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Nick Piombino’s Fait Accompli Blog 10th Anniversary


The tenth anniversary of Nick Piombino’s blog Fait Accompli will not pass without comment.

Following the NYC events of 9/11 Nick felt a strong need for literary community and dialogue and began to communicate frequently with poets on the Suny/Buffalo poetics list.

Speaking further about the origins of Fait Accompli / Nick has said that

After reading blogs for awhile and realizing many were daily journals, I thought of my literary journals filled with unpublished writings. … Now I could start exploring them, and at the same time publish them and share them with others. … I thought of the title Fait Accompli, the idea being that although these journals had been written long ago at the same time they might still cast their nets of ideas and resonances far into the past and future.

Fait Accompli was created to allow for a form of poetics that can move through space and time multidimensionally. Connections between people, texts, and ideas are tracked thoroughly and complexly through layers of space and time on search engines that are continually in process, constantly offering new ways for people and texts to find each other and access each other around specific projects and ideas.

Fait Accompli has been visited close to two hundred thousand times.

The article that follows was written in response to a book that collected some of the Fait Accompli posts. Check out the book / and the site – nickpiombino.blogspot.com

* * *

Nick Piombino, fait accompli, Factory School, 2007

A fait accompli is an accomplished fact (a done deed) – over-and-done-with (?) (or so we’re told / or so we might think). But nothing is ever done with in Nick’s thinking – it’s always in (and about being in (in)) the process of being thinking. Sure – he arrives at a few conclusions (a plethora of them (in fact)) but those conclusions are the process of becoming other conclusions. It’s always thinking going on (going on (going on going on)). And that’s the great beauty of it. It’s never over and done with.

[ By way of example – So at the same time as they attempt to block all possibility for individual discovery by having always already presented it as a fait accompli, media disguises itself as an escape. This always already is the fait accompli – ne plus ultra. (It has also become the “divine” mark of French intellectual thinking.) But what it does is to encapsulate time as an entity – to give it a kind of fullness (one which we are probably more-and-more finding ourselves thinking it lacking). It seems (seems (it seems)) to contain so much past that that past can seem (can seem) to speak for itself perfectly (as perfection) – and that perfection-as-volume would seem (would seem) to carry it through the (however implosive) present and on into-and-as an equally self-fulfilled future. In other words – always already is a promise. Can it deliver? Can anything? ]

Or – as he explains the title later on –

Wandering around Central Park one day early last month I realized that the blog would be called “fait accompli.” It was as if I had read ahead in time and glimpsed the title as if it had already existed in the future.

In this way the title is an example of itself – or (more exactly) an instance of itself – fait accompli is a fait accompli.

Nick’s as good when he’s thinking as let’s say Valéry was when he was thinking – and that’s no lie (no line). I can only say – and I’ll say it up front – that this book must be one of many more – and that the work that he’s done in it (and the great body of work that it represents) will be remembered (and valued) long long long (long) after most of what the rest of us have written has dried up and become what it was.

I open it with pleasure.

And I might as well quote (complete) the Note to the Reader (so you’ll know what you’re getting into / and what you can get):

The book you have in your hands, fait accompli, is a journal within a journal. The dates in bold (February 11, 2003 through May 14, 2003) indicate the dates on which writing was posted to the weblog. Dates in parentheses mark specific extracts from my handwritten notebooks. In this volume, the journal excerpts go back as far as the mid-seventies. fait accompli is an ongoing weblog. The work published here was selected from the first three months of postings. The blog, along with the complete archives, is available at nickpiombino.blogspot.com.

So – that’s how it shaped up / how the actual material was kneaded (needed) into shape. But the actual fact of the cogitation (its motions) has few antecedents – it is substance on the way of becoming (but fully formed as such).

The ability to tolerate ambivalence, or ambiguity, can create an opportunity to wonder, to wander, daydream, to think, to puzzle or figure things out. – This is said about Jackson Mac Low’s statement to Nick that “In art there is altogether too much liking and disliking.” – but it applies embracingly to Nick’s entire text (and project) – here there is always room for what is not here (yet) / and great comfort in knowing that that room is (is) here.

Working your way through Nick’s book is like eating one satisfying and potent (poetant?) meal after another. I feel like I’m on a macrobiotic diet – in very good emotional and mental health. There’s nothing here that doesn’t sustain – and not just the reader / but the other texts ambient to the one you’re reading. You are held in to the experience by the fact that it so sustains. I was surprised, but somehow I expected this.

