EDITORS: Ken Harris, Jim Leftwich

CONTRIBUTORS: David Hoefer, Lindsay Hill, Jake Berry

Address: 977 Seminole Trail #331, Charlottesville, VA 22901 E-Mail: SLeftwich@aol.com (Subject line: Juxta/Electronic)



by David Hoefer

Chances are, if asked to name a region of the country that is particularly
attuned to aesthetic experimentation, you wouldn't consider the South. Its
values are conservative values: religiosity, loyalty to kith and kin, local
control, respect for natural authority. Furthermore, the South has
traditionally allied itself with the soil and things tangible rather than
with the cruise-missile abstractions of radical thought. The twentieth
century aesthetic most closely associated with the South - that of the
agrarian writers - is nearly always couched in reactionary terms, a usage
that the agrarians themselves promoted.

Reaction, of course, is an affront to the myth of progress in all its guises,
whether liberal, Marxist or Christian. (An inconsistency crops up here: some
reactionaries grant a supernatural framework to history that is undetected in
nature.) At the same time, reaction is dependent on the progressive paradigm
for defining its desires and objectives. Man, a mind/body plough in the field
of time, is essentially a historical animal. His foundation is in the past
even as he peers anxiously at the future. Reaction is progress standing on
its head.

It is ironic, then, that the combative nature of reaction leaves it open to
seduction by the advance guard. Southern intransigence in the face of the
national ideology of managerial-state capitalism, though halting and often a
cover for signing up at a discount, represents a genuine streak of
nonconformism. Nonconformity, subversion, threats to centralized order,
whether political, psychological or linguistic: These are the soils of
experiment, of liberating self-adventure.

The view from history
Just what should an avant-gardist make of Southern conservatism? We realize,
when remembering As I Lay Dying or A Death in the Family, that the South has
proven occasionally tolerant of experimental literature. What aspect of the
culture might inspire equivalent risk-taking by today's writers? The answer,
to my mind, is the South's unique rootedness in the revolutionary origins of
the United States.

The American Revolution was a radical revolution. As historian Bernard Bailyn
and others and have shown, its ferocious first principles - expressed most
fully in the writings of Tom Paine, the Jefferson-authored Declaration of
Independence, the various Anti-federalist documents and the Bill of Rights,
though not the Constitution - leveled centuries of political superstition. On
the other hand, the generally Christian (or devoutly deistic) makeup of the
revolutionary leaders assured that radical principles, once settled, would be
discretely enacted. In France, virtue-worshipper Robespierre presided over a
Terror that took hundreds of lives including his own; in the U.S., Alexander
Hamilton, our proto-fascist, had the decency to get himself shot before
graduating from mass mischief to mass murder.

Subsequent events left the South as the region of the country most closely
wedded to the radical impulses of decentralized self-rule. It resisted the
mercantilism of the New England traders. It resisted the tariffs and internal
improvements (read: pork barrel) of the Whig Party. It helped put Andrew
Jackson in the White House and helped scuttle the Second United States Bank,
that engine of inflation and bureaucratic expropriation.

Unfortunately, the South also resisted the most desperately-needed
application of radical libertarian principle: the abolition of slavery. We
continue to pay the price for that failure to this day, both in
institutionalized disrespect for African Americans and in the bloated
welfare-warfare state that has been the ultimate legacy of the Civil War.
Nevertheless, in this century, the South, perhaps because it's acquired some
of the characteristics of a conquered province, has continued to challenge
the hegemony of an increasingly rootless and ahistorical elite whose American
dream is the transformation of frontier into non-stop golfing community (with
untouchables relegated to make-work and fast food outside the course walls).

Backing into the radical
With this perspective we can more clearly see the appeal of the South to
avant-garde writing: In being bound by tradition, the South is a direct link
to the most radical phase of American life. What's more, since the matter of
slavery (if not racism) has been historically decided, the decentralized
order of Southern culture grows more attractive as a bulwark against the twin
tyrannies of monocultural capitalism and the State.

