Introduction to a proposed collection of essays: Seeking to legitimate expressivity in a climate enamored of constructivist and conceptual poetics, I turn to modern and contemporary forms of baroque production in poetry and the visual arts. I examine a variety of intercultural texts, texts that are a mélange of European, African, indigenous and colonial sources. Some are multilingual hybrids. Some have been described as neo-baroque or neo-barroco. Some resist the siren song of global modernism and speak for a people whose identity has been repressed and dismissed as only marginal. Leading figures for my purposes are Nicolás Guillén, José Lezama Lima, and Aimé Césaire. Some of these texts bear traces of surrealism. Other texts that I engage are associated with continental North America: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Langston Hughes. Each of these North American authors is multilingual. Each chose a life that engaged multiple cultures and venues. Hughes was both a world traveler and resident of Harlem. The polyphonic Pound notoriously chose exile in Italy, after periods of residency in England and France. Williams, whose first language was Spanish, worked as a pediatric doctor serving the mixed-race poor of Paterson. The work of these North American authors is representative of a modernist aesthetic that is both prior to and a source for the neo-barroco. The over-arching thesis of these studies is that an address to immanence will elucidate the expressivity that animates both modern and contemporary poetry. A secondary unifying purpose is that the Latin American and Caribbean poets that I engage require reading by North Americans who wish to keep abreast of post-colonial and contemporary world poetics. An emergent intercultural poetics will necessarily draw on these sources.
My work as a poet and scholar, like that of many of my peers, is intercultural. I pursue a way of reading in which translation is central. Among the titles that I produced as editor of O.ARS was a volume called Translations: Experiments in Reading. I might argue, reductively, that expressivity is immanent to translation. The translator will always and necessarily color the translation with hints of subjectivity. Similarly the reader of conceptual texts will envisage scenarios that yield some degree of subjective satisfaction. The distance between the uncertainties generated by neo-baroque productions and post-language or post-avant work may be less prominent than some readers assume.
My first love is prosody; musical elements and sonic vistas seduce me. Reading aloud or silently, interiorized voicing follows the curve of the line. Many of the observations that populate my essays derive from a close reading of selected texts. In particular, the neo-barroco offers intricate models of multi-layered and sinuous engagement, perception, and performance. Performance, bearing a relation to but not imitative of traditional cadences, generates a poetry, that in its embrace of orality, eschews established measures that have the force of dictating or constraining the shape of the work, imposing meter or rhyme scheme. At the same time it must be recognized that rigorous formulae derived from conceptual principles can also force language to pour itself into predetermined channels or follow randomly generated rules. At this juncture I am thinking of Oulipo and the works of Jackson Mac Low or my translation of the Old English “Seafarer.”
From a certain angle, “modern” and “baroque” are cognate terms. Think of Galileo, the instrument maker whose telescope extended the range of human perception and whose father was famous for his Baroque violins. Galileo was first among those to reduce the world to experimentally verified computations. The information economy began with his calculations. Unlike revivals of tribal arts designed to awaken alienated emotions, as may be found in Picasso’s use of African materials, the neo-barroco offers intricate models of multi-layered and sinuous engagement, perception and performance. Developments in response to modernism or to modernity itself (as opposed to the theory) and coeval with both modernity’s economic benefits and its alienating effects are prior to and enabling of the poetry that I have chosen to write about.
Here I offer a purely preliminary but theoretical construct. My purpose is to redeem the word “immanent” for use in a poetics of inquiry. Imagine that each known language exists on a plane of transcendent immediacy: French, Spanish, English, Mandarin, etc. These virtual constructs have empirical reflections subject to change. Virtual or immanent planes are independent of such empirical reflections. The reflections themselves are clouds with energies and integrities derived from physical processes unique to their plane of actualization, if only the weather. To posit planetary cooling would not take us too far afield. It is to superpose another layer. To illustrate my explication of the distinction between immanent and empirical: readers of any particular written language are able to recognize a pure virtuality, which is wholly independent of normative practice. Grammar and phonology are immanent to speech or speaking, just as prosody is immanent to enunciation. Fernand de Saussure made a similar distinction between langue and parole. Further, in the model that I propose, as the physically embodied planes identified with each language come into contact with one another, sliding, rupture, penetration, and folding occur. These inter-lingual or trans-lingual contact zones are the sites of language transformation and the sites of poetry production. They are also sites of untranslatability. Emily Apter in Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability explores the role of the untranslatable in the history of philosophy. She writes, Alain Badiou’s “elevation of univocity over equivocation, of idea over language, of transparency over opacity, of transmission over hermeneutics, results in the subordination of translation to philosophy.” An encrypted poetics: language comes before translation, and translation enables language. The matter is beyond explanation.
