Weak Links: Introduction to Hannah Weiner's WEEKS
First edition of Weeks published by Xexoxial Editions in 1990, with photos by Barbara Rosenthal, and my introducton.
Full text from Xexoxial
She’s grateful to her new boyfriend for a new lease on life
Many other cities broke the record high for the day It’s a
woman’s political issue It is absolutely the woman’s right
to decide whether she will or whether she will not have an
abortion 13 years after abortion was legalized Friday and
Saturday prying into the private lives of public people
Questions about any relationship between the two The US
Mediterranean fleet The US insists Sidra is international
waters Italy today issued an international arrest warrant
The opposition challenging his election Just how long is a
day on Uranus Higher pulse rates, necessary for building
fitness, seem easier because more muscles share the exercise
Wildly independent and beloved of the younger set The white
minority government There’s a lot for other cats to live up to
Including nine thin rings which are barely visible It
discovered active volcanoes on undiscovered moons The Ball
Court seen from the Jaguar’s Temple, Chichen Itza If mankind
is guided by such radiation, ianstead of being destroyed by
that of atomic fission, all will enjoy eternal peace in the world
A man like that would be unhappy in heaven I am innocent of
these changes The church fully understands Jewish concern
walking westward in the city I just try to refine the boy’s
talents a bit I have reason to believe that someone is
trying to poison her to death Interest rates go down
Admission to Museum field station in Arizona There will be
Several city employees indicted Travel opportunities led by
Museum Scientists to all parts of the world They voted over the
weekend to accept a new contract I think there’ll be some snow
Below 0 in 21 states Challenger explodes The tragedy defies
any easy explanation There were no signs of abnormalities on
the screen The twin solid boosters had not shown any trouble
at all The huge ball of fire shortly after 11:30 this morning
A minute and ten seconds into the flight—a fireball Never a
disaster like this in the history of the space program
My introduction (collected in My Way: Speeches and Poems)
Every day. Day by day. The hours hang and the headlines punctuate a passage through time that we move through, head bowed at the collision of flesh and indoctrination. Yet there might be (might there be?) some doctrine to get us out of this viscous circle of self-enclosing artifacts that we call news, as if the world was already lost before we could speak a word to it.
In Hannah Weiner's Weeks, the daily bite of world-event narrative achieves the grandeur, perhaps the quiet desperation, of background music (ambient ideology). Weeks is an unnerving foray in a world of prefabricated events: a world we seem to have fallen into, as if from the cradle.
Weeks was written in a small notebook, one page per day for fifty weeks. Each page of the book is the equivalent of a single week, with each day taking its toll in about five lines. The material, says Weiner, is all found – "taken at the beginning from written matter and TV news and later almost entirely from TV news."
Here parataxis (the serial juxtapositions of sentences) takes on an ominous tone in its refusal to draw connections. Weeks, in its extremity, represents the institutionalization of collage into a form of evenly hovering emptiness that actively resists analysis or puncturing. In Weeks, the virus of news is shown up as a pattern of reiteration and displacement, tale without teller. Yet, while Weiner follows a strict poetic method of refusing the "lyrical interference of ego", the result is that these deanimated metonymies take on a teller, as if to call it "Hannah". This is the voritcal twisting, or transformation, at the heart of Weeks' prosodic inquisition.
Weeks is poetic homeopathy: a weak dose of the virus to immunize our systems – let's say consciousnesses – against it.
What do we make of our everyday lives: make of them, make out of them? What do we make of, that is, these materials that we can no where (not anymore) avoid, avert our ears as we do, or, as in poetic practice, hide behind the suburban lawns of laundered lyricism?
Weiner's Weeks is a shocking cul de sac to a tradition of the found in American poetry – a tradition that includes, by any brief accounting, Charles Reznikoff's Testimony, Sterling Brown's ethnographic encounters with the black oral tradition, William Burroughs's cut-ups, Jack Spicer's "received" poems, Jackson Mac Low's processing of source material, and Ronald Johnson's erasure of Milton in RADI OS; not to leave out Weiner's own Clairvoyant Journals, where what is found is the words seen (projected? transferred?) onto the objects and bodies surrounding her.
Cul de sac not in the sense of "no more to be found", any more than no more to be lost. Only that in the world of Weeks there's no way out and ascent upward is effectively blocked, since Weeks presents a world in which "I went by [can only go by] the information I received": i.e. not very far. What's left is to descend into this world of "our" very own making, to attend (to) its forms so better to reckon with it. "The standoff began as a botched robbery."