San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


End of Assembly

One of the most important things an assembly provides is a supply of interchangeable parts. When you count on replacing some parts with others just as good, you can carry on assembly work in a routine way. That is why the networks and conventions that make up an assembly create opportunities as well as constraints. The boundaries of an assembly, in fact, are defined by this capacity for interchangeability (after Becker, Art Worlds).

Assembly can thus be taken seriously as both “art” and support work for some other artistic activity. Assembly poets care little whether their work goes (is recognized) by the name of art or something else. In fact, they are often told that what they are doing is not art, and so they often do the same work under a different name: school, or service or research, for example, and to the same effect. Nonetheless, while going by any of several names, assembly work is still recognizable by its readiness for interchangeability or, more broadly, for its component-status within a wider network of activities. In fact, a different “cooperative world” (Becker) is what the assembly technician needs most these days, not the staid predictability of even the more adventuresome or maverick “art worlds.”

Critics will claim that we have lionized a form of swap in/swap out lawlessness where not only anything goes but anything goes wherever it wants. But this is hardly the case: since everything must go (somewhere), it might as well go into the assembly. Critics will counter that this claim again begs the question, but the agile and attentive student of assembly will realize that, on the contrary, wherever and somewhere are not interchangeable. On this distinction assembly poetics bases a great deal of its project.

Assembly begins with the assumption that parts are in the air for the taking. Since the juggling has long since begun, one can hardly blame the assembly technician for getting in on the act. In the end, assembly stands ready for the game of recovery and redemption inherent to the game of revenge and reclamation already underway. A bumbling but loveable clown provides the content; the assembly technician just reaches in to touch form, nabbing a bit of it for good luck (and better balance).

Everywhere you look the clean sweep, the finely cut corners (and wedges) of assembly. Textured and ethereal, a management of tattered remnants, assembly goes on and on, sometimes sewn into a quilt, sometimes torn to pieces.


Late Night With Walter Benjamin

Telling the “real story” of production, assembly operates in a world destabilized by the loss of “aura.” It replaces a “plurality of copies” with a unique “in-time experience.” As simultaneously form, reform, and perform, assembly deals a blow to tradition while staying close to human perception and history. For aura and distance, substitute in-time “contextual integration.”

Emancipated from a “parasitical dependence on ritual,” assembly art nonetheless banks on the regime of ritual recoding as a kind of spoiler tactic appropriated to resist a resurgent insistence on authenticity. The copyright infringement, as an instance of transgression, is commonly remediated (translated) and sold back as purified document, as clean text. The devices for purging the aberrant textual excursion are many (plagiarism detection algorithms, high school and college writing standards, stiff punishments for illicit copying, etc.). Assembly technicians embrace these and other devices of ritual recoding as promising opportunities for an embedded journalistic re-ritualizing of experience as part defiance or law-breaking and part desperate attempt to re-imagine aura in the age of digital distribution.

Assemblies exhibit the regime of ritual recoding. They push the point of recoding as a subtle reminder that parts (words, texts, sounds, codes, for example) cannot be owned but only put together and taken apart. The exhibit is a “fleeting expression,” to be sure, but resistance is a form of “remembrance” all the same. The cult of assembly reverses the polarity of artistic immersion: to make/use assembly is to “emerse” oneself in/from the regime of ritual recoding by supplanting “sales value” with document and distribution value.

An instrument of remedial ritual (and not “ballistics”), the cult of assembly seeks absorption in recoding. For now, this venture suggests the only available means of achieving a qualified stability and, perhaps, from that more stable vantage, a means to imagine something beyond assembly as an end in itself.

Since the practice of assembly is always on display, exhibited, exposed, an assembly cannot be anything but overexposed. Assemblies are “dromological,” to adapt Virilio’s term, and give off the light of arrival, of stepping in under the spotlight of ritual recoding. This takes us closer to the idea of assembly as a real-time flourish, for once under that light, the assembled document is real only to the extent that it offers up “discreet (implicit) information, a sort of illumination of the reality of facts.” Assembly is thus a “generalized arrival of data” on the cusp of which recodings appear instantly outdated and, as a result, powerless before the assembly technician who is quick to point out (dramatize) the departure of message, of content.

Data “arrives” in the recoded distribution of data. The real is thus assembled if not brokered in dromological spaces. Working before this “final relief of reality,” the assembly technician becomes more than a poet or an artist: she/he becomes the custodian of a new brand of critical care-taking, an educator in a true school without walls or perhaps a world without schools.


Just In-Time

In-time assembly adapts “just-in-time delivery,” a process by which the units of assembly are delivered to the assembly line just as they are called for. In such a system, there is no sedentary capital but a constant flow of raw commodities. This nomadic system eliminates stockpiles of goods; production, distribution, and consumption are imploded into a single act, with no beginning or end, just unbroken circulation.

The work of assembly presupposes its immediate distribution, consumption, and, most importantly, revision. All who participate in the network participate in the mutation of the assembly stream. The only concern in this model is as it has always been: access to assembly resources. Assembly networks, however they materialize, must as a matter of course mobilize an access cooperative or facility providing a wide array of resources, be they tools, services, curricula, tutorials, or even free pamphlets and handbooks.

Access remains the biggest challenge for this or any other poetics. While lauded by some as the “new universal” (Lévy), cyberculture continues to document the culture of the few. The “copresence of messages and their contexts” nonetheless denies or closes out the presence of message networks not of a cyber-readable scale. Blurred or reduced, non-cyber modes of communication remain ghost-presences or, worse, metaphor fodder for the new cybertheorist: the “oral,” for instance, is not a universal “value” or “mode of thought,” even when scaled up and out to substantiate claims to a new cultural episteme.

