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This is just to say…

By Thom Donovan


My name is Thom Donovan and I will be blogging at Harriet from January thruout March.

If anyone would like to learn more about what I do please visit my weblog Wild Horses Of Fire (whof.blogspot.com).

Otherwise, I look forward to being a part of the conversation here at Harriet for the next few months.

Happy New Year!


Comments (10)

  • On December 30, 2009 at 11:45 am Bhanu Kapil wrote:


    Early English (1853?) spelling? And, phonetically, a South-east Asian vibe? I like it. “Thorge Out.” And so on. A mutation.

  • On December 30, 2009 at 11:52 am Thom Donovan wrote:

    That’s funny Bhanu, because I have been reading quite a bit of early English lately, thinking about histories of land expropriation in relation to emergent forms of expropriation/primitive accumulation. Something that comes up is Kipling’s *Jungle Book*. An important book for you?
    The Kipling connexion to expropriation reminded me how important the forest figures in your work as a liminal territory between human and non-human, law and antinomy. At the peripheries are mutations. I’m looking forward to your research/thinking about genealogies of the “sentence” very much these upcoming months… –Thom

  • On December 30, 2009 at 11:06 pm Thom Donovan wrote:

    Man Bhanu, I already tried to respond–don’t know where my comment cld have gone. “Thruout” is mere abbreviation here. But I can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts on language and mutation. Coincidentally, I *have* been reading much early English by way of Peter Linebaugh’s *The Magna Carta Manifesto* and other texts about land expropriation in England and its colonies. Also, coincidentally, Linebaugh discusses land expropriation in Kipling’s *Jungle Book*, which reminds me how important the forest figures in your own work as an image of threshold/liminality/antinomianism/post-humanist subjectivity. Perhaps worth checking out. RE: “Thorge Out” there are also Susan Howe’s wonderful errands into typographic wildernesses, her book *Singularities* in particular.

  • On December 31, 2009 at 10:48 am Bhanu Kapil wrote:

    And the sentence, as written in English, as a possible record of “awards” and their subsequent carnage. Boundary awards, as the British described them when they “pulled out,” which is risky post-coital behavior at the best of times. I have to write about maps today for an upcoming talk, so this is useful. Thank you, Thom. Prompted, I’ll “reszu[m.]”

  • On December 31, 2009 at 12:53 pm john wrote:

    Not knowing either of you or your work, and not being exactly sure what you’re talking about, I look forward to more!

    The sentence — never occurred to me before, but it *is* what a judge metes out to a convicted felon. I’ve always been persuaded by David Antin’s contention that people tend to think in phrases strung together, and that the “sentence” is a convention of prose, which is a convention of writing, or is it printing; and that, according to Antin and contra Moliere’s M. Jourdain, none of us has been speaking prose all our lives — we’ve been speaking poetry.

    Thanks for the thought-food.

  • On December 31, 2009 at 1:48 pm thom donovan wrote:

    your commentary here Bhanu reminds me of Benjamin’s phrase, that there is no cultural artifact which does not exist as a record of barbarism. only here–in terms of the sentence–it is a grammar/punctuation which records barbarities. it is interesting that you locate this barbarity in the sentence. the period definitely serves a regulatory function, and it is interesting how non-Anglocentric Englishes respond to this nomos.

    trace the deformation of the sentence/syntax in American lit. and one will discover lines of flight away from Anglo(phono)centrism. was English always an enclosure, a potential border for mercantile-belligerence? does the period itself enclose? can a grammar be non-expropriational/commoning?

    “sentencing,” re: John’s comment, seems a fiction of speaking/composition (literally) by breath. yet, in Antin’s work, “talking” is so highly performed (however extemporized) and the “transcription” so mediated/edited (Antin does a good deal of editing between transcription and what makes it into print) that I do not think talk can be considered immediate in Antin’s work. rather, one composes by talking, or talking = composition pre-page.

    also, I tend to think about Antin as being a storyteller/conversationalist as well as a poet. or rather the art of storytelling/conversation and the art of poetry become one in the same. seeing Alexandre Singh perform recently, Singh reminded me that storytelling, like all auritures, so much concerns basic structures of mind. witnessing someone tell a story well reveals this structure which is a structure of disclosure. awe and witness (awe as witness?) is at stake in how print comes to regulate the oral, which remain co-constitutive.

  • On December 31, 2009 at 2:16 pm thom donovan wrote:

    oh, and I meant to say, good luck with your paper Bhanu. I hope you will post about it. more poets need to thinking about cartography!

  • On December 31, 2009 at 5:00 pm john wrote:

    I don’t disagree with you about Antin’s work; I happen to think it’s usually edited wonderfully well, and was intrigued the one time I noticed an editing mistake in a piece of his, which I would have to track down in order to describe.

    Antin’s work aside, I do agree with his contention (in “Talking to Discover,” if I remember right; an extemporaneous discourse that he transcribed as prose, not poetry) that most speech proceeds by rhythm and association and tends to follow the conventions of grammatical prose very loosely at best; further, that rhythm and association are qualities more closely associated with poetry than with prose.

    In English, do I remember correctly that the conventions of prose didn’t get codified until the 17th century?

    Thanks again — looking forward to more.

  • On January 1, 2010 at 1:54 pm Thom Donovan wrote:

    oh yes, I think we are in agreement here John. sorry to suggest otherwise. I just think the way Antin gets from point A to point B is curious and wanted to point this out since the transcription/editing process is not foregrounded in Antin’s “talk” pieces per se.

    I think you’re right about codification in the 17th century. what a fascinating moment in the history of (the English) language. would that I were more rooted in this period of history. Susan Howe once referred to Charles Olson as a 17th centuryist. I am afraid I may be a mere 20th centuryist, maybe a 19th centuryist at best.

  • On January 3, 2010 at 12:07 pm Rob Halpern wrote:

    (a whole chunk of my text disappeared when i posted this, so I’m re-posting now):

    Hey Thom: what lines of reference have you been following out of Linebaugh? *The Magna Carta Manifesto* has been super important for me recently, and i’d love to know what references in particular y’ve found most useful. i even began my review of Michael Cross’s beautiful book *In Felt Treeling* (for the ABR’s forthcoming special section on Chax Press) with an expansive gesture toward Linebaugh, emphasizing especially the early English word “estovers”, which he pressures in remarkable ways. here’s the opening 2 graphs of my review of Cross’s book, which dovetails nicely with Bhanu’s concerns, too, i think:

    “Customary rights to the woods, and the use of common lands: these are two forgotten provisions of the Magna Carta and its sister document, the Charter of the Forest, which codified the disafforestation — or the return to common use — of all woodland that had been enclosed during the reign of the charter’s sovereign signatory in 1217. Eight centuries later, the very memory of any connection with the commons has all but vanished, and yet airs of its material history remain rooted in all our words for woods.

    In his recent book, *The Magna Carta Manifesto* (UC Press, 2008), Peter Linebaugh scrutinizes a crucial proviso of the Magna Carta, which guaranteed a widow ‘her reasonable estovers in common.’ Estovers — from the Norman French — connotes all the benefits afforded by the usufruct of the land: the means for food, firewood, and building materials. Magna Carta checked the privatization of the woods, and limited the wholesale conversion of woodland to timber. It protected the poor — specifically emphasizing the protection of women — from the tyranny of lords and kings who had the power both to defoliate and decapitate.”

    of course, Linebaugh goes on to show how these protections in particular were almost immediately — and so consequentially — forgotten!

    thanks for a great opening exchange! can’t for all that’s to come here, and to pursue some of these lines further with you soon!

Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 by Thom Donovan.