San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


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).


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