Rejecting the push toward a sort of nice totality, assembly technicians prefer the messy and often at-odds coordination of on-hand parts, making do not for the sake of a utopian “new universal” but rather to imagine more practical local newness (production revised) as a partial response to the world-wide, or global, message. Assembly poetics borrows from cyberspace its way of making use of “existing infrastructures, as imperfect and disparate as they are” (Lévy). The infrastructures of assembly, however, are not just digital or cyber. They are also dirt and concrete and verbal and textual (i.e., from hyperlink to word-of-mouth to road trip (and back again)).

Assembly poetics is definitely a call to action, where action is a daily commitment to documentation and recording. “Everyone [sic] has already been tutored in the culture of recording, of code, and of space, but few have taken up their instruments” (Kahn, “Track Organology”). Documentation is the instrument of assembly, its workstation, its word-processor. The literal “word-processing” machine is both the actual device (for some) and a good metaphor for the daily grind of assembly: word-processing is a generative cut-and-paste operation, not just editing but editation or the deliberate and focused coordination of parts to effect the sleight-of-hand of, in this case, literary performance.

But since all assemblies defer to future assemblies, the document technician leaves the real work on the clipboard, a traveling stock of information left available after closing out an application. Assembly requires a kind of compositional latitude with regard to the finished document. This latitude (or patience, grace, forgiveness) provides the theoretical “explanation” for composition in our age. Adapting Stein, assembly is thus the “difference” (that makes a difference).


Militant Learning

Poetry painted upon walls, carved onto tools, written onto the body, onto religious objects; painted or carved upon border markers, grave sites; arranged in materials such as stone, bone, animal or vegetable fibers, and feathers, composed on the voice, in the machine, on the instrument, on the screen; in-corporated as ritual—by whatever means are at hand (adapted from Fernandez, “Sensuality and a Western Tradition”).

Assembly may appear arbitrary – a recycler’s credo – but it is not. The appearance of assembly is always blessed with a kind of organic, holistic surface.

Assemblies do not age or die; they just get reassembled.

Nor are they inspired or the consequence of impulse. “Every act” (B. Brecht) “comes from a realization. There’s really no such thing as acting on impulse. There again the intellect is lurking in the background” (on theatre). The intellect, in the background, is perhaps the kernel of assembly, to adapt B.B., because assembly technicians while intellectual creatures are also spontaneous and fun-loving brutalists happy to draw a scene at the drop of a hat. This is not “impulse,” however, but the steady-state of an assembly technician’s ongoing choreography. To assemble is not to break into an impromptu song or dance but to exercise a long-planned (if not long-awaited) in-time choreography.

As document, an assembly (like a Brechtian “epic”) must report; its subject matter must account for the fact or facts at hand. This is the tricky part, for assemblies are not “news,” as one might suspect at this point, but news-told-again as if passed thru a filter or engine. Simply put, assemblies build the interface and the world provides the content. Assembly poetics in this way strives to stay close to pedagogy, to education in the literal sense of leading forth, educing, or eliciting. Herein lies the “social function” of an assembly art.

More than frame, the interface assembles, i.e., functions somewhere between medium and message, form and content. An interface cannot mean in any strict sense, but it can organize meanings, becoming as it were a stage for semantic organ-growing (shape-shifting). This move entails a change in both the means of representation and the means of production/distribution. On both fronts, the goal is always a “cheerful and militant learning.”

As “learning play,” assembly is thus essentially dynamic (an always remediated news), and its task is to show the world changing and also how it might be changed. Assembly is the choreographed how of a raw that and what. In other words, we could be content to make it strange, but assembly goes further in holding the strange accountable as an instrumental, in-time solution to a real-world problem/conundrum.

Still, assembly does not aspire to make things easier; in fact, there’s nothing harder than accommodating the strange for a live audience anxious to learn something new. Hardly the crowd pleaser, the assembly technician learns the crowd’s appetite for learning. All pleasure is reciprocal, mutual. Assembly invites emotional/intellectual convention in the deliberate and crafty use (or misuse) of conventions: not anything goes, but everything must go (somewhere). In this way, assembly works toward its own A-effect.

Readers/users/spectators of assembly art are of course also assembly technicians, as cued into (responsible for) the making of art as the putative “maker” who, exhausting all options, does not really occupy that position anyway. The term “assembly technician” must always refer to the maker/user of assembly work: the spectator also takes up a “puppet function” in relation to assembly.

Pulling it all together, assembly is a “graceful grouping” (BB) that once again risks integration but just in-time: other groupings invariably stave off ossification. Thus, if there is any development it is always steady, and always going somewhere.


Alchemy, Assembly, and Puppetry

Assembly is both “third work” (final stage in the alchemical process) and “thirdness” (conceptual leap). It comes new out of the ashes of old concepts and precepts (old assemblies). It is a vigorous and self-perpetuating process of just-in-time renewal: a concoction, potion, elixir, drug, whose result is whole greeny health and not the piecemeal eradication of nagging symptoms.

Poetry, to borrow Lew Daly’s words, is more an issue of “increased responsibility” than “innovation.” Assembly technicians are inherently apprentices for whom every day and every trick/device learned is an innovation. They learn by doing and make do with learning, are never too far from the pedagogical moment of transformation.

