Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "Slightly alter your tone with knowledge"

The idea that knowledge and tone are so closely related that one can actually generate (or simulate with perfect accuracy) knowledge by means of tone has long been of interest to me -- it matches the aspirations of a lifelong dilettante, most concerned with getting knowledge, and showing knowledge, as quickly as possible before going on to the next thing.  Even better, when the alteration of tone required to make knowledge evident (and, as well, the alteration of tone that would occur if I actually possessed that knowledge) is "slight," meaning only a little but also in the manner of a slight, as to say a slight I might to deliver to my audience or otherwise those who are meant to apprehend that the knowledge is mine.  Pronounced homonymously also with "sleight" as in "sleight of hand," knowledge simulated by a trick.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "Next emerge the night bugs"

After errors, the night bugs.  I'm sure this line, written in the early 1980's, was inspired by experience a couple of years before during the first part of my stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Swaziland.  We were "training," which mostly meant getting a variety of kinds of information and experience of the place, and learning at least some of the language, at a training center in the "lowveld," the hot and flat middle part of the country.  I remember one night when I walked out of the dormitory area where I spent most of my evenings reading and listening to transistor radio guitar music from Mozambique, into the brightly lit foyer at the entrance of our building, to find the entire floor, and the walls, covered with apparently dead or dying flying insects that I think of as not moths but the size of moths, exotic insects that I would have been much more worried about had they still been flying -- but all of them, it seemed, had either wounded themselves on the bright lamps at the entrance, or perhaps had gone through some other form of collective dying all at once.  Thus emerged the night bugs.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "Errors are coming out"

A very awkward locution, tempered only by the direct analogy of errors to night bugs in the line that follows.  Night bugs do come out, seemingly of nowhere.  Errors in general, however, remain hidden or manifest differently.  A thing doesn't work as it was expected to do.  Maybe a message pops up, but that isn't the same thing as the error itself "coming out," is it?  But here, not just a single error, but multiple errors are coming out, like debutantes or celebrities, even as we read.  Errors are becoming manifest, they are coming out from somewhere within, from the place where errors reside before they come out, the locus of potentiality, or of essence.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "Doc, why don't you do something?"

Having suddenly located the poem's vaguely Homeric or Danteesque site, the poem marks a quick return to the direct address that initiated it.  The official title has been replaced with a folksy equivalent that might, had it not been preceded by that initiating statement, have been the monicker of one of the Seven Dwarfs.  On the other hand, the portentous uncertainty of the moon's coming out has modified here into a direct cry for help.  The doctor makes a diagnosis, but Doc has some capability to actually do something about our condemned state in this pit.  We can only surmise that Doc is possessed of that form of know-how born not of medical training but of life in the Wild West, or possibly as the paternal caretake of Dopey, Grumpy, and Snow White.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "This pit here, this location"

A change of mood with the change of stanza, a need to call out with some specificity a change of place. “This pit here” attempts to project the reader into an immediate situation, while equating that immediacy to “this location” immediately turns toward abstraction, at least in mathematical terms. This pit here is also this location: where we are as readers, you my readers, is a place identified by its coordinates, but a place that can be pointed to with a “this” and where we may be actually situated, wherefore “here.” Nevertheless, it's a pit: pit of hell, pit of this world, pit of the next, pit of the undeworld (the fosse Ezra Pound and Homer dug and poured blood into to revive and make strong the dead for a moment, Canto I). There's a possibility of things happening just here, bad things perhaps – perhaps bad things are happening here now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "They flow in theologies"

I had to remind myself, in the interim -- "they" are the kind of flesh.  In that respect, given the obvious Christian overtones, the parallel flowing in armies and theologies is consistent, orthodox, expected, and obvious.  The problem for me is that my life -- my days, really -- have involved so many backs and forths in relation to Christianity, that I'm not able to hold the language, the specialized language of the Christians, either inside or outside of myself.  I'm certainly an atheist now, today, have been for several years, but aside from the loss of mental lability, of which I'm barely aware as a "person," it still seems plausible that I could make another of those fearful transitions, plunging back into the valley of hell and superstition where I've dwelled before...

But now, to address the possibility of theologies flowing: the construction here doesn't require that theological flowing be anything like armies flowing, like men in teams, who jump, that is to say.  Or, to take a step back, to "flow in theologies" might not be the same thing as theologies themselves flowing -- in the former, theologies may be read to provide the iron structure within which the new kind(s) of flesh are what flow, and thus the theologies don't flow at all -- more in keeping with the rigidity of thought I would tend now to associate with theology, which must accomplish all of its imaginative musings under the watchful eye of the Lord.  Flowing theologies are perhaps most possible to atheists (though they might also be available to the Lord himself, by virtue of his Aquinan definition as both omniscient and omnipotent, creating stones big enough that he was unable to move them later on).

Monday, August 10, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "Like men in teams, who jump"

The comparison modifies "armies" or "flow," or both, from the previous line.  An army is like a team, and certainly some concerted actions of armies are more like "flow," seen from the vantage of strategic action, than the simpler Newtonian vectors and forces.  There is the possibility of a chaotic or Brownian interaction among particles (the individual "jumpers," as for example D-Day paratroopers), and the effect of flow is pressure.  The comma breaks the line metrically, and also creates another ambiguity, the referent of "who" -- could "who" be the teams, jumping collectively, or would it necessarily be the "men" as I had at first assumed on this reading?

