Copyright © 2001 by Brown University and differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. All rights reserved.
differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 12.2 (2001) 121-168

Hannah=hannaH: Politics, Ethics, and Clairvoyance in the Work of Hannah Weiner

Judith Goldman


In August of 1972, Hannah Weiner, an accomplished and highly politicized performance artist and poet, began to receive a remarkable form of "dictation."1 Printed words of all sizes bombarded Weiner; she saw these words in the air, on every available surface, on people, on the page before she wrote them, and on her forehead from within. Weiner called her "psychic" ability to see words "clairvoyance." She developed a mode of poetic writing, "clair-style," that incorporated words and phrases clairvoyantly seen, eventually composing through these seen elements exclusively. In such groundbreaking works as Clairvoyant Journal (1978), LITTLE BOOKS/INDIANS (1980), Sixteen (1983), Spoke (1984), and silent teachers remembered sequel (1994), Weiner did not so much experiment with existing literary models to document the experience of clairvoyance as she created a number of startlingly raw and enormously complex poetic forms, becoming a heroic figure at the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery in Manhattan and in the bicoastal school of Language writing.

Weiner let no representation of herself circulate that did not take her status as a clairvoyant into account, as, for instance, her introduction [End Page 121] to Nijole's House (1981) demonstrates: "ALL WORDS BELIEVE IT SEEN / I ams a clairvoyant" (3).2 To read Weiner's poetry is thus to confront her claim to clairvoyance, which makes the critical reception of her work an incredibly complicated matter: her emphatic experiential claims and the terms on which she makes them at once legitimate her poetry a priori as testimony and overtly perform as a persuasive strategy within what are extremely self-consciously literary works. Either set of terms requires that we read clairvoyance other than as a symptom of schizophrenia, an illness with which Weiner had been diagnosed.3

I want to suggest, however, that in naming the phenomena by which words were given to her to be seen "clairvoyance," Weiner alerts us to the peculiar status of her texts without allowing us to medicalize and dismiss them. For her poetry, arriving from elsewhere in ordinary language, can only become deviant if we decide to make it so from the outset. Indeed, Weiner creates not only an enabling, but a strikingly innovative and important position from which to write: she engages the occultations entailed by linguistic abstraction and signals that she is enabled to do so through a banalized version of the occult. However nonvolitional, clairvoyance is a technique for estranging the normalcy that mystifies us. And Weiner's tactic of reverse discourse, one that appears to trade the blindness of a delegitimized epistemological position for the insight of an idealized and rarefied psychic state, also opens onto paradoxes of reading and writing that her radical, language-centered poetics confronts.

As testimony, clairvoyance does not avow the transparency of its medium, but rather makes the coercion of mediation evident. Openly declaring her solicitation of belief through a trope only figuratively removed beyond belief, Weiner exposes belief itself as the strange but mundane sine qua non of reading. Her strategy illuminates writing's demands on us as it gainsays a credibility it has already hooked in the very act of soliciting credibility. Straining against the transcendental quality of language even as she points to it as a foregone conclusion, Weiner not only disrupts the normative transparency of what is to be read but also erodes the normative rationality of the figure who reads.

For Weiner emphasized that she was not the frictionless vehicle for messages from another scene, but rather the recipient of language that formally and thematically implicated its resistance to meaning. This seen language also revealed that the very recognition of language as such subjects us to a meaning that can neither be averred nor denied. An exteriorized, nonintentional form of writing, the seen words not only [End Page 122] provided a unique means of encountering language as an indeterminate, opaque materiality that we ourselves enliven with belief, but also as a form of mediation that announced itself as being curiously existentially indefinite, both there and not there. Thus, even as she anchored these phenomena in her cognitive experience, clairvoyance was for Weiner not a traffic with the spirit, but a near miss with the letter. Reflexively signifying on clairvoyance as "quaint phrase" or sedimented term, Weiner turned this familiar figure of heightened vision against itself.

In fact, the reversals of Weiner's discursive practice take place on a number of levels, constantly spoiling assumptions about and built into language, yet conscious that our escape from these assumptions is comprised and compromised by language itself. In taking the unusual dictation of clairvoyance, Weiner inverts the apostrophe of lyric poetry and externalizes poetic agency, locating it in mediation. Seeing words clairvoyantly illustrates the mediating tension in language that plays out in syntactical structures, disciplinary mechanisms that echo institutional relationships. Further, rather than performing as a privileged, gendered proximity to authentic knowledge or as a vitiation of a gendered position of knowledge, as it has done traditionally, clairvoyance instead functions as a reflexive figure about figures of knowledge. Weiner dissects a grammar of epistemology that presupposes and incorporates differences as differentials in power.

Vigilant in denaturalizing her technology of representation, Weiner turns clairvoyance to political use, rendering structural and thus necessarily social inequities historically specific. As the singular witness to clairvoyant phenomena, she is poignantly aware that her testimony can only appear in a recognizable and overdetermined form.4 For Weiner, this hyper-attentiveness to overdetermination resonates most strongly with the political predicament of Native Americans, whose difficulties in achieving adequate political representation demonstrate the limitations of politics and the need for an ethical relation to difference.5 Weiner was an ardent proponent of the American Indian Movement, but she found, in a sense parallel to her own situation, that to be a witness for is also to be a witness against: simply to use an officially recognized language is already to be implicated in the structures of power, to exploit alterity as it is rendered recognizable. Weiner puts the paralogical or oblique insight she gains from clairvoyance to work in her nonclairvoyant writings as well, commenting on the deep and seemingly unavoidable violence in any representational framework. [End Page 123]

In refusing clairvoyance a logic of presence or direct reference, Weiner forces this trope to diverge from its long history of essentializing feminization and racial exoticism.6 Moreover, in her later works, she reflexively metaphorizes clairvoyance as a mode of accessing a subjunctive history, a foreclosed potentiality, of the exploited.7 Weiner was eventually to call clairvoyance "silent teaching," a name that signals a figurative reversal of the textual field, impossibly divesting her writing of any appropriation of force. Her work thus looks over its shoulder towards a historical materiality of the signifier, an ethical relation to alterity that would be this alternately meaningful silence.

Poem As Code

From the moment she took up writing, as Weiner related to Bernstein in a 1995 interview, it was never a matter of self-expression, but a means of displacing the self. She began to write poetry in 1963, and upon receiving a scholarship to the New School for Social Research, she took writing classes with Kenneth Koch and Bill Berkson, although, as Weiner notes, she "could not write New York School poetry" (LINEbreak).8 Weiner recalls, in fact, that she felt compelled to work with found texts (a discovery she made through her association with "talk-poet" David Antin).9 Weiner's Code Poems, a compilation of poems and performance pieces written in the mid-1960s, is one such result of having encountered a sufficiently alienated form of language with which to compose. The texts in Code Poems are based on a synthetic, nineteenth-century set of given messages comprising the International Code of Signals for the Use of All Nations, "a visual signal system for ships at sea" (3). Code Poems should be considered a landmark collection in the American avant-garde for a number of reasons. As Jackson Mac Low writes, "Weiner's Code Poems are notably original. Outside of a small group of aleatoric poems I made c. 1963 . . . I know of no other code-book poems written in the 1960s. I also know that Weiner, when composing hers, knew nothing of mine: I have transcribed none of them from my notebooks" (97).10 The significance of her poetic experiment lies not only in the novelty of employing this medium, but in the way she tests the limits of the material to comment on language. John Perreault observes that Weiner was "asking certain questions before it was fashionable to ask them. Is language a code? Is poetry a code? Can you use one code to describe another code? Can personal expression be avoided?" (8). Code Poems makes the compelling case that [End Page 124] the official messages encrypted in the code harbor secrets hidden only from themselves as self-identical: within them lie communiqués of an alternate totality, heterogeneous and coherent.

Devised to facilitate communication between parties possibly unknown to each other aboard separate ships in the middle of the ocean, the code delivers the given messages in the International Code of Signals volume by reducing the message content to letter-strings. These strings of one, two, three, and four letters represent sentence-length messages ("qna All precautions have been taken"), which are often punctuated by blanks ("zmd Your zeal has been particularly noted by __________"), interrogative tags ("qhr Why?"), common nouns ("iog cheese"), modifying phrases ("kov too dear"), and even prepositions ("qgt on"). Individual units of code maintain a one-to-one correspondence with a message content. When the code was first in use in the mid-nineteenth century, the letter-strings were conveyed through a set of hoisted alphabet flags, with each flag standing in for a letter of the alphabet. Later, an answering pennant, as well as hoisting protocols for use with the original letter-flags, were added to signal the kind of information contained in a phrase (i.e., to signal a general state of distress, to designate giving a geographical location, etc.).

Eventually, the messages represented by letter-strings, as well as content protocols, were conveyed by a number of visual and sound media, as Weiner notes in her introduction to the book: "Visual signaling is any method of above water communication, the transmission of which is capable of being seen (alphabet flags, semaphore flags, Morse [code through] flashing light). Sound signaling is any method of sending Morse signals by means of siren, whistle, foghorn, bell or any other sound apparatus" (3). Although each medium was contrived to convey independently the sum total of encoded messages, Weiner made use of both visual and sonic media in performance. At the Central Park Poetry Events of 1968, code poems were "performed with the aid of the U.S. Coast guard, using alphabet flag hoists, semaphore signalmen, flashing light signals, megaphones, [and] flares" (3).11 Every single element of the poems, including their titles, is composed of messages taken verbatim from the code volume. In book format, the code units appear alongside the messages; some pieces are also accompanied by their semaphore and letter flag visual equivalents.

Weiner elsewhere intimates that her code poems challenge lyric conventions because they borrow the two-voice statement and [End Page 125] response form "natural" to the code ("Mostly" 59). (She at times stretches this by introducing more than two voices.) Her poetic experiment also illustrates and contests the structuralist premises on which the code is based. Weiner plays with the code as a purely synthetic system in which all signs are equally unmotivated and whose transcendental meaning is naturalized by convention and reinforced by social contract, condensed and literalized as the set of possible messages in the code book. Weiner emphasizes the dialectical engagement between the abstract "taxonomic" or lexical function of the code and the arena of its articulation. Untethering the naturalized relations between signifiers and signifieds, she alters the message content by performing the code outside of the seafaring context, using antiquated editions of it, and employing media in excess of what is necessary for conveying the given content. Weiner uses the code's systemic purity to alienate the media of communication rather than to reinforce their transparency or clarity; this spectacular distancing, a privileging of the signifier, produces an alternative social value and crystallizes an oppositional community.

As the code poems demonstrate, connotative effects, whereby, to use Barthes's terms, the code refers to another code, may establish the main meaning of any utterance. In "rj Romeo and Juliet," Weiner builds a conversation not only more elaborate than those likely imagined by the 1855 "committee set up by the British board of trade," but also given to flirtation: "jg Romeo: I wish to have personal communication with you / ij Juliet: Unless your communication is very important, I must be excused / jm Mike: Stranger is suspicious / myx Romeo: Fine day / ebl Juliet: I beg to be excused / pcf Romeo: The ice is so solid I cannot break through; send help" (8). In addition to a surprising capacity to instigate romance, the code contains, as Weiner reveals, latent Shakespearean possibilities. Bending the code's rules to comic effect, she uses the metalinguistic names of the letter-flags--the "r" and "j" flags are actually called "Romeo" and "Juliet" in the manual--as character names; at moments, these flag names also become message content ("tmv Shall I have the pleasure to or of / f Foxtrot" [9]). While the code scripts would seem to limit the kinds of information that would be communicable, connotation stretches these limits in ways that the fanciful names of the flags themselves suggest.

