For a long time I have felt that poetics has not taken into consideration a great deal written about issues pertaining to difference and repetition to be found in contemporary philosophy. As poetry's whole energy and dynamic is based on a fundamental relation to differential versus repeated units of sense (sense both in terms of meaning and the sensible), any work on difference and repetition would be welcome. That some of the greatest thinkers of the age, notably Deleuze and Derrida, have made both issues core to their whole philosophical systems is so remarkable that poetics is impoverished if it does not fully acknowledge this.
Not that I am one to talk. Although I am aware of the centrality of Deleuze's work to postmodern poetry, I have as yet not been able to really address this but in Poetry Machines I began that work at least. In preparation for the few hundred words I wrote there, here are the 10,000 words I annotated in preparation.
Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition. Trans. Paul Patton. London: Athlone Press, 1997.
Introduction: Repetition and Difference
Repetition is not generality… Repetition and resemblance are different in kind… Generality presents two major orders: the qualitative order of resemblances and the quantitative order of equivalences… generality expresses a point of view according to which one term may be exchanged or substituted for another. The exchange or substitution of particulars defines our conduct in relation to generality… By contrast, we can see that repetition is a necessary and justified conduct only in relation to that which cannot be replaced. Repetition as a conduct and as a point of view concerns non-exchangeable and non-substitutable singularities. Reflections, echoes, doubles and souls do not belong to the domain of resemblance or equivalence; and it is not more possible to exchange one’s soul than it is to substitute real twins for one another. If exchange is the criterion of generality, theft and gift are those of repetition. (Deleuze, Difference 1)
· The differentiation here is conducted in relation to the kinds of units being repeated. Generality involves the repetition of “particulars” or particles, parts of, aspects and the like. Repetition involves the repeating of “singularities” which sounds more like a thing possessive of presence. When the soul “repeats” it is the singularity of the soul one sees, irrespective of the outward form. As he will go on to later establish, repetition is an internal process which generality concerns externals. The main reason he is establishing repetition as a metaphysical category is that he wants to go on to define difference, the poor cousin to the philosophy of the One, as something which is disruptive of repetition while being constitutive of it. A classic deconstructive strategy. One may say that within repetition there are two philosophical traditions, the philosophy of the same and the philosophy of the One, the latter being the most highly regarded. This being the case, and taking into account the massive rehabilitation of difference within western culture since the 1960’s, the philosophy of the same is the most neglected of the three options. It is the tension between the two ideas of repetition and the idea of difference that I want to investigate.
To repeat is to behave in a certain manner, but in relation to something unique or singular which has no equal or equivalent. And perhaps this repetition at the level of external conduct echoes, for its own part, a more secret vibration which animates it, a more profound internal repetition within the singular. This is the apparent paradox of festivals: they repeat an ‘unrepeatable’. They do not add a second and third time to the first, but carry on the first the to ‘nth’ power… It is not Federation Day which commemorates or represents the fall of the Bastille, but the fall of the Bastille which celebrates and repeats in advance all the Federation days; or Monet’s first water lily which repeats all the others. Generality, as generality of the particular, thus stands opposed to repetition as universality of the singular. The repetition of a work of art is like a singularity without concept…” (Deleuze, Difference 1)
· I am working on a model of different modes of repetition in poetry, especially in relation to Koch’s poetry. Of the many forms of repetition found in his work the most interesting and challenging are those involving repetition of the same type. The most basic example of this which will be our first example of repetition of the same is the line “Parallel excursion. O black black black black black black,” where the word black is repeated six times to the point where its minimal referential charge is reduced to a minimal point (colours have a very small referential capacity, black being and absence of colour having even less, and the apostrophe “O black” indicating in any case that black a such is not even present to be addressed). The more complicated form is what Koch calls a “poetry idea” reformulated by me in my recent book In the Process of Poetry as a “poetry machine.” A classic example is the poem “Sleeping with Women” where the poem is constructed around the repetition of the phrase “sleeping with women” in pretty much every line. How to describe these two forms of repetition of the same? The first may be termed repetitious attack (RA) as it is designed to damage the referential capability of language by pushing it to the nth degree point of its almost total collapse. The other form may be termed repetitious enhancement (RE). Here a fairly meaningless phrase, “sleeping with women” is augmented through extreme repetition to the point where it becomes more meaningful, very meaningful, the meta-meaning of the poem, before collapsing bathetically in to just a ridiculous comment on semantics in poetry. It is a sophisticated and satirical attack on Gertrude Stein’s use of flat words and Tynianov’s theory of equivalences. A poetry machine consists of these two forces in tandem: repetitious attack and repetitious enhancement.
· Poetry, art, repetition proper, repeats presence. Presence, true singularity, is the paradoxical pre-condition for true repetition. Art is repetition without a concept that it is a kind of free metaphysic. It partakes of the power of singularity but is not reducible to a definite concept of being. While each Federation day relates to an actual “concept” of an actual day, each water lily only seems to relate to n original lily, in fact there is no original lily. Art’s great illusion, therefore, is to make concepts out of the act of repetition. It is as if it apes presence or reminds one of presence without actually possessing it. In Koch’s work, in a movement typical of the New York School and in fact of avant-garde poetry in general, repetition of the same is used to directly attack this prejudice. Poetry machines break the repetition of poetry from the dictates of singularity, in fact one might argue they merely spoil the illusion. The reason art is like a singularity without a concept is that is has no concept and no singularity. Art is not repetitious at all in fact, it is totally general.
If repetition is possible, it is due to miracle rather than to law. It is against the law… If repetition exists, it expresses at once a singularity opposed to the general, a universality opposed to the particular, a distinctive opposed to the ordinary, and instantaneity opposed to variation / and an eternity opposed to permanence. In every respect, repetition is a transgression. It puts law into question, it denounces its nominal or general character in favour of a more profound and more artistic reality. (Deleuze, Difference 2-3)
· A very nice set of phrases clearly repetition is being used here to set up a philosophy of difference not to actually get to the root of repetition. While for metaphysics the repetition of art is a transgression, for art the opposite is true. In fact within art it is the refusal to repeat that is its greatest transgression, which is why poetry machines are so intriguing. They undermine repetition in art by being excessively repetitious. They make repetition of the same the mew singularity of art by showing how the previous singularity had become general. While they use the repetition of the same to undermine the repetition of singularity, their use of repetition of the same often pushes the repeated word or phrase to a point of a new singularity. Poetry machines set up, in fact, small deconstructive factories tailored to one particular product in this instance poetry. They do not elevate repetition of the same over that of the singular but set up a basic machine of flow interruption based on these two values.