To assemble is to operate in between an instrumentalist and constructionist view of language. Communication in the domain of assembly requires this “use and abuse” orientation with regard to the materials of assembly. To practice assembly as a poetic method is thus to convene under the radar of rhetorical convention but not necessarily to jam its signals. Conventional signals are in fact useful strategic gateways for the assembly technician who works not so much to dismantle or deconstruct the code at its source but rather to render all source codes open to effective assembly.

The goal is neither transparency nor opacity but a shimmering liquid crystal elasticity, a screen-in-the-round performance of surface and depth, figure and ground, x/y and z. The puppet performing on the stage of assembly (imagine multiple tiers, on different nights, and perhaps along or among a loose network or distribution of theaters), is an inanimate object which, “due to the elliptical laws of gravity, has the capability for ideal animation” (Osman). It exhibits a “grace” which corrects for “a series of errors to be found in the human form.” [Aside: I take this personally: cyborgs scare me (especially when they run for public office); puppets make me smile and laugh.] The human (ever more the cyborg) performs according to the same “elliptical laws” but easily falters, loses balance in and among moments of “error.” But the puppet, whose center of gravity is always located at “dead center,” is free of the “straight line” which keeps the human both on track and perpetually vulnerable to false starts and miscues.

Assembly poetics thus looks to the puppet, not the cyborg, to perform the act of displacement by which “the self attempts to replace the self with a second self.” The puppet speaks the shift to “another locale” (the stage[s] of assembly), and thus MCs the corollary mental shift by which, for example, a poet becomes a document technician. You will never get it straight from the “self,” in other words, but the puppet is always ready and willing to convey the truth of assembly poetics.

Puppet and operator work together, no doubt, but operation is always a puppet’s play, and one in which the “dead object” (re)animates over and over, like the Phoenix, out of the ashes of former dead objects. Assembly work is always cyclical and self-generating, a 24/7 street theater of Brechtian proportions but with (potentially) an ever renewed cast of characters many of whom don’t even know they’re part of the performance.

I see this attempt to define the puppet function as an adaptation and extension of an earlier obsession with “words.” In this case, however, words are just one of several parts that come together in the vastly inventive and remedial realm of assembly theater.


Assembly for the Record

Assembly writes its own name on a very thin sheet of paper, on vellum, on tissue paper spilled from a gift box. It makes a record of itself in the simple sense that “all imaginative work appears to us in specific material forms” (McGann). To that name, that record, we attach an “imaginative importance” that in many ways serves as the assembly itself: meaning exists as an index of distribution, not composition.

Assembly poetics thus runs rampant as a kind of sub-routine whose objective is to coordinate the sporadic impulses of several untethered “recording angels.” Print and web publishing are clearly in a state of disarray and confusion as well-meaning poets, web designers, and editors struggle to figure out how best to document the goings-on of assembly. Once we figure it out, the record will speak for itself and will initiate something close to a revolution in poetic form.

But assembly quite simply is a form of documentation and so most efforts to capture, reproduce, or frame assembly come across as unfortunate duplications, second thoughts, or delayed reactions. Assembly poetics appears impatient but really it has all the patience in the world. It resumes or sustains the full-body aesthetics of a B. Brecht or L. Anderson. Its project is to re-establish the “theatrical unity” of form and performance, poetics and pedagogy, event and document.

True, assembly or document technicians “write” in a state of quickened thought, emergency, or rapt attention, but the project over time is a slow coalescence, a patient performance whose textures are most visible when the file, for example, is played back in slow motion. As transfers or translations, assemblies are also always transformations, scriptural reforms, new and renewed organizational alignments. Assembly technicians are basically friendly data transformers at home among an ensemble of activities.

“Old” data appears fresh to the document technician: there are no anxieties of influence, no hyper-reflexive concerns about projected (future) legacies, no self-fulfilling prophecies of obsolescence. For this and other reasons, assembly technicians are quite comfortable with cute names and titles for things because any predictable future reaction doesn’t mean much anyway.

Since the record is the assembly and vice versa, all hope, and all attention, lies there.



I should deliberately write about a positive topic...because writing positively -- chirp, chirp -- can make one feel better! I personally have no objection to being quoted without permission, but I find it somewhat misleading. Anyway, I just took the dog over to the graveyard again, and it is getting breezy, and it appears hazy to the east. While my vision of the lesson was originally much different than the result, the lesson started very well, I think. I held so still.


Assembly in the Wild

A work of phenomenal relation, organization, and cognition, each assembly is determined by a previous assembly. Each is known only insofar as it assembles in relation to other assemblies. Individually, we cannot hope to attain the ultimate in assembly work; we can only seek it, therefore, for the community of assemblers.

At some point in life or perhaps all the time one searches for a public in writing. The public consists of all those who are affected by the indirect consequences of assembly. This is the sheer “fact of association” (Dewey), and while there is no sense in asking how individuals come to be associated, it makes a lot of sense to inquire after the method and practice of association. Assembly poetics aspires to an inquiry of this order and is in that sense a second-generation “poetics of inquiry” with links to pragmatism and the skeptical, non-rationalist tradition going back to the rhetorical projects of Erasmus and Montaigne.

In writing through inquiry, an assembly technician assays the problem of assembly and association as a first-order occupation. The coordination or grouping of assembly technicians must therefore at all times be an experimental process. Interpersonist allegiances, as assemblies in their own right, must always be rediscovered. Assembly is in this light an integrating principle without guaranteeing or demanding a whole-hog commitment to any singular movement or act of integration.

More than flux but less than stasis, assembly coordinates organs and organizes coordinates. It is always physical even in the zones of plastic renewal such as on the Web or between Blogs. Assembly groups parts for an emergent hyperfictive-critical stance whose public reach always exceeds its private grasp.