Put another way, the South is the place where the forces of Christian
tradition and the forces of permanent revolution actually have something to
say to each other, rather than indulging in parallel monologues. If this
rapprochement sounds unlikely, consider Breton's point in the mind where
oppositions are dissolved in surreality. Whereas Breton was perhaps guilty of
pushing a private brand of dialectical mysticism, the phenomena under
consideration, being historical and therefore social in nature, are inclined
to find their realization (or refutation) in the public realm. Experimental
writing is a beachhead for the landing, by imagination, of critical forms of
beauty that might favorably adapt to one or more of the South's countless

The world of letters has previously ordered us south. But south has meant
Mexico - other, different, exotic. The beatniks sent scouting parties there,
looking for little-h heaven. And Breton himself declared Mexico the
preeminent surrealist culture, with its largely undigested constituent
elements. These forays, with their conquistadory swagger, are vigorously
Catholic. (The deep explanation of surrealism, as Catholic heresy located in
the human thirst for contradiction, has yet to be written.) Culture is
context: The Protestant South, enveloped in an old-growth forest of words,
provides a more plausible paradise for U.S. writers than wayward cities of

Where does this leave the individual writer? He or she enjoys the task of
developing a voice that, even as it borrows the future's fantastic grammar,
is sensitive to the nuances of time and place. Our little-h heroes, with
their right-winged left-wing aesthetics, will display reverence for
continuity and local control while simultaneously mixing, Thomas Edison-like,
transformative reagents of language.

On the lookout
There is, obviously, nothing inevitable about this - in fact, its
desirability may be measured by the extent that Southern writers overcome
inertia and force the fusion. Nor is this experiment without risk: Plenty of
avant-gardes have veered off into banality, unintelligibility or both, or
worn the suit of subversion even as they've looked to the government to keep
them in their soft-option lifestyle. Some of these mistakes flow naturally
from foolish assumptions and Lord knows the South, with its Jim Crow flotsam
and officer-corps jetsam, has its fair share (but no more) of bad ones.

Interesting in this capacity is Kentucky poet, novelist and land romantic
Wendell Berry. Though hardly an avant-gardist, Berry has written enough
curmudgeonly essays to qualify him as an inspired enemy of the cash nexus. He
shares with his pal, the late Edward Abbey, an isolationist disgust for the
global economy that is matched by his informed championing of the agrarian
way of life. Berry has recently turned historical revisionist in his defense
of the Luddites and their machine-smashing ism. I am myself inclined to view
Ludd and his followers as black hats: Liberty fails where (justly-titled)
property is forfeit and anti-industrialists peddle an abstraction of happy,
healthy poverty as heartless as anything liberalism has produced.
Nonetheless, the Luddites represented in their day a political avant-garde of
worker control, and were arguably among the earliest performance artists.

Closer to my thesis is the current work of poets Jake Berry (to my knowledge,
no relation) and Lindsay Hill. Jake's "House of the Sun" goes right to the
heart of the local culture, a kind of gritty grail, holy data processed by
secular microchips. His recent disavowal of the experimental label (in
Juxta/Electronic #1), though artfully reasoned, doesn't dissuade me from
suggesting that he's the best kind of basement or outbuilding tinkerer, doing
for words what Jeff Bridges, as inventor Preston Tucker, does for automobiles
in the Francis Ford Coppola movie, Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Lindsay
supports my case in a negative way: His "Socket," published in Caliban #13,
ladles up commodity junkstream, a syntactical acid corroding every seemingly
stable relation. I should add, since place makes a difference, that Jake
lives in Alabama and Lindsay in Tennessee.