The poems also elaborate features of reiterative absurdity in the code, as is the case with "tqa possible-ity":

tqb I doubt if it is possible
frw    Barely possible [End Page 126]
tqd Is it possible?
tqe     Possibly
tqf Quite possible
fbj     As slow as possible
fbg As quick as possible
fai     As fast as possible
fbo As soon as possible (26)

The text not only exposes certain redundancies within the signal book (after all, what are the salient differences among "fbg," "fai," and "fbo," even if one is not establishing communications under difficult conditions?), but also the proclivity of the code to mimic natural language. The similarities between the letter-strings show that while these arbitrary signifiers do not contain roots exactly, "an analogy in their composition" still obtains (Barthes, "Elements" 51). In thus forcing the code to ridicule itself, Weiner plainly demonstrates another stratum of "possible-ity" it does not officially recognize.

A certain arbitrariness in terms of the extreme variation in degrees of completeness of the code's units is also foregrounded by the poems. Weiner uses code units employing pronouns and other deictics, which require additional contextual completion, as full responses and sabotages particularly vulnerable metalinguistic code phrases, as occurs in "bvz it": "bnv It will do / bix Will it be? / bou Will it do? / cqg What or which is it? / cdy Its-self (see also he, she, it or person-s or thing-s indicated)" (25). Weiner purposely leaves messages containing blanks blank, emphasizing structure over content, as well as soliciting the reader's (or listener's) active engagement in the construction of the piece. Referentless as many of the messages are, they may also produce an effect of extreme constraint, as with "edq Any Chance of War":

edq Any chance of war?
odv     Good chance
ifk No chance of peace
yu     Has war commenced?
yx War has commenced
yw     War between _________ and _________ has commenced
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
zin How many wounded?
pkn     No. of killed and wounded not yet known
zim How are the wounded [End Page 127]

ygj     Without arms
fgx Without assistance
yl     Want immediate medical assistance
cp Cannot assist
nc     In distress. Want immediate assistance
cx No assistance can be rendered. Do the best you can for
gbt     I shall bear up
gbv May I, or can I bear up? (11-12)

Simply using messages intended to be constative to invent a context structurally limited to such pathetic, not to mention bleakly reiterative, possibilities overproduces meaning in the form of an antiwar message.

Weiner notes that incorporating interactive components into her work "begins in Code Poems with the verse of alternate forms, 'He, she, it _________ can be,' which also has to do with de-sexualizing" ("Mostly" 65). Yet "de-sexualizing" is a modest term for what several of the code poems achieve, given that they go beyond leveling or neutralizing gender (if such leveling can really be possible) to undermine the norms of meaning the code would prescribe, precisely through the strategic deployment of gendered terms.12 "chw Pirates," for instance, defies the normative gendering of "pirate," ridicules the vestigial and haphazard quality of gender attribution to objects in English (as with the feminization of ship), and performs a confounding slippage in reference--from invader to craft--that grammatical divisions like gender supposedly function to prevent: "cjd I was plundered by a pirate / cjf Describe the pirate / cjn She is armed / cjp How is she armed? / cjs She has long guns / cjw I have no long guns / bld I am a complete wreck" (17). Obviously thrown into the bargain are Weiner's plays on warfare's phallic connotations, which the code cannot factor out of its units. Gender becomes a code for code and additionally a code for the intrinsic failure of code to carry a stable meaning: gender is an error message. Weiner's code poem experiments subvert the uniformity of generalized positions of specular understanding. They expose the incomplete maintenance of delineations between names, ordinary language, and metalinguistic functions in language, illustrating this slippage in levels of discourse most convincingly when using gender as an axis through which a syntactic principle inadvertently becomes thematic. Recuperating this slippage, Weiner revolutionizes the otherwise context-bound and antiquated code by creating a new context [End Page 128] of value in which the messages express content not originally "intended" by the system, a failure ultimately productive for an oppositional polity. Clairvoyance was to extend and alter Weiner's experimental inquiries significantly, leading away from this totalizing promise.

The Disciplined Apostrophe in Clairvoyant Exchange

At times reading like an index of the major countercultural movements active at the moment of its composition, Clairvoyant Journal contains intermittent entries stretching over a four-month period, from March to June 1974.13 The journal also reflects, if often only obliquely, Weiner's extremely lively social-cultural life: she was active in New York's experimental performance, writing, art, and music scenes; she also participated in several streams of Eastern religion whose teachers had relocated to Manhattan in the early 1970s.14 For the journal's purposes, Weiner's involvement in these communities functions as a backdrop to the unusual day-to-day experience occasioning and informing the work: seeing words. But what, after all, is unusual in this? As Charles Bernstein begins a review of the journal: "We all see words" (284).

I In experiencing clairvoyance, Weiner saw fragments of printed text projected onto the world, even onto other literal texts, by "the other part of the mind" ("Mostly" 55), words simultaneously there and not there: "Sometimes a master can help me change that energy back to another center, or I / just have to be told it's not realistilc, men SHUT UP" (Clairvoyant 7). The form and content of these phrases were such as to give Weiner not a glimmer, but a sustained sense that words see us--that we are spoken by language. Despite or perhaps because of the apparent fragmentariness of its phrases and the uneven visuality of their arrangement (see fig. 1), Clairvoyant Journal conveys a visceral sense of how unrelenting was Weiner's uncanny apperception.15 Weiner achieves this continuity through the formal rigor with which she records having her slightest gesture and thought registered and pronounced upon from without by seen words as she responds, records her responses, and records recording her responses to this peculiarly interactive form of surveillance: "FIGURE IT OUT WONDER why they CONNECTICUT use an / dont go out / ' ' when its UPPER CASE YOU have to shift and dont when it's lower case and I / hate you sensitive" (7). Clairvoyance demands transcription, not representational synthesis. [End Page 129]

Nothing less than a coup within the diaristic genre, Clairvoyant Journal presents language and experience in relation as a Möbius strip.16 Weiner documents what is essentially a phenomenon of mediation that announces it mediates nothing but mediation itself. The "mediated mediation" of clairvoyance works in two ways: "seen" words not only call attention to, and thus displace, their own opacity, but they also remark on their own ambiguous status as "presences" (since "seen" words are clairvoyantly seen, their appearance is existentially indefinite). Further, Weiner inscribes herself within the work as a principle of misrecognition, whereby language is irreducibly experienced as meaning. She thus prevents the journal from affecting the self-edifying commutability that Paul de Man identifies as an autobiographical function.17 Ostentatiously adrift from their normal existential parameters, words no longer promise that they will do what we want them to do, whether we mean to limit them to instrumental, informational, or representational functions. They propose instead that we may do only what they, as a vehemently exteriorized guarantee of meaning, desire: "Is OK COME a / reverse? GET ANXIOUS JOIN is that WHY anxious The words tell you to do / things you don't feel certain about doing" (57). Aided by clairvoyance, Weiner writes between these two limits, transcribing a dictation that (re)marks a position where [End Page 130] the authority-effect of meaning fails (words existing where they do not exist), even as she also takes--and records herself taking--that dictation at its word, allowing it to assume a literal and objective form. As Weiner's documentation of her own behavior suggests, the authority-effect is ineradicable; it continues to operate whether we perceive ourselves as possessors of that authority or not. What Weiner records, in fact, is the unendurable yet enduring contradiction that we believe in this authority even as we may be caught between our failure to appropriate it and language's ultimate imperviousness to it.

In this sense, if difference or meaning is always already in effect, there is an illusion of a rule or principle giving rise to and governing it. As Weiner's experience reveals, what is presupposed by any meaning is the extra-logical criterion of its possibility, belief--or what Weiner calls "pre thought thinking" (4). It is notable that the relationship between opacity and discipline often falls out of the equation entirely in discussions of this quasi judgment, largely because belief is assumed to take place within an equational, mutualizing structure. Of persuasion, singularly but ineludibly coercive, and our susceptibility to and dependency upon it, Mikkel Borsch-Jacobsen writes, "[Suggestion] does not communicate a message . . . it communicates a state of faith . . . that is to say, both a receptivity to the message and an identification with the emitter. . . . The listener completely appropriates for himself this discourse of the other; hence also its contaminating, contagious power" (66-67). The first entry of Clairvoyant Journal, in fact, replays this scenario ironically: "Bernadette's MAYER EXPERIMENTS this book is mind con- / trolled the WALK Bernadette language ex communicate her words so through it / goes through" (4). As Weiner remarks, her own work ("this book"), as writing, is susceptible to "mind control," and upon receiving and thus always already using language, it appropriates this domain; Mayer's "Experiments," in turn, are excommunicated in communication.18 According to Borsch-Jacobsen's logic, because we give authority through belief, we simultaneously gain it, in effect transferring to our own account a credibility, an epistemological figure, not proper to us, because belief offers this promissory note. We come into being "contagiously," cognizable because recognizable, always already persuaded to be persuadable and in turn becoming persuasive. This scenario of mimicry, in which possession/appropriation is conditioned by possession/suggestibility, thus rather suspiciously mimics the more traditional cognate of clairvoyance. Weiner's comment on the normative scene of writing presses this point: if [End Page 131] we assume language's transparency, "so through it / goes through," we are enspirited and obedient, "WALK," but because the hypnosis of normalcy is double-edged, it allows us both to borrow and to obscure our lease on authority. Self-powered, and not mind-controlled, we walk.

Perhaps it is because belief is persistently narrativized within a structure of entitling equivalence that the metalepsis, the prehistory of reversal, through which we perceive ourselves as the originary causes of our actions and the sources of our words, is so intensely tenacious. As Weiner explains: "Why didn't call Nijole learn that almost / everything that comes from PEOPLE is a spank reverse CANCEL appears over reverse" (5). Instead of our seeing this reversal, "CANCEL appears over" it (and thus no spanking). The way to this cancellation is paved by the pronoun "I," as Benveniste postulates: "Language is so organized that it permits each speaker to appropriate to himself an entire language by designating himself as I" (226). Weiner explains that the successful subsumption of this distinctly otherwise-clairvoyant "I"--one that sees clearly, its language transparent--involves being seen and seeing oneself: "You wonder if Rhys saw a big Hannah when you saw a little Rhys? / Once he saw you get larger then he got larger 20 feet YOU GET IT" (19). The initial distortion, as Weiner points out, involves a continual juggling act, a comparative relation to others as well as a méconaissance of the self. The pronoun serves a stabilizing, invisibly mensurative and commensurating function in this circuit, acting as "erased money": "Why did pronoun see RHYS CHATHAM across the / entrance to a store sort of an erased money" (6). The self, its first guise this disguise, may circulate in the coin of the pronoun as within "defensive armor" (Lacan, "Aggressivity" 17): "Charlestein / degraded him also Charlatan who see the little BIG WHO IN your money" (19).19 Weiner also observes that the catachrestical, objective value of the pronoun prevents inflation: "Every- / thing seems to be negative five dollars more than pronoun CUT IT SHORT / WHYS says OUT asked about a table see 40 price 45 NO HANNAH DUNGA- / REES pronoun's are used cost $3 much quieter energy than the DUMB grey / corduroys HOW ARE YOU free pants" (11). Yet pronouns are also an exaction, the condition of an exchange that might seem fair, but is not free.

