This past weekend I was attacked by yellow jackets after I hit their nest unknowingly with my lawnmower. The episode included me running through the yard screaming, stripping outdoors to my underwear, throwing buckets of water over my body, and jumping into the shower in my socks and undies, where I poured shampoo on my head in great gobs to suffocate the bees stuck in my hair. If the whole scene hadn’t been so traumatic (have you ever looked down and seen your whole leg covered in yellow jackets?), it would have been comical. Given that the incident took place in the swampy southern heat, I thought it was perhaps Zora Neale Hurston’s ghost playing tricks on me.
At first I thought I would use this Commentary space to read through an online archive, but in the end such a gesture felt adjacent to my current preoccupations. What I hope to do instead is to elucidate a narrative of my own search for an adequate poetics, one that begins and ends with two very different theories, though each proposes “freedom” as the ultimate aim of poetic production. I want to attempt to rehearse an evolution of thinking around poetics that begins with Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Judgment and ends with Hurston’s Mules and Men, though I’ll make some detours.