These writers are no doubt joined by others. (My apologies for not listing
more: You know who you are.) The summer 1995 issue of New Orleans Review,
with a section edited by William Lavender, arrays numerous examples
(including a couple by me, so caveat emptor). We find that, to a great
extent, past and present, location and abstraction, history recorded and
history missed are mutually inclusive vectors. Our flame-fresh world is
derived from their virtual obliteration. It is paradox, not contradiction, to
clothe radical vision in conservative flesh, to jack into the uncut morning
light and feel a utopian rush in your spinal column.

If it is paradoxical to think that the South might become a bastion for
experiment, let us make the most of it. Paradox is the place where wisdom is
most often found.

# # #

Note: My view of the pre-Civil War South is based, in part, on the work of
historian and economist Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, whose book, Emancipating
Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: The American Civil War, is forthcoming from Open
Court Press.




Vaporware of a world to come. . .

Alpha-tested sky prolix with doves. . .

. . . intimate breaths at warm ports of entry. . .

. . . nanocards plugged into buzzed words of the body. . .

. . . parts paying off in a lucrative glow. . .

. . . routines beta-testing post-human assembly!

* * *

Eyes in the blink of crisis. . .

. . . their gaze, a Stalinist blitz in clerical finery. . .

. . . their unitarian voyage becalmed in plural currents. . .

. . . totaling eyes, brain-rooted refinery. . .

. . . officialdom at the switch of the live edge of shadows!

* * *

Return of the being sown into the flock!  Happening to punish facile belief!

Verbal nouns scoured for struts of Whole Language!  Homing devices built into

Burst logic!  Shudders and cries freshen the air!

Old mind snuffed out, monocultural slum!  Rank organ collages, raw squadrons
of fire!

Soft torrent of wings, wet saber of faces!

Creatures laid out as sewers of gold, staccato with light, speculating in



Moments before clarity's arousal in fog. . .

. . . trailer trash walking around, words and pharmaceuticals docking their
brains like barges. . .

. . . children in walled-off sections, teeth clicking at tear ducts and a
fifth of female. . .

. . . elites, pupils packed in satanic ice, buying bodies (the
redundant-stomach models, one for our acreage, one                for our
choices). . .

Up above, a stable of stars in champagne of absolute zero!  Right here, in
chromosome array, the paradise plot!

We say, GUNS rising in the house of golf and revolution for the HEAVEN of it!

We're armed and virtuous!

We buzz in the bouquet of e-z grow cities!  We pour into the street, sunlight
studding water!

Right here, at our feet, quick gardens and trees!  Right here, imaginary
facts terraforming vast stretches of face!

We're rifling implausible hair, gratuitous boredom!  Competing currencies
pass between us!

Communique from the Movement of 2 July:  We salute you on the eve of original
dawn!  Long live the managerial class traitors!

We match speeds and board lacunae of waste (our universe of pirates versus
their universe of committees)!

So profligate with status and spin, so telegenic with power!  Their tribe,
confusing history and anecdote, will wander lost in the annals of
corporate-lobby art!

Up above, see-through machines spurt phlogiston, sky of superluminous
branches joined to roots of indeterminacy in us!

There is opposition, the desperate, paid-for counterstroke.  Paper yack and
its allies will burn in climax and conception of the Republic of Noise!

Communique from the Revolutionary Libertarian Cadre:  Your souls have slopped
over the buckets they left you!  Your bullets are their final feelings!

We appropriate the gas siphoned from freedom!  Radical freedom and the
tradition of freedom!  Freedom the First showing action saints how!

As smoke mounts in an aviary of delight. . .

. . . we'll speak fire, if fire is what we're speaking. . .

. . . make blood, if blood is the torrent that's called for!