As a consequence, then, of having been captivated by inevitable aporias of untranslatability, I read with attention to multilingual connotations, negotiating expressions that mean differently in different languages, so-called “false friends.” Examples: Spanish, “vigilante” [watcher] means something different from English “vigilante.” Mistranslations have an inspirational value to the poet who stumbles upon false etymologies, constructing realms or reams or Rheims of cathedrals on shaky linguistic ground. Robert Duncan and Ronald Johnson did this. More in keeping with my theme are passages in which multilingual connotations, drawing from a variety of cultural realms, convey something like a translucent sheen that is to some degree animate and felt as a breath within the lines of a poem. In Jay Wright’s The Presentable Art of Reading Absence, I am compelled by its different languages and levels of allusion.
can the rekindled silence
one and one,
and over again,
to reach the limits of my craft,
the ambiguous shape of a fugitive force.
a Kanaga mask (51).
Asanti vocabulary merges with the Yoruba of Cuban Santería and the cante jondo of Federico Garcia Lorca,
¡O ritmo de semillas secas!
That would stir the salutary
orientation of a crystal rug,
a kente cloth and a dancing kilt. (55)
The first line immediately above is from Lorca’s “Son de negros en Cuba.” Wright has lived in the various lands from which he has borrowed the languages of the poem, Ghana, Germany and Scotland, as well as his native New Mexico. His is an American Baroque. At the limits of his craft he seeks absence. He walks away. The “fugitive force” to which he refers in the first selection above, is a plane of immanence, a plane of melancholy and loss. His objective is to cross from the here and now of meditation and pilgrimage into silence.
If immanence is independent of empirical subjects, then "composition” is “performance” (a processural actualization not adhering to a predetermined paradigm). One is left at the threshold of insubstantial realms howsoever transcendence may be postulated. In the case of poetry, the "language" employed has both a virtual and an expressivist dimension. To elaborate further: I point to “Immanent Occasions,” a blog where I post thoughts on “immanence” like those that I am sharing now. Suddenly it appears that the truly problematic term in the phrase “immanent occasions” may be “occasions,” not “immanent.” I have so far already been flirting with a concept of immanence derived from the work of Giles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Let me clarify that before turning to “occasions.”
In a brief essay on immanence Deleuze writes, “The transcendent is not the transcendental. Were it not for consciousness, the transcendental field would be defined as a pure plane of immanence.” The distinction between “transcendental” and “transcendent” needs to be dwelt upon. Transcendental entities be they “souls,” “gods” or mathematical expressions, clutter the mind with multiple forms of imputed consciousness, useful perhaps to a sophist. For empirical purposes, I prefer Nathaniel Mackey’s gnosticism. In Anuncio’s Last Love Song, Mackey refers to “paper” as “wood’s pressed immanence.” A plane of immanence is always virtual, Deleuze writes, and then he continues, “Absolute immanence is in itself; it is not in something, or to something: it does not depend on an object or belong to a subject.” Immanence has a life and its life is found not in moments that happen to collide or build upon one another. It exists between moments and “offers the immensity of an empty space where one sees the event yet to come and already happened, in the absolute of an immediate consciousness” (29). “Paper” in Mackey’s poem is subsequent to virtual rings that circle like halos and are likened to pearls, a gnostic image for the soul. His lines require context:
Self’s lyric digest. Circling round our
heads went rings of paper, wood’s pressed
immanence, pearls we cut our teeth on,
string broken, let’s go …
Comments on the unwinding of Mackey’s baroque syntax, notes sustained for many bars on a singular horn, further implicates immanence as transcendent to the page, an extended modality beyond reading’s suggestions.
