Tuesday, October 20, 2009


In a Window


Marvelously packaged commonplaces, is
how everything ends up,
that Hoosier love written
off entirely. One ditches
the personal by going
up into a town
call’d Poisonville, hanging out
a shingle, and weathering
unslaked the onslaughts of
honey’d laughter. Canned anxiety
like a Manx without
a tail, all caboose.
Where’d that oyster-eyed
killer go? He’s down
by the river with
a tin of Sterno,
and two fat slices
of bacon wrap’d around
a coat hanger or
a yard of coaxial
cable. Dasein surrenders its
projectile force, comports itself
in the guise of
post-primordial Being-in-
the-world. The world
wins, we throw in
the towel. Hobo day-
labor sots line up
like deceiving gods and
the rhetoric of love
totals the whole order.

Odd to scribe that and be plunk’d down in front of the other, coincident “totally” affirming. Reading Sianne Ngai’s Ugly Feelings (Harvard University Press, 2005)—who manhandles the lingo academickal like a rodeo rider and zooms in with brilliant close readings. That, and regain’d my sleep, that inconstancy . . .

Sianne Ngai’s Ugly Feelings

Of Note

Out of the initial (Michaelmas 2009) issue of the Cambridge Literary Review, ably edited by Boris Jardine and Lydia Wilson, and jam-pack’d with items beguiling, edificatory, and “norysschaunt,” Marianne Morris seeing the Jeffersonian roots of Situationist thinking:
On Disorder
Those who want to overcome the old established order in all its aspects cannot attach themselves to the disorder of the present, even in the sphere of culture. One must struggle and not go on waiting, in culture as well, for the moving order of the future to make a concrete appearance. It is its possibility, already present in our midst, that devalues all expression in known cultural forms. One must lead all forms of pseudocommunication to their utter destruction, to arrive one day at real and direct communication (in our working hypothesis of higher cultural means: the constructed situation). Victory will be for those who will be able to create disorder without loving it.

(Guy Debord, ‘Theses on cultural revolution,’ Internationale situationniste 1 (1958) § 6)
Those of us who identify with “Those” presented in the first sentence already understand how to create disorder. And we may instinctively coat that understanding in an affirmation of love, recalling Zarathustra’s chaos as the product of intense affirmation. Given that the Situationists also fully advocated the most passionate and immediate force of living as a mode of political action, what, in the thesis above, is the significance of not loving disorder.

The focus of ‘Theses’ is on the creation of chaos rather than chaos itself. To overcome the established order, one must understand it as something that will continue to reinvent itself indefinitely. There is no single revolutionary event; there is a series of revolutionary events.

The emphatic moment for disorder therefore needs to exist in constant implementation. Unless chaos is consistent, and its products refined, contaminated or abandoned, what was originally the will to chaos will become bourgeois convention, put into practice by the Former Radical who sits in his tree-house clinging to the formerly-radical relics of things he was once capable of creating, before his radicalism stopped believing in itself as something beyond ornament. The resounding affirmation of chaos-creation comes with a warning, live in the eye of the storm, but don’t try to cling to anything that finds its way into the centre with you.

Victory will be for those who will be able to create disorder without loving it. But what kind of “loving” is this? “Loving” disorder on these terms means growing out of the impulse to find it again in a new place, the implication being that to love is to stop. Once “loved”, disorder will want taking to bed for purposes not of rebirth, but reproduction. This aesthetics of monogamy has no place in the context of cultural renewal. It must be refined and abandoned—hung in a tender and self-sufficient frame. We can no more create what we intend to love than love whom we intend to manipulate.
Emphatic and brilliant. That injunction to “live in the eye of the storm, but don’t try to cling to anything that finds its way into the centre with you”—makes a cavernous hollow wherein pours that warning of Bill Bathurst in “How to Continue”: “Don’t sell anything inside yourself for money or whatever it controls; remember legal tender only affords temporal control of material goods & treat it like dogshit you scrape off your shoe / should lovegleam in eye of friend or lover be available as possible alternative.” And: “Should love open your heart like a feather of gentlest wind / your bedroom door left ajar, make room for the flesh, effects & whims of a recent stranger without worrying whether you take as much as you give; remember to love & to own are verbs as diametrically opposed in meaning as the nouns life & death. And: “Don’t sing love lyrics wrongly or more than once in public; don’t try to fan dead feelings aflame with words. // Ignore the above warnings & risk drowning in the undertow of your own rhetoric . . .” Particularly apt, ain’t it, with the recent “compleat” and indubitable changing of the guard of “Official Verse Culture”—see, in these States, the recent “crop” of National Book Award finalists in poetry—(though I am certain that “our” hanging-ornament Former Radicals’ll deny it with the usual hokey-pokey).

Too, Marianne Morris’s riff recalls the end of Ron Padgett’s tiny “After Reverdy” (out of Great Balls of Fire):
I would never have wanted to see your sad face again
Your cheeks and your windy hair
I went all across the country
Under this humid woodpecker
Day and night
Under the sun and the rain

Now we are face to face again
What does one say to my face

Once I rested up against a tree
So long
I got stuck to it
That kind of love is terrible
Which, running along the riled-up stream of my combining—one way to avert the sodden reek of stasis—recalls that folk-epithet insert that shows up in a number of pieces, including something Dylan calls “The Water is Wide” (sung with Joan Baez during the Rolling Thunder days):
I leaned my back up against an oak,
Thinking it was a trusty tree.
But first it bent and then it broke—
Just like my own false love to me.
Which finds its source in the gloaming oral “foam” of seventeenth century Poly-Olbion and surrounds north and west—skim’d off into miscellanies and songbooks by intrepid collectors and printers in the eighteenth century:
I leaned my back unto an aik,
I thought it was a trusty tree.
But first it bowed, and syne it brak:
Sae my true love did lichtly me.
Or, what Robert “Hellhound on My Trail” Johnson says regarding “a series of revolutionary events”: “I got to keep moving, I got to keep moving / Blues falling down like hail, blues falling down like hail.” (Or, what Frank “Khrushchev is coming on the right day!” O’Hara sings joyously out, “foolish enough always to find it in wind”: “the cool graced light / is pushed off the enormous glass piers by hard wind / and everything is tossing, hurrying on up / this country / has everything but politesse a Puerto Rican cab driver says . . .” That, and a primordial sense of the dogged need for a constancy of inconstancy.

Robert Johnson, 1911-1938