Supplemental notes to a field poetics:
NOTE ONE (additional constructs of relevance to ethnopoetics): In his essay “Spatial Practices” from Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, James Clifford reconstructs the notion of “field” and “fieldwork” in anthropology. “Field” is customarily taken both to be the space of anthropological field work, as well as the word “field” being in several senses synonymous with the discipline of anthropology. Further, in anthropology, understood as a discipline, “fieldwork,” in some sense, is constitutive of the significant difference that distinguishes anthropology from near cognate disciplines: cultural studies, travel writing, poetics can each be thought of as fields with a laminar relation to anthropology (and to each other). Clifford writes, concerning an urban neighborhood (an example of a field or space of fieldwork), “an urban neighborhood, for example, may be laid out physically according to a street plan. But it is not a space until it is practiced by people’s active occupation, their movements through and around it. In this perspective, there is nothing given about a “field.” It must be worked, turned into a discrete social space, by embodied practices of interactive travel” (54). The notion of a filed as a set of “embodied practices” that underlies this passage seems cognate with that of an “embodied poetics” like that of Charles Olson. Poetically conceived, the field described here is one of “action” like Pound’s vortex whose shape is dependent on energy in-flow. That field can be mapped to a grid like the Cartesian grid of a neighborhood or it can be mapped to a Riemann calculus of non-Euclidian geometry. The anthropological field in this reading, like the poetic field functions as an energy construct, clued to the actions of embodied participants, and governed by perception.
Clifford’s thought seems fully available to the poet in this instance of metonymic concretion: “Today, in many locations, indigenous people, ethnographers, and tourists all wear T-shirts and shorts” (76). A collapse of boundaries and fields, suggesting that differently tuned perceptions is the key to a poetics.
NOTE TWO: Articulating some ambiguities that have affected the concept of the “paradigm,” in his The Signature of All things, Giorgio Agamben writes of how it is that a paradigm can be understood as both an “exemplar” and an “exemplum.” Concerning paradigms, “[it] is impossible to clearly separate an example’s paradigmatic character – it’s standing for all cases – from the fact that it is once case among others. As in a magnetic field, we are dealing not with extensive and scalable magnitudes but with vectorial intensities” (20). The paradigm seems to offer an embodied knowledge that for Agamben is to be distinguished from both inductive and deductive logic. The paradigm is always an instance of what it is. It is metonymic in function not metaphoric. Metaphor depends on a cross calculation between definable categories. The paradigm, like the field, is a law and an instance shaped by embodied energies.
See my "Field Poetics (a compleat history of de-individualizing practices)." EOAGH: A Journal of the Arts (Fall 2009).