Risk of Poetry
18 novembre 2009
Risquer la poésie est un texte qui se tisse dans le poème. Se voulant écriture, il met en danger la science de la littérature ainsi que la littérature scientifique. Ici aucune formule du passé ou dépassée ne s’écrit ni ne fait loi. Ce texte, ne s’épuise pas dans l’immédiateté d’une interprétation, dans la passion ou le bavardage d’une explication de texte, au contraire, il donne à patienter (dans) le poème, il s’ouvre au poème, ouvre le poème et enfin, il reste ouvert, et laisse ouvert le poème ouvert en soi. Il se montre ouvrant ouvertement, se rendant oreille, s’avance ouïement. Risquer la poésie tente de parler sans parler en trois langues (français, anglais, persan). Ici chaque langue cherche sa propre langue : absente, perdue, mutilée. Aucune langue ne cherche à traduire l’autre. Trois textes donc, déliés, affranchis. Un texte s’écrit maintes fois. On en garde quelques traces. Leur ressemblance ? Une absence de ressemblance les rassemble. Et tout cela accompagnant une littérature qui vient. Que cette trilogie devienne le risque, qu’elle prenne le risque, et qu’elle mette en péril !
Lire la version française sur le site : Risquer la Poésie (le pdf contient les versions anglaise et française)
Literature ? Letter ? The literate, man of letters ? Lets forget about literature, lets proceed to unliterature, obliterature, lets renew the old in favour of a neo-literature. Because this literature is so much politeness (as Adabiat, the Persian word for literature implies), so much nicety and etiquette that keeps literature pure and orderly ? So much reactivity ? So much stagnant gratification ? Shall we think of the gratification of stasis, of stagnant literature, literary gratification in stagnant waters ? No ! This literature is finishing. This literature finishes.
The authors of this neat and tidy Iranian literature advance in the service of an order (a moral order, a religious, a political order) of a regime, as their Persian literature retreats further and further backwards.
The Iranian literary regime chases after itself in a protected zone - a literary protectorate. Thus writers of this Iranian literature become law enforcers in the process of abiding by the law. One is not to defect the protectorate, not to take language beyond its neat and tidy boundary. So you don't cross the line - you stagnate.
Order and fear meet at a point : you fear transgressing, you fear you are disorderly, you're afraid to ruin the make up on this order, you're afraid of sticking out a sore thumb, afraid of change, of the unknown, afraid of risk and risking it, afraid of being afraid.
As such, perhaps there never was a "literature" but treatises and paginations and illusions. End this illusion, we must.
To write is to shake the foundation of the world. Language has built and builds the groundwork of the world. To take a hand in this groundwork, to subvert the order of things, we take a hand in the foundation of the world ; intervene in the order of things.
Danger begins when the poet stands up and against the week-day language, the language of communication and conversation, against common usage, i.e. stands up steadfast against the colloquial world. The language of poetry isn't the language of habit, is not habituated by news giving, is not reporting, is not didactic, cannot give lessons, is no repetition, is not repeated.
Regimes wish to survive, want to remain, so they follow the popular rule, follow we the popular rule ?
Think of Grammar, in Persian "Dasture zabaan", verbatim ‘the order of the tongue'. Order ? A tongue that orders the hand ? Who gives the orders ? Orders what ? Grammar, is a moral construct that determines the future of language, according to certain pre-given list of thou shalts and thou shalt-nots. But poetry and the poet are there to alienate the order and the language of order, i.e. estranged from the world, to create a new turn of phrase. However, for the danger poet, language is not a means, but the end and object of work.
Sanctity, sacredness and sanctitude raise their sacred heads and bring the Word under their command. It happens that sacredness and sanctitude go under the question mark. For instance, Shamloo came out one day and brought up the vulnerable truth, i.e. one can doubt, that one ought to doubt everything as Descartes, and then ? He himself became the subject of doubt, but the subject matter (Fedowsi) because of its enormous sanctitude never went under the question mark. There are things that never go under question. Poetry intimates that everything, without exception is under question. The risk of poetry starts here.
Social institutions define or want a defined poetry. But poetry is not wisdom and has no moral value. Poetry is not to write the seen. It's not speaking that which is. But speaking that which is not. To be other than this and to be that.