Monday, March 2, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "They flow in armies"

The new kind of flesh is a "they"; this follows from the sequence of statements.  It's like a school of fish, a school of flesh as it were, plural but sharing one substance.  But how you ask do they flow in armies?  Do armies flow?  Masses of invaders driving down the peninsula, a flood of them?  That's a kind of flow; a heavy flow, like a menses or like ravening little sperms.  And these armies might also be the armies of the Crusade or jihad, empire expanding and taking mental as well as territorial space.  But note that it's "they," not "we" who flow, despite the question having been asked of you by some sort of "me" or "we," the asking "me" or "we" implied grammatically by the question being asked in the second person.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "Do you acknowledge the new kind of flesh?"

The poem moves on to its second stanza, connecting the imperative ending the previous stanza, that you get out your animal suit having prepared for the birth of tragedy, with a question that appears to be delivered by the same higher authority speaking previously, but now demanding an active affirmative response, a kind of oath of loyalty to a cult or concept that (after the fact, giving the poem a title) I decided was driving the whole spirit of the poem.  I'm an atheist now, but I was some kind of practicing Catholic when writing many of the poems in Collapse of the Grid, so I'm familiar with rituals that demand a believing response, or a response that in a sense creates its own sense of belief.  That's what faith is: not a recognition of anything that exists, but a yielding to a demand to acknowledge something that doesn't necessarily exist, so that it may exist.  And Christianity is all about a new kind of flesh, almost as though at its inception it had some grasp of the idea that humanity prior to Christianity and humanity after were not even the same species (eugenics, evolution, Childhood's End, apocalypse...)  But the new kind of flesh I was demanding acknowledgement of here was not exactly the same thing, although it could be taken that way, and the acknowledgement itself might not have needed to be a joyful affirmation of faith; it could just as well be an acknowledgement of defeat.

But let me ask right now, before proceeding any further: do you, my legion of readers, acknowledge the new kind of flesh?  Affirm or deny, please.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "Get out your animal suit"

So everything has already been prepared for the birth of tragedy, and after all that you're supposed to get out your animal suit?  Maybe having your animal suit ready was part of the preparations for the birth of tragedy, and getting it out now is part of the process of actually giving tragedy its birth: you put your animal suit on over your human flesh, and tragic things happen.  That's certainly been my experience more generally.

On the other hand, putting on your animal suit might just be another directive to you the reader, or to the doctor, on the list of things to do leading into whatever comes in the following stanzas.  It could be that the birth of tragedy is only one incidental event in a series: i.e., the connections between lines may be paratactical rather than sequential (most likely both, though).

Monday, February 23, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "All is prepared for the birth of tragedy"

When I wrote this line I hadn't yet read Nietzsche's book...  if I had, I guess I would have thought of the birth of tragedy as a historical moment rather than a possibility in a poetical present.  Serendipitous that the previous line refers to "tuned up" given that the subtitle of The Birth of Tragedy is from the Spirit of Music.  I guess the Greeks had to tune up their moments to prepare for the birth of tragedy just like my poem people did.  But did the Greeks need to have everything prepared, as I seem to be suggesting is necessary here?  Couldn't the birth of tragedy be enabled by less than complete preparation, or even no preparation at all?  That's something to ask the gods, perhaps, whose plans look just like impulses anyway.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Various business opportunities

For some reason I didn't include any of the work I wrote around Iran-Contra, including this piece used by Randy Greif, in the book.  None of the words are my own, I don't think; but twenty years later, they sound more like my own than those earlier words I wrote and did collect.

The New Kind of Flesh: "The moment has tuned up"

Following that introductory scene of the Assistant (whether a Richard Prince nurse or Renfield) alerting the Doctor to the moon coming out, this line alludes to a kind of musical overture just as it completes: not the moment which is in the process of tuning up, but the one, the Moment, that has tuned up in preparation for what follows.  How does any moment "tune up"?  It's time itself doing whatever musicians do to prepare for the point at which the composition per se begins,  The moment is ready to be a moment rather than something else, or some out-of-tune version of itself.  It's the "right" in "when the time is right," but that's right not as in correct but right as in righteous, or rightly, somehow qualified from any absolute logical rectitude -- that's indeed why tuning up is necessary in the first place.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The New Kind of Flesh: "Doctor, the moon has come out"

The title is almost certainly ex post, but conveys an excitement and dread about the future and innovation that tries to reach back to the early years of the twentieth century, when the concept of new kinds of flesh might have flourished in both scientific optimism and incipient fascism (with eugenics and its popular metaphors crystallizing at the intersection of both).  That medical inclination persists in the first line of the poem, which addresses a doctor directly, as a nurse or assistant might.  I'm imagining von Helsing assisted by Renfield, though of course it was Dracula who was so assisted; but von Helsing and Dracula are so strongly dual to each other that von Helsing might be cast as a medicalized version of the Count, ready to drain the blood of millions for some larger purpose.  In any case, when the moon comes out one suspects that something is about to happen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It took me a few minutes this morning to find a copy of my book.  Jenny had to point me to the top shelf of the little book case at the end of the hallway (we only have one hallway).  Two copies rested there.  I used to have copies scattered all over the house, or that's the way I remember it anyway.  In the intervening four or five years, they've collected, pooled as it were, congealed in locations unknown to me, but searchable.  You can tell I'm reading Jeff Vanderpool's Southern Reach trilogy, can't you?  My old words strike me as not that different from the biologically active paragraph that occupies an important, mysterious, non sequiturish kind of place in the first two volumes of that series, Annihilation and Authority.

Anyway, I've located a copy of my book and now can proceed again with my blog, after a short half decade hiatus, at my leisure.