Skip to main content

Ron Silliman's Tjanting cont...

 
Lines insert false time (Ibid. 86)
 
Are we to take this seriously?  Is there a true time of writing and a false time? 
 
Linguists and certain philosophers of language like Austin and Habermas would lead us to believe that there is a basic level of accepted communication, and agreed upon, non-distorted, good enough environment of intention and reception through which we talk to each other in basic, consensual ways.  One might take blogs as a kind of evidence for this.  If this is true then there is an agreed upon true time of language which is serial, developmental, syllogistic, perhaps progressive.  I say something you say something back and lo! we are human and talking the talk of that. 
 
Yet Silliman is also aware, as a poet and political activist, that the ideal time of language is at least part constructed.  Language poetry would not exist without the Rorty-like assumption that all language is contingent and so any concept of an ideal speech community unfolding their ideas and hopes and prejudices in the “real” or “proper” time of speech-like language is a historical and ideological construct.  As Silliman says later in Tjanting, “The most political thing you can do is face the language.” (Tjanting 123) and certainly the work is full of “errors”, errors of conception, expression and understanding, but also conscious errors based on the procedural rules governing the composition of the piece.  So which time is more false, the semiotcally foregrounded temporality of poetic lineation, or the hidden, naturalised time of prose, even non-narrative prose such as we have here?
 
What Silliman is saying here pretty much agrees with Agamben’s definition of a typical feature of poetry before proving through a historical event, Tjanting itself, that Agamben’s attempts at a necessary foundation for poetry is merely a significant historical contingency whose time is already passed.  However, while Silliman looks for ways to innovate poetry in prose, he naturally has to beware the seduction of the prose whose transparent linearity is more dangerous in that it is widespread, that narrative prose is the rhetorical preference of the state and its institutions (what is new except a really good story chopped up into tasty morsels?) and that is it so hidden.  As he says, “Television’s lie is the continuity.” (Tjanting 121). If you ask someone to tell you how it happened, say in a court room to use a Lyotardian environment, and they tell it to you in the temporality of the poem, would that be acceptable testimony?  No, I thought not.  Next witness.
 
What a sacrifice poets like Silliman, Hejinian, Howe and Ashbery make in giving up the false time of the line, although false should be in inverted commas.  The time of the line is material, embodied, visual, disruptive, physically apparent, radical, and jagged.  Contrast the semiotics of poetic lineation to those of prose with its full-stops and paragraph breaks.  The full-stop is rarely used as a disruptive strategy and certainly not in Tjanting.  Why does Silliman innovate in the space between sentences but rarely, if ever, disrupt the sentence itself?  “The newspapers want to know why I don’t write in lines” (Tjanting 121).  So do I. 
 
“The sentence is to language as a park to nature.” (113) In other words sentences are socialised language while poetry is somehow, in being more glossolalic, literally semiotic in Kristeva’s sense of the word, and so goes beyond ideology.  He hints at this problematic assumption: “Baby’s babble scrambles syllables, but the prosody speaks of joy…Sentences occur in speech only as attributes of an educated class” (126).  Tjanting is a social, dialectical poem and as such it takes on a social, dialectical form, that of speech and response, sentence one sentence two.  The simplicity of the sentences is the point I feel as he is trying to get at the ideological-linguistic fabric of late capitalist social interaction.  Either that or he just fancied a change.  
 
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

John Ashbery, Some Trees

John Ashbery, Some Trees
(New York: Corinth Books, 1970)
Originally published (New York: 1956)


Close Readings and annotations of every poem in the collection March-April 1997 in preparation for In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde (Bucknell UP, 2001) currently in the process of complete update (2013)


"Two Scenes," 9

This is a poem about duality so in this sense the title actually refers to what the poem is ‘about’. John Shoptaw notes, for example, the phonic mirroring of the poem which he sees as an element later phased out as is the “linear introversion” to be found here. Thus we have the following phonic recurrences: “we see us as we”; “Destiny...destiny”; “News...noise”; “...hair/Air”; “-y” and rhymes of section 2; and “...old man/...paint cans”.


This simple but subtle semiotic device is then developed structurally as well, as the title hints. So ‘scene’ 2 reflects back internally onto ‘scene’ 1. “Machinery” recalls the train as does the canal; g…

John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
(Manchester: Carcanet, 1977)
First Published (New York: Viking, 1975)

Close Readings and annotations of every poem in the collection March-April 1997 in preparation for In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde (Bucknell UP, 2001)


Introduction:

· Shoptaw notes that this return to poetry is dominated by images of waiting, that narrative (especially fairy-tale) returns, as do the musically based titles, there are no prose poems and no fixed forms such as sonnets of pantoums, most are free verse paragraphs, also bring forward a new American speech, more direct and inclusive.



“As One Put Drunk into a Packet-Boat”, 1-2

· Shoptaw notes this was the original title for the collection, marking a self-consciously Romantic return to poetry, recording the thoughts of “I” from afternoon to night, just outside a childhood country home. Has a pastoral crisis narrative in that a summer storm gathers but passes leaving the poet relieved i…

The Grenfell Tower Murders

The 72 victims of Grenfell Tower Fire were murdered, victims of the violence of neglect.  Here is the proof.
A year ago, a fire started on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower, due to a faulty appliance.  The fire spread quickly up the side of the building because the tower had been refurbished in 2016.  Flammable cladding had been added to the exterior building as part of an £8 million refit which appears to have primarily made the tower more cosmetically pleasing.  The money was not spent on improving fire safety within the building, it would appear, a cause for concern for residents’ groups for years. The initial cladding that was to be used is not illegal in the UK but its use is restricted in other countries.  To save costs a cheaper version was eventually attached to the building, a more flammable version. 
Once the fire caught, residents were advised to stay in their flats.  In 99% of all cases this is the best advice, because flats are designed to be “fire resistant boxes” surr…