Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An [Abridged] Introduction to Parapoiesis

Having Walked Beside the Devil:
An [Abridged] Introduction to Parapoiesis

Awakened from your shepherd’s dream by a curious and questioning devil (שָׂטָן). You find yourself walking at your own pace beside the devil, who walks also at your pace, amused, engaged, uneasy. Enthralled. You experience beside the devil an arousal of doubt. You choose to acknowledge this or you choose not to. “On the whole, the very mark of my genius is that Governance broadens and radicalizes whatever concerns me personally.” says the devil.  (Kierkegaard)

The devil does not ask in earnest curiosity out of Gnostic ignorance. The question functions as the opening gambit of a small play which leaves you uncertain, fearful perhaps, and trembling (יְהוָ֛ה בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ לְשָׂטָ֣ן ל֑וֹ וְהוּא֙). You witness, for example, your beloved in conversation with another—a familiar face whose name escapes you. Your beloved is smiling in a way you know to be intimately yours. You had believed, until this moment, that only you could make your beloved smile in this way and this knowledge, once secure, was the gem of your evenings before sleep. Something whispers so near the core of your being that you can’t tell where it comes from. You are aroused. You are aroused to apprehend the distance that has already come between you and your sense of security. Then the devil whispers (וַיַּ֧עַן הַשָּׂטָ֛ן אֶת־ יְהוָ֖ה) into your ear 

The eros of this space is sublime, so wide as to let in ideas and concepts the size of nations and universes of possibility. Like Paul Celan walking beside Heidegger in relative silence at Todtnauberg, hungry for some affirmation beyond the soft music of the Arnica and Eyebright, the Orchis he was certain to point out for the philosopher. Certainly they spoke on their walk, but it is unclear whether the scion of German poetry (a holocaust survivor) and the bearer of the German intellectual tradition (a passive* participant in the horrors of the Third Reich) ever broached the subject of what settled in the historical space between them. 
Was Celan’s life ultimately worth the silence he lived with? Had Celan and Heidegger spoken earnestly of the abyss between them, the same dense matter that drew them together, what would one or the other or both have had to sacrifice in order to propel a healing discourse? 

The poetic impulse is this transverse traversal of perceptive phenomenon. It begins with limbic impression which itself is ambiguous and wells from the most primitive portion of the human brain. These basal impressions are prompting. The poet is bound to the observation of her primal or basal nature. The poet is primitive and the work of the poet is this necessary transversal by which we as a collective whole come to understanding of being and origin. It is the impetus for invention and, by extension, intervention. “Anyone who experiences anything primitively also experiences in ideality the possibilities of the same thing and the possibility of the opposite. These possibilities are his legitimate literary property. His own personal actuality, however, is not.” (Kierkegaard) So it is that these impressions, or the impression, is always original without ever being new. It is common. It is familiar. It is commonly original. 
Celan’s poem, Todtnauberg (written 1 August, 1966; posthumously published 1970 in his collection 'Lichtzwang'), commemorating his now [in]famous meeting with Heidegger, is full of longing for a music beyond that of the flora which only bears witness without affirmation. Flora, for all of its beauty, is unable to apologize, to reconcile différance. Flora belongs to the sublimity which humanity finds itself arrested from. The Arnica and Eyebright (ger: Augentrost), our ingress into his poetic retelling, prefigures the cruelty of this sublime silence. The Arnica and Eyebright, the Orchis, which signifies the transubstantiation of the body of Celan’s non-nation (like Edelweiss in The Sound of Music), cannot say “You’ve suffered. Please come inside. Rest a while. Allow me to apologize. We shall suffer and survive together.”

If the poetic impulse begins with impression, it then finds expression in neocortical synapses. Impression/feeling is given over to language and more complex processing by way of signs and signifiers so that the feeling may be apprehended and communicated to like of our species. Apprehension here does not, however, imply comprehension or even an arrest of feeling. You go on feeling. And feeling, being original, needs supplement. 
“His speaking and his producing are, in fact, born of silence. The ideal perfection of what he says and what he produces will correspond to his silence, and the supreme mark of that silence will be that the ideality contains the qualitatively opposite possibility.” Kierkegaard’s silence here is limbic in origin. It is primitive feeling which in its private ambiguity elicits basic linguistic, even poetic, returns. The difference here being the immediacy of reaction as opposed to premeditated poetic response.  Reaction is, by dint of its happening, carceral. Response is an opening toward reaction or like response (i.e. dialogue/ transmission/ manumission). Imbued in the poetic response is both the affirmative and its negative, engendering the sublime infinitude of possibility.
So this transversal begins with basal impression and attempts to become entirely potential in a calculus of language. But language, as a mode of expression, like light energy, travels as both wave and particle. “Sometimes…instead of becoming welded together, words loosen their intimate ties.” (Bachelard) So it is that these expressions, or the expression, shifts invariably toward newness without ever being original. It is invasive. It is self-conscious, self-reflexive, and asymptotically diminishing in pursuit of its origin. It is its own telos. 