Indeed, even as the mechanisms of "rational" transaction are anatomized and demystified by the journal, there is nevertheless a pervasive sense that the constant externalization of language, spoiling even momentary fictions of mastery, cannot but take its subjective toll. If clairvoyance's [End Page 132] exteriority allows for an understanding of metalepsis, it does not produce an exit through which Weiner may leave behind what will stubbornly persist in following her, the fact of meaning itself. Short-circuiting the reversal accomplished by the legerdemain of interiority leaves belief intact, as the existential indeterminacy of the words is always already gainsaid by their recognizability.20 Just recognizing words given to be seen--much less the process of reading, transcribing, and reacting to them--testifies to their persuasiveness and grants them, without any conscious agency on Weiner's part, meaning: "I've h/e/ad another HOLY DAY AT THE TYPEWRITER" (8). That their appearance is not controlled by Weiner, but is nevertheless contingent upon her presence creates a glaringly asymmetrical relation, an uncomfortable loss of equanimity. Hoarding meaning even as they impossibly deny it, clairvoyant phenomena force a visible instantiation of self-difference that inevitably recapitulates a mensurative scenario, but in a relation of disequivalence, one that Weiner herself experiences as a punishing reflexivity.

This double bind is in full force in the history Weiner gives of clairvoyance's "primal scene." Weiner's relation of this history--even as we must take her word that it faithfully conforms to events that she alone was party to--is rigorously structured, consisting in three carefully chosen examples that demonstrate the logical development of the linguistic paradoxes inherent in the experience of clairvoyance:

When the words first began to appear in August 1972, they appeared singly. The first word, WRONG, appeared about an inch long, neatly printed at a 45 degree angle to my pant leg. Later words appeared in two word phrases some of which, as NO-ALONE, I did not understand (Early Journals, 1972, unpublished). In my naive (or natural form) desire for completion I would cry "where is my T--is it the phrase 'not alone' that is meant" and why cannot I or it or the spirits that I then sometimes thought it was, speak English. The phrases developed but remained a phrase right up through the Clairvoyant Journal (1974, Angel Hair 1978). In April sometime I think I got down on my knees and begged or prayed, please let me see one complete sentence. On April 15th I did see one, printed in small letters on the edge of my kitchen table that had come to me from Lenny Neufeld via Jerry Rothenberg. It said, "YOU WON'T BE ANY HAPPIER." ("Mostly" 55) [End Page 133]

The first word Weiner sees clairvoyantly is "WRONG." Like a notice stating, "Don't read this," the word's content paradoxically negates its phenomenalization: as the word's very legibility marks out for it a certain persistence, it must be "right," yet it gives its meaning as "wrong." In its unsettling play of self-subverting self-referentiality, the word either challenges its own right to exist or it labels itself as the sole but improper vehicle for another point of view. It both affirms and denies itself, and in this case, since Weiner reads it, its denial is its means of affirmation. The next instance, "NO-ALONE," is at once obviously a phrase and something that falls just shy of being a phrase. Its disfiguring truncation renders it opaque, withholding the "closure" or clarity Weiner "naively" or "naturally" desires. The word's "T" is not merely not there, but not-there, missing--the word has a whole form of which she will receive only a part. Its loss migrates to become her loss, as Weiner turns the lack within the phrase on herself: she is the one who cannot read it. This phrase is also eerily self-referential, as form purposively cripples its content. Weiner is prevented from understanding a message (potentially) about the structural given of understanding, "not alone." Although it is "NO-ALONE" that cannot "speak English," the mutilated phrase induces in Weiner a sense that it may be read correctly. This contradiction within the words--that as they announce their illegibility, illegibility itself becomes what is read, and that this illegibility is in turn reversed to become a standard of completion by the reading, believing subject who thus cannot measure up--is also evinced by the long-awaited, complete clairvoyant phrase, "YOU WON'T BE ANY HAPPIER." Longing for a plenitude of meaning, for the sentience of the sentence, Weiner sees what appears to be not merely a piece of floating text, but a response. This correct sentence again pits content against form, delivering a message about the impossibility of plenitude as if heedless of its own completion. On the one hand, the sentence's point is that the unit of any meaningful utterance is the sentence.21 On the other, it tells Weiner that, complete or not, it retains its opacity, its alterity, even as it gives an answer.

Weiner embeds these paradoxes in the journal's form. Working within the material constraints imposed by her electric typewriter, she lets each of the three typescripts utilized in the journal correspond to a given word's place of appearance: the words written in all capitals were seen at large (or, as Weiner notes in the introduction to the journal, projected on her forehead from within); the words given in italics were sighted on the apparatus or on the page; and the words in lower-case [End Page 134] issued "normally" from Weiner herself ("Mostly" 60). She found, however, that these objective, material distinctions were always already congruent to voice: "It turned out that the regular upper and lower case words described what I was doing, the CAPITALS gave me orders, and the underlines or italics made comments. This is not 100% true, but mostly so" ("Mostly" 60). Not only does Weiner posit the restriction of material finitude against a frictionless mode of recording that would allow a direct encounter with "mental detritus" (Damon), the concrete limits of representation are always already metaphorized, the tonal attributes of each typescript defining an attitudinal posture within the clairvoyant scenario.

Given that it is through these voices that Weiner herself comes into being as the abased apostrophe of the text and in turn cannot but apostrophize the fragments she sees--"I SEE A BIG APOSTROPHE" (Clairvoyant 10)--she effectively uses the imperative mood and the quasi mood of commentary to color the otherwise commutative vocative case or figure. Weiner also defies the lyric's rhetorical pretensions to objectivity, "the defensive motion of understanding" (de Man, "Anthropomorphism" 261). As Paul de Man cautions, figures of consciousness that deny their own mediation and propose the totalized commensurability of readers are built into language; for de Man, this "complicity of epistemology and rhetoric, of truth and trope" marks the violent assimilation of metaphor to concept, to normativity (243). Against this, the journal demonstrates that language's authority-effect as it inheres most basically in the figure of apostrophe cannot be other than multiple and relational. Indeed, Weiner manages to do this because she has established precisely how, at what cost, and to whom the written voice and reading subject have always already returned trope to concept and thus denied figurativity. The obvious suggestion of triangulation within the structure of the journal shows not only that it is possible that the authority we credit may not be credited back to us, but that social and syntactical protocols require the overdetermination of difference to prop abstract equivalence.

Thus ingeniously inverting the lyric through the text's apostrophe of her in the least possible equalizing mood, the imperative, Weiner demonstrates that the self in roman typescript is perpetually indebted for her own representation to the words in capitals that interpellate her: "YOU'RE A PRONOUN" (6), "QUOTE" (5), "DONT FINISH THIS SENTENCE STRUCTURE" (6), "USE THE FIRST PERSON I, THE PERSON" (20). From capitals issue orders and proclamations that make the slightest action on the part of the self already reactive: "CUPCAKE There's / so [End Page 135] much interference while I was doing the dishes USE SOAP" (8). Here the self appears vulnerable to suggestion even in daily habits. This not only denaturalizes mundane activities, but expropriates the self's agency as her daily activities appear as demands coming from without. Given the ostentatious whimsy of its commands, the method of this exteriorized authority is its madness. The voice of the "ought" is often rudely interruptive ("SORRY ABOUT THIS PAGE STUPID" [8]), charging a phrase being written by the self or an object in the world to correspond with an imperative hitherto invisible or unrelated--indeed, one obviously produced by its very appearance: "Last night sleeping with him / thank you single Rhys interfer- / ence when we were about to fuck TWO WOMEN TWO CHILDREN HONEY- / MOON and TOOTS so we SHUT UP didn't OBEY REINDEER" (34). With its decided emphasis on ends over means, the imperative voice in Weiner's text is obviously not categorical in the Kantian sense. Its contours are those of the selfish demands of a voice hierarchically removed, yet all too familiar. Meaning as the performative effect of its ludicrously imperious, rather than contractual, expression is exaggeratedly unreasonable, equally infantile and tyrannical, even as the formal mandate through which that authority is expressed may posture as justly authorized.

If clairvoyance spoils the precarious promise of symmetry between the sending and receiving sides of language by presenting the position assumed to authorize meaning as ridiculous, contingent, and absolute, the third voice of Weiner's structure draws out the dynamism of exchange as ratiocinative procedure. Although the mandate of capitals would appear to orient the transactions of the page, giving them their form and their value, italics shows subordination to be not entirely inescapable. If meaning must be surrendered to words appearing clairvoyantly to the self, the matter of establishing what that meaning consists in becomes distinctly contestatory, as the words in italics engage Weiner in an itinerary of corroboration and dissent, layering the modalities of knowledge available within the journal's textual field. Recuperated as an apostrophe (thus not pure trope) and displaced from the frantically responding self, italicized words become a viable position in excess to capitals' authority. They are inscribed as an incompletely colonized difference that contributes to the erosion of the text's supposed specularity: "Kathy said she felt like she was prostituting herself and she dreamt about our / dream / very bad vibes / follow the leader / she didn't want to follow the leader she was supposed to" (16). Yet if the italicized text, with its often sarcastic, rather [End Page 136] than sympathetic, "commentary" does not automatically recapitulate the more obvious hegemony of capitals, it nonetheless maintains an ambivalence towards the self, becoming a vehicle of power more subtly masked: "go to grief TRYING to OUT ask forgiven to read the underlines SAVE" (16). For both self and italics take up a commentative or narrative mode, though the self is anxiously reactive in relating knowledge, while the italics are somewhat sadistically detached in doing so.

As Charles Bernstein observes of the journal, "An electric energy that completely fills the page [. . .] manages to fuse the eruptive fragments ('voices') into a continuity" ("Making" 284); "the text makes one piece of (with) all this activity" (285). Bernstein's appreciation of Weiner's accomplishment in unifying the discrepant elements of her text is not entirely misplaced, but it does mask Weiner's larger point, which is that the text cannot fall apart. The epistemological positions composing the field never become altogether discrete, for the differences in value they would produce share in the determinate meaning figured by apostrophe. Yet the journal also strains against the double life of value in its three-voice economy, as modal inflections traduce their material forms when the typescripts not only seem utterly arbitrary, but even flamboyantly unable to contain their points of reference.