If repetition is possible, it is as much opposed to moral law as it is to natural law. There are two known ways to overturn moral law. One is by ascending towards the principles: challenging the law as secondary, derived, borrowed… The other way, by contrast, is to overturn the law by descending towards the consequences, to which one submits with a too-perfect attention to detail… The first way of overturning the law is ironic, where irony appears as an art of principles, of ascent towards the principles of overturning principles. The second is humour, which is an art of consequences and descents, of suspensions and falls. Must we understand that repetition appears in both this suspense and this ascent, as though existence recommenced and ‘reiterated’ itself once it is no longer constrained by laws? Repetition belongs to humour and irony; it is by nature transgression or exception, always revealing a singularity opposed to the particulars subsumed under laws, a universal opposed to the generalities which give rise to laws (Deleuze, Difference 5)
· Repetition as a form of transgression through humour and irony pertains directly to the tone of Koch’s work and also the basic structure of nearly all his poetry. A large amount of his poetry is an attempt to move beyond irony in fact, see In the Process of Poetry. Here, the movement of repetition is that of going beyond irony, or using irony to establish a basic universal behind the particularities of the poem or an attempt to get the poem back to simply saying what it means and meaning what it says. In contrast to this he also uses bathetic humour to push the particularities of poetry to the limit. Thus we have the long fantasy narratives of Ko and The Duplications which seem to have no depth beyond the pleasure of the text to hand, and we have the thetic analytical poems like “One Train” which pull to bits the basic particularities of how to write poetry.
a concept may be in principle the concept of a particular existing thing, thus having an infinite comprehension. Infinite comprehension is the correlate of an extension =1… Infinite comprehension thus makes possible remembering and recognition, memory and self-consciousness… The relation of a concept to its object under this double aspect, in the form that it assumes in this memory and this self-consciousness, is called representation… / However a concept can always be blocked at the level of each of its determinations or each of the predicates that it includes. In so far as it serves as a determination, a predicate must remain fixed in the concept while becoming something else in the thing (animal becomes something other in man and in horse; humanity something other in Peter and in Paul). This is why comprehension of the concept is infinite; having become other in the thing, the predicate is like the object of another predicate in the concept. But this is also why each determination remains general or defines a resemblance, to the extent that it remains fixed in the concept and applicable by right to an infinity of things. Here, the concept is thus constituted in such a fashion that, in its real use, its comprehension extends to infinity, but in its logical use, this comprehension is always liable to an artificial blockage. Every logical limitation of the comprehension of a concept endows it with an extension greater than 1, in principle infinite, and thus of a generality such that no existing individual can correspond to it… (Deleuze, Difference 11-12)
· A complicated logic it requires careful analysis:
· a concept of a thing has infinite extension as it can be used as a source for an infinite number of repetitions and determinations
· a determination or predicate is a part of the concept which in turn can be used as an object for another determination ad infinitum (I imagine this process could be contiguous in a genus-species format, or associative)
· however in this extension the determination is a paradox as in terms of being an extension of the concept it is infinite, but logically it is only a resemblance to the object and is thus blocked
· further, every extension of the object over the value of 1 pushes the concept from singularity to infinity which is in contrast general
· to conclude, repetitious extension is aporetic and undermines presence, although he does not say this. If the concept has presence and thus can be repeated, it immediately loses presence in the moment of its first repetition. Using a Derridean turn of thought in relation to this, we can only know if a concept has presence if it can be repeated thus presence is always already encountered as having been lost to generality
· in contrast to this “artificial blockage” he talks then of a natural blockage of the concept or concepts that have a finite extension but which can still be repeated...
There is a rift between that extension =1 imposed upon the concept and the extension = ¥ that its weak comprehension demands in principle. The result will be a ‘discrete extension’—that is, a pullulation of individuals absolutely identical in / respect of their concepts, and participating in the same singularity in existence (the paradox of doubles or twins). This phenomenon of discrete extension… forms a true repetition in existence rather than an order of resemblance in thought… Repetition is the pure fact of a concept with finite comprehension being forced to pass as such into existence… (Deleuze, Difference 12-13)
· ‘discrete extension’ is what really interests us here and is the essence of his concept of true repetition. The problem with the other form of infinite extension was that is was an extension in the mind of general concepts spawned from the singularity. In the case of ‘discrete extension’ the whole unit is extended thus it has a finite range, that of the unit to itself, but it has an infinite power of extension hic et nunc, in the here and now. I would say that such a form of extension is at the heart of RA and RE and thus poetry machines must be seen as a form of ‘discrete extension.’ A classic example of non-discrete extension is the poetry of Ashbery. He tries to think of good examples of such extensions and he comes up with atoms and words…
Words possess a comprehension which is necessarily finite, since they are objects of a merely nominal definition. We have here a reason why the comprehension of the concept cannot extend to infinity: we define a word by only a finite number of words. Nevertheless, speech and writing, from which words are inseparable, give them an existence hic et nunc; a genus thereby passes into existence as such; and here again extension is made up for in dispersion, in discreteness, under the sign of a repetition which forms the real power of language in speech and writing. (Deleuze, Difference 13)
· Much of this is a kind of structuralism which I might question now but anyway the logic of discrete extension is clearly stated here. You have a unit which is singular and limited, it cannot be extended infinitely for then it loses all singularity. However, language gives the word the here and now, the context for extension, thus allowing iteration and dissemination. At this juncture therefore Deleuze and Derrida coincide. It is the limited unit’s potential for infinite distribution that is the definition of repetition.
· “O black black black black black black” by Koch is, unwittingly, the perfect example of this mode of discrete extension. The basic unit is restricted, black as I have mentioned is a very restricted nomination here, but then is distributed in the hic et nunc of the poetic line. First one must make clear that the dissemination of the unit in a line of poetry is not the same as in speech or ordinary writing. Second one must note that this line performs repetition which is to say it is not repetitious as such but is a demonstration of repetition like opening up the bonnet of a car so that we can see the workings of the engine beneath. The line, however, is also a critique of repetition suggesting that the infinite extension of the singular unit is strictly limited. Black repeated six times is already ludicrous, extended to its logical limits it becomes schizophrenic, a mad and meaningless mantra.
