The poem constitutes (and is constituted by) potential energy resonating from the practically indiscernible event horizon(s) sundering the autonomous contours of discrete operational systems (subject from object from world). As a result, “the poem” is not just language (or, more radically, not even language), but precisely what is left unsaid in the thing itself (and how this excess disrupts the faux placidity of language through readerly engagement). Surplus meaning infloresces between reader, writer, and world in the relational space constituting the poem’s immanent outside, but it’s the poem itself, its words, that allow us to touch this remainder. As such, the poem is not so much cipher (concealing a singularly esoteric content), but an opening, a cut, as Fred Moten has it (after the work of Saidiya Hartman).
For a long time we have divined both order and disorder in the world and projected these as measure and excess. But every poetics led us to believe something that, of course, is not wrong: that excessiveness of order and a measured disorder exist as well. The only discernible stabilities in Relation have to do with the interdependence of the cycles operative there, how their corresponding patterns of movement are in tune.
Cecily Nicholson’s poetry expresses a deep solidarity extended across time and space, and across divisions between the human and nonhuman, animate and inanimate. As I try to prise apart what the term “biotariat” might be made to mean, I find poetry instructive because of its willingness to attend to just such “crossings” and movements amongst and between language’s subjects and objects — to, literally, lay them out on the paratactic page. For a diasporic poet like Nicholson this has something to do with “blackness” — I have in mind Fred Moten’s comment (from In the Break) that “the history of blackness is testament to the fact that objects can and do resist.” Everywhere in her poetry Nicholson is concerned with the resistance of “objects” — of those who have been rendered (reduced to) “objects” through regimes of racialized violence and colonization, and the fluid affinities the variously objectified find and found.
Cecily Nicholson’s poetry expresses a deep solidarity extended across time and space, and across divisions between the human and nonhuman, animate and inanimate. As I try to prise apart what the term “biotariat” might be made to mean, I find poetry instructive because of its willingness to attend to just such “crossings” and movements amongst and between language’s subjects and objects — to, literally, lay them out on the paratactic page.
“Blackness is speaking: Echo North is an attempt to reflect the sound.” Chaun Webster, poet, publisher, archivist, and graphic designer is creating an oral archive and visual re-mapping of North Minneapolis. The project, which he calls a “ritual of resistance,” is an attempt to re-hear the absent, but not silent, sounds of the neighborhood’s histories of black social life, to hear and offer the stories that the city has failed to archive, failed to record, and failed to recognize.
I have to remind myself regularly that Mules and Men was officially intended as an anthropological project, a collection of Black American folklore, which was constructed to appear innocuous to a white reading public interested in the aesthetic “primitivism” of Black culture, rather than the manual for aesthetic practice as political resistance that I find it to be.
Here I attempt to transcribe my initial impressions after listening once to the full album of Cecil Taylor’s recorded poem, Chinampas,and repeatedly (for perhaps nine or ten hearings) to the penultimate track, #6.56. I was drawn to the editors’ invitation to show the “under the hood” work that precedes a smoothly running piece of writing, their interest in how we deal with poems that exist only as sound texts, and their curiosity about what a first reading/hearing looks like.
Preface: One day, at Naropa University, I was on a panel that Anne Waldman organized for the MFA summer writing program. I gave my talk about poetry and speech acts. Chip was nice enough to attend as an audience member. Chip knows his poetry.