What was ‘Of Grammatology’ about?

2013/01/08 § Leave a comment

What was Of Grammatology about? When Madeleine, the heroine of Jeffrey Eugenides’s campus novel The Marriage Plot, asks a young theory-head this question, she is immediately set straight: ‘If it was “about” anything, then it was about the need to stop thinking of books as being about things.’

That’s not so far off. In all three books, Derrida’s argument was that Western thought from Plato to Rousseau to Lévi-Strauss had been hopelessly entangled in the illusion that language might provide us with access to a reality beyond language, beyond metaphor: an unmediated experience of truth and being which he called ‘presence’. Even Heidegger, a radical critic of metaphysics, had failed to escape its snares. This illusion, according to Derrida, was the corollary of a long history of ‘logocentrism’: a privileging of the spoken word as the repository of ‘presence’, at the expense of writing, which had been denigrated as a ‘dangerous supplement’, alienated from the voice, secondary, parasitic, even deceitful.

via Adam Shatz reviews ‘Derrida’ by Benoît Peeters, translated by Andrew Brown · LRB 22 November 2012 [paywall].

No Longer Writes for Humans

2012/05/02 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I said “writers may create new styles when they break with tradition, but it is readers who maintain the formats writers are allowed to use. True experimentation occurs when readers notice and try something new.

Today I read Poetry on the Brink Reinventing the Lyric, which opens with comments on the dull well-crafted poem’s dominance, where there are gazillions of poets reading and writing but in doing so create an extraordinary uniformity.

These two points are a similar notice. The review then goes on to tear at the editorial decisions of two poetry anthologies on American poetry Rita Dove’s Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry (2011) and American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry (2009) editors, Cole Swensen and David St. John. Editing an anthology is a special type of reading, it is a form of curating a collection. The review interrogates the decisions those editors made.

So perhaps yesterday’s computer analysis on style provides an answer to those queries.

Don’t write for posterity, don’t write because you’re a creative, don’t write for yourself, above all don’t write for readers.

Computer analysis is the only reader to write for now, the field is too large for any human, or team of human editors.

This is why I have used the by-line, the catch-phrase, “No Longer Writes for Humans” for some years now.

Of course while sculpting recently I’ve (re-)discovered Conceptual Art and found the same Mannerist uniformity there despite the multitudes of media and form and gazillions of artists. ( I am an old failed Language Poet era newbie, at least my stuff was seen to have stuff in common with some American group I had never heard off when I was 20 or so—– so the over-weaning affinities between Conceptual Art and Language Poetry are obvious.)

Yeah.

One Hundred Live and Die, Neon and glass tubing, 1984 by Bruce Nauman

The inference is that I must be making art and sculpture for computers too. Only they will have the capacity to view it all and not be uniformed by it, they are the ultimate collectors, the perfect hoarder is digital, and it is the collectors, the readers who define the market.

Compositional Poetry (1994 & 1999)

2012/04/02 § Leave a comment

In 1994 in Hobart, Tasmania, I invented ‘Compositional Poetry’. I say invented because I have never seen anything like it anywhere else.

I was pushed into creating this new form because I had been wrestling with a very long poem for months, and could find no way to trim it back into some sort of coherency, so I started to chop it into phrases and allocated these phrases to voices of various responsibility, as if this voice would say that wouldn’t it?

I decided on eight voices or responsibilities because eight is a natural group size for humans from a hunter-gatherer background. Beyond a dozen many human brains start to loose track.

I decided these voices were not ‘characters’ or ‘roles’, but ‘responsibilities’ because the voices were not personalities but drives, concerns, attitudes, needs and desires. Each voice was articulating this ‘energy’ as their responsibility, adding to the performance when necessary, but they were not necessarily competing, nor necessarily co-operating. That was the work of the readers.

To read the compositional poem eight people had to read it aloud together. If you watch or listen to this reading, it is only then a performance. Each performance will have its own character because of those who read it, not because of how I may have written the voices.

Below is the first page from all)bitternessandapathy. Click on it to see it at a better size.

all)Bitternessandapathy

The reading starts with all eight saying ‘all)bitternessandapathy’. Then all eight say ‘all)opening’. Which is what the opening section is called. In this section each of the voices introduce themselves in their nominal or natural order beginning with
1) The killer fills the space between me
then two starts with
2) The power follows content
and here voice 1) also says the word ‘content’ at the same time that 2) does.
They may well read it differently though, with different stress. 2) may say the word ‘content’ as ‘conTENT’, stressing the word’s use indicating satiety or ease. Voice 1) may stress the word as CONtent, emphasizing what is held within.
then voice 3) introduces themselves with
3) the witness sees full denial
while 2) says ‘seeks’ cued to when 30 says ‘sees’
And so on.

Back in 1994 I called this form ‘multi-voice poetry’ but I was never very happy with the term. Six years later while writing Shag Bay I realised that as it was structured like music then it was ‘composed’ not written. Also, a choir is multi-voiced if usually aiming to a uni-vocal completeness, so calling a it multi-voiced after voice rather than how it was written was a bit confusing.

By then I had also read Bergsonism by Delueze and loved the idea of a compositional space. Might be completely wrong for science, but compositional space is great for animals like us to live in. Compositional space feels more alive because it describes the evolutionary reality of our umwelt among umwelten. Of multiple compositions all going on at the same time, and so bringing together competitive cooperation. Relativity in time-space continuums is meh.

Compositional poetry is a making that brings together. The writing is an exploded soliloquy but the reading together is the thing.

Theory of Mind – Show the telling? No! that’s too transparent.

2012/02/27 § Leave a comment

Most of my experimental writing investigates and utilises perspectives and their (imagined) intentionality covered by the phrase Theory of Mind.

I.E. on the back and forth between the writer and reader, in particular, lately, trying, as writer to second guess the reader’s reactions and to re-work them.

Earlier, 20 years ago, when i was young, I was trying to take over the reader’s mind with a sedgehammer of intense revelatory prosepoetry, a bit like running a suite of hacker programmes trying to find backdoors and gain access as root to the reader’s mind, and gain totally control. PWNAGE. Literally a literary attempt to transpose my consciousness to the reader’s wetware via the text i had written. At least for the duration of the time it takes you to read the work.

While the Theory of Mind is at the heart of all writing techniques, generally writers wish to seduce their readers, or indulge them, though I would argue it still comes from a certain still and quiet megalomania.

Generally the Theory of Mind is taken for granted, you win no points for pointing it out to the reader. Literature might encompass the sharing and exposure of experience but generally it is not interested in plumbing the depths of that writerly technology which transfers experience and fantasy from the writer’s wetware to the readers’.

All those rules about “show don’t tell” or critiques based on “ego transparency” of the writer come from lessons learned in that more dishonest, self-deceiving war. English literature as edifying propaganda for the people who keep themselves nice. General pulp fiction as simply the gift telling good stories as entertainment.

It’s a war because it’s a drama, and drama involves conflict.

My experiment failed, except perhaps on myself, which is an own goal in any case. It is only on noticing my failure that I am able to describe it as a megalomania. Before then it was art, and therefore, necessarily, it’s own virtue.

Examples

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with literature at FORMeika.