Shouting spree/kids discoordinate grass/garden rears, kicks us with odor/sky
minus rain minus apparatus of rain/sky just a Bill Monroe blue x The horses
they're off, a wall of white light/Kentucky Derby implied by TV/we crowd the
event the eroding event/flagrant event e-poeming senses x Kids in the dirt,
brief mulching bodies/mothers look up from ploughable skirts/passionate
gadgets, the fathers go off/these robot monsters of     longing/disparate
physics in low-down convergence/kids with old parts, combos of newness x
Drunken croquet, juleps in hand/they're nasty, we drink 'em for show/alcohol
roadkill on path to attainment/majestic dessert in boxed lunch of nature x
Jostling day jolts to a stop/twilight drops in, a stone for
transforming/creature mix, gray smears of motion/vandals sacking
postmarvelous beauty!




Swamps of zephyr herd on fire
         root potency
       song torn from dirt
fluid hybrid      prays to Isis
    fluttering bombs
       in long strings through vertebrate inclining
                 phosphor to fairy rings in hives
          of interstate purgatorial rages
                 blind drunk moon Panvotive
            utopia horn flooding
           nebula is covenant
           garbled between vascular waves
  moulting spine


  flinching toward

so sheetrock and asbestos

     wheeling shadows
          draught marrow vessels

  adhesive and
        morphing idiot vinegar to
   then salvatore animal
        vanished solidly cave

               sequences:   owl
                      seeded phoenix     rambling numb
                    &     !


streetsweeper drapes slowly mockingbird
            transfusion rained

   dialog frequented
               in columnar robes, her hands a red palsy
       shallowing mirror

olive then,:(madonna window)
     malice vineyard and busted pickup
  offers succubus tracers

glooming fetal canister


 occupied level dissonance at
              island segue's faith topologic brain

  antitypal      (.(orme
    (+)                  husked blonde lithium
       spigoted pancreas
          foam across the calender

                   omnicast specimens

          but humid attractors
               articulate vulva
             or dense cuisine and   "They'll fall brother,
         and drown happy."


Or limestone describes
antlered raw grotto
   strategy's parasitic groundling

            river burgs ambition gods
    constructing the
          linear goat of progress

   & nouns static
    not process         colored in a rout of muse
            punching the clock



          ob  phageous
     timpani annex

         amber, carnival


 washerwoman bruised to the rock
         gathered with pit viper
  shown the petals torn
      from magnets buried
                 hard into mercy seizing




Inside each person is a stainless-steel blue armature
That it can participate and mobilize its want-strings unimpeded
By slumps and unimpeded eye-arrow manifests whose corollary
Sighs do not advance the hyper-extended purpose made for it
It can radio-wave its speaks the brochure indicates
It can assume the various hunger-envelopes and pleasure points
At exits but not erode its task-surge in volcanic under-burns
Of what had been called desire in the former world
It is not in the animal-time nor the time of attachments-to-drama
Though it feature a seem-to-sleep when clocked appropriate
It is not in the animal-time nor the carnivor-time nor notched
In the parasite-mode but permanent slick and permanent fit
To set on stand-aside-and-mute when un-funded selves are stripped
And flip a prayer-switch automatic-quick when bodies are swept
>From the streets and shunted to docks for exit on boats of fire



Through the cracks I witnessed
The fallen-under souls
Pulling the wreckages of their bodies
Through the no-longer-standing streets
I saw the society
Of take-care-of-number-one-at-any-cost
In its skeletal form
Or rather
Saw the skeletons of persons
Spread in the sun like hammered instruments
How long they had undergirded
The system's insatiable mouth
How long the bones of sub-souls framed their coats
And the children below the food-chains
Scattered on the floors like tinker toys
I saw no eyes
I saw no looking back
Through shelves of finished goods
Through cracks I witnessed
The sileage of industry
The names
Standing in their charcoal boots
And the hands in their charcoal gloves
What is the last number
What is the last number
So the dollar-stackers wonder



At the dock of hours a group of three have tightly lashed a boat
It is one of the many mysteries we are made that they will wade
Like a hand that's closed or a wire that brings a voice
The steps themselves are signals long ago
How the sizes and the weights are upside down
It is like a history balanced on a tongue
It is mysteries into mysteries how they move
On the steady shouldered earth in the quiet cold