Posts Tagged ‘Louis Armand’
Update: great piece here on ‘what is a constellation’
(Thanks to Shane Anderson for the pictures of Dickinson’s poems, below. He also reported on Susan Howe’s talk).
Last Tuesday Susan Howe (1937) gave a fascinating lecture at the American Academy (which overlooks Wannsee lake, where the famous conference took place). Her topic was Emily Dickinson. Howe talked about the tremendous difference between the fragments of Dickinson’s original writing – on pieces of paper and envelope – and the way they have since been presented in print as neat, tidy, safe poems.
Howe showed that the original poems have been radically changed, ‘manhandled into print’ as she said (with a pun on the fact that two white men were responsible for Dickinson’s legacy). 1. extreme editing choices have been made (in the publishing of Dickinson’s poetry) that leave out many of the words in the original, for a long time without any mention of these deletions even in the form of notes; 2. the form of the poems was radically altered, sometimes even changing line-breaks, but more importantly, giving the poems a tidy look and according to Howe perpetuating the myth of Dickinson as an ‘afraid-of-the-forest spinster’. (Although near the end of her talk Howe said half jokingly that she did not consider Dickinson’s books violations of the original, since she (Howe) is a writer herself).
I and clearly many others in the audience, were indeed very taken aback at the difference between the two versions of the poems that were shown. I had not even the beginning of an idea that Dickinson had written in such experimental, playful form. Although some present did not see the significance of the difference, for me, seeing examples of original fragments completely changed how I will think about these poems.
In some pictures the text is clearly written according to patterns; writing runs both horizontally and vertically along a paper, the well-known dashes are seen, but in one case there are also crosses, like plus signs (unfortunately no pictures of that one). In yet another example the small piece of paper has a triangular shape which seems to have influenced the poem’s language, or perhaps the other way around), and there are also pictures (of which one is a stamp, but one is a (Dickinson’s?) drawing of a gravestone).
Of course we simply cannot say anything, or at least not much about Dickinson’s intention with the forms of these fragments, since hardly any (was it six poems?) of her work was published during her lifetime. But regardless of the poet’s own intention these fragments nevertheless present poems of which many more elements are in mutual interaction than the printed versions of those same poems. A poem can always be seen as a constellation (assemblage, collection) of various elements – language, the qualities of language, the way it is laid out on the page, the page itself, etc. However, in the original fragments, more elements are brought into open connection with one another – the poem becomes more ‘holographic’.
The poems, as Howe points out, become characterized by a hybridity of disparate elements, blurring for example the boundaries between visual and verbal art. They inhabit what Howe calls a space of inbetweenness, and what could also be called transversality, a network of disparate elements. Transversality thus allows for a much more inclusive consideration of a poem (or any other object of analysis) than a reading that only looks at the language on the page. Simply anything can be included and the photos of Dickinson’s original fragments make clear that they indeed merit such a transversal approach. Not only language, but the spatial organization of the text and the paper, the plusses and dashes, other visual elements, Dickinson’s handwriting.
The pictures and description in themselves are not so spectacular of course, what is amazing is that they are so very different from the printed poems and that they do not at all fit the image that has been constructed of Dickinson. However, the distributive style of writing immediately point forward to Olson’s page-as-field, which is a term Susan Howe also used in her talk (as Howe also remarks, quoting someone (I don’t recall who): she was ‘out of her time, in her time’). It is also similar to some of Susan Howe’s own poetry, like this section from ‘Thorow’ (in Singularities, 1990):
Other examples abound: there is Ezra Pound, the endless experiments of the Language poets, Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ Drafts, and going back, Apollinaire’s concrete poetry, Mallarmé’s ‘Un coup de dés’. It is this last example that Louis Armand evokes in his essay ‘Towards a Techno-Poetic Method’ (Solicitations, 331), in which he describes a method of transversality, whereby the poem is read as a constellation-event, rather than a linear sequence of words:
a flattening out of depth-of-field in the simultaneous vision of the page and the typographics of visual intensity, such that the mimesis of linear evolution of a meaning is broken apart, replaced by a generalised transversality, wherein, as Mallarmé writes, ‘NOTHING WILL HAVE TAKEN PLACE BUT THE PLACE EXCEPT PERHAPS A CONSTELLATION’.
So the poem is no longer merely referring to a supposed external reality, but becomes an event in itself, an occasion of experience, a block of intensity. Armand thus reads Mallarmé’s poem not only as a description of contingency, but as performative of contingency in its appearing. In other words, as the famous throw of the dice that is mentioned in the poem: ‘A THROW OF THE DICE WILL NEVER ABOLISH CHANCE…NOT EVEN WHEN CAST IN ETERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES’ (Solicitations, 334).
