Astrid Lorange on the "poetics of spanking"

By Harriet Staff

Poet Astrid Lorange, in the new issue of the online magazine Sustainable Aircraft, articulates a provisional “poetics of spanking.” Such a poetics is not so much aimed toward the creation or perpetuation of a specific aesthetic, but toward an idea of reading which takes into account the painful newness of the reading experience itself:

Can we imagine a ’spanking’ poem? A poetics of spanking would demand attentiveness to the rhythm and cadence of language, yes, but as well it would demand attentiveness to the lively and thingly act of thinking, and to the attendant acts of troubleshooting, debugging and fine-tuning the materials of thought in and around an occasion of composing and reading. A poetics of spanking would not merely aim to ‘make it new,’ but would take newness as a primary activity of experience, suggestive of the appetitious and desrirous urges for novelty that characterise experience.

But in order to show that this “newness” is not simply a fetishized “present-ness,” Lorange turns to Stein, the poet whose work perhaps best illustrates ye ol' paradox of repetition and difference:

Stein’s poetry is spanking. Reading Stein, one is punished and pleasured simultaneously. One is punished for the impulse to have or possess an experience of a ‘present moment,’ while one is pleasured by the experience of having such an impulse and producing objects for thought and objects or experience en route. Her poetics resists an essential reading, forcing instead events of/for reading which is never fully representable nor repeatable. One often finds, in reading Stein, the desire to read aloud and to perform, as it were, the rhythmic happening of her language, as it trots along with the full force of an occasion.


Originally Published: December 17th, 2010