HOME / THE POETS / ESSAYS / THE NUTS AND THE BOLTS / RESOURCES.


In the House of the Hangman 1791- John Bloomberg-Rissman

The piece is part of a work called "Three Texts for Tape," which was recorded by Leonard at his home in Glasgow in 1978 on the poet'S TEAC A-3340S reel-to-reel tape deck. The part of the project discussed in this episode of PoemTalk is the one in which Leonard repeatedly performs (in different ,voices') stanza 22 of canto 8 of Shelley's 'Revolt of Islam.' Leonard, says Jenn McCreary, is here "looking for a way to find a voice for revolution," in a situation where the certain sounds of certain voices remain culturally marginalized and literarily uncanonized. The stanza can be heard alternately as a prayer, an angry invocation, a vocal fumble or stutter, or the perfect incantation of an imperializing elocutioner. Thus it is far more interpretively open than would be apparent from the Shelley text without the benefit of "provincial" vocal performance. The audiowork seems in part to stand as a refusal of the effect of formal education, somewhat á la Ranciére. Here's the Shelley stanza:


    Reproach not thine own soul, but know thyself,
    Nor hate another's crime, nor loathe thine own.
    It is the dark idolatry of self,
    Which, when our thoughts and actions once are gone, 
    Demands that man should weep, and bleed, and groan;
    Oh, vacant expiation! Be at rest. -
    The past is Death's, the future is thine own;
    And love and joy can make the foulest breast
    A paradise of flowers, where peace might build her nest.

Funny how only a year after Leonard recorded this, the Clash released "London Calling"; the future is thine own, eh? "And I live by the river..." Is this what Evan Calder Williams meant by Combined and Uneven Apocalypse? [Is this why Leonard's different "provincial" voices are each indicative of, or stand-Ins for, ages, genders, classes...?] For purposes of discussion, then, we begin with a broad distinction between three different manners in which ontology and politics are correlated in the social sciences and cognate disciplines, each associated with particular methodological prescriptions, analytical injunctions, and moral visions: (1) the traditional philosophical concept of ontology, in which "politics" takes the implicit form of an injunction to discover and disseminate a single absolute truth about how things are; (2) the sociological critique of this and other "essentialisms," which, in skeptically debunking all ontological projects to reveal their insidiously political nature, ends up affirming the critical politics of debunking as its own version of how things should be; and (3) the anthropological concept of ontology as the multiplicity of forms of existence enacted in concrete practices, where politics becomes the non-skeptical elicitation of this manifold of potentials for how things could be - what Elizabeth Povinelli, as we understand her, calls "the otherwise." How might "the otherwise" be rendered manifest ethnographically? Here, we need to remind ourselves that ethnographic descriptions, like all cultural translations, necessarily involve an element of transformation or even disfiguration. A given anthropological analysis, that is, amounts to a "controlled equivocation" that, far from transparently mapping one discrete social order or cultural whole onto another, depends on more or less deliberate and reflexive "productive misunderstandings" to perform its translations and comparisons, not just between different contexts, realms, and scales, but also within them. This, if anything, is what distinguishes the ontological turn from other methodological and theoretical orientations: not the dubious assumption that it enables one to take people and things "more seriously" than others are able or willing to (although one could somewhat uncontroversially argue that to take other ontologies seriously is precisely to draw the political implications of how things could be for "us", given how things are for those "others" who take these other ontologies seriously as a matter of fact), but the ambition, and ideally the ability, to pass through; what we study, rather as when an artist elicits a new form from the affordances her material allows her to set free, releasing shapes and forces that offer access to what may be called the dark side of things. Another way to put or not put this is that the music Christian Wolff has written for prepared piano enables the poem to construct parallels between the sound of the atomisation of musical syntax by aleatoric strategies, and descriptions of the quantum fluctuation or decay of observed particles. The reference cues point us towards Michael Parsons' inlay note to a CD, Wolff 's Early Piano Music, where Parsons claims that the effect is as of isolated objects in space, sounds which seem to come from nowhere, and lead nowhere, appearing and disappearing unpredictably, framed by silences." What Prynne's timely interference here accomplishes is to minimise any risk that the experience of listening to the music might induce transports of Heideggerian Erschlossenheit in the unwary listener. The analogy constructed removes the possibility of an encounter with something unconcealedly itself, the sounds will now be heard as something, or as a something else. But what does this mean? I mean, why does one want to make this move? Is it the broken heart of