E = N = V = Y + emotional rawness - Joan Houlihan = poetry.


one blog


Method and Pedagogy

Assembly technicians are “the only pedagogues…those capable of demonstrating, thru USE: a method, a way: of transmitting: communicating: idea/thought/‘history’, etc.” (Creeley to Olson, 1950). To claim a method as anterior (and then interior) to a poetics is to make a teacher’s claim to idea/thought/history. A methodologist, not a poet, does the taxing work of making way for future generations. Assembly as method offers a way into 21st century poetagogy.

So, assembly work is basically “the tempering of method” but toward the assembly, not the poem. It’s obvious that assembly poetics represents a perfectly familiar attitude in the world of poetry, the ‘assembly’ attitude, but it represents it both in a more radical and in a less objectionable form. An assembly technician rejects resolutely a lot of inveterate habits dear to professional poets. She/he embraces, not abstraction and insufficiency, nor pretended absolutes and origins, but rather concreteness and adequacy, facts, actions.

As already suggested, assembly is mostly about method. But the general triumph of that method would mean a big change in what we might call the ‘temperament’ of poetry. To temper an assembly method is to change one’s orientation, and one’s temperament, with regard to poetry and writing more generally. The truth of an assembly poetics is in the assembly, as a consequence of poetic action and a literal fact-gathering excursion in the map-equivalent of our world.

The critical/theoretical work of assembly poetics assumes a collaborative backdrop against which “idea/thought/history” finds free play. It borrows the hypertextual model but to its absurd (Borgesian) conclusion in the disappearance of discrete texts/authors and the emergence of a seamless infoscape in which radical poet-assemblists are nothing but (just) in-time agents officially directed toward a cause (on a mission). Assembly technicians tap information without using it. Resisting the impulse to change the world, they nonetheless alter viewpoints and opinions in relation to a political status quo (always practical purposes, never pretended ambitions).

Hypertext, let’s say, is the structural primer, the hornbook or abecedarium, for an assembly poetics. “Hypertext” would be the first chapter in the techsbook on assembly poetics. “Sign Manipulation” (from Peirce and “abduction” to the metaphorical abductions of hactivism) would be chapter two. Chapter three might address the bugaboo of linearity and narrative but it would probably be wiser to jump right into choreography and interface design.

Assemblies are instrumental conveniences/conventions in the literal sense of convening at the intersections of everyday needs, desires, emergencies. A crowd, for example, convenes/assembles at the border to express disapproval with regard to WTO practices and policies. This is just one assembly among many and emerges at a given time and place while elsewhere (Cancun) similar assemblies drawing on similar points of interest and contention appear for a similar/related protest.

Given the shared focus of these and other conventions (not to mention the shared data, icons, signs, symbols, etc.), it could be argued that all these disparate assemblies are in fact one assembly albeit distributed geographically. To say that an assembly is distributed, though, is to help make the point of assembly in general, namely that it is always one and many, singular and plural, a shape-shifting organization or deployment of parts appearing whole but always on the edge of dispersal and fragmentation. In fact, tactical shape-shifting guarantees the survival of assembly, particularly where attempts at control and oppression are most pronounced. Assembly technicians, in this context, take the right of assembly seriously.

But the idea here is to imagine this kind of action/convention as a poetic activity without however making unnecessary errors of scale (i.e., scaling up or down to fit the exigencies of poetry). Between the WTO protests of September 2003 and an assembly poetics exists a one-to-one correspondence whose significance is somewhat lost in the details. Both distributed and unitary, assembly exists at the forefront of multiple correspondences: one-to-one, many-to-one, many-to-many. The important thing is that assembly remain “never neutral.”

Put simply, assembly technicians strive to redeem the possibility for collective action while not dismissing/rejecting the individual project as inherently off-board or passé. In other words, the personal assembly activity as an information tap-estry begins in the limelight of collective authorization. Efforts to go solo are silly fictions, at best, nostalgic throwbacks to an age of reclusive pastoral hideaways and doughy writer’s colonies. Assembly technicians assume a network of hyper-allegiances before getting started. The work may appear as though it has come from nowhere, ex nihilo, but in fact it settles out (like dust after a windstorm) only because it has tapped an allegiance in the secret hollows of its beginning.


We've been able to create a better, less oppressive America for poets to live in. This gentle information comes as a prescription (under a huge white moon). Slips of permission removed from the list of instructions. It starts with a flow...




I hope my parents didn't hear
a creak of my feet when I
sneaked in their room I hope
the teacher didn't hear me whisper
to my friends I hope the
teacher doesn't hear my pencil
writing a note I hope at math
the teacher didn't hear me press
the buttons on the calculator
I hope I didn't make any sound


Document Technicians of the Sacred

Document technicians are “precisely ‘technicians’ where it most concerns them – specifically in their relation to the ‘sacred’ as something they can actively create or capture” (Rothenberg, xix-xx). Poetry among them “involves an extremely complicated sense of materials and structures [and] the manipulation (fine or gross) of multiple elements” (xx).

Out of this formulation of “primitive” poetry and art come the following four key concepts: the sacred; technique/technician; active creation and[or] capture (of the sacred); and multiple elements. Each by itself and all combined make radical sense to the assembly poet. Assembly poets (as document technicians) are clearly technicians of the sacred, though the idea of ‘sacredness’ must be handled somewhat differently.