Someone says : I lived in Riskdom and immediately puts himself at risk. Someone writes his land of risk (into being) and immediately sets risk against risk. What happens ? (what being's happening ?) When we speak of danger (hood), someone with us, within us, without us starts to speak. A voice comes : to write is to risk, to live in danger (to live dangerously), in the (con)text of danger, and to go from text to text, to travel in this land of danger. One takes the other along (being textualised), the (unholy) writ, the risk, the risk of the writ, that one is the other (in the rip).
A close shave - being in danger, remaining at risk, speaking of risk. I lived in Riskdom, read : I lived in the writ. Here we're dealing with the being and nothingness of the written. The risk is that of being and nothingness, the risk of writing, the risk of the cessation and suspension of writing. In other words, risk is lack of certainty. Risk is in this and that... so what ? Danger, risk is in the deferral (or dropping) of obliteration, it's a respite, before danger gives way to the unwritten, before the writ pulls itself back. To live in Riskdom, is to live in the respite of the writ. The moment of writing is the moment of risk. I lived in Riskdom and then ? Either you unseat the danger, or the danger defeats you. You prolong the risk, or finish the risk, or the risk will finish you. Finish ? When danger is finished with, there no longer is any writ.
Riskdom : when the writ approximates its origin. I lived in Riskdom. We are confronting the same experience. Let's think of George Bataille : the inner experience. To his credit, the writ, the risk of the writ, and in danger, to risk the writ, is the innermost, deepermost experience. A trial that endangers life, the life of text, and the poet's. Here, experience, danger, dangerous experience, has no outer form. Risk, is to live with the text, to confront the text : to step onto the road to the unknown. Danger is here : one writes something one has not written, that no one has not written, one writes the unknown, the unrecognised, from roads unridden, words unbidden, from lines unwritten and from juxtapositions untried, from forms unfabricated and from images unseen, one writes, to throw oneself into their fray. Will one return ? Will one write them ? Will they write oneself ? Will risk remain limited by risk ?
I lived in Riskdom : return and give your experience to the text. Return and put life in the context of risk, on the line. Risk is one off. It's once, and is not even once. Risk can come once and only once, come about. It's behind the writ that touches on the line. So, the incidence of the text, is this very touchline. The writ, is writing on this touchline of risk.
It's not fortuitous that the title of a poem becomes Fear Not, and it's first line begins with the imperative verb fear not. Literature is right here, fear not ! I.e. write !
I'm trying to open a door
To say something else
someone else to say
what can no longer be said
A door that opens, and converses. A door that is a word. A door that speaks and gives word to and becomes the other. Talks to the other. Another door that is the other.
Change and evolution begins in the text, and from the text. From here on, a revolution is shaping up in the text.
What does it mean To table a new revolution in poetry ?
If mother is the tongue and we in it, then where would be the mother ? Where would we be ? Where are we ? Where in the mother, are we ? Where, our language ? We are after-words, exiles, far-aways, what is our intersection ? Mother, is our distance. So what is distance ? Or who is it ? Distance is the presence of the other, distance is in my being there and in your not being there or vice versa, distance is here and there, the distance of here and there, me here, you there, between us nothing but distance. Thus the most beautiful lines of distance are written :
On this side of the world even if you have a son
It's a son on this side of the world
This beginning seeks a refrain which suddenly turns into an unexpected ending :
On this side of the world even if you have a mother
It's a mother on the other side of the world
Mother is the tongue, mother is the body, the tongue and the body are absent. Mother is absent. The mother's tongue, the mother's body are separate, unlikely. Separation from the mother's body is the beginning of exile. From the outset of birth, the child learns negation from the mother's body. All of a sudden at birth, we're in exile, we're distant, we are narrators, we narrate what in the distant past, we have lost out of hand, and so invoke in the text, to call out the lost one, to find the lost one, that is the pleasure. And to substitute the mother's body, the mother's gender and sexuality, we exchange with the word, the gender of words, going from sexuality to non-sexuality, and returning, giving words a gender, making a mother of words.
Where is the quickest place of call when the call reaches one, given the voice of someone ?