John Bloomberg-Rissman is in the last year of five on In the House of the Hangman, the third section of his maybe life project called Zeitgeist Spam. The first two volumes have been published: No Sounds of My Own Making (Leafe Press, 2007), and Flux, Clot & Froth (Meritage Press 2010), and sections of Hangman have been published over the last couple years at Jacket2. In addition to his Zeitgeist Spam project, the main other things on his plate right now are an anthology which he is editing with Jerome Rothenberg, titled Poems for the Millennium 5: Barbaric Vast & Wild: An Anthology of Outside & Subterranean Poetry, due out from Black Widow Press around the end of 2014, longterm collabs with Anne Gorrick, and a study of Etel Adnan, which is in its early stages. He's also learning to play viola and he blogs at Zeitgeist Spam.

                 
     The root for
     commerce takes from suspended milk colloidal its creamy delinquent
     pride of decision, curds resonant in whey by opposed nature not
     contradicted because lattice charges are in the separation of milk's
     being, conjugate and pre-organic beyond doubt, post-sexual sweet or
     even sour. The nipple corridor by conductance of care origins com-
     pletes the pair bonding expressed to the tongue before more than
     murmur construes the answer: how, then can what is be going to be
     in the future, coming to this? What is for is without tense, but
     the corridor conjugates erotic for-being as root derivative as one
     satisfied to the start of another or many, the harbingers are come
     by implant of being into the contradiction of hip-on singularity.
     Joy to hold, the issue of being up close against another heart-beat
     at best parallel never in unison...

??? I don't know. Dear Aby, for your Mnemosyne atlas:

Warburgsaint

WarburgAstaire

No problem. But here's some more obsolete stuff that Apple can turn into hip new products

     -an 18th century spinning wheel 
     -the Santa Maria
     -mercury thermometers
     -VHS workout tapes
     -phonebooks
     -smallpox
     -inquisition-era torture devices

But you know what I really want? A birth control implant I can check my email on. OK. OK. The animal with language is just the animal that has adopted a flower cult. We are not a mix of animal and spirit but of animal and flower. The human is an animal into which someone has spliced a plant gene. OUR EMBLEM IS A SPHINX WITH A FERN HEAD, COUCHANT. That is the meaning of the Noah parable. Thus Marcio's recurring joke. He holds a spoon in his hand and says this looks like a spoon. He points to a newspaper and tells us that looks like a newspaper. I'm a statue of Nike in the Louvre extending my wings there, just thinking about the aesthetics of the protestant work ethic, the fantasy of unanalyzed complexity in everyday life, of pure immediacy. Why do people have such a hard time with that? Leaping into unmediated experience, a rush of air all around me, things seem less frightening. Of course it helps that I'm all drapery, no head. This is all about poetry, John. The sky's gown of sun thieves bows to a lightning rod - outside, Pentalum looks like a giant plastic bouncy castle with coloured turrets and stripes. Inside, there's the strange artificial winds moving about the modules, and patches of coloured light beckoning in the distant gloom of tunnels that branch out in all directions. Little bubble alcoves pop out of the tunnel sides offering personal spaces where you'll find various entrants sitting, lying, sprawling, and of course jumping. Despite the barrage of noise and riot of colour, one feels strangely serene amongst it all. I don't know that I'd describe it as nicety that drives the destroyed around / the block and talks it down     the mountain (on fire / spreading) furtively unrolling a long       hibiscus tongue / but a monumental black figure stands proud atop the Wiradjuri patterns, while skulls dangle in the windows. It is, after all, a bouncy castle AND a war memorial for the Indigenous people who died after European settlement -what would it mean to jump on this heritage, this site of commemoration? What do you think, John, are we still talking about poems? I mean, even a casual NFL fan can recognize that this is a particularly opportune time for a Raiders fan to stop watching football. The team is terrible. I asked Almond about that. "If the Raiders were really good, I might not have written the book," he said. "How fucked up is that? It's true, I love them. I see those colors, and..." what can we do, how can we know and to what extent are the two connected? So Padmasambhava was hanging out with his girlfriend Yeshe Tsogyal. And he is being quite impressive on various topics. So Yeshe Tsogyal goes, "There are some things you don't know yet." So Padmasambhava is like "Yeah whatever surprise me." Or something. And this is where she takes this razor thin knife and slits open her stomach, right there in the living room. She pulls open the flesh. And inside are stars and galaxies and space. Not symbols of them but the actual ones. HOT BEANS! This erasure was created through the erotic while uttering to myself, out of seemingly nowhere, from some purposeful and well-lit depth, I WILL ERASE U FROM THIS EARTH. Tho, I don't know who I am saying this to. Who is the you here? I'm saying it to Carl, I guess. Carl's legacy itself, which so delicately hinges upon our forgetting, and the institutional and well-orchestrated erasure of events that are, at best,---------I don't know. And then later, as in now, as I'm revising, I consider that I'm likely uttering this to the thing inside myself akin to Carl. The thing in me that has benefited from the structural powers of the sexism and racism. The safety of knowing how to act to be on top, to get away with murder. The palpable comfort of knowing how to subjugate. Whether I like it or not, the patriarchy has been my friend and I'm radically afraid of the person I would be without its easy guidance. I WILL ERASE U FROM THIS EARTH. This system of watch storage was adequate for approximately four centuries but was revolutionized in the early-1980s, when the sheer quantity of watches outpaced the scale of residences and threatened to collapse them. That was how the lightning struck: what if we collapse the two categories? Inside the watches, the rich sit and check the time on their phones. One, lured by the tectonics, descended into the gears of his Richard Mille and was never seen again. Once every moon cycle, the remainder of his assets swell with the oceans. In springtime, the rich visit the prison of Chàteau de Taureau. They ride a swift raft of watches across the waves to it. It is choppy but in an invigorating way. The motor sings gaily as assets. The rich sniff the air of the jail but not with displeasure. On the wall is written, in anti-watch; Men of the 19th century, the hour of our appearance is fixed once and for all, and always assigns us the same incarnation. the rich find this funny. They raise their watch to their buffed cheek. You hear that, Monsieur, they whisper; That's right, Monsieur, they taunt the dead, nobody does. The hands move, but being authentic, they glide, tickless, like that time or times the rich went skating in Bern. On the ceiling is written: What we call progress is locked up on each earth and disappears with it. The rich laugh. There has never been sunlight in Chàteau de Taureau. It would make a splendid club.

