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Authors: Ann Lauterbach

Tags: #Poetry, #American, #General

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BOOK: Under the Sign
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Ann Hamilton's huge white curtain across the massive space of the Park Avenue Armory, “the event of a thread,” its motion controlled by the action of swings, persons on swings.

In the face or fact of being in the event, limits of language: splendid abrasion. The beautiful word:


A conversation the other night with Michael Brenson about Willem de Kooning, whether there was any way of perceiving what Michael calls “intimacy” through the paintings. We were thinking about the difference between de Kooning and David Smith, where Smith somehow allows us “in” to the complexity of his being; the sculptures embracing internal complexity and contradiction, managing to make them visually evident; we feel we are inside

them, their discomfort, whereas with de Kooning, we can only gaze
them with a kind of awe. I felt, going through the recent retrospective, that he was
thinking through paint
, but that the thoughts were not to be opened up; a kind of shut, although luminous mask. The lush, sensuous gestures of the gesture, signs of embodiment, materiality, apprehension of the phenomenological weather of the world: all this oddly deictic.


Events of a summer: oil spill: dry heat: need for morphological shift rather than mere hybridity: a slide through or across forms changing their
: inventory of new shapes to include old shapes: the refrain: Deleuze and Guattari:
A Thousand Plateaus

A child in the dark, gripped with fear, comforts himself by singing under his breath. He walks and halts to his song. Lost, he takes shelter, or orients himself with his little song as best he can. The song is like a rough sketch of a calming and stabilizing, calm and stable, centre in the heart of chaos. Perhaps the child skips as he sings, hastens or slows his pace. But the song itself is already a skip: it jumps from chaos to the beginnings of order in chaos and is in danger of breaking apart at any moment. There is always sonority in Ariadne's thread. Or the song of Orpheus.

To ask what binds a community across a series of singularities: tacit care: this form of love is not familial, cannot be familial: the familial is always binding: obligation to love: brother says
I love you because you are my sister, but I don't like you.
To love within the context of an open set, so that within this set things might change, migrate, alter position, with a view to inclusion without possession.

The song, the refrain, the chorus. The hopes, desires, and values that underpin or inform community behaviors.

Asking for help via the Internet:

Does anyone have an X?
Can I catch a ride to Y?
I lost my Z. Has anyone found it?

Interchanges undirected to one person: can someone, anyone, help? Optimism. But optimism grounded in the possible, circumscribed by physical nearness:
Notions of
, locale, incident, here, home, rootedness—all these begin to feel quaintly metaphorical.


as positive value: an arrangement that de-arranges: counterintuitive: examined life without the hindrance of chastising inner scold: birds covered in oil: unleashed event or episode without traction of adequate response so that consequence is adrift: spill: accident: nothing leads to anything: the paradigm.

Giorgio Agamben:

A paradigm is a form of knowledge that is neither inductive nor deductive but analogical. It moves from singularity to singularity.

Thinking of cells, invasions, mutations.


Task: to confront this fact: to make something, say a work of art or a poem, that no one is waiting for, no one actively wants; without
: what comes into being, what arrives or materializes, is not expected, not announced: the unforeseen: not a child: moving into, becoming the place of the not yet desired: the poem as signature of that which appears without being invited or anticipated

or wished for: untethered freedom: lassitude: why bother: for whom to write:
for myself and strangers

Constraint of formal,
necessity: Harry Mathews:
twenty lines a day
; Oulipo; Jackson Mac Low: poem as production without the burden of subjective doubt or assertion:
take what is already there and recombine it: recycle without subjective/affective interference: mechanical angel: forfeit singularity without in turn creating community. Individualism displaced onto conceptual moves: Duchamp's genius.

The idea of the ordinary.


Task: to ask what is the foundation of knowing: the unknown surrounds and defines: so
as instantiation of the known: knowledge as fluid, constant recombination and renovation (language): Deleuze's sense of the immanent: immanent life carrying with it the events or singularities that are merely actualized in subjects and objects: an almost mystical view, from Lucretius to modern physics.

My dream of death: luminous atomic particle-arc falling across and through the curve of eternal time-space.


[A]n event horizon is a boundary in spacetime, most often an area surrounding a black hole, beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. Light emitted from beyond the horizon can never reach the observer, and any object that approaches the horizon from the observer's side appears to slow down and never quite pass through the horizon, with its image becoming more and more redshifted as time elapses. The traveling object,

however, experiences no strange effects and does, in fact, pass through the horizon in a finite amount of proper time.

Crossing of boundaries: no origins, no states: roots: routes. Nomadic: fancy name for homelessness: move across, move through: be watery: the beautiful necessity: figure of Hermes. Figure of the stranger. Exile.


John Ashbery (“The New Spirit”):

Because life is short
We must remember to keep asking it the same question
Until the repeated question and the same silence become answer
In words broken open and pressed to the mouth
And the last silence reveal the lining
Until at last this thing exist separately
At all levels of the landscape and in the sky
And in the people who timidly inhabit it
The locked name for which is open, to dust and to no thoughts
Even of dying, the fuzzy first thought that gets started in you
and then there's no stopping it.

Music/sound moving across, crosses boundaries:
the locked name for which is open.


overwhelms. Flood of response, a form of delirium, like an overexcited child. This is what happens: intensity of attention and attachment begins to dissolve into an excess of reception, apprehension that veers toward ecstasy. Language breaks open into pure existential assent.

