Michael Cross

Twenty Theses for (Any Future) Process Poetics

Postscript // Bibliography // Acknowledgments

The Valentinian Pleroma
The Valentinian Pleroma

T.1 The poem is ontologically dissevering: necessarily fragmenting and fragmentary.

T.2 Holding concretized, readymade “significance” and value” in abeyance, the poem functions as a catch, an apparatus used to observe the manifestations and codeterminations of entangling and unfurling world(s). 

T.3 So as to render inoperative those ossified subject-configurations most exploitable by market vampirism, the poem tears back the veil of the “real” (where flesh meets fluorescence: body/world) to point to the rachitic frame-structure bolstering becoming.

In order to celebrate the conclusion of “Prolegomena to (Any Future) Process Poetics,” Id like to provide a postscript that distills the central concerns of these twelve dense riffs into a series of pointed propositions. The following twenty theses comprise the core of this thinking and will act (I hope) as a lens for future rereading. Thank you, dear readers, for engaging with/in this work.


Pt. 12

Jordi Martoranno, “Pleroma-Uroboros”
Jordi Martoranno, “Pleroma-Uroboros”

In The Radicality of Love, Srećko Horvat calls the practice of revolution an expression of love — at least, he claims, “if it wants to be worthy of its name” — and this denomination grounds a crucial amendment: “The worst thing that can happen to love is habit,”  what with that worn patina of resignation — becoming-pedestrian, -routine. Rather than make love de novo, we endure it, suffer it, so that, to recognize oneself as numerous, to sublimate one’s solitude through the richness of shared experience means folding the Other into an abstraction (“the-Other-for-me) — a “vision-in-one,” to borrow François Laruelle’s nomenclature, that cedes love-making for love-draining

[L]ove must be reinvented, that’s obvious. — Arthur Rimbaud[1]

The reinvention of the world without the reinvention of love is not a reinvention at all.
— Srećko Horvat[2]

A dialogue about love is utterly crucial to the remaking of the modern world in writing.
— Leslie Scalapino[3]


Pt. 11

“Pandora Attired,” engraving by William Blake after a drawing by John Flaxman.
“Pandora Attired,” engraving by William Blake after a drawing by John Flaxman.

In his impressively exhaustive study on gift exchange and market economy, The Price of Truth: Gift, Money, and Philosophy, Marcel Hénaff puts pressure on the gift (dosis) / countergift (antidosis) coupling by making the provocative claim that there’s no such thing as a “gift economy.” According to Hénaff the gift is built on “symbolic” rather than “market” exchange, and as a result, its purpose is “not to acquire or accumulate goods but to use them to establish bonds of recognition between persons or groups.”[1]


Pt. 10

Jakob von Uexküll’s Jackdaw
Jakob von Uexküll’s Jackdaw

A pioneer in the field of ethology and biosemiotics, Jakob von Uexküll’s work has fundamentally transformed the way we understand the animal’s spatiotemporal extension by razing anthropomorphic perspectivism in the sciences, complicating our relationship (or lack thereof) to our nonhuman animal compeers while forcing us to rethink deeply internalized notions of anthroexceptionalism. 

[T]he spider carries within its web a complex picture of the prey it is to capture — its web is a map of and a counterpoint to the fly. — Elizabeth Grosz[1]

We may assume that where there is a foot, there is also a path; where there is a mouth, there is also food; where there is a weapon, there is also an enemy. — Jakob von Uexküll[2]


Pt. 9

‘Vantablack’ (blackest ever black)
‘Vantablack’ (blackest ever black)

We are so deeply mired in our philosophies as to have evolved nothing better than a sordid version of the void: nothingness. Into it we have projected our uncertainties, all our ills and terrors, for what is nothingness, ultimately, but an abstract complement of hell, the performance of outcasts, the last-ditch effort at lucidity mustered by creatures unequipped for deliverance?  — E. M. Cioran[1]


Pt. 8

Raine Vasquez, “Caesura" (2012)
Raine Vasquez, “Caesura” (2012)

The poem’s forcefield qua khôra, Plato’s “placeless place,” functions as an interstice — an opening or clearing rather than a “site” — defined by indeterminate plasticity and mobility rather than the rigidity of fixed “ground.” The malleability of the poem’s frame opens to a play of transecting forces — an unsettled interval, an open orchestrating lines of force to produce “tension between the homogeneous world and what finds no place in it.”

The poem’s forcefield qua khôra, Plato’s “placeless place,” functions as an interstice — an opening or clearing rather than a “site” — defined by indeterminate plasticity and mobility rather than the rigidity of fixed “ground.” The malleability of the poem’s frame opens to a play of transecting forces — an unsettled interval, an open orchestrating lines of force to produce “tension between the homogeneous world and what finds no place in it.”[1] This interplay of forces produc


Pt. 7

Tobi Trübenbacher, “Aesthetic Magnetic” (2017)
Tobi Trübenbacher, “Aesthetic Magnetic” (2017)

It’s fashionable among politically militant avant-garde poetry communities to insist on the inefficacy of the poem, primarily because poetry, we’re told, is ultimately powerless: it lacks the necessary force to fundamentally alter material conditions on the ground, and as a result, it’s all but impotent in the face of supposedly “real social forces.

Art comes from the excess, in the world, in objects, in living things, that enables them to be
more than they are, to give more than themselves [] Art is the consequence of that excess, that energy of force, that puts life at risk for the sake of intensification. — Elizabeth Grosz, Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth[1]


Pt. 6

Cerith Wyn Evans, ‘Acephale’ (2001).
Cerith Wyn Evans, ‘Acephale’ (2001).

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.


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]


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?”

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