· He then goes on to include difference in repetition as true repetition cannot be represented, as this would be repetition of the same, yet it must be signified and thus it is masked by difference. His example is Freud’s move from believing his patient’s memories to seeing them as fantasies. They are not the same, in this instance, as the original concept but they are the concept. This is one of the three forms of blockage he notes in relation to repetition: nominal/discrete, natural/alienated, freedom/ repressed. The middle term is of no interest to me but in each of the other two cases true repetition only comes about through the act of blockage, in both instances through difference. The discrete and the repressed are the two major forms of difference therefore…
Repetition thus appears as difference without a concept, repetition which escapes indefinitely continued conceptual difference (Deleuze, Difference 13)
repetition is in its essence symbolic; symbols or simulacra are the letter of repetition itself. Difference is included on repetition by way of disguise and by the order of the symbol... The mask is the true subject of repetition. Because repetition differs in kind from representation, the repeated cannot be represented: rather, it must always be signified, masked by what signifies it, itself masking what it signifies. I do not repeat because I repress. I repress because I repeat, I forget because I repeat. I repress, because I can live certain things or certain experiences only in the mode of repetition. (Deleuze, Difference 17-18)
· In working with Koch, therefore, once I have determined the poetry machine, and given clear examples, there should be a central section part dealing with Deleuze and repetition and part with Derrida and iteration. After this there must be a final section on significance. Here the use of repetition and iteration could be seen as a two-pronged attack on poetry. Repetition undermines representation, making poetry an act of significance rather than description. While iteration undermines presence, stopping the poem from being an expression of a subject rather it puts the subject on trial. After this, however, one could conclude with a negative psychoanalysis of repetition and repression.
Consider… the repetition of a decorative motif: a figure is reproduced, while the concept remains absolutely identical…. However, this is not how artists proceed in reality. They do no juxtapose instances of the figure, but rather each time combine an element of one instance with another element of a following instance. They introduce a disequilibrium into the dynamic process of construction, an instability, a disymmetry or gap of some kind which disappears only in the overall effect… / it is not the elements of symmetry present which matter for artistic or natural causality, but those which are missing and are not in the cause; what matters is the possibility of the cause having less symmetry than the effect. (Deleuze, Difference 19-20)
· Thus the work of art is not decorative, is not a repetition of the figure, but in fact is a disruption of similarity and symmetry in each instance. In the overall form such disruption is lost, but art ought to be looking to the making of a symmetry from a disymmetrical origin. I think this is a very restricted and outmoded sense of what art does and certainly Koch and his contemporaries are using symmetry precisely to indicate the disymmetry in symmetry. The repetition of black is not like the repetition of figures in a carpet, but is more like those “hysterical” narratives at the end of the 19thc such as Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” James’ Turn of the Screw and Woolf’s “Mark on the Wall” along with the art of decadence and the use of decorative motifs in the works of Redon, Moreau, Beardsley and the like. What they discovered is that repetition of the same, what he calls “bare” repetition, in fact is able to weave a masking onto itself. Thus they discovered difference in the same. While other writers worked in an opposite way by using repetition and symmetry to show that there is no originary, non-symmetrical presence underpinning the figures of the art form. Surrealism would be an example of this. One work of art repeats the same until difference is generated, the other repeats difference until similarity is discovered.
· He talks, anyway, of the original concept’s disymmetrical causality of the symmetry of the art form in terms of signalling and signs:
By ‘signal’ we mean a system with orders of disparate size, endowed with elements of disymmetry; by ‘sign’ we mean what happens within such a system, what flashes across the intervals when a communication takes place between the disparates. The sign is indeed an effect, but an effect with two aspects: in one of these it expresses, qua sign, the productive disymmetry; in the other it tends to cancel it… (Deleuze, Difference 20)
· The signal is the disymmetry in the concept, the elements that make it up, the sing then is synaptic and flashes across the gaps between these disparate elements within the thing. The sign, for example “black” both suggests a lack of symmetry because it is the effect of an element of the original concept, but at the same time because it is an iterable sign it cancels out difference. “Black” consists, therefore, of a dynamic interchange of similarities and differences:
· it is a repetition of the original concept an effect if the concepts cause
· yet it is not that concept but a cause of an aspect of it, the product of and internal difference, it cannot be a total repetition as that would not be repetition but the thing itself
· thus it indicates difference because it is not the thing but a repetition of it
· yet because it is a sign and thus iterable it negates any sense of difference which is the element of masking
· here, however, if one adds into repetition and difference, iteration and diffèrance we get new differential effects stemming from the signs tendency to repeat which is the value of deferral of presence
For us, as the example of the decorative motif suggests, it is essential to break down the notion of causality in order to distinguish two types of repetition: one which concerns only the overall, abstract effect, and the other which concerns the acting cause. One is static repetition, the other is dynamic… One refers back to a single concept, which leaves only an external difference between the ordinary instances of a figure; the other is the repetition of an internal difference which it incorporates in each of its moments, and carries from one distinctive point to another. (Deleuze, Difference 20)
· A simple differentiation between the two kinds of repetition being considered. In summary, the preference given to the second form is repetition is clearly because it can contain the concept of difference while repetition of the same cannot.
· he goes on to consider the two forms of symmetry, “arithmetic” and “geometric.” Arithmetic is square and static, geometric is “pentagonal and appears in a spiral line or in a geometrically progressing pulsation—in short, in a living and mortal revolution” (Deleuze, Difference 20). The second is the model of the spiral of squares:
the study of rhythm allows us immediately to distinguish two kinds of repetition. Cadence-repetition is a regular division of time, an isochronic recurrence of identical elements. However, a period exists only in so far as it is determined by a tonic accent, commanded by intensities. Yet we would be mistaken about the function of accents if we said that they were reproduced at equal intervals. On the contrary, tonic and intensive values act by creating inequalities or incommensurabilities between metrically equivalent periods or spaces. They create distinctive points, privileged instants which always indicate a poly-rhythm. Here again, the unequal is the most positive element. Cadence is only the envelope of a rhythm, and of a relation between rhythms. The reprise of points of inequality, of inflections or of rhythmic events, is more profound than the reproduction of ordinary homogenous elements. As a result we should distinguish cadence-repetition and rhythm-repetition in every case, the first being only the outward appearance or the abstract effect of the second. A bare, material repetition (repetition of the same) appears only in the sense that another repetition is disguised within it… (Deleuze, Difference 20).