A call is heard at the limit of distance between two people, when the distance approaches infinity, word and speech, syllable and sound, drive time in to a different course : when the voice, the call, the call of a voice, is no longer heard. The mediation of distance sends speech adrift :
Mother was the fast seat of my voice
Which as I drifted further away from
There is memory, there is forgetting and then there is remembering. To distance is to mediate and then to call forth the immediate. In this immediacy, that happens sometimes, literature offers the taste of pleasure.
Lets think of secrets and hermetics. A literature that writes the secret but does not divulge it. Lets bring democracy to bear here. The choice of why desire a secret or why not. There is a literature that is written in code language and thus is mysterious. The reader's pleasure would be in confronting the mystery, in grappling with secrets that are never revealed. A literature that shares its secret with us, but what secret ? The secret that says behind me hides another and yet another and so on.
Foolish the poet
Who tries to pin this with the pen
From the poem : Held my hands and step by step died of sorrow
Doesn't the mother's gist in this book of poems, speak of this secret ? The secret of mother, as the source and reservoir of the secrets of language.
Lets note the syntax and the tone of these sentences :
When I came first, I was going to
But the thousandth got lost
Had promised the bicycle and father flustered and never got twenty
Out of the bike that he never bought him
Years later I fell down so bad my mother came grand
My son who'd become three
Was going to count on mother's promise
Grandmother was walking past her kindness
Final results given him twenty and summer was spraying sunlight when suddenly the sky covered in crows
What a hundred excellent croaks it gave !
When I have no sure
To keep a favour for later
I hold no hand in the style of please
To put on the hair of relatively
Go to the go that I went don't go so you're left behind
Absence, displacement, manipulating the make up of a sentence, swapping parts of speech, word jumps. These are some of the events evident in these sentences, which can be seen or read as poetry of falsehood. The reader feels something missing at first sight, or some things are not in their place and something, some things have lost their position ; what things ? Here the syntax and tone of words have lost their age old structure. The classical structure, ordinary combinations and customary images are jettisoned. It's this overboard quality which moves the reader : when words move, they move the reader.
Society makes standards and is, therefore, after the stamp of approval. It looks for introduction and recognition. Society evaluates, media, newspapers, magazines, television - advertise the standard, imperialise the standards and everyone (everyone ?) endeavours to live by them - that is to survive. Even the poet and the writer become standardised. Because they seek approving and approval. Because they run after society. But the dangerous poet, draws away from the standards. His job is not to follow the society. Maybe his job is to drag society behind him.
So we manipulate grammar (which in Persian is the "order of tongue"). We manipulate the order of language to manipulate the order of the world. That is to change the truth of the world, like a sentence we put as a spell on the world. There is no longer an ultimate truth. There is only the truth, the poetic truth, that is its own virtue :
He manipulated the truth so much that
when he died
it was a lie !
In every standard, there is a past. The standard in arts has fabricated art museums. Museums are places that exhibit artistic standards. Viewers are assured that they are viewing something that carries the stamp. Because the works are time honoured and passed the tests of worth and therefore proven to have "artistic value". In poetry too museums have taken shape in the taxidermy of dried up words - poems whose life is in their absence of life.
The poetry of risk obliterates the promise of the pre-approved. Poetry of risk is not an "also ran", i.e. it does not resemble what ran before or what ran up approval. Poetry of risk is like itself, endangered :
If you are the promise why then am I so settled ?
I also ran off also ran another yes am I
Settled from before am I me before when ?
The poetry of risk distances itself from the well trodden and the well known, i.e. distances from any pre-established norm.
Since I can remember
I have learned to forget the road they put on my
Perhaps it's necessary to think about being multivocal, an alternative form of thinking. We find in the poem Absurdity, a new opportunity to find forms of multiple voice.
Even laziness has tripped you down get up !
had got up
I can't believe you've been dreaming till dusk
How come you've been sitting around the seats you've picked round the table ?
hadn't picked an apple
Now you've been grazing for two grazes what have you seen ?
hadn't eaten seen nothing
What stink you've made up in this room you scum head you farted again ?
Shame owes a jugular to this sleeping of yours
pity the jugular you ain't got
and lonesomeness which nestled in him for a
had dyed the rug under the table red
She was blind not to see
A voice speaks in black letters, whom does it talk to ? To someone, to me, to you, to them. It puts you in place of the interlocutor. It speaks in the present tense. And just as her sentence finishes, the blue voice begins. The beginning of the blue voice is the ending of the black. The blue voice emphasises that the expression of black has joined the past. It's a response, but a response that is un-addressable. The black voice, is a lone authoritative voice that speaks, interrogates and demands an answer, but hear it cannot. Read, look, it cannot : She was blind not to see.
