I wanted to find an outside to poetry. Not an escape, exactly, though there are times I wish that I could escape from poetry, which exerts its gravity on culture invisibly, like dark matter. Call it dark culture, which can be referenced by the grid but must be experienced off of it. (The grid can refer to poetry, etc., but when you experience poetry on the grid, what you really experience is: the grid.) Reading is a vanishing experience and the weight of all those books, more of them every year, is something perceived ever more lightly, something in-experienced. And yet it is possible to set the grid aside, or to use the grid still as reference or double to life rather than life itself, though we are fast forgetting how.
Poetry is off the grid and as dark culture its existence is untimely, precisely because of the ways in which it marks time. In writing a novel I could hardly expect to transcend these things. Instead I wrote myself more deeply into poetry, into my own line. The line simply expanded and extenuated, trembling on the brink of the sentence stretched to its limit. The sentence would not stay put. Its only satisfaction was the next sentence.
“Limits / are what any of us / are inside of” -- Charles Olson
Poetry is tasked for its irrelevance, its refusal to operate as an amplifier of tendencies already adequately represented by and on the grid. The grid, that endless surface the first world skates on--that this text skates upon--claims to offer us an adequate representation. The grid claims to be Borges’s “Map of the Empire whose size [is] that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it.” In fact the grid is the Empire itself. We feed it our existence and so feed its existence, compulsively and continually. Ungridded experience, itself merely a reference point, is “Useless, and without without some pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters.” IRL.
Culture is a multiphasic field in which we negotiate personhood: our appearances to each other, as individuals and as members of collectives. If you are a laborer in the fields of dark culture your work stands in an uncertain relation to your appearance or invisibility on the grid. The valuelessness of poetry is a commonplace, but so also is the ineradicable minimal value of being a poet. The grid is haunted by the specter of being-a-poet, which is a claim to personhood without authorization.
“I am unbaptized, uninitated, ungraduated, unanalyzed. I had in mind that my worship belonged to no church, that my mysteries belonged to no cult, that my learning belonged to no institution, that my imagination of my self belonged to no philosophical system. My thought must be without sanction.” -- Robert Duncan, The H.D. Book
We are back in Shelley’s territory of the unacknoweldged legislator. But my desire to find the outside of poetry, the skin of its dark matter, is not entirely Romantic. It’s an intutition that poetry does not represent experience but is an imitation of the action of experiencing. Poetry presents an image of what Alfred North Whitehead calls “prehension” in action.
I wrote a novel because I wanted a large prose field for prehension, which is both positive and negative. Positive in its selection of details or data in pursuit of a vector of cumulative experience--the past that composes me. Negative in its vast unselection, everything I don’t write about, whose pressure poetry can make felt. I don’t know if prose can. There is a horror at the center of my novel that to my horror has become part of the grid. What ought to bend or break the grid and put its thoughtless apparatus of representation has become integral to that representation.
Prose and poetry fall into dark culture when they are too insistently evental. The grid can only reproduce objects; it objectizes events. History vanishes into the twilight of my timeline; in the meantime, I can respond to it only affectively: I like it, I favorite it. Without analysis, almost without meaning, it passes by.
They say you should write the kind of book you yourself would want to read. But what I wanted to write was: reading.
Reading is in the dark. I see your shadow there.
"In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars...."
The grid tears easily when stressed. It is ill-equipped to represent without rupture or distortion the personhood of the non-normative, "Animals and Beggars," the feminine, the queer, the non-white, the poor.
Dark culture pours through tears in the grid for moments surrounded by incessant and ceaseless repairs. Converting time back into space, history into Empire.
Minions of the grid, bent and badly mirrored, only recognizable as human in the anamorphosis of dark culture.
The outside to poetry is time as it is lived. Poetry, like life--
Is mortal. In the line. I feel, enjambed--
"...in all the Land there is no Relic of the Disciplines of Geography."