· perfect in that it relates directly to poetry, what I need to do is reconsider what cadence could be in other forms of non-syllabic measure, and what rhythm could be. In effect in poetry machines I am dealing with two kinds of measure, word measure and phrase measure. Cadence in word measure could determine the act of repeating words, while the rhythm is the mode of repetition: repetition of the same, homonyms, synonyms, metonyms, associations, sonic, internal referentiality. Cadence in phrase measure is the act of writing to the phrase rather than to the word or to the line. Rhythm comes from length of phrase, make-up of phrase, relation of phrase to phrase. “Sleeping with women is a good place to start because it is the most simplified form of phrase-measure, in many ways a glorified form of word measure.
· Poetry machines work in the same way, therefore, as rhythmical repetition in poetry. Both much have a cadence or basic element of repetition of the same. Yet they also must have difference: stress, tonality, intensity, privileging and the like. A simple example of this would be “sleeping with women” in all its different usage. There are many examples of this in Koch’s work.
Take the example of rhyme: it is indeed verbal repetition, but repetition which includes the difference between two words and inscribes that difference at the heart of a poetic Idea, in a space which it determines. Nor does its meaning lie in marking equal intervals, but rather, as we see in a notion of strong rhyme, in putting tonal values in the service of tonic rhythm, and contributing to the independence of tonic rhythms from arithmetic rhythms. As for the repetition of a single word, we must understand this as a ‘generalised rhyme’, not rhyme as a restricted repetition. This generalisation can proceed in two ways: either a word taken in two senses ensures a resemblance or a paradoxical identity between the two senses; or a word / taken in one sense exercises an attractive force on its neighbours, communicating an extraordinary gravity to them until one of the neighbouring words takes up the baton and becomes in turn a centre of repetition. (Deleuze, Difference 22).
· Several points to tease out of this:
· rhyme is the ideal example of repetition’s difference to repetition of the same, it combines equal degrees of similarity and difference
· if a word did not rhyme but was just repeated then the difference is missing and this is, in effect, not a real repetition at all
· rhyme also works with rhythm as it forms extra stress, one ought to add into this enjambment as well
· In terms of repetition of the same word he then goes on to map these two tendencies in the works of Roussel and Péguy. Roussel repeats through homonym, Péguy through synonym…
Both substitute a vertical repetition of distinctive points, which takes us inside the words, for the horizontal repetition or ordinary words repeated. Both substitute a positive repetition, one which flows from the excess of a linguistic and stylistic Idea, for a repetition by default which results from the inadequacy of nominal concepts or verbal representations. (Deleuze, Difference 22).
· This would be a very harsh critique of Koch but is it at this point that the radical nature of his form of repetition can be posited!
VERY IMPORTANT SECTION OF POETRY MACHINES
We are right to speak or repetition when we find ourselves confronted by identical elements with exactly the same concept. However, we must distinguish between these discrete elements, these repeated objects, and a secret subject, the real subject of repetition, which repeats itself through them. Repetition must be understood in the pronominal; we must find the Self of repetition, the singularity within that which repeats. For there is no repetition without a repeater, nothing repeated without a repetitious soul. (Deleuze, Difference 23).
· As to what the repetitious soul of poetry machines could be, this is something I will have to come back to, all the same this is a good quote for establishing exactly what repetition is.
In every case repetition is difference without a concept. But in one case, the difference is taken to be only external to the concept; it is a difference between objects / represented by the same concept, falling into the indifference of space and time. In the other case, the difference is internal to the Idea; it unfolds as pure movement, creative of a dynamic space and time which correspond to the Idea. The first repetition is repetition of the Same, explained by the identity of the first concept or representation; the second includes difference, and includes itself in the alterity of the Idea, in the heterogeneity of an ‘a-presentation’. (Deleuze, Difference 24).
· I still do not understand what he means by difference without a concept unless it is an act of differentiation within a concept. In repetition the difference is between same and same, thus there is no differential concept. The rest is a systematic differentiation of the tow sides of repetition:
Table of the Opposing Qualities of the Two forms of Repetition
(Deleuze, Difference 24).
Repetition of the Same
Repetition and Difference
negative, occurring by default in concept
affirmative, occurring by excess in Idea
repetition in effect
repetition in cause
distinctive and singular
developed and explicated
enveloped & in need of interpretation
equality, commensurability & symmetry
inequality, incommensurability, & disymmetry
carries secrets of death and life
covered (forms itself by covering/masking itself)
The two repetitions are not independent. One is the singular subject, the interiority and the heart of the other, the depths of the other. The other is only the external envelope, the abstract effect… [we wished] to show how repetition displays identical elements which necessarily refer back to latent subject which repeats itself through these elements, forming an ‘other’ repetition at the heart of the first… the essence of that in which every repetition consists: difference without a concept, non-mediated difference. It is both the literal and spiritual primary sense of repetition. The material sense results from this other, as if secreted by it like a shell… The interior of repetition is always affected by an order of difference: it is only to the extent that something it linked to a repetition of an order other than its own that the repetition appears external and bare… (Deleuze, Difference 25).
· This makes the definition of difference without a concept more clear as repetition paves the way for an internal view of the concept, the effect of mask is precondition to the cause or original face, creating a second, other repetition at the heart of the Idea itself. This repetition is not the concept but occurs within the concept and so is both different and the same. Probably this is too convoluted for the article anyway.
· Note the shell secretion simile, very nice quote I think.