No longer preoccupied with the ‘primitive’ as a reflective surface on which to better visualize ‘our’ artistic practice, we come away from the primitive with a qualified interest in ‘complexity’ as an index of sacred creation or capture. The assembly technician basks in this qualified interest, and what’s needed for assembly poetics to really mean something is an involved (minimalist/maximalist) and active relation to the sacred as something created and/or captured.

In fact, for post-literate (not to mention post-avant, post-PC, post-glocal) assembly/document technicians, the sacred is created IN the capture. From tattooing, to piercing, to tagging, to Flash montage, to culture jamming, the sacred = the measure of absorption/repulsion in a world of total data emersion. The pursuit of the sacred (out of data) keeps us all technicians, and hope resides perhaps in the alchemical perfection of technique/techné.

Assembly is therefore a technical trade and warrants the dismissal or at least bracketing of the rarified ‘poet-sense’ for so long towering smugly over a dedicated research know-how. Doesn’t Rothenberg anticipate this in the prolonged apology for genre and the insistence on “multiple elements”? Song, word, dance, chant, drawing, spell, incantation—and then why not pixel and sound and projection and costume and layer and window. What’s needed is no longer an archaeology of “poetries” but rather a manual, a techsbook, guidelines for the several apparatuses of assembly and the means of creation/capture.

The assembly poet in fact strives to capture the sacred in each assembly. To assemble is to think the “non-causal thought”: assemblies are post-logical in the production of sense/meaning in intervals, phrases, or sets. Assemblies are “combinatory” but insist on a different order of fit between parts. Assembly thus equals a second phase “intermedia”—each happens (is acted upon) and is a writing or underwriting of tactical capture.

Assembly is first and foremost a method. For it to work, it must be equally invested in both putting together and taking apart. Heat lost/conserved in the transfer must be indexed somehow in the planning or assessment after the fact. Maybe the sacred – hoped to be captured by assembly technique – is just this ritual of entropic ebb and flow.


Excential Texts 6

Man in Black

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believin' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believin' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.

In memoriam, Johnny Cash, 1932-2003


Excential Texts 5

Lyn Hejinian, The Language of Inquiry, 2000

[some bits...]

Language is nothing but meanings, and meanings are nothing but a flow of contexts. Such contexts rarely coalesce into images, rarely come to terms. They are transitions, transmutations, the endless radiating of denotation into relation.

Poetry, to use William James’s phrase, ‘is in the transitions as much as in the terms connected.’

Poetry comes to know that things are. But this is not knowledge in the strictest sense; it is, rather, acknowledgment—and that constitutes a sort of unknowing. To know that things are is not to know what they are, and to know that without what is to know otherness (i.e., the unknown and perhaps unknowable).

This acknowledging is a process, not a definitive act; it is an inquiry, a thinking on.

The spaces in which meaning occurs are social spaces, ones in which human practice as well as artistic practice is at stake.

One makes a form, sketches it out, looks to see it, and pursues the suggestions it has made. The initial step is a gesture—or the result of a gesture.

These initial objects of one’s alertness serve as the points of departure for a foray into the world and back again.

The artist…displays a vast tolerance and an infinite capacity for questioning, and her work exerts the moral force of combination. It constitutes a relation.

…it is the bibliography that is the text. The writing emerges from within a pre-existent text of one’s own devising or another’s. The process is composition rather than writing.

The “open text,” by definition, is open to the world and particularly to the reader. It invites participation, rejects the authority of the writer over the reader and thus, by analogy, the authority implicit in other (social, economic, cultural) hierarchies. [It is] generative rather than directive [and] often emphasizes or foregrounds process, either the process of the original composition or of subsequent compositions by readers….

Form is not a fixture but an activity.

A central activity of poetic language is formal. In being formal, in making form distinct, it opens—makes variousness and multiplicity and possibility articulate and clear.

In The Experimental Novel (1880) Zola identified the task of the writer with that of the scientist…: ‘No more lyricism, no more big empty words, but facts, documents,’ he wrote.

…verisimilitude and veracity…

It is customary and to an extent automatic to think of landscape as a space, as a framed spatial configuration enclosing natural phenomena. But to think about time as it takes place in a landscape makes it much easier to understand some of Stein’s central concepts…

…Stein has discovered that every relation with phenomena is colored in mood…. She is often in mood amused.

In the realm of the political as in that of the material world around us, “knowledge of sensible realities” is vital, and if I have argued that poetic language contributes critically to making realities sensible, it must address both the material character of the political and the political character of the material.

Introspection has writing as its exemplar, as a radical method with disintegrating and dispersive effects.

The metonym operates within several simultaneous but not necessarily congruent logics, oscillating inferentially between induction and deduction…. Metonymy moves attention from thing to thing; its principle is combination rather than selection. Compared to metaphor, which depends on code, metonym preserves context, foregrounds interrelationship.

Metonymy moves restlessly, through an associative network, in which associations are compressed rather than elaborated.

…to the extent that metonymy conserves perception of the world of objects, conserves their quiddity, their particular precisions, it is a ‘scientific’ description.

…direct and sensuous contact with the concrete and material world…unmediated by preconceptions…. The materials of nature speak….

According to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophers of science, there is a specifically scientific way of seeing, which looks at, not over, the object of inquiry.

When the term realism is applied to poetry, it is apt to upset our sense of reality. But it is exactly the strangeness that results from a description of the world given in terms ‘there it is,’ ‘there it is,’ ‘there it is’ that restores realness to things in the world and separates things from ideology….

…collage is a predominantly spatial technique (developed in paintings), whereas montage (deriving from film technique) employs devices that are related to time. In this sense montage preserves its character as a process.

