from 'The Coming Mental Range' (Litmus Press), the title essay, with commentary by Jerome Rothenberg
All error proceeds from ignorance (or haste)
— Fernando Pessoa
Our circumstance is fouled by protracted haste, by that which
aspires to some form of clinical security. I am thinking of the quest
to inhabit Mars within a foreseeable time frame. The question arises,
does susurration amongst the Northern elite strive for an isolate
colony where populace from the Southern cone is surgically omitted?
This is something to contemplate given the prevailing wreckage that
now consumes all corners of the Earth rife with chronic patterns of
extinction that ranges from the condition of bees to the ominous
breakage of icebergs, to the volatile scattering of humans from refuge
to refuge. A daunting condition to say the least. So what Elon Musk
proposes seems as pointed towards the future as some multi-planetary
exercise. Yet, in our present context it feels at bottom as if it were
nothing other than a skittish trope grasping for salvation for the
The zeitgeist persists across what I consider to be an expanding terminal
phase, with our basic neurology being called into question.
Human crossing of the solar system seems escape beyond the calliope
that remains continuing earthly dread. It feels as though the void
implies our every breath. History being nothing other than a concert
that re-patterns each of our momentary efforts. This remains the gist
for all outward escape.
History via our continuing terror combines terminal posturing
bringing forth the chemistry of wealth and speculation transmitted
as synecdoche confined to the shadowy urn we understand to be
the one percent. The latter populace crowned in the collective subderma
by enforced consensus. In the end, the one percent exists as
none other than elite refugees themselves seeking escape from the
planetary wreckage they have so willfully spawned. With the secular
state now barely alive as a graceless sub-functioning order, with
each of its individual components functioning as none other than
particularized sub-functioning fiefdoms. The latter being none other
than a moribund cellular confine, incapable of spontaneous electricity
sans the power of transmutation. Such a state is not inclined towards
movement via sattvic acreage in the cells. I am thinking of such
acreage as transparence with its impalpable planes of respiration, not
unlike Cantoresque sub-infinities allowing the body to transmute as
a state into what I’ll call shamanic vulcanism. This is where the cells
take on capability that ignites as transhuman possibility so that gulfs
between voids become open to something other than acquiescent
consumption, or the individual being stunted by its own self-erasure.
At best, the collective has become conditioned to aspiring to brokered
animal limit, to nothing other than experience as a briefly wrought
body amassed through dysfunctional assemblage.
Within this wrought consensus there remains among a small gist
of the populace the desire to export this dysfunction to a Martian soil
torrential with in-audia and howling, attempting to replicate the error
that remains the Anthropocene. To create through this replication a
compound solar error is none other than unconscionable exploration.
If the specific honings of the Asteroid probes and similar attempts
amount to nothing other than cosmic land speculation and graft, we
have, in the end, wrought only a more pointed punctuation that
signals further outgrowth of the tamasic.
As for the looming prospect of a human colony on Mars it remains
the target of immediate saturation leading to completion. Again, private
moguls reign via Blue Origin, SpaceDev, New Shepard, Virgin
Galactic, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, being momentary figurines that
seem solely concerned with exteriorized result. For instance, there
remains telling silence concerning the inner dimension of the soul,
their quest seems willing to ignore the soul and its confrontation
with the Martian scape and its unrelenting weather cycles as they
consume the body ultimately stranding its carcass on alien plateaus.
The violence that accrues from such inclement isolation has not yet
been considered. Highly efficient rocket boosters and possible “pizza”
lodgings, the latter having been enunciated in passing as foreshortened
ancillary effect of a stated industrial goal.
What the Egyptians understood as being the seven parts of the soul
has been subsumed by the sterility that looms as business venture as
momentary profit. This will not suffice. If what is true of numerically
projected galaxies ranging between two-hundred million at the low end, and
two trillion at the high end, this is an overwhelming range that can
never be sufficiently explored by an ambitious but delimited techne.
In the deepest sense this seems a marked derangement that projects,
in my view, a reality that seems parallel as accessible analogy to the
experimental implosion that was Roanoke. This is the template that
seems to configure the Mars mission or any other similar configuration
or any of the asteroids that portend mineral extraction. The latter
policy persists as commercial projection.
The point that seems to naturally accrue is one of missing inner
respiration. There is the implementation of Musk’s BFR rocket, with
its powerful boosters lifting the body outside of its earthly habitation,
yet never having discussion concerning the volcano that invigourates
the soul. Thus, exo-missions seem compromised by a kind of abstract
sterility, by the passage of life as sightless enterprise. When the Arctic
shaman Aua speaks of “‘quamaneq’... the shaman light of brain and
body” this is something that Space X, or SpaceDev or Blue Origin
has so far failed to consider. They possess a glossary compelled by
quantification, by palpable excess honed in principle by micrometer.
This being the state of official exploration, subtending itself via
suicidal psychic clauses, via delimited transmission of psycho-physical
food stuffs, and the result, a soullessness propounded via inclement
animation, not unlike its homing ground of Euro-American cellular
malaise, bereft as it is of the coming mental range, this latter range having
at its heart the insight of the soul and its registration beyond quanta.
[From forthcoming publication by Litmus Press, copyright © 2023 by Will Alexander]
For me, language, by its very operation, is alchemical, mesmeric, totalic in the way that it condenses and at the same time proves capable of leaping the boundaries of genre. Be it the drama, the poem, the essay, the novel, language operates at a level of concentration modulated by the necessity of the character or the circumstance which is speaking. My feeling is that language is capable of creating shifts in the human neural field, capable of transmuting behaviors and judgments. (W.A.)
A lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Alexander was till late in his career very little published, but his work has since opened up to assessments of his special and far-reaching view, like that, e.g., by Eliot Weinberger: “His work resembles no one’s, and is instantly recognizable. In part, he is an ecstatic surrealist on imaginal hyperdrive. He is probably the only African American poet to take Aimé Césaire as a spiritual father (and behind Césaire, Artaud, and Lautréamont). But he is also a poet whose ecstasy derives from scientific description of the stuff and the workings of the world.”
Or Alexander, from his own perspective — a journey through distanced worlds of inner time and space: “To see from this disk, I am cleansed with grounded facial negatives, with bone coloured writing, with vocal bone spur chemistry, with rapier crusades, with hunchback conjunctions, spurred by verbal star belt eternities.”
[From J. Rothenberg and Javier Taboada, A Book of Americas, University of California Press, scheduled: 2024]
Poems and poetics