Chapter II: Repetition for Itself
Repetition changes nothing in the object repeated, but does change something in the mind which contemplates it. Hume’s famous thesis takes us to the heart of the problem… The rule of discontinuity or instantaneity in repetition tells us that one instance does not appear unless the other has disappeared… However, given that repetition disappears even as it occurs, how can we say ‘the second’, ‘the third’ and ‘it is the same’? It has no in-itself. On the other hand, it does change something in the mind which contemplates it. This is the essence of modification. Hume takes as an example the repetition of cases of the type AB, AB, AB, A… . Each case or objective sequence AB is independent of the others. The repetition…changes nothing in the object or the state of affairs AB. On the other hand, the change is produced in the mind which contemplates a difference, something new in the mind. Whenever A appears, I expect the appearance of B. (Deleuze, Difference 70).
· this is Tynianov’s law of “equivalence” combined with the sublime expectation of “it happens that” which one finds in Hume and which is further developed in detail by Lyotard. It is, therefore, a major nexus of contemporary aesthetic thought and poetics theory, it cannot be neglected especially as it bisects with Lacanian notions of the tuche-automaton, Kristeva’s early theories of the semiotic, Derrida’s theory of iterability, and contemporary ethical considerations of the event. In relation to Koch, the series AB is undermined by “O black etc.” as this is actually a sequence (A)BBBBBB with A being the apostrophe. In this instance when one sees B, and then B, and then again B, one does not expect that B will follow on as it is in contravention to certain assumptions about what poetry does which is it does not repeat the same in serial form in this way. While “sleeping with women” does something different, it takes this repetition A(B) where B represents the semantic potential of the phrase A. Again B cannot be predicted as it is determined by context and is not really a form of repetition. However it does modify A so that each time we see A we expect (B) or the modification semantically of the phrase. Sometimes it comes and sometimes it does not.
Does not the paradox of repetition lie in the fact that one can speak of repetition only by virtue of the change or difference that it introduces into the mind which contemplates it? By virtue of a difference that the mind draws from repetition? (Deleuze, Difference 25).
· repetition exists only through difference and can only be apprehended in this way by the mind. If the repetition did not have difference it would not be repetition but the same thing. He does not say this here but repetition then is in fact the event, the encounter, of the thing after the first encounter. It is not actually an act of repeated but the event of encountering something as having been repeated. This is of vital concern for the ethics of representation in fact, for in issues such as gender theory, theories of sexuality, postcolonial theory, and postmodern ethics, the issues comes down to how one encounters the event of the reiteration. Something happens, an atrocity or a prejudice perhaps, and if it is encased in ideology it will happen again. But it also suffers another form of repetition in language. Thus it is vital that we come to understand this process.
What does this change comprise? Hume explains that the independent identical or similar cases are grounded in the imagination. The imagination is defined here as a contractile power: like a sensitive plate, it retains one case when the other appears. It contracts cases, elements, agitations or homogenous instants and grounds these in an internal qualitative impression endowed with a certain weight. When A appears, we expect B with a force corresponding to the qualitative impression of all of our contracted ABs. This is by no means a memory… Properly speaking, it forms a synthesis of time… This synthesis contracts the successive independent instants into one another thereby constituting the lived, or living, present… / The past and the future do not designate instants distinct from a supposed present instant, but rather the dimensions of the present itself in so far a sit is a contraction of instants. (Deleuze, Difference 70-1).
· Simply put this is Hume’s theory of the sublime, combined with Bergsonian views on the interpenetration of past and future in the present tense. The time of the repetition is not real time but a synthetic time made up of the contract of the past, the this repeated, with the future, the expectation of the next repetition, stored in the moment of the event of the repetition in the present tense.
· he foes on to note the past is not the immediate past of retention but the reflexive past of representation while the future is not that of anticipation but prediction. Which is a complicated way of saying that within the repeated instant tie becomes a kind of representation of time, faked from the event of the actual repetition. A false past is established to justify the present tense, and a future is created prematurely to make sure that it will match the event of the repetition. He goes on to consider Bergson’s discovery of Hume in the problem of a clock striking four times…
four o’clock strikes … each stroke, each disturbance or excitation, is logically independent or the other… [however] we contract these into an internal qualitative impression within this living present or passive synthesis which is duration. The we restore them in an auxiliary space, a derived time in which we may reproduce them, reflect on them or count them like so many quantifiable external impressions. No doubt Bergson’s example is not the same as Hume’s. One refers to closed repetition, the other to an open one. Moreover, one refers to a repetition of elements of the type A A A A … (tick, tick, tick, tick …), the other to a repetition of cases such as AB AB AB A … (tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick …). The principle distinction between these two forms rests upon the fact that in the second case difference not only appears in the contraction of the elements in general but also occurs in each particular case, between two elements which are both determined and joined together by a relation of opposition. The function of opposition here is to impose a limit on the elementary repetition, to enclose it upon the simplest group, to reduce it to a minimum of two (tock being the inverse of tick)… Repetition finds itself enclosed in the ‘case’, reduced to the pair, while a new infinity opens up in the form of repetition of the cases themselves. (Deleuze, Difference 72).
· these two types of repetition, both with their own relation to difference, pertain to Koch’s work although he prefers repetition of the AA form than that of the AB, his preferred mode of rhyme is the couplet in fact. He also has this extra repetition which is repetition of heterogeneity or excess which is repetition of case rather than element yet with one half of the case hidden. Thus it appears to be repetition of an element but it emerges as being repetition of the case. In each instance it is necessary to consider aesthetic reasons/effects.
· element repetition, AAA…: Deleuze sees this as the most closed form a repetition with difference occurring outside the event of repetition. Each instant is of itself, therefore, and so to undermine it is to undermine such theories of the monadic subject, the object of presence and the like. O black etc. does exactly this and is, therefore, and avant-garde attack on the value of self-enclosed units in art such as a unified poetic ego, theme, organic form and the like. It also attacks the enclosed, assumed, nominality of language pushing iterability to the point of collapse from which new semantic opportunities emerge
· case repetition, AB, A…: This seems much more open as it is always open-ended, after A comes B, if B comes then so should A. It also contains difference within its confines, A is different to B, and is the better example of his theory of contraction. Sleeping with women works in this way as do poems like “Collected Poems” and recent poems from One Train and Straits. In these works A is the poetry idea, and B the result of the idea. While this may seem to have more scope for development, it is, to my mind, less challenging than element repetition. Firstly it is predictable, B always follows A and even when it doesn’t due to the law of equivalence it still does. It is a regular machine that, one in motion, could go on indefinitely. It exists at the level of 2, the minimum level for all poetry activity. AAA however, while seemingly even more predictable, is a strangely unstable system. The sequence has a limited level of interest after which the repetition becomes annoying, and because there is no internal, local closure, one simply cannot say when and where the sequence will end, not can one differentiate one unit from another as one can with AB. Al these factors make it a real challenge to the poetic. It exists in a pre-poetic realm before the duality of 2 lines, 2 images, title-poem, 2 syllables, 2 phrases etc. There is no tonality to it, it is atonal poetry.