There is aphoristic writing in this book – but the bulk of it might best (or at least better) described as ruminative. (His mind has several stomachs.) And as you begin to read (and go on reading) you realize that your mind is being exposed to a very large collage – with the present moments of thought (those identified as being from with the present blog-day) forming the glue (but so much more than that!) that holds together the pieces selected from previous journals and jottings. Actually the “present” writing fades in-and-out-of control (if we want to look at it that way) of the prior notings – but the entire assemblage is made to vibrate by the relationships sustained. The cover collage (a work by Nick) was already a clue to this way of proceeding. Here there is no forward – but (rather) an over / and then another over / and then an over there / and then an under / or a back / and then a leap / and then a gasp (nothing prepared us for that) / and then a back (or what feels (for the moment) like a back / and then a loop / and on / and over / and on. A voice: “He had mastered that great art of keeping everything up in the air just long enough to have a decent idea of what his next move might be.”

Nick’s writing is lucid – by which I mean to say simply that it is clear. At other times it is opaque – so that just when you think that you’re looking entirely through it you find yourself at a place where looking at the text you find that it is you yourself looking back at you. This is part of what makes the process of reading it so engaging – these alternating currents that raise and (at the same time) confabulate the levels of energy – keeping a kind of tension as itself a sort of residue upon which the reading-forward rides always to no conclusion.

[ Nick would like this – I open the book to February 17 Reading Tom Phillips’ The Humument. The sense of time past, some variant or contrapuntal running through while simultaneously actual time is passing. – and I happen to have Tom Phillips’ Six of Hearts (piano with voice) playing in the background. What is happenstance (anyway)? ]

The only time I think about one thing at a time is when I write. The mind is a very powerful thing / a big part of the human be-ing / and (and) it allows us to be (or not). This statement reflects back upon what I’ve already said about the ruminative nature of Nick’s thought processes – and modifies it. This kind of clarity is what Nick does in the process of thinking ruminatively (philosophically) – it isn’t something he leaves behind in order to do it. Reality is an illusion – and even in the context of that illusion we think we’re thinking (and we think we’re thinking in a particular (a particular (in a particular)) way) – and maybe we are (but who would know?).

Nick’s main subject (sic) is writing –

The poet’s vice is prose, the prose writer’s vice is poetry. Those who write both enjoy making virtues out of vices and vice-versa, a habit that may sometimes be confirmed by a tell-tale weariness around the eyes.
Until we learn how to use our words, our communicative skills, on behalf of each other, we will go on disliking ourselves, even hating ourselves and each other, even destroying ourselves and each other, or trying to. [ specifically about writers ]
It is the image of a continuous text which I know to be a lie. No, not a lie – a monologue that does not stop, does not listen.
The success of language can be directly attributed to the fact that words stimulate other words.
Words reveal us at the same moment we reveal them.
Writing poetry is an incessant and proud pursuit of the impossible and the improbable.
Poetry is an invitation to slip away and fondle thought.

and the thinking that informs it –

This idea is not yet it – but when I wrote it down I had an image of a work inside a work.
Can the objects of thought, thoughts, be defined as discrete objects? How could scale be related to such identified objects (of thought).
Thought is cacophony.
“I don’t care to think about it, but I’d like to have a record of it.”
We simplify by equating an idea with a name.

and the time in which it takes place –

Time is a commodity that works for you or against you. The earlier you put the sauce on the stove, the sooner it will get cooked. How do you get out of the cave of writing.
Today I thought of gravity as applying to time.
Time is changing us – but it is also changing with us.
The layering comes from things being altered over time, while remaining in some sense the same. Time does not so much pass, but rather condenses on the containers of experience. It does not pass, it gathers and crystallizes on whatever is constructed to contain it. It is in this sense that poems are time-capsules. The poem is the result of observing/permitting what gathers on the lens of perception as it focuses simultaneously on the procession of experience.
To the extent that poetry or poetics is prophetic it can offer a species of time travel.
I’ve lived with time so long as a limiting and controlling reality – that I am weary with thinking of it like this.
I need more images for time. ... Yet, I can learn to accept a concept of time that is inexorable, leading to one inescapable outcome which awaits all human beings. Of course there is nothing afterwards. Time – more and more no matter what – the end of time – nothing more, no matter what.
The endless circle of time vs. practice vs. reading vs. writing – isn’t this transference also?
I am trying to put into words my intuitive understanding of time.
Although we are unhealthily addicted to them, time is measured in meanings, not in moments.
The world is enough and is filled with time.
Poetry and time are not compatible. Poets can change what time is, so time does not like it.

