Saturday, March 11, 2017

Current Goals

I am a poet who reads. I am now making the final edits of my manuscript Expressivity in Modern Poetry. Central to this volume is a poetics in which normative notions of the real are challenged and virtual or immanent planes of experience are inscribed. For these purposes language has use value. Sometimes that value lies solely in the domain of prosody, a musical scansion unique to each line and the energies that pass through the poem. The condition of a sustained and articulated flow is transcendent (not transcendental) and expressive of an immanence that enables the perception of form or rhythm, fleeting though it maybe, if only for a heartbeat. This is the poetics I learned from poets like Ezra Pound, Charles Olson and Robert Creeley. Though that learning be but a ghost of their physical presence or voice, it is a poetics that I continue to develop through the translation of poetry from several languages and from writing on the topics presented in these two volumes.

The first of three sections, is a discussion of the mechanics of modernism in the arts. Section two, Jarring Effects: Charles Olson and The Poetics of Incommensurable Realities, engages both the topic of interculturality and the topic of expressivity. My intention is to situate Olson in the forefront of American poets who have engaged multiple cultures, decentering the relationship between America and Europe, and folding into the poetic fabric, archaic, indigenous, and philosophical materials derived from the history of science, psychology, linguistics and metaphysics. My goal is to testify to the power of his method and its influence both on the work of his peers and on the work of a large number contemporary poets.

The third section, Baroque Threads, explores those forms of interculturality that are a distinctive aspect of both North American and Latin American poetry. The underpinnings of my explorations are necessarily multicultural. From this vantage point I address the poetry of  William Carlos Williams, and Langston Hughes, as well as that of Aimé Césaire, Nicolás Guillén, and Lezama Lima, as well as works by the visual artist Ana Mendieta, and contemporary poets associated with both language-centered writing and the neobarocco style. To engage this matter, throughout my studies of expressivity and interculturality, I have engaged the philosophy of Giles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

Paranoia is the engine that drives many texts, including much of my own writing. The very concept of “interculturality,” which I advance, depends on the possibility of a common substance spreading itself through various otherwise distinctive cultural forms. Substance or energy? A field sustained by the energy that generates the field. An energy to which I attach the term, “expressivity.” Coherent syntax fails me. My notion of the immanent relies on the certainty that desire and paranoia will inescapably reveal themselves. Jacques Lacan suggests that there is a moment in which the delusional structure of thought reveals itself. The subject becomes aware that it is thinking what it is thinking and the effect is alienating. “Up to what point can a discourse that seems personal bear, on the level of the signifier alone, a sufficient number of traces of impersonalization for the subject not to recognize it as his own?”[1] In this sense the goal of art and of the commentaries which I have undertaken is an impossible impersonalization in the name clarity and objectivity.

Donald Wellman

[1] I am indebted to Emily Apter for this discussion of paranoia and the mirror effect of self-alienation in the work of Jaques Lacan. Against World Literature (NY: Verso, 2013):78-81.

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