Archive for the ‘The Brouillon’ Category

QAnon as (post)modern art

The conspiratorial mindset likely goes back at least as far as the paranoid cosmologies of demiurge after fiddlingthe Gnostics two millennia ago. One of its latest iterations is Q or QAnon, a conspiracy theory that in its manner of dissemination, the style of its expression, and the wildness of its content makes it more impressive as an instance of modern art than a revelation of the secret order of the world it pretends to be.

Q appears first 28 October 2017 on /pol/, a sub-board of 4-chan, unwinding a thread titled “Calm Before the Storm” alluding, supposedly, to a remark made by President Trump early that month. The thread’s author claimed to have Q-level security clearance, having access to highly-classified information he then prolifically released in idiosyncratically worded “crumbs” that outlined an increasingly complex and bizarre vision of contemporary world politics, focused on Trump’s battle with the Deep State.

Why anyone would take the incoherent and madly speculative worldview Q lays out for the way things really are is as much a psychological or sociological as an epistemic question. However, if one brackets the question of the truth of Q’s revelations, then the trail of crumbs Q has left his public appear as a work of fiction or poetry that meets Rimbaud’s famous demand that “we must be absolutely modern” in remarkable ways.

Adopting a mask or persona, an identity other than the author’s, is an old literary device, intensified for various reasons in the Twentieth Century. Replacing one’s given name with one’s initials became a bit of a fashion among anglophone poets, T. S. Eliot or more radically H.D. being perhaps the best known. Postwar or postmodern poetry probing the implications of the death of the author have worked to compose works wherein the language rather than the author might be said to be what speaks. Q, too, in a not dissimilar manner, adopts a persona, a move with rhetorical affect. This pseudonym, evoking both James Bond and real-world security-clearance designations, lends Q an air of credibility that tellingly draws on both fictional and factual connotations. Moreover, his revelations are made to appear all the more true as their being shared in even such a piecemeal, obscure manner is made to seem to endanger his life. In the conspirosphere it’s an old trick of putative insiders to lend their leaks gravity by their being secret, to whatever degree.

Aside from developing and coining the expression “the death of the author” French critic Roland Barthes also articulated an important distinction, that between “work” and “text”, most fully explored in S/Z. All too simply put, the classical work stands over against the reader as a seamless, polished, finished monumental aesthetic object achieved by the labour of the genius of the author; the text, on the other hand demands as much engagement and work from the reader to complete the aesthetic object. Barthes describes a text as “a galaxy of signifiers” that need be “constellated” by the reader. (Admittedly, the distinction goes back to the Jena Romantics and is roundly deconstructed by Barthes himself in S/Z; nevertheless, it remains valuable in discussing modes of avant garde writing). In this light, QAnon’s conspiracy theory is a text, at both the micro and macro levels.

The theory is articulated by a thread spun of “crumbs”,  a series of short, telegraphic, sometimes encoded lines, that resemble, at least typographically, poems:

Q-Iran-Potus-in-Control

Some lines are complete sentences; others (e.g.,”Suicide watch” or “Bigger than people can imagine”) are more cryptic, demanding an active interpretation. Often, the reader is addressed in the imperative tense (“Ask yourself…”) or is posed questions (“Why is HRC in NZ?”) supposedly to push the reader in a particular, interpretive direction. The lines that make up each crumb are organized paratactically, demanding the reader supply the grammatical and logical  connections that would lend them even a linguistic coherence. These demands on the reader’s engagement reach a limit in encoded crumbs.

Q-Anon-Coded-message

Thus, at the lowest level of composition, the crumb and its components, the theory is very much a text, lent a significant amount of logic and significance by the reader.

At the next higher level of organization, that between crumbs, both consecutively and in general, the same demands are made. Just as each line of a crumb need be understood and each line connected with the other, the revelations of each crumb need be worked up into a coherent whole that is subject to subsequent modification by rereadings of already released crumbs and subject to revision with the release of each day’s new crumbs. The theory is thus in a state of constant flux, an instability exacerbated by the basic incoherence of the crumbs taken individually and as a totality, as well as the added complications added to the mix by contributions to the thread by its readers. The theory then is in a state of constant expansion and complication.

