occured to me. Cohen's poem opens like this:

Let the still-born eagle demonstrate
how he avoided the arrow
with its predicament of death: his closed eyes,
his half-formed feathers.

I paused at "the arrow/ with its predicament of death" because it is in many respects a great phrase. The trouble, of course, is that it is strapped into this metaphor, or, more accurately, that it means something. In fact, "Item" goes on to invoke "the hunter" directly, and then makes the explicit connection to "heroes" and "swords" and "battles": "Then let them remember the still-born eagle," etc. In short, Cohen was clearly trying very much to say something with this poem, and therefore ends up obscuring the very predicament of death he deploys.

An antipalinurian poem would not eschew phrases like "the predicament of death", "the darker battle", "the unthinking steel", "the difficult flesh".* Even "the dry field of death" is permissible. But it would avoid letting "half-formed feathers" belong to a still-born eagle. It would begin, not with the image, but the items that compose it. It would scrupulously avoid re-presenting the image that is present to the poet. (Or more precisely: it would avoid presenting the illusion that any image was present to the poet.)

"Kafka liked to draw his terms from the language of law and science, giving them a kind of ironic precision, with no intrusion of the author's private sentiments," said Nabokov in his lectures on "The Metamorphosis". I am not sure that the antipalinurian voice is ironic, and it certainly does not depend on the language of law and science. But it does prevent the intrusion of the author's private sentiments (in the mind of the reader, let us say). It does this by detaching the item from the idea in the construction of the image.

I want to pursue this "item" as the unit of analysis.

*In fact, the seminal antipalinurean work ("I Am Not the Pilot") deploys "the glamorous end of the sword".

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Doing my best...

...not to ruin a couple of very good ideas,

I'm using the new tools.
I'm feeling free in the direction of anxiety.