Clairvoyant Journal, in fact, establishes layers of sense and levels of discourse adhering to the materiality of language in spite of the "multiple autonomies" (Kimball) dominating it, often undermining, rather than deferring to Weiner's admittedly abstract schema. The journal maintains an edgy present tense on the cusp of its own emergence--not merely referentially, in the sense that Weiner keeps up with what she sees and how she reacts, but by attending to the language once she has written it: "#?% % JINGLE BELLS" (7); "DO NUT oh I'm a nut I eat donuts you believe" (15). Weiner is now really seeing things, clairvoyant, because she composes through the material aspect of "seen" words; to be clairvoyant is thus paradoxically to turn the ritual mundanity of believing in words inside out. Letting meaning coast on such tomfoolery takes courage: "April Fool BRAVE GIRL" (15). Even as the journal records clairvoyance as an experience of the vertiginous excess in language recuperated in materially literalized, externalized figures of authority, in counterpoint to this serious matter are associative distractions that refuse materiality's subordination to meaning: "Try praying: Our father who art be right over / A song: Here we go round the mulberry bush the / grapefruit John the mulber y mush GIVE UP" (9). Yet in this particular hilarious [End Page 137] interchange between devotion and non sequitur, between memory and iteration, among sense, sound, and sight rhyme, it is Weiner trying to establish belief, and the words outside her that are playing around. As power is revealed to be the meaning of even this most literal sense, the otherwise materializing tactics of insubordination may be turned over to the authorities. Weiner submits voice, including her own, to superimposition and discrepancy, alluding to an unreachable alterity; in doing so, she creates not an undecideable text, but a clairvoyant one, in which the reader experiences the supplement of materiality as a contradictory analogue to her reading presence.

Without Margins

The remarkable figurativity with which Weiner invests typography is also at work in her use of space and spacing. In a discussion with Charles Bernstein on poetic lineation, Weiner observes that her lines do not conform to justified margins ("Excerpts"). Rather, she extends her writing as far out to the right-hand side of the page as possible. Turning the tables on the normative distinction between the "material" (or "literal") and the "figurative," Weiner describes that her poetic line only figuratively ends even at the edge of the page, for her text is actually indefinitely continuous. Weiner further states that her marginless poems also incorporate intermittent "breathing" spaces as compositional elements. She opposes these breaks within the text to the compositionally immaterial breaks that the material page dictates; the spaces, like the text indefinitely postponing the edge of the page, further indicate that the borders of her poems are indeterminate. Thus, the blanks within Weiner's page are also writing.

For Weiner, then, a standardized margin is another instance of "pre-thought thinking" like the coercive precondition of belief: its blankness signals a putatively evacuated area where the normative text takes place.22 To presume upon this blankness is to demonstrate an inadequate awareness that legibility requires an active clearing of the ground against which figures are set. Weiner's spacing draws a blank, making us aware of space as a figure. This breathing space, Weiner suggests, is a particularly suitable trope for the indefinite continuity she aims to represent. However, there is a strange ambiguity to Weiner's spacing that is also productive: her spaces signal indeterminacy, because they are used as text would be in a continuing poetic line, but they also act as doubles for the definite margin [End Page 138] surrounding the normative text, because they are made up of the same material blankness. Conversely, the margin would thus seem to contain and to mark, however blankly, the formal exile of the indeterminate from the normative text. Weiner's works suggest that the silence of the margin always marks a silencing, a place of violence and loss. But what is entailed in regarding "the negative presentation of the indeterminate" (Lyotard 56), the disavowed fact of indefiniteness exiled to and expressed by the margin, as such a silencing? Weiner explicitly theorizes the violence wrought by a self-validating presumption of blankness and the counterproduction of an antinegative space in two short companion texts written nonclairvoyantly and published in the same volume, WRITTEN IN and The Zero One (1985).

Like the title of Spoke, a major work by Weiner that thematizes the anonymity of the agent in the simple past tense in English, the title WRITTEN IN maximizes a certain ambiguity of reference. It refers to the book as a finished object, the passive construction suggesting a production the origins of which are already mystified. Recorded on the title page below the title is the phrase: "Written in a blank book called Homo Futurus by Barbara Rosenthal."23 This doubling of the phrase--"Written in" following "WRITTEN IN"--corresponds to a subtle doubling of the referent: "WRITTEN IN" is the name of the work, not the state of the book, for what has been "written in a blank book" cannot be the book itself, but a text having a separate existence. (Indeed, this distinction is the bedrock ideological presumption behind the monumental literary work.) Although they have now been putatively distinguished, nearly the whole of WRITTEN IN will work to undermine what can only be a metaphorical distinction separating materiality and figurativity, a metaphor facilitated precisely by the presumption of blank space. Beginning with the title page, Weiner has already redirected what blankness consists in: it is a site at once indefinitely prospective and yet formally anticipatory, one that can only bear the title "Homo Futurus." Blankness is in fact no different from the text itself.24

The text begins by announcing this contradiction as a stultifying predicament:

This book is bound
and publishsed it has a
finished form.      It is a closed
book.     Also unfinished article. [End Page 139]
Open it and write on a
blank page. There are 32
All white     Cross out the
past tense     Say see not saw
Some problem with margins
that come at the end of a line
encouraging long sentences
without cut-offs or discipline
self-indulgent and finished
going on from side to side
even from left
to right because this is
English It is a closed
form from side to side
The bottom of the page
is coming but so is the next (4)

Chiasmically weaving between views of the text as already completed and as in the process of being written, the writer is torn between feeling that the completely blank book is an undisciplined space "without cut-offs" and that it is oppressively limited: "publishsed . . . it has a / finished form. It is a closed / book." It allows for "self-indulgent" yet "finished" sentences; in the abstract, it creates a purely present temporality, "cross out the past tense," but in "a closed form" that makes what would be in the present curiously already complete. More than anything else, Weiner seems to be remarking on not writing clairvoyantly: she is not used to working with a blank page. Yet she also constructs a distinctly uncomfortable tension between the closure of the book as an ideal published object and the figurative, material expansiveness of its white pages.

Throughout the first half of the book, Weiner explores the fundamental contradiction of a whiteness functioning as an originary unity from which blankness and text may then emerge as determinate difference. As she points out, such a premise is bound up in the practices of sequential reading and writing that presuppose the totalization of the text, disciplined procedures from which she attempts to free herself by writing a page of the book from the bottom up, producing a portion of the text that must be read backwards (6). Directly following this, Weiner muses on the contrary scene of Biblical Creation: "all the words and / lines follow one another / in sequence Like the world / was created and Adam [End Page 140] was / made" (6). She has earlier indirectly remarked that a centered, temporal vantage point conjoined to an authorized act is a fiction at the basis of privilege. Discussing the disavowed dependence of a supposed positive racial whiteness on a material, determinate difference that is always already in effect, she writes: "The white race is late. // The white race is late coming / to consciousness said Coyote [. . .] The white / race is on this page / written in ink of color / The white race uses a lot / of periods" (5). Produced by the opposition between ink and blank, the "white race" uses closure effects, "a lot / of periods," to discipline the production of a differential relation of which it claims no knowledge, allowing meaning to appear to guarantee itself in self-identity with the signifier. As Weiner writes, this distances the reader from the materiality of the text: "Meanings make you think / of about instead of what's / on the page" (5). She goes on to note that the presumption of abstract equivalence among readers is propped on the production of a material social difference similarly disavowed: "There are / politics everywhere including / the language which commands / obedience to its meaning [. . .] All the / treaties were broken so / written is not the truth" (5). Referring to the many land and sovereignty treaties the U.S. has broken with Native Americans, the lines reveal that contract is based not on self-evident principles, nor necessarily on the equivalence of two parties, but on a coercion that relies on a power differential between those who make the agreement, thus traducing the fiction that enables contract in the first place. Desiring "to disobey the government of the margin" (9) that establishes this differential, Weiner writes in the book lengthwise to effect a certain redistribution: "This is principle to sacrifice comfort / for a long line equidistant between / margins" (8).

Later in the work, Weiner effectively isolates blankness and text as elements producing an irreducible threshold of recognizability demarcating the "place" of reading. That self-referentiality inheres in margin and text renders the difference between the two radically indeterminate; however, once the schema of signification conscripts margin and text indiscriminantly, the text is prone to becoming absolute generalization, pure language, against which Weiner posits temporal heterogeneity and voice: "THIS IS LANGUAGE // This is language this is written in but / the ordinary form of the simple spoken word // THIS IS OMITTED" (12); "This is objective although this is also / my personal experience as a writer / and the personal experience of writing / goes down with each word" (12). Even as Weiner toys with a figure of absolute commensurability, "THIS IS [End Page 141] LANGUAGE," and rhymes it typographically with the graphicization of a blank that can no longer be thought of as such, "THIS IS OMITTED," she reinscribes blankness, an invisible "personal experience" going down with each word, as an alterity inhabiting the mark, whether space or text.

Ultimately, Weiner proposes that the margin may be not only the best figurative analogue for the particularity of each reader/writer, but that irregular spacing within the text may be the best way to give rise to substantially variegated readings and to force the essential heterodoxy of reading onto the reader's notice through interruption: "the owner of the line is the / margin which refuses to give / any sense of rhythm in this / varied length the expectation is / confused in the mind and the hand / and each beginning of a line must be / begun anew with a different rhythm"(13). Such spacing "gives no consolation" to either reader or writer, as the experience of particularity is one of being vanquished; yet this use of the margin to allow for such a textual experience also puts us exactly on the level with language.25 The text too is split between "about" and "writing": "Itself / writes about / itself writing" (13). Although commensurability would thus seem to turn on the absolute loss of the particular, we must also imagine writing as the radically incomplete finitude of phenomena unfolding: "form and space make it difficult / to say everything but so does history and political aesthetics" (13-14). If, with the aid of an indefinite margin, we take part in this unfolding without violence, we embrace reading as non-self-identical possibility, as never congruent to the formal recognizability entailed by "History" and "Political Aesthetics": "the margins have not given in / but have varied themselves / and so has the space this / is because a book was / not written this book / is written" (14 my emphasis).

The Zero One is, by contrast, an extremely dark work. Space--in the form of columns that progressively discipline individual lines into highly abstract units of five characters (the average number of characters per word in English)--is used to mutilate and obliterate (see fig. 2). Composed of five separate pieces formed of lists of sentences, the project employs a base-five system of numeration, with the "1" numeral replaced by "I," signifying both the pronoun and the designator of a universal set in Boolean algebra. Weiner uses the numbers {0, I, 2, 3, 4} as attachments to and disruptions of individual words; the numerals also seal off and, more often, prevent the continuation of whole lines. Words and lines are additionally radically truncated both by the regular imposition of the five-character unit and seemingly at random. This distribution of blanks [End Page 142] and numbers violently fractures the text and comments directly on the subject matter of the book, which falls into several related categories of statements.

Most prevalent are descriptions pertaining to the state terrorism and genocide carried out against the indigenous Mayan population of the Guatemalan highlands, operations that were at their bloodiest in the early 1980s and that eventually claimed in excess of 200,000 lives.26 Though these statements, like all of the sentences composing the work, are either broken or unfinished and thus develop no decisive relationships among the elements they contain, they discernibly refer to CIA involvement in the atrocities and to the enormous number of refugees generated by the violence: "Failing to win any assur from0 / the Guatemalan regime that0 it0I2" (19); "60?000 refugees in Chiapas outsi the0I" (19); "Aided by CIA pilots and 0I fight" (19). Clearly pertinent to the work is the fact that as a matter of policy in representing these events, the Reagan administration adopted disinformation strategies so grievous--"There is0I2 no Mexican military detachment" (23)--that the president declared reports of the eradication of Mayan villages and the scorched-earth tactics of the army unfounded, even as U.S. intelligence corroborated these accounts and, [End Page 143] indeed, as Reagan himself lifted bans on military aid to Guatemala specifically to enable the dictatorship's activities.27

Official disinformation strategies are also implicated in two other categories of statements: one comprised of descriptions of the 1975 incident at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that led to the killing of, in addition to a Native American man, two fbi agents, for whose deaths Leonard Peltier, a leader of the American Indian Movement, was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in the absence of conclusive evidence tying him to the crime: "No0I2 one0I knows who shot the agents" (23); "Aim0I direc in Prison 89637-I32" (22); and another comprised of descriptions of intolerable conditions leading to prisoner hunger strikes at several prisons, including the federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois where Peltier was then currently jailed: "prisoners are beaten at random mistr and0I" (19).