A desire to collide:
look at, read, listen to this!
Not exactly, more like:
be in this with me.
So: unobtainable intimacy.

That we can know each other at all. Miraculous.


A Thousand Plateaus
. “1837: Of the Refrain” begins with a child in the dark, singing a song for comfort. Then home. Then:

Finally, one opens the circle a crack, opens it all the way, lets someone in, calls someone, or else goes out oneself, launches forth. One opens the circle not on the side where the old forces of chaos press against it but in another region, one created by the circle itself. As though the circle tended on its own to open onto a future, as a function of the working forces it shelters. This time, it is in order to join with the forces of the future, cosmic forces. One launches forth, hazards an improvisation. But to improvise is to join with the World, or meld with it. One ventures from home on the thread of a tune. Along sonorous, gestural, motor lines that mark the customary path of a child and graft themselves onto or begin to bud “lines of drift” with different loops, knots, speeds, movements, gestures, and sonorities.

Task: to reconfigure the Open into the normal, a pattern, an
: so the extraordinary can be folded into the prior and the yet to come without breaking. Improvisation: to wander.


Contemporary poetry, since late-century: a certain nudity, denuded, as if we were standing in front of a doctor. The return of the sentence. The disavowal of mystery. The empirical cool. Journalism.

Counterexamples within this frame: tracks at the horizon of perception, as Mei-mei Berssenbrugge's long lines: the intimacy, the
, of her concentration. Michael Palmer's relentless interrogation through the naming of what is along the edge of skeptical wonder. Younger generations indifferent to avant-garde yokes and doctrines, liberated and liberating.

These iterations of the
: William Carlos Williams allowing it into or onto
; Charles Bernstein, in “recalculating,” bringing the violent rupture of his daughter Emma's suicide into the fabric of the poem as if it were at the same level as everything else, so that its effect is one of an immeasurable undoing
from within
. Robert Creeley, famously, slight curb between written and spoken; this often the only way you could know or discern that the poem had begun as he reminisced about this and that: the minute shifts in cadence, pace, inflection; voice the insignia of poetic affect. Intensity spread out or distributed across or into the ordinary, a kind of diction, vernacular,
what can be spoken
I think Pound commanded (and did not follow); George Oppen's unflinching materialist gaze; so-called avant-garde postmodern resistance to subjectivities, aversion to intensity heaped onto lyricism heaped onto self; new poem as a form of, testament to, scholarship, “objectivity.”

Register of affect as performance and in trajectories of subversive resistance, identities, genders, where actual uncomfortable, risky cultural shifts are found. Radical forms produced by historical necessity; not spurious avant-garde “moves.”

, at the juncture of mind-heart? Marilynne Robinson (
When I Was a Child I Read Books
“Modern discourse is not really comfortable with the word ‘soul,' and in my opinion the loss of the word has been disabling, not only to religion but to literature and political thought and to every humane pursuit.”

Greek word for soul:
. Blame Freud's analytic for the loss of
? Blame prerogatives of white secular liberalism?


Day breaks into petulance: later, gestures become slights, insults. I read about hospice care and the dying
surrounded by family
, a sign of a life well lived, of fidelities and loyalties.

Rob Fitterman flies out to California for a day or so, to see our friend Stacy Doris in her last months. Thinking about someone is not the same as being with someone.

A friend dismayed at not getting to her mother's side in time; my own sorrow at not being near for my mother, for my sister, my aunt, my cousins, dying. Sister, moaning on the bed, in Washington; in New York, informed she is now dying, I am unable to act, to get up and go: turned to stone.
If I don't move will time stop?
A collision between what should happen against what is happening. The Closed.

To arrive the next, the following day into her already death; the train moving through or into her
not being alive
; the singular loneliness of grief as a measure of what the beloved will not now know.

When I asked Leslie Scalapino's husband, Tom White, about her being “ready” to die, he said she had no interest in it, was not resigned to it, thought “no poet should die,” because they, we, have too much work to do! Onward!

Emily Dickinson's letter:

Ah! dainty—dainty Death! Ah! democratic Death! Grasping the proudest zinnia from my purple garden,—then deep to his bosom calling the serf's child!

Emerson asked:
Are they my poor?
I might ask:
Are they my dead?
Many ones.



The notion that, among creatures, humans have no natural capacity, are bare, and so were forced to make tools: “a matter of instruments.” The instrument or tool: Mind itself, not something external to it. Is Mind language? Meanwhile, Mind continues to invent instruments to replace itself, speed itself, take over parts of itself:
our machines, ourselves
. In the
an article on the end of forgetting: indelible traces or tracks on the Cloud that cannot be erased.

Task: garden.

Temporal-spatial limbo

sifting through the dawn

awning drawn up


toward the opening in the circle

this would be

          a ritual harmony of the singular

tracing steps

the pond beyond


sails   the meticulous dress

                       as she departs

                          her circumstances.

Not to belittle the cause. We remain alert

despite oppressive



on into another war in another climate


      the killing machine

        embracing the desiring machine—

           shadow        over



Irritant of lost time: immaterial repetition.

Setting down the track and then following, in the belief it will come out somewhere; the coming out dependent on the setting down. These narrative fictions constrain multiplicity

      skips and gaps and snags, frictions and reroutings, repetitions and returns.

BOOK: Under the Sign
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