San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


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.


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