Another characteristic of avant garde art is its interest in exploring and exploiting the latest media technology makes available. In this light, QAnon is strikingly modern, availing itself of the possibilities of the digital medium:  being digital, appearing where it does to address a particular audience, being open-ended both in its own on-going composition and in its readers’ participation. In a more profound way, though, the theory depends on another dimension of our modernity born with digital culture, that of the demand for “transparency” and its consequences. As theorist Stanley Fish eloquently observes, the demand for equal access to data, free of the editorial manipulations of elites or other gatekeepers, produces precisely an informational galaxy of signifiers that are then open to an absolutely “democratic” or anarchic constellation by those with access to it. QAnon’s unwinding story is premissed on precisely this situation, made up as it is of just those bits of data that the thread’s readers in turn organize into a more or less coherent if incomplete picture.

QAnon, then, is a remarkable example of absolutely contemporary ((post)”modern”) art, in its adoption of a pseudonymous persona for rhetorical affect, in its inventing a new genre of linguistic expression (the crumb) that puts to use poetic and rhetorical devices, in its overall organization reminiscent of avant garde literature, and in its very medium and exploitation of various aesthetic possibilities of that medium, all premissed and arising from the media if not epistemic conditions of the age, the ascendancy of data over news and the increasing anarchy of world views and political polarization this shift enables and gives rise to.

Toronto Spring 2018 Getaway Takeaways

You can’t have the sameHeraclitus_in_Thomas_Stanley_History_of_Philosophy

Royal York Library Bar

All Canadian Beef Burger

 

twice. Bunner’s Bake Shop

vegan, gluten-free cinnamon buns

don’t travel well.

NaPoMo leftovers: Six Rimes

Standard eyes I shunlandscape-window-wall-color-artwork-painting-art-mural-tourist-attraction-characters-modern-art-trompe-l-il-gates-canyon-of-the-verdon-gorges-1019273

 

Dada data

Marxian Martian

 

‘incarnation’ read

aloud as ‘incantation’

 

Little Read Book

Ill-read Herring

What’s on my desk / what I’m working on

In a conversation I was lucky enough to have had this week with a long-standing, younger poet-friend, I was asked, half out of curiosity and half in challenge, just what contemporary poets I’m reading these days.

In answer, I append the bibliography below, which lists all the books on my desk that I’mIMG_2890 presently reading, either as part of larger projects (a talk on Peter Dale Scott and the post-secular I’m giving at the end of the month, or research into modes of poetic political engagement, or the ways poetry brings itself into relation with philosophy), or toward writing notices and reviews, or just for the sake of maintaining some small idea of what’s going on in contemporary world poetry.

Of course, which writers might be said to alive is more a matter of their art than their pulse.

 

What I’m reading

Angles, Jeffrey, trans. Poems of Hiromi Itō, Toshiko Hirata, & Takako Arai. Newtown:  Vagabond Press, 2016.

Armantrout, Rae. Versed. Middletown:  Weseleyan University Press. 2009.

Arsenev, Pavel. Spasm of Accommodation. Oakland:  Commune Editions, 2017.

Badiou, Alain. Being and Event, trans. Feltham, Oliver. London:  Continuum, 2007.

Philosophy for Militants, trans. Bosteels, Bruno. London:  Verso, 2015.

The Age of the Poets And Other Writings on Twentieth-Century Poetry and Prose, ed. and trans. Bosteels, Bruno. London:  Verso, 2014.

The Communist Hypothesis, trans. Macey and Corcoran. Bosteels, Bruno. London:  Verso, 2015.

Balestrini, Nanni. Blackout, trans. Valente, Peter. Oakland:  Commune Editions, 2017.

Berg, Aase. With Deer, trans. Johannes Göransson. Boston:  Black Ocean, 2008.

Blandiana, Ana. My Native Land A4, trans. Derrick and Patea. Hexham:  Bloodaxe Books, 2014.

Bohinc, Katy. Dear Alain. New York:  Tender Buttons Press, 2014.

Borzutsky, Daniel. The Book of Interfering Bodies. Callicoon:  Nightboat Books, 2011.

Bradford, David. A Star is Boring. Montreal:  Self-published, 2016.

Call Out. Toronto:  Knife Fork Books, 2017.