and (often) music as a metaphor for (or way of understanding) that –

The musical analogy constantly comes to mind.
A book of poems is a universe unto itself, like the symphony, it is a complex rhythmic analysis of duration.
When all the materials for poetry have been presented within a supporting atmosphere – an emotional tonality has also been supplied. Most of it consists of music.
Whole melodies show us again and again an imaginary picture of the process of origination.

And at the end of it all (or – as it all goes on going on) –

I have to read in order to write, I have to hear in order to speak, I have to listen in order to be able to talk, I have to talk in order to be able to think, I have to think in order to be able to feel, I have to feel in order to want to do anything.

Maybe (as he says elsewhere) the human being is (now) being healed / what has been split united. Perhaps it’s happening one person at a time – and perhaps this is the (an) agent of that change.

The overall text that Nick creates becomes a pastiche – and a celebration of pastiche. It is no wonder that he loves the collages of Schwitters in particular(s) – and has at times made many of his own. It is in the interstices and hollows of these relationships / and around their outer curves and shelled parts as well – that he finds the kinds of thinking that interest him (ie – where he appears to make them occur). Different textures and tonalities (to choose words metamorphing in from other disciplines) inform the overall project – but it is at every moment felt in and as those tonalities and textures themselves. There is no difference between material and effect.

There is a vital activism in and about Nick’s voice / and project as well. He writes about anti-war activities of poet friends and of himself and his partner Toni Simon. And he discusses – with concision and compassion combined – the things that have brought us to the current national and global impasses – and he conveys how he feels about them. He brings the same scope of perception to a discussion – that (as with everything else) ranges over the book – about the role of poetry today and whether it can function to change anything. His enthusiasm is tempered with years of thinking about these things and of protesting in the streets. It’s refreshing to have his engaged maturity added to the voices of others of us who both wonder what can be done and at the same time do something – we simply can’t not. The world is dying around us (in too many ways) – we must do what we can to bring it back around (even if doing that is all that we manage to make happen). To write is to act. And to act is (in a way) to write history. To do both is to express an eagerness (however cautious) for at least some kind of habitable future.

Everywhere Nick’s text cries out for dialogue. It is itself constantly in dialogue with that self – the pieces of writing from past journals and notes in dialogue with the “current” entries / and the various bits and pieces of the “whole” in constant flux and conversation with one another. This of necessity draws us in (drags us in) to that dialogue. We become a sort of third term – a kind of voyeur attending to the speech and thought and written actions taking place – and adding to them our own responses. This essay of mine would be much longer if I were responding to all of the things that have grabbed my mental attention – probably impossibly long because I would then begin responding to my own responses / enter into dialogue with myself / become a mirror image (in my own way) of Nick’s process / and on and on – and then you would be implicated again at that level / and so on / and on and on. (This is in a way what happens in secondary and tertiary (and further) criticism – but there the energy usually lapses and falls flat (probably because it is no longer writers of primary texts doing the writing)). For me to begin to tell you what things I agree with and with which I disagree would be almost impossibly taxing – we would have to sit down together and go over the book line-by-line over the period of some months (and even then) – and if someone else were to join us the thing would be more expansive (more complex). The book is already in dialogue with itself – and I am confident that it will remain so for many years to come.

There’s something worth reproducing (obviously) about that time after sex when things are softer and more comfortable and when joy (even) is (somewhat) more available. The same feelings can be had from writing (for those of us who write). And reading too can produce them – I felt much the same way while recently reading Gunnar Ekelöf’s poems. Nick’s writing in this book produces those sorts of feelings of well-being as well – they are the result of his always ardent diction (his always going after the next thought with the present thought-in-hand) – and they render the prose always redolent with passion.

