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.” Truer words were never slowed and throwed.
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 leastsince 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.