San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Field Report #1: Fait Accompli

They say that one of the problems with reading off a screen (vs. from a page) is that one has a tendency to forget to blink. Quite literally, the screen reader puts the blink reflex on hold, stunned into stasis like the proverbial deer in the headlights.

I have a similar experience when reading Nick Piombino's Fait Accompli, but in this case, I forget to breathe. The normally reflexive habits of in- and ex-halation for some reason lapse. I can blink alright, but breathing requires a bit of concentration, an act of will almost.

There may be a simple explanation for this, and it may lie in the notion of "fait accompli" itself. As a thing done and now past arguing against or altering, the fait accompli by definition takes no prisoners, chokes off response, and leaves nothing in its wake but aftermath, spoilage. One can recover from the fait accompli, but there is little hope for altering its course, and no reason to try.

The fait accompli is inherently self-contained, sealing itself off against all recursion. It presents as something doubly accomplished. Not only is it a done deal, but there is no negotiating its done-ness. The simple act, by contrast, may end as a kind of beginning, but the fait accompli enacts an end even unto itself. As with a rockslide or avalanche, there is no returning the "fait" to the fait accompli.

So it seems fitting that from the beginning Fait Accompli has worked, in part, as an exercise in recursion and retroactivity. The naming of interests and obligations in its margins (debts to other bloggers, writers living and dead, current friends) acts like a glue or mortar holding together the primary work of assembling a patchwork of past and present writings.

Most recently, the dig into past work (1976, 1966) employs the "done-ness" trope to excess, and this move alone may help explain the loss of air, the attention held fast by strings of text, longish excursions back into the doing of writing, now the thing done and recreated as document, record.

June 20, 2003, is a good day to check in:


appealing- appalling
L effront

hi erogenous glyph

language language
linkage languish
langw age
lang- which
uw a EU S
use-age use (u's)
use- more than one
still u (you)

"Still, I want to talk to you about it"

"I didn't mind"

Self-confessed "trime travel" and "spellbound speculations," Fait Accompli nonetheless stays right here in the moment and works its magic by insisting on its own style of repetitions, never the same on two different days, but also never one for surprises. The spell, maybe, lies in this rhythmic and reliable approach to writing as a thing to be done and un-done at each turn, at each return to the post window.

So the fait accompli may prove, in fact, to be the last laugh of this blogger's art: Ever open, the blog (in general) rarely accomplishes anything, even while getting so much done in the interim.

I go back regularly for what I hope to learn (about poetry, writing, time, speculation), and there's plenty to play with:

I am most inside my mind critically
when I am most outside my mind
critically. The same. Pain is diminishing
the way the sea subsides. I watched it
from outside. I reach outside myself
not so desperately as before. Allowing
myself to regress uncritically but
quietly bringing myself back again.

The poetic journal and the "day book" have rich histories. To recycle one's older writings (a popular practice lately on this and other blogs) enacts a form of remediation by which new technologies recast older technologies in, as it were, a new light. The dusty writing journal lives again, backlit and perpetually refreshed in digital wonderland.

But remediation matters most, of course, where both senses of the term apply. The Web reuses TV in fascinating formal ways (and, in reverse, TV now takes on a Webified look), but the Web also remediates older broadcast technologies in the pedagogical sense of "fixing" or "curing" their woes. The Web brings TV up to speed in so far as viewers become now actors (in some cases literally) in shaping the mode of delivery and presentation. For some, the appeal of the Web (and the digital in general) lies strictly in this capacity to both refashion and reform other (older) technologies. In short: networked computer as assembly machine, and remediation as a learning experience.

Fait Accompli likewise re-mediates old writing, it seems, to affect a cure, to remedy the past by means of (re)assembly in the present. The task may be part therapeutic, part aesthetic, part pedagogical, with plenty of wiggle room between each of these three layers of attention.