There is always something about writing that is indiscreet. It has to do with the fact that it goes off in (has) so many directions. It is indiscreet (actually) in relation to itself. It harbors that indiscretion as a wound (as a potential wound) – something with which it might get back at what has made it thus. This is why we can’t make it obvious – and why language never does (to a certain extent). This is why there is always uncertainty – what Nick calls blur (you may wish to reference the essay he and I wrote together called The Indeterminate Interval: From History to Blur (in his book The Boundary of Blur (Roof, 1993))). There is always an element of obfuscation in writing (even when unintentional) – and to avoid it is the escape that some of us would hope for (that keeps some of us alive). Nicks arguments in-and-around this problem (this situation) are among the most persuasive I know of – partly because they leave the situation alone (as it is) – and move (and always move) on.

The language is also in some ways always unavoidably violent. Sometimes it is violent toward the world – (of necessity) protecting itself from that violent world. At other times its violence is turned inward toward itself (Artaud might be a good example) – and in a sense when that happens it is protecting itself against itself. And this is also what the finest criticism (the finest critical thinking) does (Nick’s writing here would be a great example). I would not say that Nick’s essayistic writing is violent – it is always ready to move on (a pacifist language – perhaps?) – but it seems to live always in awareness of that violence (whether it’s emotional or cultural or linguistic or) and to take it into account when it’s dealing with whatever the matter is that’s otherwise at hand.

In a certain way I feel that Nick is feeling his way back through time toward things that he has lost – and it is (precisely (precisely put)) those lost things that constitute his aphorisms (when he so expresses himself). He creates simultaneities out of contradictions – and (sometimes) contradictions out of simultaneities. Neither of these performances is masked (hidden) – they are almost flagrantly aware of their own goings-on / but not in anything like an obtuse way / (rather) in the way of just being very much present to and for their own machinations. There is a likeness in these productions – in the sense (too) of their liking themselves.

And then thinking occurs – as if it hadn’t been all along – like a slap in the face of time / like a slap in the facelessness of time. Each utterance (here / in Nick’s book) is an utter utterance – one that makes no mistakes / one for which no mistake (no concept / no thought – of mistake) is possible. They bake themselves – into a kind of lingering longing – and that longing is for language and for meaning and for verve (for the verve (verb?) to get between the two (are there only two?)). Another word or two / another word or two to go – and that’s the way things change / the way the language changes (things) factoring into that. Judgment values judgment (that is how things proceed). Nothing ever really happens.

[ Reading page 113 I find the word thingk – a word that I couldn’t avoid typing (by mistake?) repeatedly while writing my Odes & fragments – this being (perhaps) (in this synchronicity) the word that thinks (best) itself. ]

And what about virtue? How we press our hands and faces against the glass divide that separates us from the world. – would be one way of putting it (one way of letting it be). Or – where do we go from here? And that is all covered in a gentle inquisitive way in Nick’s fait accompli. He doesn’t leave the genial to fall down by itself – he makes it stand up and be counted (a word at a time / word for word).

With laughter, with sorrow, with unending faith and learning, with acts of unimaginable devotion and cruelty, we work to wring some kind of reaction out of an essentially unresponsive universe. Well, perhaps that is unfair – the universe can be very responsive – for very brief periods of time, but soon enough it will return to its routine business of creation and destruction, not significantly influenced by my tiny contribution one way or another, again, for very long.

Regardless of the input from the world – and (almost assuredly) because of it – Nick’s writing always enlarges the world / it always makes room within it for one more person or for one person grown larger by being there in the presence of Nick’s work. There is always a new kind of excitement that flows back into life after we have exhausted a little bit of meaning out of it (for whatever / our purpose). There’s always something mercurial about the relationship(s) between language and the world / writing and language / writing and the world / how the mind fits into that / and feelings as well – and Nick has captured the matrices of these impermeable permutations on his ineffable dream catcher.

How easy it is to turn away from the difficult and obscure and how natural it is, in order to live. But inside here, in the ordered and still world of words and images it is as equally natural to pause before the opaque and the mysterious and to contemplate the unknown and the unknowable. So, at the end of a long day of gathering whatever, of talking and paying and deciding, of thinking and eating, of laughing and sighing, of exasperation and doubt, of exhilaration and sulking, of exulting and despairing, finally comes the time to set it all aside, to allow thoughts and reveries to surface, the hard decisions and realistic plans and actions to settle and disappear and the book to open and the pen to dream.

Originally Published: May 3rd, 2013

Poet and essayist Alan Davies was born in Alberta, Canada, and earned his BA from Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts. In the mid-70s he edited the poetry journal A Hundred Posters. As a Harvard summer school student, he took classes taught by Robert Creeley and Octavio Paz, and he also...