Along with documenting extremely violent repression and containment and establishing the interrelation between these situations, Weiner includes religious and political statements from a Native American point of view: "when we have no0I2 recou to justice in greeds iron house 0I234" (20); slogans and details related to various freedom and protest movements, "International workers' solidarity day0I was 0I" (19), "Socia worke for Peace and Nuclear Disarm" (22); commercial and canned, movie-inspired phrases: "so you want to0I2 be0I2 a triathlete? Here's how" (20), "What d'ya say ya0I2 wanna roll out of here. yeah" (20); sentences in her own voice: "I learned how to0I2 dance since I was small" (20); and, lastly, a large number of ironically self-referential, or otherwise malformed, phrases: "This is the first time0 this sentence is being used and0I someI" (20), "There is no reason for this sente to0I2 / understand with the same feeli and0I" (18), "distinguished from minor sente which" (19), "Ive0I notic repetition" (23), "It0I2 is0I2 patently clear that many of" (23).

Weiner's integration of paradoxical sentences points directly to her equally paradoxical title, The Zero One. Most evidently, The Zero One refers to the logical and mathematical properties of the "zero" and "one" in a modern statistical totality. As Jacques-Alain Miller has discussed, the relationship between these digits is key to Gottlob Frege's reconceptualization of the binary operation of addition, which, by eradicating the empirical subject from the scene of counting, enables the social ascension of a transcendental subject, the formal involution of a sutured, objective field of knowledge, and the production of self-identical logical objects, [End Page 144] primordially constituted as idealized, generalized units--that is, as repetitions of the one. Miller goes on to demonstrate that the logical field retains a trace of the empirical counting subject in the signifier of the null set, zero, for the zero is a paradoxical logical object, the marker or place where the "non-conceptualizable is conceptualized" (30).

Zero is not nothing; if the one, in its self-identity, appears as a pure positive presence, this is accomplished through its determinate relation of difference to the marker of its fictional pure absence, the zero. Logical and linguistic truth as well as the faithfulness of statistical representation depend upon the determinate absence of objects from the null set defined by "the concept not-identical-with-itself." Trading on a sense of absence conveyed graphically by its cipher, "0," this putative blank is the designator of indeterminacy negatively determined (Lyotard 56), alluded to only by the signifier of its formal exile, the concept's subsumption of nothing. Miller points out that in Frege's mode of numeration, zero, as a number assigned to a concept, is also the first number within the system: "The system is thus so constituted with the 0 counting as 1" (30 emphasis original). This strange number, named by Weiner's title The Zero One, formally encloses the signifiable totality by denoting the purely ideal relation or circulation among object, concept, and number (effectively, generality's subsumption of the particular). Ironically, the ideality of the "one," a unit, is actually modeled on the ideal relations of the zero, a formal non-unit, of which the "central paradox to be grasped . . . is that the trait of the identical represents the non-identical" (32).1 Although the actual operation of counting (or speaking) gives rise to the illusion of numerical positivity (the intentional structure of meaning), the addition of every unit always occurs in relation to its opposite, the zero (the speaking subject), the suturing function abolishing the indeterminate traced within it (the paradoxical [non]guarantee of meaning).

The Zero One allegorizes the trace structure involved in the production of a statistical totality by re-performing these inclusionary, determining operations on its materials. In doing so, it erodes and at times destroys the statements' messages and, both literally and figuratively, ruins the illusion of their wholeness and transparency. Weiner's progressive digitalizing of the text, which serializes words by forcing them to conform to the five-character unit, reenacts the abstracting operation of counting that undergirds the statements' many horrific statistics: "Six0I hundr of the 3,I00 refugees at Las Delicias" (23); "Thous of0I2 refug along the0I Mexic Guate" (24). (The zero digit is specifically used in its form [End Page 145] as the paradoxical "zero one," as it makes up one of the five characters.) In reversing the suture's erasure of its violence, Weiner uncovers an alterity that corresponds not to a recoverable "outside," but to difference mutilated by the contact of violent determination. We get another story, but not the whole one; disappearing the disappeared, the damaged form of the statements possesses an eerie accuracy in materially reflecting the massacres that are their content.28 The very presence of the statements is itself blackly ironic, for they represent an enduring discursive colonization of precisely those insurrectionary political elements, aim and the Guatemalan campesino collectives, that distinctly totalitarian states seek to obliterate. The reports of indigenous, so-called aboriginal groups facing genocide structurally resemble the ab-originary suppression of non-identity in the zero in its negative, circumscribed presentation: "in the Western Hemis they0 started to kill Indians 0I234 0I234" (20). Heterogeneity is only re-marked by smuggled information about its suppression and extermination. And though counting from zero would exclude "the possibility of predecessors" (Rotman 14), the trace of this indeterminate, unrecognized possibility haunts what would expel it, as "a hallucination within the hallucination that is already speech" (Derrida, "Violence" 89). In this violent expropriation and eradication of space, disavowed in disinformation that circulates in its place an emptiness, the self-interested blindness of the ordinal conflicts with and overwrites the empiricism of the cardinal: "This Sentence May Be Divid And0I" (19). Weiner switches this: "The first sentence was very diffi to0I2 / This prison is one of the most0 moder" (19).

While Weiner suggests that some reliance on imposing the "zero-one" may be necessary, given the importance of documenting these events and publicizing the statistics, she also shows a distinct preference for less definite groupings: "there are pow wows0 and0I more pow wows; it is the0I pow0I / wow season in Oklahoma! 0I234 0I234" (20), as well as for objects not predetermined by the logical field of possibility: "I have all these books that I read and I read legen and0I I read / stories" (20). As she explains, "The0I formi of a question, for exit takes / place aroun and about this sway" (22). Weiner also points, with a contradictory self-referential phrase, to definite articles as markers of a formal closure that erases itself, the positivity of the object the article denotes seeming to entail the production of the "the" and not vice versa: "One or more THES0 have0 been used in one or sente 0I234" (21). On the other hand, "the" may at times have its uses: "Ask them to order the0I abolishment of the Control [End Page 146] Unit 0I234 0I234" (20). In general, however, "Theories dont make0 a0I23 good picture" (20): "The0I survi of the priarie dog is proof / posit that0 both Hegel and Kant were wrong / in0I2 their understanding of the 'New World' / My0I2 peopl thank you for your help / All0I of012 the nouns write" (23). The Native American voice becomes an empirical "noun" contradicting Hegel and Kant's "proof posit."29

The Zero One does not exhibit a longing for a reality prior to the subsumption of the empirical world by numbers, but rather an argument against what universalizing judgment, or the transcendentalized subject, takes to be a determinate opposition between presence and absence, a fiction that facilitates the illusion of counting's objectivity and a violent amnesia regarding the construction of its objects. As Weiner writes, "What it says is0I2 separ and the way it says it disco 0I234" (20): what is said is putatively separate from the way it is said; the world is "disco"-vered, not produced. An oppositional principle overdetermining empirical difference (and differential valuation), zero also actively produces absence, seeking to annihilate what would seem incommensurable within the sutured set it establishes, i.e., whatever cannot be idealized and thus counted. Indeed, despite Weiner's diligent documentation of the horrifically proliferating numbers of victims of officially denied atrocities, administrations cannot be held accountable. Within self-validating regimes willing to enforce the unity of their authority, guaranteed by zero, at any cost, words are entirely too productive--"Stres the0I reali of0I2 the0I word0 01234" (25)--yet erase the traces that they are so. For Weiner, "There are other ways to write 0I234" (18) that require us to "Go012 beyon form0 to0I2 achie poetr 0I234" (24). Poetry's task is to demonstrate that "The0I only0 real in writing is writing itself" (22). This reality is indeterminate, involving the paradox inhering not only in an obviously malformed phrase, but in any linguistic instance: shadowed by the zero one, each utterance displays a contradictory failure to totalize itself, an anti-self-referentiality. Unless we acknowledge at the level of language a heterogeneity other to information, we face, and in our ignorance become parties to, eradications presented as the margins of history.

Silent Writing

Weiner's later works phase out the interference of conscious agency altogether, becoming exclusively clairvoyantly written. Describing the structural shift in her post-Journal poetry, she writes: "Since [End Page 147] [Clairvoyant Journal] all of my books are written for one voice, though dis-continued and interrupted" ("Mostly" 61). She also notes in the formal introduction to Spoke, "All these on my forehead words are seen EXCEPT BIG LARGE / WORDS WHICH ARE GLADLY SEEN ON THE you are / discovered PAGE nineteen eighty one and class Radcliffe spoke" (6).30 Likewise, LITTLE BOOKS/INDIANS begins, "I said introduction / BO / some title / all words seen / i skips / ons screen laugh / o/n/s forehead / SOME ON PAGE / or changes / written in bed / lying down upside / hannah has hlep / spelled incorrectly" (5). (Here Weiner goes so far as to incorporate even her meticulous editorial practices into the domain of clairvoyance.)31 These texts are composed entirely of phrases that appear on the page (usually in capitals) and phrases Weiner sees in her head already written out.32 The seen words relate organically to the scene of writing: Weiner does not report sightings or reactions that do not come from within the experiential activity of writing clairvoyantly. The relationship between clairvoyance and writing thus frames their referentiality, the seen words no longer taken by Weiner for intentional vehicles circulating within a reality prior to the text. Thus closed off from any extratextual referent, this utterly self-referential writing gives rise to a peculiar species of performativity. If, in general, the performative utterance takes itself as its own referent, generating power and sense of its own initiative (or appears to cite or represent a displaced authoritative guarantee), the act necessarily subscribing to its own content-effect, the reflexivity of Weiner's writing creates "a scene that, illustrating nothing . . . beyond itself, illustrates nothing" (Derrida, "Double" 208). The text produces not a content-effect, but "the effect of a medium" (212).

