Comment on Ian Davidson's piece --

Abena Sutherland

The island might be that moment between two events. Like the body of a bird between wing beats. Or it might be the point at which, standing straight up to take your medicine, all defenses are down and the knock out punch gets through.

The knockout catches the mind between its tiniest islands, in a moment when the instant has not quite entered memory to be filled with form. (p60)

- from Ian Davidson's An Island that is all the World – an unfinished conversation

To take only one island, Douglas Oliver has an interesting idea: the K.O. moment. Covering a European title fight he transcribed the action into his notebook: "Afterwards, I would find that my handwriting had become stuck in continuity of either vowel or consonant too: 'Moo lands a goooooood onnne', an entry would read. 'Faaaa(s)t hooooook frrom Viito'. The intervening punches would be missing." (Three variations on the theme of harm, p70) The fight is a clear, harmful event for Oliver, each punch almost pure: "On its own, each punch creates no language, just a daze of amazement, an almost-empty instant of cruelty." (p71) The punch is "the moment of change", it is "direct transparency of will".

The boxer imposes 100 per cent will
punching harm into harm in sadistic rhythms. (p72)
Maximum force from the flow of fighting. "Nowadays, grandly, I like to imagine a 'philosophy of the knockout', according to which a punch can impose on the victim an experience of an instant without content." (p60) What follows from the quote that Ian has picked out (above) is this: "If you've ever been knocked out, you know that the K.O. strikes either to our sheer surprise or when we are too weary or addled to have an 'I' in consciousness to defend."

The self which bears the will and "loyalty" falls, but there is another "apparently plenary self" (p62) which retains control of the falling body. The fallen self is defenceless on the floor. In The Harmless Building boxing is referred to as the most "capitalist of sports". You never did see it coming; you saw it coming and you couldn't do anything about it. In the long virtual poem or poem of virtual worlds, 'The Video House of Fame' (in Arrondissements), there are constant duels, visor and computer, chosen character then chosen enemy:

Reflection places plenitude
into a void: it teaches me
what to do with this
Narcissus. Blast
him out. From the
shattered mirror
slowly fall the prince's
knife blades
Punching at yourself; wrestling with an angel and the responsibility of care: Oliver ends 'The boy knocked out' -

Caught still in my earthly fight,
to empty the instant of responsibility.

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