What is blindness ? It's a sound that uninterruptedly and in one breath ushers forth. It is nothing but itself. It interrupts the reigning voice, that of the other. No dialogue or conversation instantiates between the two voices that usher forth in parallel, two powers that fight each other to be listened out. The blue voice whispers.
On the night of October 11, 1939 Walter Benjamin living at the concentration camp, has a dream. Benjamin thus relates his dream to Gretel Adorno, Theodore's wife :
"Last night, as I was lying down on a bed of straw, I had too beautiful a dream not to tell you... It's a dream that I have perhaps every five years and revolves round a hub of "reading"... what I saw was a cloth adorned in patterns and colours and the only thing I could recognise was the upper part of the letter d...This was the only thing that I could "read". A conversation revolved round this topic for a while... At one point I said exactly this : "the issue is to swap a piece of poem for a scarf". (Es handelte sich darum, aus einem Gedicht ein Haistuch zu machen.) Among the wormen, there was a very beautiful woman lying in her bed. Hearing my explanation she suddenly made a lightning move. She pulled aside a bit of her sheet cover. Not to show her body, but to show the pattern on the sheet"
From the concentration camp, Benjamin who is German writes a letter to Gretel Adorno which uses the French word Fichu that simultaneously means a headscarf as well as finished, ruined. Benjamin says, all this finds meaning only in French. Similarly the dream and its interpretation only make sense in this language. Jacque Derrida makes this a basis to investigate alien language and the language of dreams : Benjamin can only recount his dream in French. His dream was calling for a language to be recounted in, to find meaning. One year after this dream Benjamin was "finished" - dead ! A dream thus visited the future and wrote it.
Even for once, let's see what possibilities exile offers poetry and the poet. Yes, I agree with you until quite recently the poetry of exile was exiled from poetry. However, exile is the place of experience and fresh poetic possibilities - as indeed we always are in exile. First we are exiled from the mother, and then draw away from society and its language, though the latter could be a voluntary exile, and then we find ourselves in a different clime, amid different lives. When poets of risk go in exile they bring new experiences to bear on poetry. Experiences made incidentally possible only in the dimension of distance, the same new life. Let us review some examples :
To latch away double tongued from college
To saddle a horse to gallop to the casino and not to lose to the role
that perhaps Mr Zero will play on the Roulette table
College, casino, roulette : the concatenation of college and latch, role and roulette. New atmospheres of life, creates new lives for text, for diction and so for poetry. Fresh combinations, fresh language and fresh imagination, these are the makings of life in exile. The poet, converts the experience of exile into the experience of poetry.
With trouser cuffs that walked round and round the Black Jack table and jacked to stand
From the Punto Banco table sloppily to pass by
The fifty pence machine to fumble by
Exile, is the language of the other and adds the possibilities of the other language. The poet implicates everything in his poetry. The other language infiltrates even his lines :
برای win اگه مردی برعکسِ جان وین برو که I'm lost برگردی
Life goes on in exile, but we have witnessed how often life in exile is not drawn into poetry. Poets of risk, bring details of exilic experience into their poems, pose anew the dangers of exile such as being bipolar (which incidentally the poetry of 1990s removed) Post 90s poetry is after depolarization.
Asylum means laughing and crying and then laughter and stubbornly carrying the day
into midnight and then the dawning of then and then what ?!
Since everything's so black and white I have been politicized ? For what ? For who ?
The ambience of exile poetry that appear in "I used to live in Riskdom", proposes new aesthetics for exile, for poetry for exile poetry (despite the fact that poetry is always in exile). This multilingual, multi-spatial aesthetics brings the atmosphere of the world to the service of poetry. The poetry is no longer written for the mother tongue, but encompasses the world of the mother tongue. Remember ? Mother tongue is our country.
It no longer bears on me run away !
That poets' Langerude limps in the river
"I used to live in Riskdom" calls up the problematic of folklore and its potential in poetry.
Which folklore ? The one that distances itself, both from its verbosity and repetitiveness ; folklore whose fabric is dismantled in order to re-shape it into new structures.
