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I just heard about a new book by Jessica Smith, and I’m delighted. Is it really five years since Organic Furniture Cellar? (Intercapillary Space review here.)

Articulating Space: Short Essays on Poetry is from Argotist and it’s a free download. Ignore the unassuming title. JS’s writing is constantly lucid, fascinated, precisely crafted, full of risks and plunges, and scarily open to criticism. Obscurantism and defensiveness are conspicuously absent. And these are big subjects:

There are powerful reasons to escape linearity: our language is saturated with our worldview, and for political lives to change—for capitalism to subside as the default economic strategy, for gender and racial egalitarianism to emerge, for “logical,” sentential theories of justice based on a “two-way street” or “equal exchange” (an eye for an eye) to submit to a higher and more abstract system of forgiveness—our language must escape the grid-like logic that allows social “stratification,” ideas of “equality,” and political and economic “equity.” Even communism, at least as it has so far been practiced in the world, refers back to these social ideas of lines (vectors pointing upwards to the rich from the “base” nether regions of the poor and oppressed; the Hegelian dialectic as a mathematical description of social evolution). I would suggest that a higher order of humanity exists (not to sound too Nietzschean) where the lines that currently permeate our language and our politics might be erased, without a trace, where a more abstract view of social, economic, and political systems allows a plethora of different things to exist at once, replacing the current way of thinking that constantly attempts to set both sides of any social situation equal to zero. Social order and language need not be reducible to mathematical logic.

(From “Ruptured Lines As Minor Uprisings”)

We can access Gertrude Stein reading her poetry via an .mpg file, switch on the radio to hear an NPR report, and listen to a rerun of The Simpsons on television all at once, then turn all of those sounds off and occupy a specific aural Time that exists only with reference to a multiplicity of Time fragments. A Native American theory of Time makes this idea of Time in the Electric Age more digestible: a certain tribe imagined that Time is a whirling, edgeless chaos, without linearity (pastpresentfuture), origin, shape (curve, line, circle), or end. To find oneself in Time, to lasso oneself to a sort of Time-platform where one could momentarily tame its chaos into a livable linearity, one had to build posts to touch periodically. Like a child “saving” himself in a game of tag by hitting “home base” or a journeyman “locating” himself with signposts along his way, the Native American needed to build and touch Time-posts (real, tangible posts, like signposts) to locate himself on a platform of Time in which he could exist. Similarly, Time in the Electric Age requires the subject to dip in and out of a chaos and locate oneself via duration messages in a chaotic Time that disallows categorization into a strict linear progression. This Time is not a formless form, as Bernstein attempts to describe in “State of the Art,” but an edgeless edifice.

(from “Not a Formless Form but an Edgeless Edifice”)

I’m only beginning to read it properly, but I’ve dipped enough to know that these 64 pages cover a lot of ground. There is also Shelley brought into communion with Derridean apocalypse, EBB, Christina Rossetti, Cecilia Vicuña, Zukofsky, Cage, Steve McCaffery; everything becomes absorbing...


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