The only qualities necessary for reading and enjoying and learning from poetry are freedom from preconceptions as to the limits (and even the definition) of poetry and curiosity and confidence in the possibilities of something’s being new and interesting.

The idea of the person enters poetics where art and reality, or intentionality and circumstance, meet. It is on the improvised boundary between art and reality, between construction and experience, that the person (or my person) in writing exists.

Knowledge, like speaking or writing, is not an entity but a function—it would best be called ‘knowing’—and the purpose of that function is to contextualize—to contextualize in the profoundest sense, so that knowledge is not only knowing of (which is experience in potentia) and knowing that (which generates propositions) but also knowing how.

Knowledge, in other words, is transitive. It is also transient, though recurrent, occurring in situ, in experience. One doesn’t know something constantly or continually, but only episodically, in the event. The following of the paths in the metaphor requires a knowing how.

The function of art is to restore palpability to the world which habit and familiarity otherwise obscure; its task is to restore the liveliness to life. Thus it must make the familiar remarkable, noticeable again; it must render the familiar unfamiliar.

In experimental poetry, aesthetic discovery is congruent with social discovery. New ways of thinking (new relationships among the components of thought) make new ways of being possible.

Poetry after Auschwitz must indeed be barbarian; it must be foreign to the cultures that produce atrocities. As a result, the poet must assume a barbarian position, taking a creative, analytic, and often oppositional stance, occupying (and being occupied by) foreignness—by the barbarism of strangeness.

The barbarian is a ‘normal person’ who creates ‘a new picture’—the poet qua poet. This poet-barbarian, Virgil-like figure of my extended metaphor is a rigorously attentive observer and active participant in the interminable newness of poetic language….

…to produce the phrase this is happening and thereby to provoke the sensation that corresponds to it—a sensation of newness, yes, and of renewedness—an experience of the revitalization of things in the word…not necessarily to produce knowledge nor even a unit of cognition but rather to discover context and, therein, reason.

There is no context without thought and history. They exist through reciprocation of their reason.

To take a chance is to enter the moment in relation to it….

Poetry’s ability to contribute to the work of doing philosophy is intrinsic to its medium, language. Every phrase, every sentence, is an investigation of an idea.

Each day is drawn to its scene or scene to its day the image already under way and formed to proceed


Lime Tree gets a delivery from Factory School and the Special Delivery Pedagogy Group, among others. The important thing, anyway, is to say whatever comes into your head, and then say whatever else comes into your head. What is unspoken is not merely what lacks voice, it is what remains unsaid, what is not yet shown, what has not yet reached its appearance. Ah, the Jim and the Pouch and the American Splendor of it all! Which makes THIS the best damn PUPPET WORK I've seen in a while.


Pentagon's Top Ten Essential Films List???

starts with...

Challenged by terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare in Iraq, the Pentagon recently held a screening of "The Battle of Algiers," the film that in the late 1960's was required viewing and something of a teaching tool for radicalized Americans and revolutionary wannabes opposing the Vietnam War. [NYTimes, see Sept. 7]



Lime Tree's reach exceeds its grasp. Otherwise, the good rule set: Experiment with theft and plagiarism. And a confession: I'd like to achieve immortality through my art but I want to know it before I die. I am de Scribe... No. Trans scribe..., writing Under the Palm Leaves. After over 300 applications, 7 interviews, I just got hired at Ulysses. Conchology: word up!


More Assembly Poetics

For the record, My Life by Lyn Hejinian is an exercise in participatory reading, D-aries in retro-premonitory writing. SDPG is a kind of "collaborative filtering" and works (at times) something like a bot or agent of the "traveling" or "social" kind. It is neither "push" nor "pull" media but aspires to something in between. Let's call it "push me / pull me" media, although I'm no Dr. Doolittle.

As a digital personality, I always strive for digital interpersonism, a term I coined this morning while watching my two kids eat oatmeal. As a digital interpersonist, you just go on your and everyone else's nerves.

Dead Letter Game is a writing of a reading about writing. Where D-aries looks to the present (and thus liberates a past), DLG excavates the past in order to write in the future. SDPG, as reporting and document assembly, is a past and a present and sometimes (though rarely) a future. My Life by Lyn Hejinian is not my life but could be upon completion (I'll be 45). DLG is not my life but was (the play's the thing).

To blog is to drag one's puppet to the stage and to let it do all the talking. I think of this as a kind of fictive-critical transfer or translation, an assembly or organization (literally, to furnish with organs) of parts (roles) derived from one's own experiences but removed, distended, perhaps suspended. The Russian realist film makers had it right (e.g. Vertov's interval) with regard to the construction of meaning out of raw data. The transfer/translation inherent to blog interpersonism, though, never really organizes, never resolves to a recognizable, delimited, meaningful, and bordered body. No risk in assembly poetics of the "traveling" agent taking over like the Borg or the android Roy. Humans are meddlesome creatures alright and can't get enough of everyone else's "private" information, but we are also fickle and easily distracted. So assemblies are short-lived and fragile, tinker-toy cars that don't really roll and break apart under the slightest pressure.

The transfer/translation is always just that, in transit, in medias. Assemblies gather and intermix like dust clouds then disperse or settle. True, we need better ways to pull this stuff together but we are better off that it remains ultimately unassimilable and nebulous. We need fewer hard (and hardened) tools and more soft assemblies. The uncanny truth of our age is that we are all at once desperately alone and intimately connected. The din is endless and the silence infinite. Assemblies are perfect forms for this time. They materialize for the given particular needs of the moment then dissolve into pure potential. They promise a workable organization without threatening a cyborg revolution.