· hidden repetition: in both instances Koch uses a hidden element of repetition. In the AAA it is the hidden poetry idea which is the impetus for the repetition, on the AB it is the effect or context which is hidden in that neither the poet nor reader can predict this. This is crucial to the make-up of the poetry-machine idea. Each machine consists of 2 moving parts, the element repetition and the case repetition. The hidden part of the element repetition is the control, the part the author determines. But the hidden part of the case repetition is the “infinite code” that is the numberless ways that the machine, in combination with the “world” of poetry or language at large, can produce meaning. This is what Kristeva means by paragrammatic poetry, a combination of limitation and a lack of limits, which is also deconstruction.
[there are] two quire different kinds of contraction: contraction may refer to one of the two active elements, one of the two opposing moments in a tick-tock type of series, the other element being relaxation or dilation. But contraction also refers to the fusion of successive tick-tocks in a contemplative soul. Passive synthesis is of the latter kind: it constitutes our habit of living, our expectation that ‘it; will continue, that one of the two elements will appear after the other, thereby assuring the perpetuation of our case. When we say that a habit is a contraction we are speaking not of an instantaneous action which combines with another to form an elements of repetition, but rather of the fusion of that repetition in the contemplating mind. (Deleuze, Difference 74).
· 2 forms of contraction: firstly contraction is a mode of bringing together by reduction, in effect of bringing together two limits. Within ethical systems this is the contraction of difference within an environment where the differend can be addressed, but within less ethical modes of representation it is an enforced contraction; an act of violence which makes two opposing, heterogeneous systems, come together under one viewpoint say. Add into this the idea of contraction and relaxation. Deleuze, inevitably, dismisses this form as the lesser of the two forms, the other form being the contemplative mind’s ability to keep in mind the idea of repetition (see above). However, within the machine the contraction-dilation model would explain the umbrella-like motion one gets in a poetry-machine where at some points the meaning of the repetition is gathered up, but at others it is cast away, wasted even. Repetition of the same is purposefully underachieving because its role is to disrupt the two paradigms of poetry, expression and representation.
What organism is not made of elements and cases of repetition… (Deleuze, Difference 75).
to act is never to repeat, whether it be an action in process or an action already completed. (Deleuze, Difference 75).
Action is constituted, in the order of generality and in the field of variables which correspond to it, only by the contraction of elements of repetition. This contraction, however, takes place not in the action itself, but in a contemplative self which doubles the agent. (Deleuze, Difference 75).
Underneath the self which acts are little selves which contemplate and which render possible both the action and the active subject. (Deleuze, Difference 75).
· a nice run of little quotes to support the idea of the human being as a machine which will be developed in full in Anti-Oedipus. The human being is a machine, here posited in terms of metaphysics, but in the Anti-Oedipus in terms of production-desire. Each organism consists of repetitions, each act however is not repetitious until it has been contemplated within a contraction. Each thought then doubles each act, making each act possible as an act, in retrospect, by thinking about the act and thus producing repetition. Therefore not only is there repetition, but the idea of repetition is itself a little repetitious machine: A= act B= thought, AB= the precondition for act before thought, but BA is the precondition of contemplation of act thus thought, repetition, comes before act. Yet again AB= the non-repetitious and this differential nature of the act of thinking the act. In thinking the act the act becomes other to itself and the thought becomes not a repetition but an act in itself. A double otherness is created. Thus the human machine ought to be posited thus A(BA)B(AB) ad infinitum.
The role of the imagination, or the mind which contemplates in its multiple and fragmented states, is to draw something new from repetition, to draw difference from it… Imaginary repetition is not a false repetition which stands in for the absent true repetition: true repetition takes place in imagination. Between a repetition which never ceases to unravel itself and a repetition which is deployed and conserved for us in the space of representation there was difference, the for-itself of repetition, the imaginary. Difference inhabits repetition. On the one hand—lengthwise, as it were—difference allows us to pass from one order of repetition to another: from the instantaneous repetition which unravels itself to the actively represented repetition through the intermediary of passive synthesis. On the other hand—in depth, as it were—difference allows us to pass from one order of repetition to another and from one generality to another within the passive syntheses themselves… in the series of passive syntheses, the generality originally formed by the contraction of ‘ticks’ is redistributed in the form of particularities in the more complex repetition of ‘tick-tocks’, which are in turn contracted. In every way, material or bare repetition, so-called repetition of the same, is like a skin which unravels, the external husk of a kernel of difference and more complicated internal repetitions. Difference lies between two repetitions. (Deleuze, Difference 76).
· therefore within repetition we have a basic machine rdrdrd… which in fact stands in for the more accepted repetitious schema ABAB. Difference is what happens in the imagination so that repetition in fact can become repetition in the mind. Each repetition is expanded by difference so that is can fall back into being repetition available to the mind. Each repetition is just a tick, but difference adds in the tock so that the tick can be heard as a tick and not a new noise each times. At this point our theories finally converge in that the point of Koch’s repetition of the same is to reveal the difference in poetry underneath. A CENTRAL PASSAGE I THINK AND SUMMARY OF ALL ISSUES TO DATE.
Selves are larval subjects; the world of passive syntheses constitutes the system of the self, under conditions yet to be determined, but it is the system of a dissolved self. There is a self wherever a furtive contemplation has been established, whenever a contracting machine capable of drawing a difference from repetition functions / somewhere. (Deleuze, Difference 78-9).
· Perfect opening quote or transitional quote from this text to Anti-Oedipus. Could be used in conjunction with the Derrida quote about machines in SEC. Subjectivity here is radically reduced, contracted, and this serves to add the subject critique of the article. Basically the work will argue 2 things:
1. that Koch’s use of repetition undermines the subjective expression model predominant in poetry since Romanticism and especially predominant in America at that time and since. This will be the Deleuze section
2. that it also undermines the representative presupposition of language, using in this istance Derrida.