Clover, Joshua. Red Epic.  Oakland:  Commune Editions, 2015.

Collis, Stephen. Once in Blockadia. Vancouver:  Talonbooks, 2016.

Copi, Irving M. Symbolic Logic, Fifth ed. New York:  Macmillan, 1979.

Derrida, Jacques and Vattimo, Gianni, eds. Religion. Standford:  Standford University Press, 1998.

Dick, Mina Pam. Delinquent. New York:  Futurepoems Books, 2009.

Eckerlin, Jesse. Thrush. Windsor:  Biblioasis, 2016.

We Are Not The Bereaved. Victoria:  Frog Hollow Press, 2012.

Gewanter, David.  The Sleep of Reason. Chicago:  University Press of Chicago, 2003.

Gilbert, Sandra M. Kissing the Bread:  New and Selected Poems 1969-1999. New York:  Norton, 2000.

Gleize, Jean-Marie. Tarnac, A Preparatory Act, trans. Clover, et al. Chicago:  Kenning Editions, 2014.

Golynko, Dmitry. As It Turned Out, ed. Ostashevsky, Eugene, trans. Ostashevsky, et al. New York:  Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008.

Goyette, Sue ed. The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology 2017. Toronto:  House of Anansi Press, 2017.

Graham, Jorie. Fast. New York:  Harper Collins, 2017.

Habermas, Jürgen. Between Naturalism and Religion, trans. Ciaran Cronin. Cambridge:  Polity, 2008.

Postmetaphysical Thinking:  Philosophical Essays, trans. William Mark Hohengarten. Cambridge:  MIT, 1992.

Postmetaphysical Thinking II:  Essays and Replies, trans. Ciaran Cronin. Cambridge:  Polity, 2017.

—Religion and Rationality:  Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity, ed. Eduardo Mandieta. Cambridge:  MIT, 2002.

The Future of Human Nature. Cambridge:  Polity, 2003.

—et al. The Awareness of What is Missing. Cambridge:  Polity, 2010.

Hall, Phil. The Small Nouns Crying Faith. Toronto:  BookThug, 2013.

Hartnett, Stephen John. Incarceration Nation:  Investigative Prison Poems of Hope and Terror. Walnut Creek:  Altamira, 2003.

Hecht, Jamey. Limousine Midnight Blue. Los Angeles:  Red Hen Press, 2009.

Heighton, Steven. The Walking Comes Late. Toronto:  House of Anansi, 2016.

Heller, Michael. Dianoia. New York:  Nightboat Books, 2016.

Itō, Hiromi. Killing Kanoko:  Selected Poems of Hiromi Itō, trans. Angles, Jeffrey. Notre Dame:  Action Books, 2009.

Wild Grass on the Riverbank, trans. Angles, Jeffrey. Notre Dame:  Action Books, 2014.

Jäderlund, Ann. Which had once been a meadow, trans. Johannes Göransson. New York:  Black Square Press, 2017.

Johnson, Ronald. Ark. Chicago:  Flood Editions, 2013.

Jönson, Johan. Collobert Orbital, trans, Göransson, Johannes. Displaced Press, 2009.

Lachman, Gary. Lost Knowledge of the Imagination. Edinburgh:  Floris Books, 2017.

Lau, David. Still Dirty:  Poems 2009-15. Oakland:  Commune Editions, 2016.

Mackey, Nathaniel. School of Udhra. San Francisco:  City Lights Books, 1993.

McKinnon, Barry. I Wanted to Say Something. Red Deer:  Red Deer College Press, 1990.

Medvedev, Kirill. It’s No Good, trans. Gessen et al. New York:  n + 1 and Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012.

Mendieta and Vanantwerfepen, eds. The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere. New York:  Columbia University Press, 2011.

Mancini, Donato. SAME DIFF. Vancouver:  Talonbooks, 2017.

Moure, Erin. O Cadoiro. Toronto:  House of Anansi Press, 2007.

Neveau, Chantal. A Spectactular Influence, trans. Nathanaël. Toronto:  BookThug, 2015.

Parra, Nicanor. Antipoems:  How to look better & feel great, trans. Werner, Liz. New York:  New Directions Press, 2004.