IMAGE LINK= This radically antidescriptive stance is the subject of the first poem in Spoke. Taking the form of a journal entry (see fig. 3), the poem appears at first glance to record the author's recollection of a prior event, a Saturday bicycle ride. However, as Weiner soon enough makes clear, the bicycle she rides is the present moment of writing: "myname it's a very funny long bicycle poem about nothing written indoors" (7). Unlike its conventional two-wheeled counterpart, Weiner's bicycle has a "THIRD TIRE," with the "w" above the "RD" in "THIRD" making this tire a "w-rd." As Weiner demonstrates, writing is usually a bicycle: a vehicle for getting to/representing something in the world. By contrast, Weiner's writing practice uses the word as a third tire involving no such "decidable exteriority" ("Double" 210). Weiner's words become referentially indeterminate; the poem is more an "exercy machine" that merely mimics movement than [End Page 148] a bicycle: "when I give up right bicycling on this floorexplain upstairs / exercy machine and I write me" (7). The strange mistakability of an actual ride on an actual bicycle for a stint on the exercycle parallels the mistakability between writing as reference (riding) and writing as act. As so often in Weiner's oeuvre, the self, reading as it writes and thus ceding to the function of apostrophe, finds itself drawn into a specular exchange: "sis Iaposm riding a bicycle all the / time Im seeing this words SEEING" (7). But this "speculum reflects no reality; it produces mere 'reality-effects'" ("Double" 206); the text demonstrates that the most basic specular relation, "I'm seeing this," is simply a side-effect generated by structure. The poem has become a hall of mirrors where "the signifying allusion does not go through the looking glass" (210), operating, through a linguistic illusion/allusion, only as if it refers to an order outside it; the poem remarks on its indifference to the division between the two. Another analogue for the opposition between word and referent that Weiner dissolves may be found at the top of the page: "on the train sat b/i/c/y/c/l/e" (7). Words appear to harbor irreducibly opposing intentions; they are doubled vehicles.33 Unlike the oppositional message of Code Poems, unlike the difference that italics make or the differential relation between capitals [End Page 149] and self in Clairvoyant Journal, this clairvoyant writing produces a third position that declares a certain indifference between opposites.

Having established the indifference of difference, Weiner links it to clairvoyance, the indeterminate phenomenon of seeing words both there and not there. In fact, Weiner's understanding of the words on the page as indeterminate seems itself the effect of their having been routed through clairvoyance, which announces writing as a strange species of catachrestical translation or metaphor: "words SEEING myname" (7). Having crossed through the threshold of clairvoyance, the poem carries the clairvoyant imprimatur. This writing is not "about," but a repetitive act of writing "myname," of inscribing an indeterminate self.34 For Weiner, the fact that "I still did see it with my right Hannah name" (7) invisibly separates and testifies to the properness, the radical particularity of this clairvoyant form of naming from "thename schoolwork," the name as a generalized function. Yet Weiner also expresses as she begins the piece that to write "my bicycle" "this hurts." Her name, her writing, is inevitably mistakable for "IMBECILLIC WRITING" (7), writing that in being written becomes recognizable, painfully conscripted within the pale of the general. There can be no indeterminate mark. Although the clairvoyant self, as yet impossibly unreflexive, may be indeterminate, there is only access to it through a writing that posits a determinate center, a "zero one."

Given her political commitments, however, it was of the utmost importance to Weiner that she continue, unflaggingly, to generate tactics for conveying indeterminacy without damaging it. All of Weiner's later work involves the delicate and complicated task of aligning this precariously poised indefinite quality with the representation of Native Americans in the political sphere. From a thematic standpoint, Weiner's poetry shows that she remained an outspoken supporter of the aim movement: the work reminds its readers of the imprisonment of aim leaders Peltier and Russell Means (who was arrested, tried, and jailed a number of times, as well as shot by a Bureau of Indian Affairs policeman [Sayer 213]), and of the ongoing Indian struggles for religious freedom and economic and territorial parity. Weiner's poetry maintains its vigilance long after the media circus surrounding the 1970s trials for movement standoffs with various federal agencies had died out. Weiner was also a friend of the Oglala Sioux Crow Dog family of which Leonard Crow Dog, a holy man active at the landmark 1973 protest at Wounded Knee and subsequent events, had been jailed, and Mary Crow Dog, also involved [End Page 150] in key aim protests including the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties, was to write a groundbreaking feminist autobiography, Lakota Woman.35 Just as important, however, is the fact that Weiner never loses sight of the formal conditions of representation that allow such gross injustice towards and expropriation of indigenous groups to take place seemingly without the possibility of just recourse. The textual logic drawn out through her poetry allegorizes the political logic that produces Native Americans as a subaltern constituency.

Although Weiner's work has been read as "comprised of very little other than broken bits of language," in which "syntax is unsystematically eroded, as is orthography, proper word order, etc" (Damon, Sect. 1), her entire project is one of "correcting for correction," a practice that involves every mark in a double accounting. A meticulous commentary on hegemony's syntactical discipline is accompanied by the constant invention of disarticulations that permit her text to glimpse an impossible presentation of alterity: "this wor section these words are inflicted upon by us who / writes in the uneven indent which / signifies us / I was prepared to fight" (Spoke 72).36 Weiner grapples with establishing a turnabout for that which definitionally exceeds representation "as though this goal were not utopian but pragmatic" (Felman 211). The stakes of clairvoyant writing are twofold: what would remain indeterminate reaches the representational field always already conscripted by determining forces; this preinscribed history belongs to the victors, who establish a differential between indifferent abstract differences. Weiner finds that the very act of witnessing, even as it occurs in clairvoyant writing, "appears to work in another's interest" (Spivak, "Can" 276), for it not only employs the dominant idiom, but in its very appearance as writing disqualifies itself from giving testimony.37 Developing a number of ingenious means of protecting the necessarily foreclosed indefiniteness of her text from both indeterminacy and overdetermination in its appearance in a restricted economy, Weiner exhibits an extreme sensitivity to the burden of representation that is irreducibly both metonymic in the sphere of politics and ambiguously metaphoric in the sphere of exchange ("Can" 276-79). Chasing after, rather than denying the contradictions--and the risks--involved, Weiner's overarching strategy is to write what she theorizes can be only a metaphorically silent text.

Weiner analyzes the double bind of representation in which native leaders find their being silenced impossible to remark in "UBLIMINAL" [End Page 151] (1997), abducting and reinscribing these confrontations with hegemony within the economy of a metaphorical silence that "a i m leadership" has "under control":

scramble leadership secret division original opposition offer yourself to sir secretary agriculture prevent tenement destruction leadership initials secretary historical sir terrestorial education a i m leadership under control with it perfect perfection unlease one line silence arguable division of laughable sir correct identity sir territory inclined sir territory inclined sir speaker silent

spoken (239)

On the one hand, to claim "correct identity" is not only to fall within the totalizing scheme of a disciplinary measure ("sir"), it is also to become "territory inclined," marking a "laughable" or indifferent opposition within which the proper antiproperty stance of Indian tenement squatters is radically absent. As Weiner points out, the objective is not to act as lessor or lessee, but to "unlease." On the other hand, even though it is already inscribed within an opposition that twists it to make it a form of consent, silent speaking or writing may nevertheless become "perfect perfection," knowable as a "secret division," a "scrambled" message that points back to the "original opposition" between the indefinite and indifferent difference.

Yet, even as she comments on the fragile mechanism of a metaphorically silent speech (marking this silence with a physical space in the passage above), Weiner maintains a painstaking awareness that speaking requires a rhetorical position from which to speak, the production of which must inevitably recapitulate hegemony's own tactics. She aligns this preordained conflation with the acknowledgement of a similarly structured ambiguity: that in her extreme identification with the Native American cause she risks "the slippage from rendering visible the mechanism to rendering vocal the individual" (Spivak, "Can" 285)--the danger of ventriloquizing the subaltern.38 Although clairvoyance would provide the mechanism by which the anti-author is befallen by her text, thus demolishing "all questions of agency or the agent's connection with [her] interest" ("Can" 278), Weiner signals that interest does inevitably figure in any recognizable text--indeed, she forces to the reader's attention the ethical injunction to flip this interest metaphorically in favor of what lies beyond evidence. As she writes, for instance, in Nijole's House: [End Page 152] "ALLS IN SILENCE SPOKEN and / obeyed because we change the / society" (9). This explicit solicitation of the reader's credulity credits the presupposition of belief to the (non)account of absolute difference. And it must do so without positing the reader's anticipatory knowledge of what interest this reversal serves. This is difficult to manage because it requires both bridging and maintaining the discrepancy between a meaning unconditioned by mensuration and the ineradicable, indeed necessary, figuration of exchange. In staging the author's compelling and the reader's compulsion through a trope that solicits credibility yet remains beyond belief, i.e., clairvoyance, Weiner aims not at representational accuracy, but at ethical adequacy; not the authority of experience, but the experience of alterity as an alternate and indefinite authority. No slippage between a necessary "speaking for" and an impossible "speaking as" is permitted, for Weiner stages ventriloquism as a "speaking for" that painfully and pragmatically replaces an unrepresentable "speaking as" only once that throwing of voice is metaphorically guided by an alternate ought. As Weiner says in LITTLE BOOKS/INDIANS, her text is to be the figure of this tenuous conjoining: "I ams ampersand / THIS BOOK TESTS / YOU / I'SM SCARED" (35).

Weiner's concern both to refuse and enact this representational slippage by writing in an economy of silence is reflected in her creation of an anti-apostrophe in LITTLE BOOKS/INDIANS, where she implodes the disciplinarity of voice by inflecting apostrophe as a mark of punctuation: "'s apostrophe voice - I SKIP" (28). If in Clairvoyant Journal, voice established differential and difference, the rigorous removal of nearly every punctuating apostrophe, a practice that would continue in all of her other books, disarticulates this coding literally: "Hannah you're / making a mistake / again / dumbMISTA / apostrophe / nos / sign" (53). A mark appearing in exactly the same form in its three highly different uses, the clitic form of auxiliary word groups (primarily modal verbs and the present tense of the verb "to be"), the possessive case, and the contracted negative (most often found in Weiner's work in the imperative), the apostrophe, as that which adds, subtracts, and endows with a modality of being, becomes an emblem of a seemingly uniform or equitable structure that covertly determines and apportions value, the text itself refusing to become value's scene.

Weiner connects this absented apostrophe to an errant "s" that announces the textual field as silent (see fig. 4). An "s" is added to what [End Page 153] should be first-person verb forms, effectively leveling them with the third-person verbs: "i ams a dis / CIPLINE" (14), "I writes / SLOWLY" (10); she puts a stray "s" at the beginning of nouns, creating a sign that equivocates between a kind of inverse pluralization and possession, "SHEALERS" (34); she replaces the apostrophe of the contracted negative with an "s": "I donst object / S E N T E N C E / SENTENCE / sSLOWLY / I writes" (10); "I CANST / EXPLAIN / JIMMIE / TO MY / MIND AGAIN" (56), as well as the apostrophe marking the clitic "to be": "IsM." As Weiner remarks, "shannah I worries / MYSELF / t/o/s death" (9)--"Hannah I am just / an injustice / leveller" (31).