“Occasions,” as I employ the term in the title of my blog, exist between “moments” of perception. Here are glimpses of virtualities that are not time-bound. In that usage of “occasions,” I intend to indicate a plane of consistency populated by multiple moments of perception. Another source for this stance is Robert Creeley who writes of “glimmers” on the edge of consciousness. The immanent plane, is decidedly only one of many plateaus, in this case a liminal presence, existing as an “in-between,” like the in-between that exists when a layer of paint forms a virtual machine with a layer of canvas, one of Deleuze’s many machinic assemblages. The relation between the two layers: the painting and the canvas, is not one of dependency or contact, but a perception of a transcendent value that is neither subject to nor dependent on the material presence of either layer. The distributed force produces a singularity.
When my daughter was five she had a long-distance telephone conversation with an eight-year-old Inupiaq girl who lived then in Point Hope Alaska. The subject, Disneyland. Their conversation gave glimpses of a plane of immanence, manifested as giggles and producing a sensation of uncontaminated joy. Apparently the immanent does not depend on pragmatic or empirical considerations. How does one get to Disneyland? Their bliss was such a singularity as understood by Deleuze. A singularity is a virtual construct that may be contrasted with individuation or the coming into self-understanding of an individual. A singularity has transcendent properties, overarching qualities that form a plane of consistency, unlinked or de-linked from historical vectors.
Deleuze concludes his meditation on immanence with this analogy: as is the case with small children, immanence is “pure power and even bliss” (30). It is distinct from individuation, which is a result of empirical experience. It exists only in those moments when the plane of immanence opens upon and is the equivalent of a transcendental field. A virtual field of this order is neither momentary as an epiphany nor eternal. It is and is separate or independent from consciousness. The understanding presented here allows a de-individualized display of affect and that display is neither prior to nor after language.
Displays of affect often reside in the music of intercultural texts, where the resources of multiple languages and their varied imaginaries are in play, even when most incommensurable. The virtual may lie in the time signature while the empirical is a matter of performance. Other transformations of an intercultural order follow upon contact between different peoples, seeding the inception of new or emergent subjectivities. Nations or nationalities too, after the injustice of slavery, for instance, can be said to produce emergent subjectivities that can be likened to intercultural singularities. Identities such as American, Cuban, or Ojibway have intercultural or translingual characteristics due to the varieties of ways in which different people interact with one another and influence one another. The immanent does not depend on pragmatic or empirical factors. A perception of emergent subjectivity constitutes what is for Deleuze a singularity.
A singularity is a virtual construct that may be contrasted with individuation or the coming into self-understanding of an individual. A singularity has immanent properties, overarching qualities that form a plane of consistency, unlinked or de-linked from historical vectors. A community possessing a mindfulness composed of identifiable characteristics is such a singularity. Mestizo or criollo (creole) might indicate broad characteristics applicable to mixed race communities. Cubanidad is a more narrowly distinctive quality associated with an identifiable population. Such singularities, almost instinctive in their force, can form a cross-weave with other singularities or planes of immanence. There are mestizo populations of an African European origin who are Cubans. And there are also criollo populations that owe their origins to intercultural marriages but whose African elements have been suppressed as a result of adapting to largely European values. These divisions do not necessarily align with skin color. An economic or class-based association is likely to be more determinative than skin color in such circumstances. I refer here to the Caribbean, not continental North America, where racism seems still to be virulent. For North American tourists, the intercultural kaleidoscope of differently mixed peoples in the Caribbean is only a footnote to an island vacation. The work of Nicholás Guillén and that of José Lezama Lima is indicative of very different singularities. Each poet is associated with different constructs of creolité in which the weight of Africanicity varies. In the case of Williams an undefinable creole singularity haunts his writing and is sometimes glimpsed as embodied grotesqueries. In the course of these studies I use “subjectivity” to denominate the empirical or performative aspect that is tangent to or parallel with the Deleuzian concept of singularity. This notion of vectors along which such forces travel is of course, Spinozistic. There’s no god but the good.
The works under discussion in these essays enact or perform subjectivity differently. I understand “subjectivity” as Immanuel Kant and Jean-François Lyotard have, as the site of aesthetic judgments, not a discursive, argumentative or ego-involved intelligence. Deleuze’s concept of folded forms includes an analysis of the direction and duration of flow. In baroque painting light becomes fluid. Watery and mirrored surfaces refract and bend perception. The transformative nature of perception is central to my reading of both modernist and postmodernist work from the Americas. The neo-baroque represents a historical shift valuing music over concept, irony over syllogism.