Clearly there are other things going on here as well: a laying bear of oneself through material exposure, offering up a kind of drama of explanation inscribed in the re-collection of past agendas, former critical biases, and now lapsed (perhaps) literary commitments. Plus, the ongoing dialogs with other (living) bloggers whose fates (and faits) are somehow tied to the fait accompli.

But at heart, in the middle, underneath (the space of remediation is difficult to manage), the steady return to moments of writing through now written into the domain of Fait Accompli. Offered up as a done deal, the site is nonetheless always recreating itself, dealing again, perhaps just in time to figure things out:

In a rush, it feels like
you have turned time's spigot
all the way. You are grabbing
time by the handfull, using
vast amounts of time to
attend to details- giving
time over to working things out with
or for other people.

Working things out -- perhaps to be done with it -- but never done with the deed, and in the midst, "other people." I take that away, in fact, as my blogging lesson learned for today (thanks to Piombino and Fait Accompli): Where blogging remediates, it also reimagines the nature of writing in and among people, as always that presence of action in interaction (in language). The paper day book or journal can't do that really, but perhaps the meeting of minds in blogging (as here, in the deliberate resurrection of past states of mind) is at heart an effort to remake that formerly self-oriented act in the guise of real-time "working things out with / or for other people." In that sense the potential "cure" of remediation seems obvious, and well worth the effort.

{{{{{{{ Others Take On Fait Accompli }}}}}}}

"A consistency impugns me" is a line that spontaneously popped up after reading awhile down the column of your often wonderful blog entries. And I wonder why say that - is it a critique of your practice? No, I think that fishing back into older pieces and journals is a kind of surreal means to break the seeming "consistency", redundancy, boredom, etc. that too often accounts for the conservative predictability of accumulating years. (The partner that says, "You know how many times you have told me this story?) The back flashes invade, startle, interrupt, violate and/or please - to absolve & relieve the "impugning" force from the scald of stasis. An interesting astronomical discovery about the nature of time. Courtesy of the most advanced telescopes, the eye can now see several thousands of light years out to the edge of the constantly emergent universe. In effect the whole history of the universe is a continuously concurrent and present event. On a human level - if I can reduce - our births and our histories (as contained, say, in your journal) are continuously simultaneous with our present.

But nothing seems to make your "old" journal poems and other entries either dead or less than fresh. It's the the quality of the telescope - your pen and clarity on any given day - that sharpens the focus and makes us say, "what is" is still fresh. The way people have been reconnecting with Ted Berrigan's work. Or the way Marcel - at the end of Rememberance - is able to simultaneously hear Madame Guermantes false teeth rattle and in the same time spontaneously (involuntarily) re- invoke the precise texture, color and sound of his first childhood meeting with her. Yet it is the divergences of memory around a particular event that make for the juice of (critical) conversation. Why one poem encapsulates a "time" and another "less so". & why clarity keeps reinterpreting "a time" over generations. Keeping us human instead of permanent. Anyway, keep startling yourself & us. Equally - instead of compulsively trying to establish "the new" I think your work opens passages "back into the present" for the rest of us. {Stephen Vincent}

Dear Nick,

I really enjoy your poetry. I am intrigued by the variation in dates - and by how seamless the 'narrative' of your blog is even though the poems you post come from different times in your life. Do you revise them before posting, or choose them based on their relevance to your experience now? It's funny reading them, I look (as readers always do) through them to try to glimpse the author (or the 'figure of the author') but am stumped by the a-chronology. I like this effect very much.

It reminds me a little of what Del Cross is doing with his anachronism poems - maybe Stephanie has told you about them? He is combing old diaries, and going through them in sequence, shaping poems based on the entries that exist at the intersection of the diary time and the present time of writing. I am fascinated to see what might happen if these dates grow so near that they eventually collide - I hope he keeps writing the anachronisms.

Your process seems somewhat different, and it would be great to hear more about it when I meet you? {Cassie Lewis}


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