Michael Cross

Prolegomena to (Any Future) Process Poetics

Potential

Pt. 5

Rachel Whiteread, “Ghost,” 1990, National Gallery of Art.
Rachel Whiteread, “Ghost,” 1990, plaster on steel frame, 105 7/8 x 139 15/16 x 125" (269 x 355.5 x 317.5 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

A sure way to effectively limit the productive dynamism of potential is to cordon energy off into supposedly discrete, closed systems. Unfortunately, most readers (and some writers) view the poem as such a system. The reification of product ropes up and quantifies potential in the money shot of presence, ultimately limiting the surplus energy on tap: in other words, what you see is what there is. This is true of all finite, discontinuous objectivities, including the anthropomorphic-machine and its production of both pleasures and shame, including the production of ossified subject configurations of all types, the nature of which can only truly be defined after the subject has concretized into its own marketable ingress (that is, once the subject is stilled as superject). 

A system is defined by its operational closure. A structure is defined by its functional parameters. A process is in touch with a great outside. It is defined by its openness to that great outside: by how it dips into and captures the tendential potentials stirring there.  
— Brian Massumi, The Principle of Unrest: Activist Philosophy in the Expanded Field[1]

Foreclosure

Pt. 4

Reza Negarestani, “The Corpse Bride: Thinking with Nigredo.”
Reza Negarestani, “The Corpse Bride: Thinking with Nigredo.”

In order to negotiate the philosophically fraught relationship between body and soul, Cicero drew attention to a lost fragment from Aristotle in which the philosopher uses a singularly vile form of torture practiced by Estruscan pirates as an allegory for embodied life.  

This time we shall say: ‘Be the dandy of ambiguities. On pain of losing yourself, love only that which overturns your order.’ As for the pig, he wants to put everything definitively in its place, to reduce it to possible profit; he wants everything to be labelled and consumable.

— Alain Badiou, “What is it to Live?”
[1]

Horizon

Pt. 3

Cy Twombly, ‘Treatise on the Veil (First Version),’ 1968.
Cy Twombly, ‘Treatise on the Veil (First Version),’ 1968.

For Leslie Scalapino, the poem’s an apparatus, no mere mimetic catch to reproduce world(s) as a backdrop for the poem’s disclosures. That it can be used to observe the manifestations and codeterminations of entangling and unfurling world(s) is also mere axiom; more crucially, the poem tears back the veil of the “real” (in this case, where flesh meets florescence: body/world) to point to the rachitic frame-structure bolstering becoming.

in the hug of a wave horizon rolled youngly from nothing.
Susan Howe, “Chanting at the Crystal Sea” [1]  

Worlding

Pt. 2

Michael Heather and Nick Rossiter, “A Schematic World-Universe Relationship”
Michael Heather and Nick Rossiter, “A Schematic World-Universe Relationship.

Givenness is a veil. As proof, the first words of Emmanuel Levinas’s Totality and Infinity chop and screw Rimbaud’s oft-quoted “The true life is elsewhere. We are not in the world.” For Levinas, it’s a crucial corrective: “‘The true life is absent.’ But we are in the world.”[1] Truer words were never slowed and throwed.

Gambit

Pt. 1

Albert Renger-Patzsch, “Mary Wigman’s Dance School,” 1935.
Albert Renger-Patzsch, “Mary Wigman’s Dance School,” 1935.

The poem is broken.

Can’t we admit it, out loud, if only to each other? Or else, more accurately, “the poem” (-qua- “revelation”) is broken. We’ve known this, intuitively, at least since developing the good sense to invite our readers to the table. We asked them to build the poem with us, to play Maxwell’s demon at the sliding door, orchestrating the poem’s force in an endlessly productive positive feedback loop (what Zukofsky calls “liveforever”: “Of the artist — failing he must blame himself — He wants impossible lifeforever” (Louis Zukofsky, “A”-12). But once they turned to face — said readers — eager to play ek-stasis, entropy be damned, we refused to actually acknowledge them — what they need to know and how they come to know it — listening instead to the wires “dance in the wind of the noise our poems make. The noise without an audience.