My emphasis on expressivity is a supplement to the main stream of modernist studies where a history of image-based innovations yields to a constructivist impulse, designed to free the work of the artist’s fingerprints. The porcelain surface of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain is emblematic. James Joyce, in his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, at least presents the creator as paring his fingernails. Irony is the modernist mode of expression par excellence. Deadpan is valued over affect. That history, shunning expressivist aesthetics, moves from a series of avant-garde innovations (Pound or Picasso) through various forms of constructivism to a language-centered or a post-avant aesthetic that identifies itself as purely conceptual. The centrality of poetic methods that descend from the modernist works of Pound and Williams is in any case self-evident but requires interrogation, especially in relation to expressivist values that exist in critical tension with the pure products of the imagination. What role has prosody played in this history? My translations of marginally recognized modernists such as Yvan Goll or Blaise Cendrars seeks to fold their collage-based and surrealist works within the larger mantel of expressivity.
Machines made out of words, reputedly, do not have souls. For Deleuze and Guattari, machinic couplings or assemblages are conduits for lines of force, as if inhabited. In my reading machines allow blurred or even etherealized perceptions of immanent constructs. Modernism as an identifiable style of composition began with an embrace of futuristic machines. For Wyndham Lewis, the soul is an elaborate artifice, “Deadness is the first condition of art,” he wrote in Time and the Western Man. On the hook of a similar enthusiasm, Williams in his introduction to The Wedge, proclaimed that poems are machines made of words. Can such assertions find a balancing point, or are they purely opposed to expressivity? Gertrude Stein wrote that souls do not interest him, meaning Picasso. Dada in its anti-art posture also, often builds abstract machines, Tzara and Picabia, especially. Sex machines. Alternative machines with diagrammatic parts. Machines populate the expressionistic landscape of Metropolis, factory labor producing drones even as for entertainment purposes a robotic Maria emerges from the oyster shell, sporting a lunar tiara. Do not Jean Tinguely’s animate machines have souls?
“Modernization,” using the term to signify an unavoidable trope and history, has an alienating relation to expressivity and a troubling history with respect to labor, the work force often being an intercultural as well as an exploited mass. “Modernism” has been nominally understood in relation to worthy goals for productivity, efficiency and scale, and therefore envied in newly established postcolonial societies. Poets and anthropologists of the Caribbean have also been compelled to address a history of production associated with slavery. In an account that I find corrosive, the cane factory for Fernando Ortiz is a site of purification as the molasses produced by black people in the fields is transformed into a purely white, crystalline sugar, providing a model for race and the emergence of mixed race culture where black and white, in their mutually shared cubanidad worked to the same economic end. More starkly, in keeping with the reality of economic slavery, a father in a surreptitiously stolen balloon flies over a cane field in Haiti and jumps from the basket to his death while his son on the ground below channels Boukman hypnotically. Edwige Dantecat’s story “A Wall of Fire Rising” (cited here from Krick? Krack!) captures the despair of postcolonial economic slavery, citing the bewilderment of contemporary surviving children who mouth incomprehensible mantras promising freedom.
War machines offer differently inflected intercultural perspectives. Dada willingly constructed alternative machines as it engaged in political and antiwar protest. During the 1920s, works by El Lissitsky and Malevich, promoting art for the sake of revolution in a newly industrializing Russia, hung alongside socially disruptive works like those of Kurt Schwitters or Hannah Hoch, Hoch’s collages especially illustrating transformative, multicultural affinities. Following such endearing chaos, as Dada provides, with its performative energies of a deeply expressivist order, it remained to Surrealism to redeem subjective affinities in the realm of poetry, freeing rather than further erasing affect. The influence of surrealism on the art of both Aimé Césaire and José Lezama Lima testifies, in each case very differently, to expressivist urgencies that open new language channels and possibilities of “making it new.” The archaic and the political are two sides of a coin, not only for Pound, who used the phrase in his Cantos but also for modern and contemporary poets in search of coherence, howsoever impossible of attainment that goal may be.