Mini-Plan of Article:
1. Introduction of Poetry Machines through a reading of Irresistable and When the Sun
2. My early work on these machines and further development referring to a wide number of poems leading to the establishing of 2-3 different machines
5. Conclusions: implications and also failings
The present and former presents are not… like two successive instants on the line of time; rather, the present one necessarily contains an extra dimension in which it represents the former and also represents itself. The present present is treated not as the future object of a memory but as that which reflects itself at the same time as it forms the memory of the former present… / the active synthesis of memory may be regarded a the principle of representation under this double aspect: reproduction of the former present and reflection of the present present… / The passive synthesis of habit constituted time as a contraction of instants with respect to a present, but the active synthesis of memory constitutes it as the embedding of presents themselves. (Deleuze, Difference 80-1).
· in fact then the present present is the future anterior, always already, nachtraglichkiet structure of deconstruction. It serves to embed the repetition into the representation of “repetition” to the mind without which repetition would not exist. He goes on to determine this as “destiny”:
Presents succeed, encroaching upon one another. Nevertheless, however strong the incoherence or possible opposition between successive presents, we have the impression that each of them plays out ‘the same life’ at different levels. This is what we call destiny. Destiny never consists in step-by-step deterministic relations between presents which succeed one another according to the order of a represented time. Rather, it implies between successive presents non-localisable connections, actions at a distance, systems of replay, resonance and echoes, objective chances, signs, signals and roles which transcend spatial locations and temporal successions. (Deleuze, Difference 83).
· This overall destiny, which one might call structure and theme in poetry, is fake in that it did not exists in advance of the repetition. Instead it is a result of it stemming from the internal rdrd structure. One might say that poems make their own destiny and that poetry is the ability to maximise destiny. This relates poetry to its origins in magic which, as Levi-Strauss notes, is a system of total determination. However, in the “new sentence” idea of Silliman and within my own theories of poetry the above is not true. Destiny comes from contiguity!
Repetition is a condition of action before it is a concept of reflection. (Deleuze, Difference 90).
· he then starts to consider the three-stage nature of repetition: “the before, the caesura and the after” (Deleuze, Difference 92) and considerations of time which do not really concern me here…
past, present and future are revealed as Repetition, but in very different modes. The present is the repeater, the past is repetition itself, but the future is that which is repeated… the secret of repetition as a whole lies in that which is repeated, in that which is twice signified (Deleuze, Difference 94).
· some nice phrasing especially the idea of twice signified. He then goes on to consider this temporal aspect in relation to Freudian Nachtraglichkeit and the two presents (child and adult) and how the childhood scene can be the model for the adult scene if it can only be accessed in adulthood retrospectively. He concludes that there is no precedence here, rather they relate in another way by virtue of a 3rd object…
while it may seem that the two presents are successive, at a variable distance apart in the series of reals, in fact they form, rather, two real series which coexist in relation to a virtual object of another kind, one which constantly circulates and is displaced in them… / Repetition is constituted not from one present to another, but between the two coexistent series that these presents form in function of the virtual object (object = x) (Deleuze, Difference 105-6).
· This 3rd, virtual object, is the object that puts into play repetition and masking as it allows neither the “original” event nor the masked one to take precedent…
We do not repeat because we repress, we repress because we repeat. Moreover—which amounts to the same thing—we do not disguise because we repress, we repress because we disguise, and we disguise by virtue of the determinant centre of repetition. Repetition is no more secondary in relation to a supposed ultimate or originary fixed term than disguise is secondary in relation to repetition. For if the two presents, the former and the present one, form two series which coexist in the function of the virtual object which is displaced in them and in relation to itself, neither of these two series can any longer be designated as the original or the derived. They put a variety of terms and subjects into play in a complex intersubjectivity in which each subject owes its role and function in the series to the timeless position that it occupies in relation to the virtual object (Deleuze, Difference 105).
He speculates as to whether the virtual object could be the phallus and concludes it could be if the phallus were divested of all arche or originary pretensions. What it has on common with the phallus is that it is always encountered as missing from its place, but its real role is to serve as a background or frame for repetition, a context which comes about after the repetition as the precondition for repetition. He goes on to call “The symbolic organ of repetition, the phallus…” (Deleuze, Difference 106), explaining that the phallus is not a masking or the hidden thing but, if you will, the context for such displacement… “the / displacement of the virtual object which causes the series to develop” (Deleuze, Difference 106-7). The conclusion being that the unconscious is both differential and iterative and that repetition is a process of displacement and disguise which functions as the ground of the pleasure principle. This is paving the way for Anti-Oedipus of course. These issues are then reissued as “The repetition-binding, the repetition-stain, the repetition-eraser” (Deleuze, Difference 114).
· The RB is the present, the RS the past which informs the present, and the RE is absence of ground which we are pushed into by the ground itself.
[Repetition concerns] excessive systems which link different with different, the multiple with the multiple… / only that which is alike differs; and only differences are alike. (Deleuze, Difference 115-6).
· at this stage he is really trying to make repetition interesting as a facet of difference and the differenciator (that which comes later to relate original difference to original difference as precondition to repetition). This is not really my concern as I want to deal with repetition pure and simple.
A system must be constituted on the basis of two or more series, each series being defined by the differences between the terms which compose it. If we suppose that the series communicate under the impulse of a force of some kind, then it is apparent that this communication relates differences to other differences, constituting differences between differences within the system. These second-degree differences play the role of the ‘differenciator’—in other words, the relate the first-degree differences to one another. This state of affairs is adequately expressed by certain physical concepts: coupling between heterogeneous systems, from which is derived and internal resonance within the system, and from which is turn is derived a forced movement the amplitude of which exceeds that of the basic series themselves. The nature of these elements whose value is determined at once both by their difference and in the series to which they belong, and by the difference of their difference from one series to another, can be determined: these are intensities, the peculiarity of intensities being to be constituted by a difference which itself refers to other differences (E-E’ where E refers to e-e’ and e to e-e’ …). The intensive character of the systems considered should not prejudice their being characterized as mechanical, physical, / biological, psychic, social, aesthetic or philosophical, etc. (Deleuze, Difference 117-8).
