San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


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.


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