'another personal narrative burns to a heap of citations'
A review of 'Bharat jiva'
In the contemporary mythology that is rendered, critiqued, created and reflected in language. In the shape-shifting sand-sifting stance that is gerunds, malleable and didactic pronouns, economic prose-code syntactic snakeskin shed and swallowed whole adjectival smackdown. In foraging late-human detritus vocabularies is kari edwards and nowhere in the sentences and fragments and planets of bank deposit syllabics is everywhere. What we have is words and words fail
I can not represent myself … the whole impossible to represent (52)
and rise from ashes. Reconstituted and reinterrupted “a thousand times a day,” edwards’s words pile up, assemble, and skew our pop and dream rhythms that have been absorbed and contorted. That ole pat standard from Home on the Range becomes “where boredom is preferred over a discouraging word and the skies darken by day” (19). Bharat jiva is a collective individual unconscious. Consciously singularly communal. And always urgently ticking like the bombs we forget proliferate under fingers. If anything remains posthuman for future investigation into this past, could one book be that search? We are all a “heap,” part of a gyrating biology alive to die. Here is our subatomic anthropology, a broken patterning of cracked ceramic nouns on a dig. Artifacts in the act. Sacrificial individual, the rhetoric in broad time. But not the straight line. Caduceus quiver(er). Bharat jiva as hermetic bearer.
Centered prose columns alternate with staggered, fractured, sometimes centered lyric lines, then become bound again in authoritative right and left justified pillars framed in page space. Words twist within and finally unravel, fray at the edges at the ends and the book again releases into lyric spatial openness. Form as forum. Each word an origin. Pun. Enough skidding occurrences like “between tao and them” instead of now and then make our eyes seek and see what’s not but was and is almost, there. “[R]adio” in “ratio.” “[L]ies” and “files” cause the crypt word “flies” to appear before us. “[M]annerist destiny” absolute play on manifest. Not a yuk yuk pun. Real world word conundrum. Any oral urge might be utilized, undoing original use intention making firm the Wittgensteinian slip chain in our hands. In our eyes, the words flicker on the pages.
being able to only harness life through dead words (46)
Yet writing is “a lamp amid darkness / on lips of poor fruitless attempts” (47). There is a searching body, of the work, the speaker, the reader, but it is perpetually dying, “those buried alive,” the “prophets” eaten through with toxic caustic comment. Seeing and speaking is hurting if determined. From the book’s epigraphs: negate the will to live. Negate the body. “[E]veryone’s dying / everyone’s dying to die” (80). And yet a book of body (as) remains. In hand. Must.
yet, after loitering in morning’s death, in the
mirror glistening fragrant outside, amongst
mangled bodies and scattered twist ties,
unhealed from unheard names, I am called
back, repulsed, confronted, tormented,
laying in sleeping hands ready to snap. (33)
“[C]alled back” to life. Urgency in agency. Agency in urgency. Futility. “[T]o snap” to painfully come alive “trying to find the pleasure in everything moment, right there laying on the street staring to the sky” (63–4). Coincidence the Oscar Wilde connection? We are all of us in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars. We are all of us in a body, some of us seeking beyond “the clumsy ground” (103).
edwards seeks through writing. Seeks writing as writing to provide, perhaps become, what is sought. To atomize and make hyperreality upchuck itself molecularly to revisit a bottom line. Banking, marketing, culcha, metaphor on metaphor, the meter of advertisement tagged in the book (“yes, we have a winner … call 1-800- complete resignation”; 67). The language of owners proffered to be debunked. “[G]uarding against the onslaught of foreign ornamentation, language goods and skin color bar codes” (20).
Bharat jiva a penultimate comment on the banality and glimmering potential holdout of humanity. Philosophy of philosophy, planetary biological religious cosmic consideration afloat on the tension of gerunds manifesting without always an I, yet I speaks (“did I not say”). There is agency in the dynamic vibrational circumstances through an accumulation of modifying phrases that eventually land on a sentence’s subject, but not always and not definitively, and the subject transmogrifies through sediment layering accumulation.
in the face of “can’t read it,” against the
rules of suddenly perceiving enormous
episodes knotted in inexorable reason,
begging cat affection and flash formulas,
those surprise expressions through the
great stream of images, loving the right
place at the wrong time for the wrong
reason, long for another wrong reason
lost place long time lost longing, mulling
exacto knife dollar bills, interpretative
false ideology, drowning complaints,
latent aggressive scenic tedium, and […] (21)
“[I]n the face” modifies. “[A]gainst the rules” modifies. “[B]egging cat affection” — modifying. “[T]hose surprise expressions” are possibly the subject, the agency here, yet they are moving “through” and continue on “loving” and “long” and “mulling” but maybe not. Either the subject is immediately modified again or more likely is sliding moving. Then the accumulation of possible subjects so that none of them stands out as singular agent, they are all motivating forces ministering to and being modified by the adjectival phraseologies. Also, the subjects are not solid. “[I]nterpretative false ideology” is such a movable mover. Is the ideology capable of interpreting or is to be interpreted? Neverthematter, it isn’t true, anyway.
How to read this book in the face of can’t read it? Through a lens of contemporary writing situated within hegemonic globalized forces. Where does this book stand? To speak to this return to the title of the review: “another personal narrative burns to a heap of citations” (11). Appropriated writing (citation) now the rage in the current deluge of internetted everyone as broadcaster — what Jodi Dean and others call communicative capitalism. So a present-day urge toward construction through reiteration. Sustainable poetry — reuse to reduce. Conversation with other works. The frame as the work. Demonstrative. Contextualative? (Tzara, Rukeyser, Reznikoff et al. the predecessors.) Look many places in contempoetics and you will see the word commons. Seven billion of us and I suppose we must. Our tribe cannot simply move out of Africa for resources elsewhere to avoid conflict as it is said was the case for Homo erectus. Does this mean a surrender of I?
We continue to consider what it means to use personal narrative post-Language. Or still, say, against Language. (Against Against Expression.) Post-post. What it might mean to be an individual in the corrupted commons of language. How Silliman’s pre-Now call to constrain syllogism in writing conflicts with the problems Dean sees in the continuous enjoinder to contribute (“communicate”) in the media sphere. All accumulation, no discernment or reasoned argument. All “ands” — no “therefore” or “but.” Not communication or dialogue. Not even dialectic. Nothing absorbed for synthesis. Merely added to in an amnesiac stream of the 24-hour news cycle which replicates itself as readily as one can click the refresh button on the computer.
How and why in this cacophony to speak through an I that isn’t solely using personal minutiae (“celebrate the small things”) to attempt its reflection of something universal? How to be beyond individual epiphanic and yet one? Bharat jiva does not make nice self-help solipsistic discourse. Clearly voice forming sentence. Querying mind and tongue. It is uttered poetic rhetoric, yes, but more like therapy as ontology. A second millennium common era problematized enactment of speaking. Is the only way to an “impossible to represent” whole (if there is such a thing) to assert and risk hurt? To sacrifice oneself in and through the act of speaking? Or are we already compromised as body.
maybe a speechless idiot idol, feeling the
return, returns to the flesh, something sent
through the gate returns hollow, broke,
expansive, turned from no longer mind to
almost human. (37)
This, then, is the most personal and universal (we of flesh) of work. Vulnerable. To face and speak is to put one’s body on the line. In the “aftermath,” the book’s denouement, we are “expelled from injured paradise” The work is contemporary and more than of its moment. Post-apocalyptic and upper-Paleolithic. Or, perhaps, pan-Edenic.