Machines are not themselves necessarily mechanical They are constructs that allow different modes of conjunction or continuity between parts of different orders. My polarities of the expressivist and the constructivist may themselves be only a word machine, generating an oscillating force field, designed to bring forward a new angle of vision. An expressivist work, engaged as it is with subjectivity, often displays the most energetic aspects of baroque forms, but expressivism doesn’t rule out the practices of direct statement. Langston Hughes, with his fluency in several languages, is perhaps the most intercultural North American poet of his time, having a wide influence in Latin America because of the many translations of his work into Spanish. The work of Jay Wright has a similar intercultural balance and displays more baroque properties than does Hughes’s. His work most nearly incorporates the range of inquiry that I pursue in this collection.
In their individual ways, Williams and Hughes contributed to the development of a “new world poetics,” a sadly unacknowledged brotherhood. Wiiliams’s poetics is profoundly intercultural, in Williams’s case incorporating his Caribbean heritage and speaking to projects like his In the American Grain, a study that draws on Spanish and French, as well as English sources. His incorporation of that material into his poetry and his translations from Spanish speak to compositional practices that are intercultural. Lyrics like “Danse Russe” respond with imaginal exuberance to grotesque reflections in a mirror. There are dwarfs and grotesqueries in Paterson similar to those that populate the Spanish Baroque. Hughes’s autobiography too is multicultural beginning with long residences in Mexico as a young man, followed by travels as a sailor and later as a poet invited to visit Russia and then as reporter for the Baltimore African American in Spain. As a result of visits to Cuba and Spain he took a particular lifelong interest in the works of Guillén and Jacques Roumain. He translated poems and plays by Federico Garcia Lorca, a figure of deep interest to Williams also.
Nonetheless, the proposed volume is not a survey of literary history. It is a collection of essays. Often I incorporate sideways leaps into art history. Henri Matisse, Wilfredo Lam, Francis Bacon, Robert Rauschenberg, and Ana Mendieta, for instance. Each uniquely registers the expressivist values that are central to my thought. I am especially responsive to transcultural and expressivist poetics on several fronts. I embrace the poetics of a polyphonic Pound, as well as the tangled webs of syntax found in the poets of the Latin American neo-barroco: Eduardo Milan, José Kozer, and Roberto Echavarren.
 In his essay, “Migratory Meaning,” Ron Silliman employs’ Charles Fillmore’s meta-syntactical concept of envisagement in order to discuss the different degrees o coherence and disjuncture with which a reader responds to “shifts” in the possible meaning of a passage. He quotes Fillmore’s definition of envisagement, “some coherent ‘image’ or understanding of the state of affairs that exist in the set of possible worlds compatible with the language of the text” The New Sentence (NY: Roof, 1987): 112-120.
 The Cranberry Island Series (Loveland OH: Dos Madres, 2012): 24-25.
 Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability (London and Brooklyn: Verso, 2013): 23.
 Duncan found poetic resources in relating ‘verse’ to “ploughing,” tracing the etymology of each word back to Greek forms. “It is a fanciful etymology, “verse” shares a root with “ploughing.” To demonstrate that, once words cease to be conventional, customary of taken for granted in their meanings, all things are set into motion, in the figure of ploughing, we see that prose and verse are two necessary movements in the one operation of writing. That here what we call ploughing of the field we also call poetry or our own operations in language. Writing that knows in every phase what it is doing. Forward and back, prose and verse, the shuttle flies in the loom.” The H. D. Book, ed. Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman (Berkeley: U Cal 2011): 449-450. I hear such etymologies at play in these lines from Johnson’s “Ark 30,” “—Elysian elision,” ARK (Chicago: Flood Editions, 2013):85.
 Champagne and London: Dalkey Archive Press, 2008.
 Following her recent death, I turned to the work of C. D. Wright, and found these sentences or paragraphs, where it would seem that the post-human in its minute actions of sampling and engineering dna-like substances exposes briefly what Giles Deleuze calls a plane of pure immanence (see below), “there’s a poet in the desert who tweezes the glittering particulars of the species from mounds of dead cells and arranges them along the hairline fractures of our souls / (if there are such immanences” Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil (Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon, 2005): 25.
 Pure Immanence: Essays on a Life, Tr. Anne Boyman (NY: Zone, 2012): 26. A sub-textual meditation on “immanence” will be found in the notes to this introduction.
