Howardena Pindell. Untitled #19, 1977.

—for Joan Retallack, a draft that never ends

Nothing I say will be untouched, original, pristine, new, transcendent. Everything I do is stolen, corrupt, distorted, contaminated, perverse, reified. The relevant social operations are scolding, humiliation, exploitation, erasure, abuse. The relevant geopolitical operations are deception, displacement, and explosion. I’m told there is no such thing as locality; human preserves of locality such as family, such as identity, such as “expression,” such as the exchange of tokens of love (which is romance)—these are shams. These are no longer available to me.

Isolation Piece would therefore consist of standing inside (in the middle of) poetry as we have it as a mediated or enclosed space, linkages, institutional and private linkages that lead to the coherent practice not of the art of poetry but of work under its sign; I stand under these conditions as myself. In Isolation Piece, I forego symbols of position (gendered positions), the positions signaled by adornment (gold diamonds our rings our pledges and awards) and cover over the signal presentation of self with new signs, others, blacking out the stirring myth of being held in continuous community through time with Isolation. Never, not to, resort to the available myths of atavistic poverty: I am not a saint; I am not savior of any kind. Isolation Piece is reconstructionist in its historiography, due to deception and displacement. THEN: Who am I talking to, who can I speak to, what is an audience, who do I reach, reach for? Can you hear me? Isolation Piece is a monologue which is pitch correction, endless correction of cadence (NOTLEY), a stop-and-start in order to find the edge of the space of poetry where voice is intelligible as a series of broadcast tests.

Criteria of Black Intellectual Art Crisis

Isolation Piece takes reaching into intelligibility with voice for contact as the relevant practice of all poetry as a vocation (poesis is making but making to reach with consciousness of speaking to be heard at the edge of intelligibility where there is life in the world; speaking and speaking again out of Isolation not for no reason, for reasons of opening feeling to sharing news of life at the edge of the world, outside life). In Isolation, the voluntary pleasure of the black world is accompaniment; reaching is accomplished as a matter of synchroncity, toward what is intelligible in synchronized understanding. What does this mean? What does this meaning feel like? What is isolation where there is also togetherness that can never be foregone? What are the pleasures of knowing together? What is feeling in concert? What is intelligible group feeling? Are constituent parts of group feeling all feeling? What is a constituency of the felt? What do constituents of accompanying feeling do? What is their part of doing or making or moving?

The surround of Isolation Piece is space-time where problems of intelligibility / togetherness / reception are “Criteria of Black Intellectual Art Crisis.” This Crisis is a general crisis of definition that dogs accompaniment when we understand relational bonds as held together by memory. When lost past togetherness is made to live again (contemporaneity) as political propaganda art (DU BOIS), all knowing, all writing serves the revolution of loss, the tragedy of displacement (not knowing, not writing, being without bonds but “if it were really a beautiful world”): also, isolation piece. All bonds arise from loss, being together in loss, locked in movement back and forth along the same lines of keeping place (not the lines of keeping life! keeping life is Isolation Piece). Lost past togetherness as art Crisis or art as restorative of a “previous” rich or full experience of togetherness of being whole. (Fullness itself as a sign engenders crisis). Art origin as all of art, a logic of accompaniment as Power toward serving a specific examined-as-given space-time logic, which is a logic of coming to proceed.

Criteria of Black Intellectual Art Crisis is an archival now-orthodox case and criteria of the notion of “POC” art as pure opposition. “POC” an in situ space-time position from which combat takes place: art practice is crisis because existence everlasts in being other, aggravating being-other’s plumbing.

Crisis in repose does not feel free.

The black world is “in flux,” properly.

Do not backstitch in time or space for inventions.

Isolation as space-time

This is true: space-time accompanies us; it is our border, our bubble.

Our knowing proximity to isolation: Isolation Piece takes place inside inside now, within and with knowledge of the infinite reproduction of border and boundary. Inside constricting as presence identification and present. Isolation Piece strips distances vacuums heightens perception of oscillating feeling in contact with what holds the (black) interior in place (oscillation whose rapidity inside the possible means the boundary of the interior blurs or is pushed or is blasted away by microscopic increments) in every place, at this time, to shed Crisis; certain as cell death, Isolation Piece is precisely what is shed to hold life in place as it moves into and out of a constantly forming now.

Future-contingency, wouldliness, future anteriority. The time of the now, which is multidimensional, bulging into outside, which we must give ourselves an initial permission to perceive as a first politics; the politics of a revolution in time-space.

“Why remain in this nothing?” (AGAMBEN)

What is a vocation, but the revocation of each and every concrete factical vocation? This obviously does not entail substituting a less authentic vocation with a truer vocation. According to what norm would one be chosen over the other? No, the vocation calls the vocation itself, as though it were an urgency that works from within and hollows it out, nullifying it in the very gesture of maintaining and dwelling in it.

Isolation Piece dreams the single breath given to glimpse that which is intolerable black true (WALKER/DOUGLASS/SPILLERS) writing sustaining the intolerable breath over time, lasting out as if dreaming, outlasting freedom dream or time, time meted out in the accumulation of breathsound or beating, but only once.


To remain resolute in feeling, outpouring feeling, not performance of affective tricks to conjure, to conjure status (a kind of repeating or replay, death-in-time).

Resolute feeling breaks for “doubling of the joint in time” (DUNCAN) or seeks to arrive at the present through recall—re-collecting, or, invoking, and spreading forward in the invocation as more than one, as all we have at our disposal as poets, as language we have at our disposal. We are called to choose. To divine or choose from a place of isolation, slightly choosing, slightly or kind of choosing, in an impossible gesture of torqued looking (MOTEN) which is paranoid and ferocious and is love and is critique like virtue (FOUCAULT) perpetually dedicated to spiritual things.

Isolation Piece is what god means now. The one god, embodiment and concept, language and calling, the solar wind tinniting every mind, the singing light, the burning pustule, the body-fire opposing the socio-logic of position. Can you understand me? Do you know what will happen when you are alone? (How does Saidiya Hartman sleep at night? I cannot be her friend and long to be her friend. This is a longing no one will ever know but me: the way I long to be girlfriends with Saidiya Hartman, to speak with her about manners of turning one’s back on lies, thus, nearly everything.) No one knows what will happen in the space of isolation, infinitesimally small, ongoing, the brutality of reality, “all emotion” (NOTLEY).

Isolation Piece is an investigation of and a joke about objection abjection objects eternal return interpellation enlightenment the canonization of black thought being owned being systematized being together.

The imperative to TAKE UP SPACE as the call to subject matter.

Originally Published: April 28th, 2017

Simone White was born Middletown, Connecticut, and raised in Philadelphia. She earned her BA from Wesleyan University, JD from Harvard Law School, and MFA from the New School. White is the author of the full-length collection House Envy of All the World (2010) and the chapbooks Dolly (2008) and Unrest...