[Note: Sources: Al Filreis, "Fail better and revolt (PoemTalk #80): Tom Leonard, 'Three Texts for Tape: The Revolt of Islam, at Jacket2, 3 Sept 014; JBR; Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Morten Axel Pedersen and Martin Holbraad, "The Politics of Ontology: Anthropological Positions", at Cultural Anthropology, 13 Jan 014; JBR; Robin Purves, and JH Prynne, Kazoo Dreamboats, quoted in "For-Being: Uncertainty and Contradiction in Kazoo Dreamboats", at Hix Eros 4 (Erschlossenheit = "Aletheia, disclosure"); JBR; "Dear Aby", at Ich bin eine junge 2 (image on left: San Lorenzo. Basilio de Santa Cruz. 17th century, Museo Pedro de Osma, Lima, Peru; image on right: Fred Astaire, Top Hat (1935)); JBR; Zoe, "heres some more obsolete...", at "you know what i really want...", at I Have Absolutely No Idea, 10 Sept 014; JBR; Jordan Kirk, "Reality Is Not A Problem: A Travelogue", at Ich bin eine junge 2 ("Over the course of the last few years I have received, in three different experimental settings, a series of dicta or sententiae: propositions and imperatives that seemed to me inarguable." Some of these were received in "Claremont, 20 May 2014", which I am more than happy to believe is the Claremont in which I live); Eva Kenny, "FRAU MIT VIEL ZEIT", at Ich bin eine junge 2; JBR (an apostrophe to John Armstrong); Dot Devota, The Eternal Wall; Dennis Cooper, "Bouncy Castle Day", at DC's, 10 Sept 014; Brandon Shimoda, "Nicety drive...", in The Knights of Columbus; JBR; Ian Crouch, and Steve Almond, quoted in Jason Kottke, "I'm quitting football", at Kottke.org; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, "Haus der Kulturen der Welt presents The Anthropocene Project -A REPORT", at e-flux, 10 Sept 014 (an exhibit, on October 16 - December 8, 2014); Timothy Morton, "Now That's What I Call Speculative Realism", at Ecology without Nature, 10 Sept 014; ???, "Dave NeSmith", at Everyday Genius, 10 Sept 014; Jennifer Tamayo, "'SOMEHOW GONE OUT THE WINDOW' ERASURES FOR CARL ANDRE ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF ANA MENDIETA'S DEATH", at Fanzine, 9 May 014; Evan Calder Williams, "The rich own watches", at The New Inquiry, 10 Sept 014]