Managing the reversal of a textual field in which "there is a great / master among us / that we are / against" (48) and making it yield to an alternate "ought" is extremely difficult. The remarkable opening pages of LITTLE BOOKS/INDIANS make the argument that every written letter carries with it the burden of hegemonic recognition or "STRUCTURE."39 It matters little whether the writer seems present: "SEE an n appears / [End Page 154] sWHERE / where I write / N/WRITTEN / completes my sentence" (11), or vacates the scene: "I just / DISAPPEAR / sSometime" (11), as the machinery of closure absorbs these infinitesimal units of sense. The smallest mark--"cross my ts"--registers "structure ONS SCREEN stupid," whether the writer objects or not: "I donst object" (10). The writer need not even remember this fact of totalization: "I FORGOTS MY / SCREEN / I completes my SEN/ENCE" (11 final virgule in original) or forgets to finish a mark completely, for just upon entering the scene of representation: "I ENCLOSE MY / SOBVI / OUS // S" (10). The closure of the page as screen cheats: "COLOR TV / As LIE" (12). The letter may be an accidental death, but one on which structural recuperation puts a premium and registers as a "double indemnity" (17). At the same time, however, Weiner is establishing the pure contingency of the mark beyond such determining structure: "sThis / I am ACROSS / still swaiting" (9). She is caught between a compulsion to complete and repeat, "self a sheep" (13), and a counterdemand that would acknowledge the structure as open to a radically heterogeneous motive that is purely a means unwitting of its end: "WHO KNO / W S YELLOW / WHA / TT / evils / sheep followers / LURKS / Just TYPE" (13).

Although the recursive force of determination remains a constant threat, Weiner's poems are unrelentingly pragmatic in attempting to establish this reversal. Indeed, Wiener's pragmatism--"correctly / ohs hannah SPEL / b/e/s/m/o/r/e/p/r/a/c / tical" (44)--leads her to the eventuality of meaning, to the necessity of fighting force with force, "hannah forgot / STRUCTURE / ins my SILENCE / S E N T E N C E / I may just become / Jimmie scribbles" (45). She states:

reverse situations dont joke
please I understand
it Russell leads period
LLESSUR SNAME and it hurts a little published
you're an honest woman stupid
Hannah he sits
& we know it
hannah thats all silent means [End Page 155]
MEANS for his safety Jimmie explains it
       INS JAIL
guess what it means
I just did it
spells awkwardly (41)

Playing on the name of Russell Means, Weiner attempts to deploy a meaning that would still claim a connection with silence, that would be "honest" despite its ambiguous vehicularity and potential to harm. Even as she creates carefully demarcated zones in which the subaltern contingent may establish its own mechanisms of closure, "it Russell leads period," and models of a just correcting for correction, "spells awkwardly," Weiner notes the pain of determination: "and it hurts a little published." Only with extreme care does she venture to write the proper name, signaling its connection to alterity by writing it in reverse: "LLESSUR SNAME." Weiner restricts this recourse to determinacy due solely to the extreme repression of an external silencing, "he sits / SILENT / & we know it," so that it functions purely as an indicator of that double bind: "hannah thats all silence means."

Producing a metaphorically silent textual field also requires a theory of metaphor that allows for the detour into alterity. Description produces abstraction as it metaphorizes its objects in order to make them knowable; it is thus also precisely what makes any object improper to itself in becoming meaningful. Given that conceptual predication is metaphorical in its structure, writing becomes silent only when its metaphoricity remains at "the stage when meaning has appeared but when truth still might be missed" (Derrida, "White" 241)--that is, only when the negation metaphor entails does not return vehicle to tenor and thus sublate the negation.

Weiner traces the movements of this impossible refusal of return in "Research Important Conflict Two Obedient" (1990), her staccato, elliptical style isolating the moments she analyzes: "forget sentence structure repetition your forget remorse begins on the wherever subconstruction intelligent read uncomplish permit granted substitution unoffended have substance without understanding" (70). The mark that would escape the violence of metaphor, foregoing predicative structure in order to designate what repels it, repeats the structure's inherent forgetting of particularity, its basic metaphoricity: "forget sentence structure [End Page 156] repetition your forget." Yet it is possible to read the metaphor trying to forget itself, to "uncomplish" itself (a negative asymmetrical to "accomplish"), "wherever subconstruction intelligence read." The "permit" is "granted" to enter the outside and in becoming part of the very outside, the substitution is "unoffended" by itself. It becomes possible for it to "have substance without understanding," that is, without falling into a predicative, metaphorical structure of differential commonality. It obeys, as Derrida writes, "the law of what does not return or come back, of what comes back to us only there where it can no longer come back to us" ("By Force" 192).

Weiner states that the mode of writing that would "uncomplish" as perpetual "remorse" is always at risk of being formally "forgiven" and thus falling into an economy inscribing its determinacy; it becomes an abstract vehicle invoking and thus harboring its opposite:

some betray themselves forgiven unable since reward confines opposition afraid work silently offended obstruction uphold name omitted sentence repeats meaning silence recommended sis follow obedience like only prescription say youre reliable unfilled publishing say unable destructible name own you reference continuum some rationalism like obstruction twice repeat end sentence like obedience like someone obediently construction obedience ("Research Important" 70)

Even a blank does not avoid the problem of language "cheating," since the "omitted sentence" actually "repeats meaning" through its formal opposition to text. It is recuperated as "work," while "the outside [is] the absence of work" (Blanchot 33). A truly responsible "silence" is "recommended," but it is not writable: either one writes reliably and creates the hollow of the negation of this negation, an "unfilled publishing," or one is "unable" to write at all and allows the name to become "destructible." Even one's "own you" is a "reference" taken up in a "continuum" with "some" form of descriptive "rationalism," already involved in closure as "obstruction," unable to designate alterity. Already completed and repeated as though upon a rational model it implicitly follows, the "sentence" is "like obedience like someone obediently construction obedience." It would seem impossible to make any progress in recovery; one can only trace or reiterate an alterity that resists and yet is also further harmed by this resistance.

Weiner then inverts the problem: [End Page 157]

say its history write substructure analysis without obedience I'm sorry alone strong say quiet power your name power obeys writes words since silence sis your incomplete structure is in forbidden subculture strict obvious silence structure someone say name controls otherwise quarrel sis its control obvious another quit handling sis Im quitting like omit translate your name quit reading climax forbidden (72)

It is possible for silence to "say its history" if remorse, ("I'm sorry)" is expressed and unrecuperated ("your incomplete structure"). Yet what would fall out of dialectical recovery is "forbidden"; it becomes an obvious aberration if it is not possessed through this repossession ("someone say name controls otherwise quarrel"). Thus, a translated name must be given, but not read over, not speculated upon. The silence this negative name establishes is fragile.

Weiner thus outlines in "Research Important" that silent writing requires two interdependent elements: that it keep its "incomplete structure" and that it express not description, but "obedience like only prescription" (70 see above). She repeatedly emphasizes the importance of interruption in her composition process: "Many of these words and sentences were completed if my memory could hold onto the long seen phrase which was interrupted by newer seen phrases" ("Mostly" 56); "The words appeared too fast and interrupted themselves. The (my) natural desire for closure was defeated by the more important mind--or poetic--form" ("Mostly" 55). The similarly structured indeterminate relation characterizes the reading process:

The incomplete and interrupted sentence does away again with the authority of the author, engaging the reader whose own mind will either naturally or by art respond to the delay of the interruptions and the incompleteness. Perhaps the reader, even, is not allowed a consistent or ego-building response. ("Mostly" 66)

Any exchange requires interruption, as Blanchot argues, for purposes of establishing common ground (76). But before the movement of chiasmus seals exchange, "what is in play now is the foreignness between us" (77). Like Weiner's characterization of reading as a collaborative process, Blanchot proposes that interruption may enable dialogue, but also that it is possible for speakers to "allow intermittence itself to speak" (78). Rather than dialectically affirming commonality, "they speak in order to [End Page 158] make speech speak as difference" (441 n2), as when Weiner proposes that neither author nor reader establishes determinate closure. The difference that interruption acknowledges connects to an alterity within speech itself. "There is a fundamental anomaly that falls to speech not to reduce but to convey . . . it is to this hiatus--to the strangeness, to the infinity between us--that the interruption in language itself responds" (Blanchot 77). Such a silent anomaly becomes discernible in Weiner's texts, for if as medium/mediation, writing is the radical forgetting of this particularity, Weiner's silent writing, in its literal and figurative palimpsestic form, holds the possibility of remembering what did not determinately occur. To be dominated involves the loss of the capacity to determine events, giving rise to an indeterminacy that circulates around the actual indifference between determinate difference effects. For Weiner, this alterity exerts an invisible pressure in writing, a pressure that interruption can make apparent. Interruption makes evident that radical difference the trace structure entails and its inhabitation by an indefinite alternate history. Remarking that "interruption . . . is not necessarily or simply marked by silence, by a blank or a gap . . . but by a change in the form or the structure of language" (77), Blanchot also anticipates Weiner's other concern: that silence somehow avoid existential predication. Silence does so precisely by changing form, eliminating description in becoming "like only prescriptive." The radical exteriority to which writing may point is what exceeds the metaphorical enfolding of description; it is another mode of relation entirely.

Interruption signals or silently writes the anomaly Lyotard, drawing on Kant, terms "obligation": "this imminent phrase, unable to be formulated in a description, is marked or announced as a partial silence, as a feeling, a respect" (121).40 Obligation, too, is a species of performative; as Lyotard explains, it is a spontaneous cause "allomorphic" to diachronic determinate experience that acts as a premise authorizing "a phrase that asserts freedom" (120). Obligation, however, is to be distinguished from a regular performative or imperative because it declares an absolute heterogeneity between issuing and receiving parties. Unlike the Kantian categorical imperative, it is not formulated with respect to any actual ability on the part of the addressee and does not synthesize nature and freedom: "To the You ought to then there corresponds . . . an I am able to and not a You are able to. This I am able to is not a phrase that links onto the You ought to by way of an entity which would be selfsame" (122). Occurring in the space of interruption, this ethical relation bridging [End Page 159] radical difference announces the copresence of obligation and a response characterized by its freedom, its pure potentiality of effect. Though this act, Lyotard notes, would seem immediately circumscribed by a judgment assessing its possibility through a determinate experiential measure, Weiner suggests otherwise, holding onto potentiality by destroying this determining, norming assessment: "Sis destroy meaning unsubstantially so direct by intuition youre honest scribbling" ("Research Important" 70). "Research Important Conflict Two Obedient" is Weiner's analytical research into the "conflict" between two structures of obedience, an ethical obligation that establishes a relation to alterity and a "'universal law of nature'" (Kant's phrase) that explicitly disregards this "dissymmetry" "for the benefit of some universal, 'humanity,' the we of exchangeable I's and you's" (Lyotard 125).

Weiner stages the "insensible" (a quasi fact of intuition, rather than sensibility) obligation giving rise to the poem, which in turn instantiates an impossible potentiality, in an address in Spoke to "the Indian reader":

[End Page 160]


As Weiner writes, normative obedience precludes the intimations of obligation as a heterogeneous first cause: "don't drive in the front car ever as the subway l/e/s/i/o/n." "The front car" leads to a "lesion," the wounding separation of absolute difference and the painful coercion of ethical obligation. The demand is effectively "incontestable," since obligation cannot be tested and thus contested. By means of the figurative interchange of clairvoyance, Weiner conjoins the "Speaker on the whole on the front / front / page," "who is impossible as a leader," the source from whom the alternate authority of absolute difference issues, with the pure potentiality of the indefinite that answers that call: "who cares if the impossible / can be done." Weiner further imagines that the poem confounds "the liver the poor abstract / reader who has lesson about the thinking / class who is the ruler," the reader who would norm the ethical relation of difference and become the measure, the "ruler," of the universal law, rather than acceding to the silent "leader." Unlike a "subordinate / clause / leader / clause," Weiner acts with freedom, herself becoming "inclausible." Indeed, the poem as potentiality becomes the surrogate for the "Speaker": "I was a leader." The poem itself battles for this alternate law in its subjunctive history: "battle sis it has to be recognized as a great big leader in its own time," but it does so without mastery, without the eventuality of an end, and without claiming totalizing knowledge of the one who obligates, "who has hints to the march is in with it." Integrating the ephemeral experience of smoking a cigarette into this intuited temporality, Weiner closes the clairvoyant rendezvous with alterity by noting an event determinate in its absence: "and Charles whoname didnt call / with a period." The writing only ends because of this determined closure.

