"...it is precisely out of the flaw or excess in an equation that meaning springs"
Barbara Johnson "Disfiguring Poetic Language"
When you pick up a piece of old crockery in a second-hand shop, often there is a
white tag on which the price is written, along with the phrase "as is". "As is"
the object, say it is a cup, has a flaw: a crack or a chip or some other anomaly
past use. If the object in question is a textile, say a slip or a sweater, "as is" indicates
or a stain. As is suggests the distance from perfection from which the object has
through the course of time, its fall from Platonic grace or virgin purity; "as is" is a
of "as if", the way in which desire ineluctably turns into fulfillment or
in that turn, "something" is simultaneously lost and found. As has become
clear, and not to overstate the obvious, contemporary poetic practice negotiates this
terrain and its
recapitulating dualities --- presence/absence, materiality/tranparency,
and so on, more insistently than any other current human activity.
The lost/found place of "as is" thus could be seen as a poetic methodology, through
might revise the modernist "fragment". The poem now is rendered as an address
eschews totalizing concepts of origin, unity, closure and completion, and is
construed as a
series of flaws or openings through which both chance and change register a matrix
discontintiuous distributions, where contingency itself is offered as an affective
the "is" as is. Meaning is rendered as an unstable relation to objective and
subjective value. The reader/listener participates in the construction of significance
not by filling in the gaps and elisions, but by appropriating whatever fragment is
"useful" to her. The hope is that the relation between epistemology and power is
When President Clinton remarked "It depends on what the meaning of the word Is
unwittingly allowed us to witness the flaw between the reified "is" of
an imaginary but knowable present and the imperfect or furtive is of the actual as
is. Between the
first and the second "is" is ---however inadvertent on the President's part --- an
acknowledgment of chronic interpretative vigilance which
the generation he and I (we) share came to understand as the only possible
negotiation with reality
and the ways in which language pictures or captures it.
For a while I have been interested in the notion of a whole fragment. This fragment
one in which one laments a lost whole, as in Stein, Eliot and Pound, but which
acknowledges the fact
of our unhandsome condition, where we suffer from having been being, and in that
acknowledgment foreground, or priviledge, what is: the abraided and indefinite
accumulation of an infinite dispersal of sums. In this construction, meaning abides
or arises exactly at the place where "use" appears, use here as both pragmatics
and as wear. It is my desire or intention to construct a poetics in which meaning is
within the terms of such a vagrant contingency.
The consolation of a distilled or stabilized "reality" is nothing if not an illusion of
syntax, where syntax stands for any logic of recognition. I share a love for this
a normalizing stability, but I recognize its habit of formulating, at the least impulse,
categorical imperatives which obscure and resist the actual conditions, posssibilties
complexities in which we find ourselves.
The world constellates significance out of habits of congruence, continuity, and
These signifiying terrains elude and evade my own sense of being on a flexible and
indeterminate boundary or frame, even ones which eschew frames and boundaries
to "celebrate" upwardly mobile margins.
I think world presses on language and language on world at every point, and by
world I mean material,
spiritual, political and cultural presence,
a continuous flux of is recouperated as is.