Ed. Ray, David. From the Hungarian Revolution. Ithaca:  Cornell UP, 1966.

Rilke, Rainer Maria.  The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, ed. & trans. Mitchell, Stephen. New York:  Vintage, 1984.

Eds. Rothenberg and Bloomberg-Rissman. Barbaric Vast & Wild:  A Gathering of Outside and Subterranean Poetry from Origins to the Present. Boston:  Black Widow Press, 2015.

Sartre, Jean Paul. What is Literature? Trans. Frechtman, Bernard. New York:  Routledge, 2001.

Scott, Peter Dale. Coming to Jakarta. Toronto:  M&S, 1988.

Coming to Jakarta. New York, New Directions Press, 1988.

Listening to the Candle. Toronto:  M&S, 1992.

Listening to the Candle. New York, New Directions Press, 1992.

Minding the Darkness. New York, New Directions Press, 2000.

Mosaic Orpheus. Montreal:  McGill-Queen’s UP, 2009.

Silliman, Ron. Revelator. Toronto:  BookThug, 2013.

The Alphabet. Tuscaloosa:  U of Alabama Press, 2008.

Smith, Dale. Sons. Toronto:  Knife Fork Books, 2017.

Sommer, Richard. Cancer Songs. Winnipeg:  Signature Editions, 2011.

Tremblay, Bill. Magician’s Hat:  Poems on the Life and Work of David Alfonso Siqueiros. Spokane:  Lynx House Press, 2013.

Vogelweide, Walther von. Gedichte, ed. Wapnewski, Peter. Frankfurt:  Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 2006.

Walsøe-Engel, Ingrid. German Poetry From The Beginnings to 1750. New York:  Continuum, 1992.

Wilderson III, Frank B. Sideways Between Stories. Oakland:  Commune Editions, 2016.

Williamson, Alan. Res Publica.  University Press of Chicago, 1998.

Xiaoyu, Qin. Iron Moon:  An Anthology of Chinese Migrant Worker Poetry, trans. Goodman, Eleanor. Buffalo:  White Pine Press, 2016.

Yépez, Heriberto. Transnational Battle Field. Oakland:  Commune Editions, 2017.

 

 

Keeping open the end of history: a note contra Habermas

On the one hand we need with each breath culture that “happiness” (ataraxia if not eudaimonia) wherein and whereby the real possibility of a modicum of Gelassenheit and hope (if not faith) might be preserved; while, on the other, we need each moment maintain that vigilant, critical negativity that keeps us from falling under the (apparent) tyranny of the real, as Habermas does in an interview from around 2001:
As the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, the “Shining Path” in Peru, or the dictatorship of impoverishment in North Korea all illustrate, there is no reasonable exit-option left to us from a capitalist world society today, after the failed experiment of Soviet Communism.

NaPoMo (5): Some Praises of the May King

What’s Lebendig’lightwaves-09

Welcher Lebendige, Sinnbegabte, liebt nicht vor allen Wundererscheiunungen des verbreiteten Raums um ihn, das allerfreuliche Licht—mit seinen Farben, seinen Strahlen und Wogen; seiner milden Allgegenwart, als weckender Tag. / What living person, gifted with any sense, doesn’t love, more than all the wonderful appearances of spread-out space around him, the all-joyful Light—with its colors, beams, waves; its gentle presence, as waking day.—Hymnen an die Nacht, trans. Dick Higgins

 

Marks in, walking home, looking

in the used book store,

stroking the one friendly, fluffy

cat, intervening in a theological

dispute at the cash quoting

 

Spinoza in Latin and Daisetz

Suzuki summing up an evening’s

philosophical chit-chat:   “That’s what

I like about metaphysics—nobody

wins!” —stopping by the last

 

independent English-language bookstore, browsing

the poetry and philosophy, weighing

whether to buy a volume

or two but resolving just

to get the book I

 

ordered, paying off the dentist

for the new gold crown,

noticing Spring’s first green lush

after two weeks rain now

in intense sun, shaking up

 

a double martini or two,

commenting cante jondo on Facebook

to buck up a heartbroken

friend, priming a new withering

blog post “our postmetaphysical age”

 

sending me to Metaphysica Alpha

One:  “the senses are loved

for themselves, especially sight,” reading

Hymnen an die Nacht aloud,

Du kommst, Geliebte—” as Petra

 

opens the door, parsing that

first sentence together (…who doesn’t

love over and above appearance

spread out light, its colours,

rays and waves, gently everywhere

 

like the dawn?), philologizing Lebendige,

he shewed himself to them

alive”, “Son of the ever-living,

the senses of Sinn in

Sinnbegabte, allgegenwart, (omnipresent) everywhere.