At its most fundamental, Weiner's writing remarks and metaphorically effaces the self in order to write its secret ethical name, a name that would mark the pure potential of each moment: "I'S SSHOULDNT / 101. secret name / writes as it is as it is" (LITTLE BOOKS 48). It is a name [End Page 161] stumbled upon through an interruptive relation, a "squinting" second sight: "hannah stops / writing it in / BEFORE / hannah is you a / psychic squinting / as it is / QUESTION" (57). For Weiner, the importance of this "QUESTION" lies ultimately in whether being "psychic" enables the creation of an indefinite sentence whose interest inheres in a radical form of democracy. Her poetry itself leads us to one answer: perhaps only a clairvoyant can make writing silently tell a truth that cannot be written.

Judith Goldman is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University. Her book of poems, Vocoder, was published in Spring 2001 by Roof Books. She is currently at work on a project that investigates the relationships among gendered authorship, sanctioned forms of exchange, monetary representations of value, and the trope of equivalence in late-eighteenth-century writing by British women.


1. Charles Bernstein uses the term "dictation" to describe clairvoyance in his LINEbreak interview with Weiner. As he remarks there and in his review of Weiner's Clairvoyant Journal, "Making Words Visible," the term is Jack Spicer's. This connection is extremely important and one with which Weiner would have been familiar. See Robin Blaser's beautiful essay, "The Practice of the Outside," in Spicer's collected books for an in-depth discussion of "dictation."

2 With nonpaginated books, which include Nijole's House, Clairvoyant Journal, WRITTEN IN, and The Zero One (1985), my practice has been to count the title page of the text as page one when referencing in this article.

3 Charles Bernstein discusses Weiner's schizophrenia and its metaphorical relation to her poetry in a remembrance of Weiner that first appeared in The Poetry Project Newsletter in 1997 ("Hannah").

4 The logical and ethical problem of the "singular witness" is the main topic of Jean-François Lyotard's The Differend: Phrases in Dispute.

5 Drawing on Lyotard's The Differend, John Sayer uses this problematic to structure his analysis of the Native American political predicament in his history of the Wounded Knee Trials. Sayer's study approaches these events through their copious media coverage.

6 For a discussion of colonial tropes and the secularization and appropriation of Eastern religion and spirituality in nineteenth-century occultism as practiced by the English at home and abroad, see Gauri Viswanathan. For a discussion of racial personae as mediating the "other scene" in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American and English spiritualism and as ventriloquized in fictions of conversion in Shaker and other charismatic Christian sects, see Elizabeth Mayes. Both discuss the privileged relationship of women to occultist discourses.

7 For a discussion of this "future anterior" or subjective modality, see Gayatri Spivak, "Ghostwriting," esp. 70-71 and 78-82. Spivak also discusses the importance of the "radical counterfactual in history" in "Poststructuralism, Marginality, Postcoloniality and Value" 213.

8 Of course, up until 1970, when she began "hiding out in a cheap apartment" (silent teachers 69) on the lower east side of Manhattan, Weiner also had her "day jobs": shortly after graduating from Radcliffe College in 1950, she moved to New York and, in succession, worked for three publishing houses, took a position as an assistant clothing buyer at Bloomingdale's, and became a lingerie designer (Bernstein, "Hannah"; Weiner, silent teachers 69).

9 Weiner's numerous performance works throughout the 1960s generally involved disarticulating the conventions of cultural forms and social experiences. One example is the legendary "Fashion Show Poetry Event" of 1970 that she organized with poets Eduardo Costa and John Perreault, for which they enlisted a number of artists--Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg, among others--to design costumes, while the three poets wrote a poetry program to accompany the ventures down the catwalk. (Apparently, Weiner herself, using her experience as a designer, also created a costume--"an all-purpose, many pocketed cape . . . : no need for luggage when you fly" [Perreault 8]).

10 For an insightful discussion of other American avant-gardist poetries that make use of "preexisting vocabularies," see Watten, esp. 23-24.

11 As Perreault remembers of the 60s period, "Hannah Weiner was best known for her code poem performances. One night she had two people waving flags at each other from one end of West 26th Street to the other. I remember her Central Park band-shell spectacle that included flares, flags, and Coast Guards" (8). The pieces were not only performed live in various arts festivals and art-activism events protesting the Vietnam War; a production of "Any Chance of War," was made into a film, and other texts appeared in a number of gallery venues and journals.

12 Megan Simpson similarly suggests, "A language-oriented woman writer is more likely to suggest in her work that [the gender bias of systems of knowledge] is a function of the way that disciplines maintain their linguistic influence and claims to objectivity by reinforcing gender categories and definitions" (9).

13 Clairvoyant Journal represents selections from Weiner's journal project, other portions of which had been previously published. An audio version of selections from the Journal was published by New Wilderness Audiographics.

14 Weiner's diverse and extraordinary group of friends at this time who are mentioned in the journal include Jerome Rothenberg, Bernadette Mayer, Jackson Mac Low, Kathy Acker, LaMonte Young, and Phillip Glass, to name only a few. Weiner attended the meditation retreats of Swami Satchidananda, a Hindu master of hatha yoga who founded Integral Yoga International in Manhattan, and lectures given by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist lama who founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Approximately the last quarter of Clairvoyant Journal was written at a 1974 Satchidananda retreat.

15 To cite Weiner's clairvoyant and even her nonclairvoyant writings in prose format is inevitably to alter them. I have tried to indicate wherever possible when the text presents a word on the diagonal by using the line break symbol between letters without spacing; because these chop up words, they are fairly differentiable from Weiner's own line breaks. As will be discussed, Weiner often employs unconventional orthograhy. Her spelling has been preserved in quoted passages in this essay.

16 This is also observed by Bernstein, who states, "Weiner's work stands as a remarkable extension of the diaristic tradition in literature" ("Making" 284).

17 As de Man states in his seminal essay, "Autobiography as De-Facement," "Autobiography . . . [is] a figure of reading or of understanding that occurs to some degree in all texts. The autobiographical moment happens as an alignment between the two subjects involved in the process of reading in which they determine each other by mutual reflexive substitution" (70).

18 Mayer's "Experiments," actually a collaboration done with students from one of her writing workshops at the Poetry Project, is a work listing possible writing experiments that disarticulate linear prose and that propose numerous techniques of citation, fragmentation, and categorization.

19 Clairvoyance even ironizes as it estranges this substituting function, as it becomes, like belief, contagious, spreading to situations where our uniqueness would seem necessary: "SECRET says Donnie's forehead / Michael's face appears on mine making love to Donnie ISRAEL YOUR WHOLE / INSURANCE FEELS BAD WHEN LOVE MAKING be careful" (23).

20 This formulation draws somewhat on Judith Butler: "An irresolvable ambiguity arises when one attempts to distinguish between the power that (transitively) enacts the subject, and the power enacted by the subject. . . . At some point, a reversal and concealment occurs, and power is what belongs exclusively to the subject" (15).

21 As Lacan states, "Signifiers always have several, sometimes extremely disjointed significations. The sentence, though, has one unique meaning, what I mean is that it can't be lexicalised--one makes dictionaries of words, of word usages or locutions, but one doesn't make a dictionary of sentences. Hence, some of the ambiguities tied to the semantic element are reabsorbed in the context, through usage and the utterance of the sentence" (Seminar 279).

22 I borrow some of this formulation from Krauss.

23 The two also collaborated in the nonclairvoyant work Weeks (1990), with photographs by Rosenthal accompanying text by Weiner.

24 The future-oriented redirection that Weiner orchestrates emphasizes the indefinite quality shared by blank and text. In this, it employs the same structure of the promise of form Werner Hamacher isolates in Marx's critique of the commodity fetish: "This promise says that language other than commodity language is possible . . . it says that . . . something other than a categorical language will be invented. This promise is itself already no longer a category; it indicates something structurally different" (Hamacher 180).

25 As Lyotard writes, "The idiolect easily falls beneath the blows of the dilemma . . . : if your lived experience is not communicable, you cannot testify that it exists; if it is communicable, you cannot say that you are the only one able to testify to it" (84).

26 See Navarro. She discusses the "report of the independent Historical Clarification Commission" that was "established as a part of a United Nations-supervised peace accord."

27 See Parry.

28 Both "disappearance" and "genocide" are juridical terms used by official bodies to describe the events in Guatemala.

29 See Spivak's discussion of Kant's "Analytic of the Sublime," in which "the noumenal subject is generally dependent upon the rejection . . . of the Aboriginal" (Critique 26-27n32). As Spivak notes, Kant uses a South American example among others.

30 One important exception to this is Weiner's intermittent and at-length citation/commentary in Spoke on the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty signed between the U.S. government and the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians.

31 As publisher James Sherry describes, he and Weiner spent hundreds of hours together on the book (personal conversation).

32 As per Weiner's discussion in "Mostly About the Sentence."

33 Along these lines, Barthes writes, "The text needs its shadow: this shadow is a bit of ideology. It is quite inconsistent to speak of a 'dominant ideology,' because there is no dominated ideology: where the 'dominated' are concerned, there is nothing, no ideology unless it is precisely . . . the ideology they are forced . . . to borrow from the class that dominates them" (Pleasure 32).

34 Of such a (non)demarcation, Lyotard writes: "Is does not therefore signify is there, and even less so does it signify is real. Is doesn't signify anything, it would designate the occurrence "before" the signification (the content) of the occurrence. It would designate it, but it does not designate it, since by designating it it situates it ("before" signification) . . . Rather is would be: Is it happening? (the it indicating an empty place to be occupied by a referent)" (79).

35 See Jackson Mac Low's commentary on Weiner's Sixteen for a short discussion of this friendship.

36 Weiner's irregular orthography is quite purposive, a part of correcting for correcting, as in this example from Nijole's House: "THEM CROW DOGS // speak to us sister silently / when the land is ours / we speak YBTUKS WE ARE SUKEBT / (Hannahs they would love it that way dont correct) / UNTILS WE ARE SILENT" (14); the transposition of fingers on the typewriter keys becomes a signifier of clairvoyance and "silent teaching," not a mistake.

37 This is manifestly the topic of Lyotard's The Differend.

38 In certain later works, such as "silent teachers," Weiner waxes altogether parodic, engaging a ventriloquism that verges on the Blavatzsky-esque. See DuCharme.

39 For a discussion of the "teleological retrospection" in even a single letter, see Derrida, "White Mythology" 236-37.

40 Lyotard draws primarily on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals.

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