I didn’t stop logging, I just stopped posting. I think I got waterlogged from not being able not to try to get too deep. I got into some kind of double trouble from blowing bubbles, I guess. Anyway, here’s some more stuff, along the lines I promised, though I might want to make another promise now. The other thing is that this is driven by the chance to see some of Hong-An Truong’s film and installation work and from reading Gerald Barrax’s poetry and from a friend sending me the catalog from the Xenakis exhibit at the Drawing Center in New York. I just wanted to mention these not in order to provide the key to what I’ve been trying to write but just to commend them all to you because they are beautiful! As is Beth at the Jordan Lake School of the Arts, refuge for the new X-Men, where the superkids go to play. OK: back to my misbegotten ideas on poetics, in approximately 300 word installments.
Poetry miscommunicates catasrophe; it’s a social encryption, presuming the form of life whose submergence it represents. But it doesn’t represent it. There’s a rough, unsutured transaction that moves against reparation to make a scar. The new thing is a scar. It’s not obscene but it is hard to look at something when you can’t look away. I don’t know if redress is obscene; I just know that it’s cognate with administration. The social life of poetry strains against a grammar that seeks to defy both decay and generativity in the name of a self-possessed equivalence that, in any case, you know you can’t have. Some folks strive for that impossibility rather than claim the ones they are and have. They believe this is either the only world or the real one. Encrypted celebration of the ongoing encryption is an analytic of the other world in this one. It’s not about cultural identity and it’s not about origin; it’s the disruptive innovation of one and the voluntary evasion of the other.
There is no realistic account of the catastrophe. Attempts at such accounting are brazen in their hubris unless whatever such account moves up and down an incalculable scale. The assignment of a specific value to the incalculable is a kind of terror. At the same time, the incalculable is the very instantiation of value. The incalculable is what I think I mean by innovation. You could think about it in relation to Arendt’s understanding of natality, but only by way of a suspension of Arendt’s brutal exclusions. The logic of reparation is vulgar. It’s inseparable from representation understood as the thing, which is presumed to have a hole in it, made whole. To make whole, as if one could ever find that completion, as if such completion weren’t an absolute brutality, as if the whole were static, as if it were the original, as if it were ever anything other than more and less than itself, as if the simple logic of the synechdoche could ever have been adequate to the mobile assemblage, the Benjaminian constellation where what has been comes together with the now, is an act of violence. It’s a heuristic device for attorneys and their literary critical clerks, who have no sense of time. Meanwhile, Jetztsein is the supplement like Selassie is the chapel.
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...