This, from Lyotard's Differend, sojourns with us in dialectic thought ”…the unstable state and instant of language wherein something which must be able to be put into phrases cannot yet be… the human beings who thought they could use language as an instrument of communication, learn through the feeling of pain which accompanies silence (and of pleasure which accompanies the invention of a new idiom)". Basal impression (with its origin in primal impulse) as it is brought into shared space by external expression (that which is in a state of constant revision to better apprehend its limbic origins), has need and use for synthetic supplement. This is our recourse to poetry and parapoetic document. So long as we are defined by our finitude, poetry will fulfill its purpose as the mode by which we are and through which we become. 
Apart from its mediated graphing, poetry is a matter of coherent scope, of seeingThe poet is guiding (poiesis) a certain construction (toward object, parapoiesis) on ever-shifting terrain. As such the construction itself is uncertain and the terrain, the strictures which govern the object's making, certain to change. Because the terrain of language is unstable and its origins in basal need consistently present, the parapoetic object attempts a vacillation between its origin and its communicated manifestation—invention or intervention by way of the synthetic, of simulacra; which is then to say, sometimes only you know the purpose of the object you've created. And that, as a declaration of function, is enough. 

It is already made. The primacy of our object-oriented poiesis here displaced and contextualized as a remainder of physis, or the “…pure potential to produce and disappear in [the] production. This is nature’s ideality that the new art wants to materialize in its simplified forms: in the graphic tracing of a poem, the silence of a dialogue, a bursting surface, the movement of a statuette, or the floral decorations of a piece of furniture.” (Rancière). The poem and, by extension, the [work of the] poet exists in the liminal space between origin and elocution—has no express relationship to material (as would an artist), choosing instead to commence from and remain with the immaterial. 

Because poetry is nobody, poetry is constantly seeking its proper body. [Modernism declares that] poetry exists in perpetual desire of its form. Out of such thought, the parapoetic object is actualized in this transubstantiation (via poiesis) from the epistemological into the technological. How ideas become words, how desires are fixed to bodies. And once the poetic has become the parapoetic, once epistemology has become technology, the object achieves its own governance, performs the poet's labor autonomously, carries potential for resistance. 

The resultant parapoetic object is akin to the formation and/or discovery of an adequately absorbent black body. 

When the devil calls you to question, you are bound to respond/react

The witnessing Eyebright of Celan’s Todtnauberg, for example. The object seized upon vouchsafes security against a sort of violence which is endemic to life and living. Sometimes it becomes necessary to erect a dam in order to prevent flooding. Consider the erection of a bridge. The poetic object may function in this way. An elocution against impossibility.  

Is it possible to bear witness for the sufferings and spectral ingestions of a black body—the life of the poem which actualizes being by vacillation between origin and elocution? When asked by Gerhart Baumann, a professor at the university of Freiburg, if he’d attend one of Celan’s readings, Heidegger responded:

“I’ve wanted to become acquainted with Paul Celan for a long time. He stands farthest in the forefront and holds himself back the most. I know all of his works, also of the serious crisis from which he managed to extricate himself as much as a person is able. You are correct in interpreting how helpful a reading here would be. July 24 would be the best date for me…It would also be healing to show P.C. the Black Forest. Recently I found a new volume of his poems advertised: Atemwende.” (1966)

It is clear, by most accounts, that Heidegger mounted a concerted effort to greet the poet with measures of hospitality. In fact, before Celan’s arrival, Heidegger called in a favor from a friend and book-dealer in Freiburg. Heidegger asked him if he’d contact other book vendors in the area and have them put Celan’s works on display. Accompanied by Baumann on a walking tour of Freiburg, Celan was pleasantly surprised to find his work “…on display in every major bookstore window. He had no idea, however, that Heidegger was responsible for these displays.” (Lyon) Also, by most acknowledged accounts, Celan’s mental health appeared to improve noticeably, if only for a brief time, following his visit with Heidegger. 

It is physically impossible to perceive, to be presented with, every detail of the story, so to speak. But the poet attempts to ingest entirely and with serial conviction the world in which the story takes place. These worlds-to-be weigh on the poet—this potential within a calculus of meaning, whispered into your ear. 


Edited 7/10/2015
Edited 2/23/2016