Dear Evie,

Remember when we read together in November, and afterwards you asked me about a particular poem of mine, and seemed to wonder why my reading of it didn’t acknowledge or account for the spacing of/in the poem as it is on the page? I figured that question was a statement and that you were right. Philip’s theater is this spatial disuption or fragmentation of the sentence and/or the word, where every fragmentation is also an augmentation, bespeaking multiplicity.

The logic of reparation is grounded on notions of originary wholeness, on the one hand, and abstract / general equivalence, on the other. Ian Baucom thinks this in relation to credit/imagination but I wonder if it’s not really bound up with a strange kind of empiricism. But what’s the relation between the logic of reparation and the logic of representation? And what does that relation have to do with telling the truth, or the story, or the whole truth, or the whole story, with truth telling as a way of making whole? Narration. Telos. Triumph. The normative arc of becoming (a subject, a citizen) is part of this logic. What if there were a radical politics of innovation, whose condition of possibility is memory, which remains untranslated, whose resistance to translation makes innovation possible? Not to resuscitate! No resurrection. Make it new, like they used to say, so that indexicality is an effect, a technique, so that the document is part of an experimental impulse. The archive is, as Ian Benjamin sings, an assemblage. The assemblage is an image of Chicago.

But I don’t want you to think about anything right now. I just want you to enjoy yourself and I want you to believe that. This is an enthusiasm. This is the new thing. Hong-An Truong, on her amazing installation, Wheel in the Sky: “I didn’t know what it was going to be about but it definitely turned out to be totally different.” Perhaps having constantly had to translate turned out to have been the place to be, not in the sun, because there were all these beautiful trees, in some kind of shade or garden where certain tyrannies of translation are suspended.

Originally Published: February 6th, 2010

Fred Moten lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches at the University of California, Riverside. He is author of Arkansas (Pressed Wafer); In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press); I ran from it but was still in it. (Cusp Books); Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works); B Jenkins (Duke...

  1. February 10, 2010

    i remember, fred. such a surprise to stumble upon your recollection of that moment on this snowy (snow-day) afternoon, when -- free of my teaching responsibilities for a brief time -- i thought i'd sit down and catch up on your posts. your backlog having become my backlog. : )\r

    i haven't managed to stop thinking, but i did enjoy returning to that november evening, my first time to hear you put your poetry in the air, and my interest in the different ways the text and the reading called upon/for space. i've been lucky enough also to hear philip read from *zong!* and to get a sense for how those words (her words? the judge's words? boateng's words?) occupy the space of a room of poets and poetry readers. but it was before the book was published -- so i wasn't able to consider how/whether the poem "scored" the reading. ultimately, in both cases, the textual space and the aural space are equally powerful without needing to be identical in shape/time. in fact, i think you'd really have to warp time to approach that kind of identity. since the poems already warp time, that would be a new trick: doubly warped. what would that look like? sound like? if i knew math, i might be able to describe that curve, but i'm not positive . . .\r

    i'm still thinking, and (perversely?) enjoying thinking, about "the relation between the logic of reparation and the logic of representation." for now, i'll read on (more backlog ahead...).\r

    looking back, meant to say earlier, on backlog # 1, that i'm glad you are onto gerald barrax. one of nc's best-kept secrets.