San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


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.


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