An assembly grafts the personal and the collective and makes of it a practice. To assemble is neither sincere nor insincere, neither truth nor lie. Fictive, yes, but in this transfer or translation of parts the sentiment behind the gesture is hardly an issue. Assemblies resist the discourse of sincerity altogether. They operate in the seams between chance and intention, between fate and human will. Assemblies quite literary come together and break apart while the document technician naps or does the dishes. There's no need to monitor the progress of assembly, no fetishization of beginning (inspiration), middle (process), or end (output). That's why publishing or even the very idea of writing, printing, distributing a poem or story or essay is absurd in the age of assembly poetics.

In a way we get the zeal of the Futurist in today's assembly technician without the tacit faith in the machines (of war in particular) to radicalize and reinvent the status quo. Assemblies are tactical, not strategic; in fact, they exist and operate in opposition to strategies and strategic maneuvers. They can be found everywhere and are not made or even assembled (ironically) so much as acted upon. Assembly is a puppet's stage show, its song and dance, its vaudeville. The evidence or record (documentation) of assembly is found in the act and the action that comes to serve as its marker, its registration point on the time-space grid of human convention and collaboration.

The Web is assembly; canned literary hypertext is not. The link is one of the soft (convivial) tools of assembly, but so is cut-and-paste along with other appropriation devices. Word frequency algorithms and pattern-recognition tools are the enemy of assembly since they implicitly criminalize montage and fact-farming. Assembly is always (according to someone) plagiarism. Thus assembly is not authorship, at all, although it might make use of some of the peskier author functions.

As "born shape-shifters," computers are good assembly machines, but they are not ideal because there is always (or at least frequently) a component of assembly that exceeds the bounds of computer capacity.

The logical endgame of assembly poetics is that (and this is the best part) it constantly disassembles and reassembles itself and thus rarely resembles a poetics. Those who have missed or mourned the absence of a discernable poetics among the tribe's most recent emissaries may do well to consider the "shape-shifting" character of today's assembly workers and their associated assemblies. If you happen to be at the right place at the right time, you may catch a glimpse of what you're looking for, but don't expect too much. The vision will be fleeting, an illusion of sorts, and what's more the people around you may have an entirely different sense of what they just saw, and there will be much excitement but little agreement.

Worse yet, the ones responsible for the sleight of hand, the magicians and dancers and jugglers on stage, will not have any idea what you are talking about when you approach with the good news. Or if they do understand, they will simply smile politely and then move on to the next assembly. Assembly poets are restless in that very peculiar and resourceful way.




Othawyz, too hot to blog....


Assembly Poetics

Blog as critical share space, as third (fourth?) generation hypertext in which a new collective and collaborative critical writing emerges between and among individual and group blogs. Not sure we're there yet, or maybe we are and the evidence is just hard to read, to see and recognize, accustomed as we (I) may be to more discernable creeds, more limited, refined, condensed, concentric, bordered attempts. The link is still an emergent form, at least, and hasn't yet met its potential.

As critical (mass) share space: a mix-match aesthetic of parts assembly/disassembly, and on a daily basis, but thru and amidst the rant and rumble (mumble jumble) of the mundane. As yet hard to extract the critical strands, but maybe that's the point: What? Pure Critical Polylogue? Not on this generation's watch, where crimes perpetrated in the name of a clearly labeled mandate/poetix are still smarting, time yet unserved.

Let's say, critical share in the same space as the ugly, the inane and innocuous, the embarrassing, the personal/auto/bio, the tid-bit trumping, the confessional and constitutional. Yet, still, the attendant risks of that kind of immersion -- getting lost, bogged down, pulled under. I guess I'd rather see a combinatory space where strains and strands if not overtly woven thru (correlative risk of constraint, leaden seriousness, weight gain) are at least occasionally teased like the loose threads on grandma's throw pillows. In Kasey's crush essentials, for example, or Tabios's and Yep/ez's evaluative excursions, Young's reading reports and (maybe) the field reports here, Meetze's gentle confrontations and brutalist apologies, Piombino's tireless attention to his own and other's projects, Evans's factory output, Stefans's circulars and little reviews, the list goes on and can't be exhausted these several outposts of critical/theoretical attention swapped/refreshed daily if not hourly.

And there's the rub, the static, the glare: Inexhaustible, the new online critical share space is open 24/7, serving up a "convenience" poetics without the brand junk. An ephemeral(old, tired word)ness to it, sure, but also nervous, hyperactive, few if any time-outs, breaks, ups for air. A stock--or better flea--market for hungry, ambitious shoppers on the look out for the next big pragmatic poetic price break(through). If not market, then arena, court, field, where the (border) action is hot and everyone's out to breach the other's corporate boundaries, secrets (all in fun, all for the right cause).

This ever-changing face of the critical interface, this tweening of message and medium. The link, to repeat, reemerges as the point of condensation, implosion (from suck to equanimity). The blog chain as "critical circuit," not surfing one's favorites but daily assembling and reassembling a text-based digital-telecommune, scene, circle of confidants, conspirators. A textbook or real-time (on the fly) reader or primer, a school or a correspondence course, a regimen and diet, workout, tai chi, yoga, a stretch (expansion to include) all the way to a recoil (pull back to the local, offline requirements, commitments, works, responsibilities).

But in that regular assembly work the hit or miss of process as pedagogy as poetics. Strands in intervals, phrases (linking as syntax, pursuant) annexed to personalized/customized poetic spaces. The work of getting (oneself) organized.