· the model for this will be picked up by Antioedipus as well but basically it is an ever extending/ascending/descending series of series which relate because the term of one series is formed from another series which acts as the mode of difference within the system, itself subject to the same logic. Thus we have:
R D R D R D R D
R D R D R D R D
R D R D R D R D
R D R D R D R D etc.
· the system is without end with one series forming the basis of the differenciator for the next series. In Antioedipus the system is, in fact, further complicated as he uses cellular metaphors as new models for various systems of splitting, grafting and the like to create an organic circuit of desiring-production.
Once communication between heterogeneous series is established, all sorts of consequences follow within the system. Something ‘passes’ between the borders, events explode, phenomena flash, like thunder and lightning. Spatio-temporal dynamisms fill the system, expressing simultaneously the resonance of the coupled series and the amplitude of the forced movement which exceeds them (Deleuze, Difference 118).
· again the similarity with the differend and postmodern ethics is uncanny here, and what is exhilarating is how he is able to take it down to the very smallest feature. This is the key to the meaning behind Koch’s use of repetition in terms of expression. Again, what I want to suggest is an avant-garde tendency in his repetition which undermines expression and representation. It is also obvious here that he is using this complex differential system to establish repetition and difference as transgressive, literally crossing borders if you will. Now he goes on to the final point, the idea of the dark precursor which are the pre-pathways that come off of vertices which attract the paths of lightning.
When we speak of communication between heterogeneous systems, of coupling and resonance, does this not imply a minimum of resemblance between the series, and an identity in the agent which brings about the communication? Would not ‘too much’ difference between the series render any such operation impossible? Are we not condemned to rediscover a privileged point at which difference can be understood only by virtue of a resemblance between the things which differ and the identity of a third party? Here we must pay the greatest attention to the respective roles of difference, resemblance and identity. To begin with, what is this agent, this force which ensures communication? Thunderbolts explode between different intensities, but they are preceded by an invisible, imperceptible dark precursor, which determines their path in advance but in reverse, as though intagliated. Likewise, every system contains its dark precursor which ensures the communication of peripheral series… / Given two heterogeneous series, two series of differences, the precursor plays the part of the differenciator of these differences. In this manner, by virtue of its own power, it puts them into immediate relation to one another: it is the in-itself of difference or the ‘differently different’—in other words, difference in the second degree, the self-different which relates different to different itself. Because the path it traces is invisible and becomes visible /only in reverse, to the extent that it is travelled over and covered by the phenomena it induces within the system, it has no place other than that from which it is ‘missing’, no identity other than that which it lacks: it is precisely the object = x, the one which is ‘lacking in its place’ as it lacks its own identity (Deleuze, Difference 119-20).
· the issues of the precursor which occupies pp.96-128 is too involved for the Koch essay and I need to return to it properly later when I come to write again on the precursor. Certainly the precursor will form a part of my new poetics, the background against which each mark/remark is made, that comes about later as the differenciator which allows for rdrdrd to come about. In terms of Koch, the third term or phallus is the authority of the repetition which is always missing. Within New York School aesthetics this is their third radical challenge, the nature of their precursor.
We call this dark precursor, this difference in itself or difference in the second degree which relates heterogeneous systems and even completely disparate things, the disparate. In each case, the space in which it is displaced and its process of disguise determine a relative size if the differences brought into relation. (Deleuze, Difference 120).
· sounds uncannily like my own synthetic deconstruction, the other important aspect is that the amount of displacement can be tiny or large so it runs through the whole system. The precursor travels the exact difference of the first order difference as the precondition of difference. It allows difference to be seen as such at a later date which allows repetition to be seen as such.
In the work of Raymond Roussel, we find verbal series: the role of precursor is filled by a homonym or quasi-homonym (billard-pillard)… the homonym appears here not as the nominal identity of a signifier but as the differenciator of distinct signifieds which then produces an effect of resemblance between the signifieds along with an effect of identity in the signifier (Deleuze, Difference 121).
· the dark precursors job is non-significant, it does not signify but allows signification to occur suggesting that, in fact, signification is not a natural thing but something which has to be prepared for in some detail by this third term. This definition of the precursor matches exactly my own! He goes on…
it is not by the poverty of its vocabulary that language invents the form in which is plays the role of dark precursor, but by its excess, by its most positive syntactic and semantic power. In playing this role it differenciates the differences between the different things spoken of, relating these immediately to one another in series which it causes to resonate. For the same reason, as we have seen, the repetition of words cannot be explained negatively, cannot be presented as a bare repetition without difference (Deleuze, Difference 121).
the linguistic precursor belongs to a kind of metalanguage and can be incarnated only within a word devoid of sense from the point of view of the series of first-degree verbal representations. It is the refrain. This double status of esoteric words, which state their own sense but do son only by representing it and themselves as nonsense, clearly expresses the perpetual displacement of sense and its disguise among the series. In consequence, esoteric words are properly linguistic cases of the object = x, while the object = x structures psychic experience like a language on condition that the perpetual, invisible and silent displacement of linguistic sense is taken into account. In a sense, everything speaks and has sense, on condition that speech is also that which does not speak—or rather, speech is the sense which does not speak in speech (Deleuze, Difference 123).
· these are all issues relating to wider concerns of repetition and the avant-garde, it seems unlikely that they will fit into the Koch piece.
· he concludes the process as follows: each series tells a story, the stories are divergent in that they never meet, but each story implicates the other, all series exists simultaneously and contemporaneously, each series is successive and so the second resembles the first, but they are contained in an overall fabric, this fabric is the object = x, this is the precursor which runs through them, “the precursor which established communication between them or the forced movement which points beyond them: the differenciator always makes them co-exist” (Deleuze, Difference 124). This he finally ties into the concept of the eternal return:
The eternal return does not cause the same and the similar to return, but is itself derived from a world of pure difference. Each series returns, not only in the others which imply it, but for itself, since it is not implied by the others without being in turn filly restored as that which implies them. The eternal return has no other sense but this: the absence of any assignable origin—in other words, the assignation of difference as the origin, which then relates different to different in order to make it (or them) return as such (Deleuze, Difference 125).
· thus the 3 part system of repetition is a machine that has always been up and running and always will be, just as poetry is if you will