 

 

 

NaPoMo (n+4): an occasional satire

First Night in Toronto

 

In the Royal York’s Library Bar next table

the retired scholar with wife and two old friends

from New York discussing Trump quotes Yeats

What rough beast… In our hotel room

the front page of the complimentary copy

of The National Post features a full-page, colour ad

for Mizrahi Developments’ luxury condo tower project,

a column by Lord Conrad Black The inability to lead

on pipelines will be the Prime Minister’s ruin…

We will find out soon enough if climate is changing…

In another Rex Murphy sings back up with thesaurus.

 

NaPoMo (n+3): a clarification

The two or three poems inspired yesterday by a Guardian interview with social scientist Mayer Hillman (see the two previous posts), also prompted one reader to comment on the poems, two of which use Mayer’s own words expressing the sentiment that, given civilization is doomed, we’d be better to attend other, more pleasant matters, such as music, love, education, and happiness.

The comment inadvertently touched on the issue of the truth of poetry and the poet’s relation to the thoughts expressed by the words of the poem, that yesterday’s three, impromptu poems might suggest some agreement with Hillman’s gloom and prescriptions.

Five years back mulling over the same matter I composed an ironic indictment, which, Luitspelende jonge manafter some little fiddling this morning, turned out, spontaneously, to be the fourteen-line poem that follows. Whether it provides any clarification as to my own stance on the issue, I leave to the reader.

 

Chance Sonnet: 

“BE IT RESOLVED…”

 

BE IT RESOLVED that

whereas public officials

who deny the reality

 

of Anthropogenic Climate Change

and hinder efforts to mitigate

its destructive effects present

 

a clear and present danger

to themselves and others,

said public officials should be

 

removed from office forthwith

and placed under a physician’s care

until such time as their suicidal

 

and/or homocidal and/or ecocidal

tendencies cease to present.

NaPoMo (n+2): Two for Mayer Hillman

Two for Mayer Hillman

 

1.

So much depends

upon

 

fossil fuels except

music,

 

love, education, and

happiness.

 

Focus on these

things.

 

 

2.

Asked what he would do were the world to end

next day, Luther replied, “Plant an apple tree.”

NaPoMo (n): a serendipitous poem

Combing through with no small pleasure the Seculum trilogy of Peter Dale Scott, HP Lego yarn twister 01preparing a talk I’m to give at a humanities conference at the end of May, I wound up at the same time in a short Facebook thread back and forth with a teaching colleague, which inspires the improvised poem, dedicated to him, below:

 

So many aspects of life

For Shawn Bell, composer

 

We read the same Guardian article

this morning, though you chose to share it.

 

Mayer Hillman, 86: We’re doomed

…making a case for [re?]cycling…

 

is almost irrelevant. We’ve got to stop

burning fossil fuels. I commented

 

you’d forgotten his most important words:

Standing in the way is capitalism

 

Your reply in its current form

and though I am not unacquainted

 

with Isaiah’s singing the lion shall lie down

with the lamb and I’m the first

 

to remark the confusion of first

and second nature in Adorno’s

 

If the lion had a consciousness

his rage at the antelope he wants

 

to eat would be ideology

I answered The dream of postwar

 

social democracy that capitalism

could be tamed by the rule of law

 

is as realistic as thinking

a lion can be trained to be vegan

 

And though we continued twisting into

that thread strands of current models


of socio-economic organization

in particular capitalism and socialism

 

big data and AI

The Communist Hypothesis

 

and the Enlightenment’s faith

in its overcoming its own

 

fateful dialectic Hillman’s words

free of the snarl

 

of our disagreement

need here be repeated

 

So many aspects of life

depend on fossil fuels

 

except for music

and love and education

 

and happiness. These things

we must focus on.