Here we encounter not any reiteration of history ; but with its need for reconstruction. For instance, one of the most aesthetic lines of this volume of poems is the episode at which the river Nile, the prophet Moses and his staff are to be marked off before passing across.
Dhao was a Mademoiselle on the Nile
Rowed her oars very
Still not to reach Moses whose staff
god has taken away !
From the poem : The Trigger is Pulled on the One who Pulls the Trigger
In most poems of Abdolrezaei, certain misreading techniques guides the reader to a poetic perception routed in their cognition. The poet is constantly after working on the cognitive apparatus of the reader.
His poem's similes constantly turn to their opposites. Here, he is speaking of a Nile which is flowing through his text and tells the story of a Moses who might well be the one busy reading this very text at this very moment.
Perhaps the root cause of this face off to myth and folklore is that the poet, intentionally, wants to make the sacred into the ordinary (if not profane).
Mary's lips her labia
it says in the Bible
no lip has ever touched
but at the time of annunciation
god has rushed indeed
god knows how Jesus was made o f fuck !
so has forsaken flesh who knows !
And similarly :
Poor thing ! Was a jealous Ayesha who laid with Mohammad
Before taking a hand to the fig
she read the Bible
and found out about a woman Israelite
who became the Grim Reaper of Cairo
From the poem : The Trigger is Pulled on the One who Pulls the Trigger
And the poem syncopates. That is, all of a sudden stops. That is, you start, write and write then not ! Now you stop. Hold the poem still. And suddenly with no preparation or warning, you end it. Finished ? That is, you end the beginning and begin again, that is you syncopate your poem but don't exit your poem ; you start another poem inside your poem. A moment is enough for everything to stop, and a moment is enough for everything to begin anew.
Let's read these lines :
Dhao was a Mademoiselle on the Nile
Rowed her oars very
Still not to reach Moses whose staff
god has taken away !
Let her not reach !
You're not well enough to draw the curtains
And sponsor a sky that's spat out god
Let her not reach ! At that instant, that very moment when a poem ends and immediately the next poem begins in the midst of the original poem (The Trigger is Pulled on the One who Pulls the Trigger). As if there are poems which accommodate multiple poems in their bowels - poetic multiplicity in one piece. Ambience and language radically change in one instance :
Like the poem The Trigger is Pulled on the One who Pulls the Trigger which after these syncopations changes as a poem. Through the atmospheric turns and in the heart of the gaps , a kind of blank reading emerges.
What do they know this neighing has so many
horses which they've got-ridden in sale of and since
they've framed it has broken out of the stables and out of
the village... Just let it !
There's no one at home
not even the wings of the wind
Decline a vertical appetite
Come make me whole
Hey most tight mouthed carnivore of hers
From the poem Woman
In 2006, Jonathan Littell wrote a novel called "The Kindly Ones". This novel consists of the memoirs of a Nazi officer narrated in the first person singular. Here obviously, the novelist has taken risk ; because up to now ; it has been customary for the author to be a defender of rights and a symbol of the good taking up position against bad and evil, and generally hiding behind a righteous persona.
Nevertheless, there are times when we speak of evil from a distance and in derogatory terms, we condemn it. There are other times, when we get inside evil and give ourselves over to it and vice versa. So we get out of our skin, and get under another's. But this other is no other than evil itself. When we enter inside this other, are we approving ? Or disapproving ? Or neither. Let's say neither. We get under the skin of evil to better point it out. The reader continues the text for themselves :
We were three brothers
Next popular front
And the nextest that I was was a wanker
He says we were three brothers, and from that instant, counts himself in the set and removes all distance.
Continuing it turns to :
The Second was next
And the nextest who was anybody
That is ‘I' whose presence is announced at the beginning, is anybody whom nobody takes on. But the poet puts ‘I' in the interior of evil, and shows how one is another
In short populist means militia means me all three
in one another
And in the same vein :
She still didn't know that one night of the Saturdays
When we made off the next day
Womaned her daughter bleedingly
The poet speaks of a presence who dares not speak its name. So gets under the skin of all three in one another and writes all three that is all. The risk is that everyone would say : you are either one or the other. The poet's answer though is pre-given : I am this and that and the other. I am all of them.