Dante's Inferno was an early computer interface, but the template is a fluffer when content is not forthcoming. The grass grows greenest on the other side of the grass. The sentence closes and opens like a clam. If a connection is terminated, it can mean only one thing: the other side is not responding. I wonder, can it be like any other Monday when the first words given are silent and every other word covers its prayers and plans with syllables of intractable silence? Meanwhile, the U.S. does not let--the U.S. is presidents and government corrupt and brutal and corporations running the country. These distinctions, while subtle, are still important.


Excential Texts 4

Dziga Vertov, "We. A Version of a Manifesto"
[Original Source: D. Vertov, 'My. Variant manifesta', Kino-Fot, no. 1, 25-31 August 1922.]

WE call ourselves Cine-Eyes as distinct from 'cinematographers' -- that flock of junk-dealers who do rather well peddling their rags.

We see no link between the cunning and calculation of the profiteers and the genuine Cine-Eye.

We think the psychological Russo-German film-drama, weighted down with the apparitions and memories of childhood, is absurd.

The Cine-Eye thanks the American adventure film with its ostentatious dynamism, the dramatisations of American Pinkertonism, for their rapid shot changes and close-ups. They are good, but disorderly: not based on a precise study of movement. A cut above the psychological drama but nonetheless insubstantial. A cliché. A copy of a copy.

WE declare the old films, the romantic, the theatricalised etc., to be leprous.
-- Don't come near!
-- Don't look!
-- Mortally dangerous!
-- Contagious.
WE affirm the future of cinema art by rejecting its present.

The death of 'cinematography' is necessary so that the art of cinema may live. WE call for the acceleration of its death.

We protest against the mixing of the arts that many call synthesis. The mixing of bad paints, even those ideally matched to the colours of the spectrum, produces not white but dirt.

We are for a synthesis at the zenith of achievement of every art from -- but not before.

WE are purging the Cine-Eye of its hangers-on, of music, literature and theatre, we are seeking our own rhythm, one that has not been stolen from elsewhere, and we are finding it in the movement of objects.

WE invite you:
-- away
from the sweet embraces of the romance,
from the poison of the psychological novel,
from the clutches of the theatre of adultery,
with your backsides to music,
-- away --
into the open, into four dimensional space (3 + time), in search of our own material, metre and rhythm.

WE openly acknowledge the rhythm of the machine, the rapture of mechanical labour, the perception fo the beauty of chemical processes, we hymn earthquakes, compose cine-poems to the flame and to power stations, revel in the movements of the comets and meteors and the gestures of the searchlights dazzling the stars.

Everyone who loves his art [sic ad inf.] seeks the essence of his own technique.

The unstrung nerves of cinematography need a strict system of precise movements.

Metre, tempo, type of movement, its exact disposition in relation to the axes of the shot's coordinates, and possibly also to the axes of global coordinates (three dimensions + the fourth -- time) must be studied and learned by every creative worker in the field of the cinema.

Necessity, precision and speed -- three requirements for movement that is worth filming and projecting.

A geometric extract of movement through an exciting succession of images is a requirement for montage.

The Cine-Eye is the art of organising the necessary movements of objects in space and time into a rhythmic artistic whole, in accordance with the characteristics of the whole and the internal rhythm of each object.

The material -- the elements of the art of movement -- is composed of the intervals (the transitions from one movement to another) and by no means of the movements themselves. It is they (the intervals) that draw the action to a kinetic resolution. The organisation of movement is the organisation of its elements, i.e. of the intervals, into phrases.

In every phrase there is a rise, a peak and a falling off of movement (manifested in varying degrees). THE WORK

A work is constructed from phrases just as a phrase is constructed from intervals of movement.

A Cine-Eye who has conceived a film poem or a fragment, must know exactly how to make a note of it in order to give it life on the screen if favourable technical conditions arise.

The most complete script will not of course replace this kind of note just as a libretto does not replace a pantomime or literary accounts of Scriabin's works do not give us any idea of his music.

We must have graphic signs for movement so that we can represent a dynamic exercise on a sheet of paper.

WE are searching for cine-scales.

WE fall and rise with the rhythm of movements that have been slowed down and speeded up,
rushing from us, past us, towards us,
in circles, straight lines, ellipses,
to the right and the left, with plus and minus signs;
movements curve, straighten out, divide, split, multiply again and again, soundlessly shooting through space.
The cinema is also the art of inventing the movement of objects in space responding to the demands of science, the incarnation of the inventor's dream, whether he is a scientist, an artist, an engineer or a carpenter, the realisation by the Cine-Eye of what cannot be realised in life.

Drawings in motion. Blueprints in motion. Projects for the future. The theory of relativity on the screen.

WE welcome the ordered fantasy of movement.

Our eyes, turning like propellors, take off into the future on the wings of hypotheses.

We believe that the moment is at hand when we shall be able to toss into space hurricanes of movement reined in by the lassos of our tactic.

Long live dynamic geometry, the race of points, lines, planes, volumes.

Long live the poetry of the propelling and propelled machine, the poetry of levers, wheels and steel wings, the iron screech of movements, the dazzling grimaces of red-hot jets.

[excerpted from The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents 1896-1939, eds. Richard Taylor and Ian Christie, NY: Routledge, 1988.]



Fait Accompli buys books for bucks. Dead Letter Game labors for interlude. Lime Tree drops essential texts on desert island. Mexperimental doesn't buy Madonna's kiss. Prrrowess publishes a new long poem. San Diego says no to WTO.

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