And Quentin Meillassoux, who argues that the only constant is contingency:
…the term contingency refers back to the Latin contingere, meaning ‘to touch, to befall’, which is to say, that which ahppens, but which happens enough to happen to us. The contingent, in a word, is something that finally happens – something other, something which, in its irreducibility to all pre-registered possibilities, puts an end to the vanity of a game wherein everything , even the improbable, is predictable. (After Finitude, 108)
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I believe this poem was on the triangle:
One note from one Bird
Is better than a Million Word–
A scabbard has – but one sword
Am reading Mark Scroggins’ biography of Louis Zukofsky, Poem of a Life. Will post notes now and then.
‘There exists probably in the labors of any valid artist the sadness of the horse plodding with blinkers.’ (Zukofsky’s essay on Chaplin, cited in Poem of a life, 178)
Zukofsky’s A test of poetry did not reference the excerpts of poems. If the poems…which have been presented anonymously interest the reader he [sic] should be moved to decide for himself [sic] their relative merits, without reference to their authorship.’ (144). Funny; is the same ‘philosophy of footnotes’ as Alain Badiou.
Zukofsky’s comment on Muriel Rukeyser’s poetry as being too influenced by Wallace Stevens and Hart Crane; ‘There has been history. And there have been examples of poetic art and invention – technics.’ (150)
Interesting use of ‘technics’ there, in the same way that Louis Armand uses it as a concept to inform his theory of a generalized technology, technology as inherent to poetics, using the concept of techne as generative systematicity.
in an elaboration of Zukofsky’s famous poetics of ‘an integral / Lower limit speech / Upper limit music’, he defines poetry as, ‘an order of words that as movement and tone (rhythm and pitch) approaches in varying degrees the wordless art of music as a kind of mathematical limit.’ (A Statement for Poetry (1950), cited in Poem of a life, 193)
In that essay Vreeswijk writes:
Lacan “calls ‘identification’ ‘the transformation that takes place in the subject when he assumes an ‘image’. In the mirror stage this is an identification with the image of oneself, but (later) it can also be with the image of another person.” In a footnote, Vreeswijk adds: “I believe that Lacan’s concept also includes the possibility of identification with the image of ‘things’”.
This reminds me of Jacques Rancière’s use in his discussion of cinema, of the object-image precisely because he claims that those best qualified to convey intense feelings are those inanimate objects which feel nothing.” (cited by Louis Armand in Solicitations). Rancière argues that the object-image allows the suspension of representation and aesthetic effect because mute objects
speak better. Signification is better embodied in their reality than in expressive faces, voices and attitudes. They don’t think, they feel nothing, and they are unable to lie. Meanings are written directly on their body. This means that they fulfill the representative function – the matching of demonstration and signification – better than any discourse and gesture… Second, they don’t speak at all; they mean nothing. They are not signs, only things. As a consequence they add to their function as reliable clues a contrary function, that of suspending any kind of decision, action or interpretation. (from “Godard, Hitchcock and the Cinematographic Image”, cited by Armand, 96)
So prior to an affective or representational ‘thing’ there is the “rhythmos or trait of a general perturbation..a crucial ambivalence in the formal status of the perceptory event.” (in Armand’s words, 97), which when translated to dance, I think would be the equivalence of the fragmented body that precedes any individual identity.
Tricky job though, incorporating object-oriented philosophy into performance art, without rendering obsolete the performer..what would an object-oriented performance art look like?
Oh irony!: in this corner of the world we are heading toward recession and have to deal with obesity as a national health hazard.
But the belly is also an inter-landscape. It allows you to sublimate joy, frustration, fear, strength, desire.
Please send belly quotes if you have more.
“The belly is the reason man does not so easily measure himself with God.”
(Friedrich Nietzsche, Maxims and interludes, #141, Beyond good and evil)
My bronze Buddha belly in the bathtub
is getting pruned in the last foam
– – –
I kiss my holy belly,
my little slurf in space
Both from: zonderlinge kruising tussen aap en priester, Cornelis van der Wal
This sphere does not have the rational beauty of the geometrical body, but for that it has the great safety of a belly.(Gaston Bachelard, La Terre et les reveries du repos. Quoted in Peter Sloterdijk, Sferen, p. 78I)
the stomach contracts & ideally
Louis Armand, Strange Attractors
“What if I went around with a belly, that would be a political disaster.” Hitler, quoted by John Lukacs, in The Hitler of history, p. 69
‘Breavman why are paper bags full of white bread so ugly?’ ‘I’m glad you asked, Krantz. They are advertisements for the frailty of the body. If a junky wore his hypodermic needle pinned to his lapel you’d feel exactly the same disgust. A bag bulging with food is a kind of visible bowel. True Bolsheviks wear their digestive systems on their sleeves!” (Leonard Cohen The favourite game, p. 79)
“I do believe that a writer works with his body. You live with your body, and the book is above all the book of your body. In my case the aphorism comes from a need to surround the words with whiteness in order to let them breathe.” (Edmond Jabes cited in Paul Auster Groundwork, 198)