Saturday, April 08, 2006

Jim Leftwich

Every Word is An Adverb


“I’ve never heard metrics in terms of feet. You know, on and off, weak and strong, in regulated patterns. I think of a whole phrase, no matter how long. And I think of what they call ‘tala’ in Indian classical music, which may be a sequence of as many as eighteen variously accented beats, which gets repeated as a unit to improvise on.” — Clark Coolidge

Poetry is parsed through sound to construct as a provisional reading pulsing aggregates of unstable semantic units. Attention contracts and expands. The word itself is an unstable aggregate. Contraction sifts through syllables to letters; expansion gathers towards phrases and sentences. Content is glimpsed as a drift through ambient noise. Both the quality and the quantity of this noise vary according to each reader’s capacity for entering it as an archaeologist of the asemic. Content is constructed experientially through endurance of and perseverance in the flux of a polysemic during. Polysemy is an occupational hazard for workers within the poem, no matter whether they enter as writers or readers. In reading, as in writing, the excessive production of meaning is encountered as a fundamental law. The amorphous chaos of infinite misreadings is contained only by an application of consensus constraints. The asemic appears as an aporia of excessive production during the collaborative process of meaning-building. Language itself exists as an alchemical athanor generating transformative meanings as an antithesis of sense.


“A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive; there is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic universals, only a throng of dialects, patois, slangs, and specialized languages.” — Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari

If there are no nouns in nature, as Fenollosa claimed, then there is no such thing as repetition in human experience, there is only consciousness during an arbitrarily segmented process, and the idea of rhythm itself is subject to a multiplicity of hermeneutic improvisations. This is not to say that subjectivity is of necessity ludic, but only to suggest a playful absurdity in the human desire for certainty. Consciousness is nomadic. Thought drifts. Cognition leaps and burrows. The self exists to multiply its selves and seek patterns in their dispersal. Consciousness is non-local and atemporal, and is a causal agent, actively inventing an ecology of realities as its habitat. Experiential subjectivity acts as a laboratory in which these ecologies experiment with the myriad processes of being. The declarative sentence is but one among many tools. Aphoristic actualities occur to question our commitment to attention. The noun in language,then, would function as an adverb in nature, if we were to attend for a moment to the facticity of language as a causal agent.


“The most pronounced feature of organic evolution is not the creation of a multiplicity of amazing morphological structures, but the general expansion of ‘semiotic freedom’, that is to say the increase in richness or ‘depth’ of meaning that can be communicated.” — Jesper Hoffmeyer

A poem grows like a genetically-modified weed infesting an urban garden, an organic process mediated by its cultural context. We embrace the lie as the natural habitat of language, its homeland and its faith, and we move forward towards familiar patterns, to comfort us as we sleep. At the end of the day, going forward, we empty ourselves of all but the flimsiest of sanctioned clichés. To read poetry is to refuse to go shopping, at least for an hour or two. To write poetry is to deny the inalienable rights of humankind, at least as they apply to one’s personal pursuits, is to choose instead an indeterminate epistemology against all histories of metaphysics. Poetry may well be the end of capitalism as we know it; the workers own the means of production, and no one is buying a word of it. This is what we mean when we speak of the neocontemporary. Repeat after me: neocontemporary. Say it like you mean it.


“I think people have an innate ability to put things together in semiotic relationships — to make signs. To make sense out of something is to read it, in a broad sense. And vice versa.” — Stuart Pid

Truth in poetry is a provisional metafiction, a series of advertisements for the lack of a single product. Context is a quincunx. Sense is an elliptical orbit. Sound has many disguises and is everywhere you are not. The readers sit like sentries, perched and alert, listening to the dead center in the heartless heat of the night. The quadrature of the circle is not a random walk.

We made videos of the coup and hid them in plain view, encrypted interrogations of the surfaces of the text. Words sleep with one eye open. Their sleeping bags and burlap sacks bulge with sacred burps. Their writers do what must be done, then keep a careful distance, lonely semes orbiting a broken sun.

Remember the golden rule: those who have the gold, make the rules. That would be the first rule, clearly made by an existential trickster with nothing but contempt for gold and those who possess it. Some of us don’t have a prayer when it comes to learning how to obey the rules. Those who make the rules should give up now.

andrew topel & jim leftwich

burp't riddle did roller derby kids slurp
puddle slimy slant gipper can't paddle

double seam measled twister peely rubble
boots hem hammer stubble gimmick roots

autobot seasaw was'see agitprop pasty acrobat
tobogan weasel soppy bone wagon plop botoxin

grow't hoarse wiggle flag pig vote
worse groat tagged fig wag horse

seaweed tarragon gone'again hop nerdy seabed
weaseed autobahn naggin'got nasty pants sememe

deem boost subtle hammock whisper bream
'em soluble blister realty butter stem

middle puzzle zipper plant maggot'rock fiddle
dimly burnt rubberbundled squid bacon flimsy


“i like no absolutes but the present open wide. writing 'readyness' — universal writing. writing emotions. writing 'love' & not its cause & effect history.” — John Crouse

Yesterday I read a manifesto of sorts by Miklós Erdély. Roughly, it's about the ways in which polysemy leads to a cancellation of meaning. This suggests a route from the polysemic to the asemic, or at least that was my perspective in reading it. From Theses for the Marly Conference of 1980, in Primary Documents:

“While in the case of conventional signs meaning narrows down with an increase in significata, in the case of iconic, indexical signs polysemy leads to attenuation and devaluation of meaning, and ultimately, as in the case of the work of art, to the loss of all meaning.

Therefore a work of art may be considered to be a sign that amplifies and multiplies the various meanings at the expense of each, and causes them to extinguish each other, thus making it impossible for the work of art as a whole to have any meaning.” — Miklós Erdély

I searched the web for more Erdély texts and came across an interview with Janos Sugar, who studied and worked with Erdély. The Sugar interview both expands and compresses Erdély’s thesis, at least as I read it. We arrive at the question of subjectivity, which is a kind of logical cul de sac for both polysemy and asemia, but the site as it were of subjectivity takes on a sort of nomadic playfulness against the contextual political constraints. In their function as limits these political contingencies enable a paradoxically radicalized freedom. The end of history can only occur as an edict from the king, but we’re old enough as a species and as a culture to know not to believe a word of it. The king is a liar by definition; that’s how he got his job. All authority is based on theft, which is to say it’s based on lies. But it isn’t pragmatically accurate to think of theft as a lie about the concept of property. Theft is a lie about the concept of possessive pronouns, and it is usually told by someone who genuinely believes the lie. This is why we shouldn’t speak of the end of history, but rather of the end of authority. The end of history is a mask for the end of the authority of language. Our task is to write the facticity of that demise. The self-leveling plumb level vs. the levellers animated semiotic wrestling, a random walk through the presents of a history, a poetics of cognitive endurance — our acts enact (provisionally), being here (in the ballpark) now (contingent), so as to resist the narcotic allure of having been there, doing this, and also rewriting readymades, particularity, universality emergent in the fact that any particularity will suffice as an efficient tool for the work at hand, no longer believing what is written, only attending to the during of thinking within and against it, throwing it away like trash, like casting dice or bones, or into the boiling succotash of textual emergence, where everything fits, and nothing is dominant.


“Composition by Unit: read it that way.” — Clark Coolidge

May 2005