 Durham NC: A Three Count Pour Chapbook, 2013.
 The concept of a “singularity” is central to the “Objectivist” strand of North American poetry, for instance, that of George Oppen, who seems to have posited a relationship between “singularity” and “numerousness” that may be similar to the immanent and empirical planes of Deleuze’s thought. Both Lyn Hejinian herself and Peter Nichols in comments on Hejinian’s work argue that the concept of “humanity” is something both confirmed and lost in a momentary glimmer associated with “the shipwreck” of the singular. Hejinian holds that “this is not a poetry of single moments, however—Oppen’s singularities may be impenetrable but they are not transcendent” qtd. Nichols, “Numerousness and its Discontents: George Oppen and Lyn Hejinian” Aerial (10): 139. Wright’s The Presentable Art of Reading Absence opens and closes with a use of the term “singularity” that is cognate with Deleuze’s use. Deleuze’s mapping of plateaus untangles a confused terminology and puts “immanence” to serviceable work.
 The concept of a “singularity” is central to the “Objectivist” strand of North American poetry, for instance, that of George Oppen, who seems to have posited a relationship between “singularity” and “numerousness” that may be similar to the transcendental and empirical planes of Deleuze’s thought. Both Lyn Hejinian and Peter Nichols in comments on Hejinian’s work argue that the concept of “humanity” is something both confirmed and lost in a momentary glimmer associated with “the shipwreck” of the singular. Hejinian holds that “this is not a poetry of single moments, however—Oppen’s singularities may be impenetrable but they are not transcendent” qtd. Nichols, “Numerousness and its Discontents: George Oppen and Lyn Hejinian” Aerial (10): 139. Wright’s The presentable Art of Reading Absence opens and closes with a use of the term “singularity” that is cognate with Deleuze’s use. Deleuze’s mapping of plateaus untangles a confused terminology and puts “transcendental” to serviceable work.
 At the time of this writing, Donald Trump, with his anti-immigrant harangue and Islamophobia, has ripped the mask off the face of color-blind tolerance.
 Charles Altieri makes a similar use of the term “expressivist.” His use adumbrates my use of forclusion in these pages. “… an aesthetic approach to values requires an expressivist framework for making our fundamental assumptions. This case depends on Kant for its specific framing of the aesthetic because Kant is still our best exemplar for first specifying the limitations of reason and then transforming that negative case into a psychology that opens new ways of thinking about values,” “Towards an Expressivist Theory of the affects,” (Altieri Manuscripts, 2005): 15, http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~altieri/manuscripts/affects_2005.pdf
 Barrett Watten in a discussion of Lyn Hejinian’s A Border Comedy makes the claim that “The person of the poem is not given but constructed” (Aerial/Edge 10 ): 252. This claim is consonant with the constructivist position Watten generally advocates in such books as Total Syntax. The logic here implies that there is no exterior position for either author or reader outside of the highly discontinuous unfolding of the poem, and yet the notion of such a position is immanent to the construction of the poem. The footnotes to this introduction so far are intended as a commentary on North American “language poetry,” in order to construct a plane adjacent or parallel to the intercultural poetics that I am elaborating, above the line, as it were.
 Time and the Western Man (Boston: Beacon: 1957): 279.
 Deleuze illustrates my sense of “constructivism,” when he discusses multiplicities in relation to the “field of Immanence.” He argues that “Setting out a plane of immanence, tracing out a field of immanence, is something that all the authors I have worked with have done (even Kant—by denouncing any transcendent application of the syntheses of the imagination …) Abstractions explain nothing, they themselves have to be explained: there are no such things as universals, there’s nothing transcendent, no Unity, subject (or object), Reason: there are only processes, sometimes unifying subjectifying, rationalizing, but just processes all the same. These processes are at work in concrete “multiplicities,” multiplicity is the real element in which things happen. It’s multiplicities that fill the field of immanence, rather as tribes fill the desert without it ceasing to be a desert.” “On Philosophy,” in Negotiations, 1972-1990 tr. Martin Joughin (NY: Columbia, 1990): 145-46. See also p. 3 above where Deleuze’s use of “transcendent” and “transcendental” are discussed.