Hybrid Nation

Am reading fine book by J. Stephen Russell, Chaucer & the Trivium (along with trying to read original Canterbury Tales).

Russell analyzes the differences between modern & medieval thinking. He talks about the influence, on the medievals' sense of language, of a dual, hierarchical culture (Latin & vernacular). & of the importance of systematic, Aristotelian logic : the 10 defining "categories" of a thing, & their adaptation to medieval school-learning (by Boethius, Porphyry, others). Here's a quote :

"What emerges from this dense enumeration is a pair of distinctions. First, of course, are species, genera, and individuals, material that was amplified in [Porphyry's] Isagogue. Second is the distinction between 'of' and 'in', that between necessary (essential) attributes and accidental ones.

"This second distinction is, with only a bit of overdramatization, the cornerstone of medieval philosophy, the taxonomy that held (and, some would say, still holds) the world together." (Russell, p. 35)

The difference between of (what can be said of a thing) and in (what is integral to the identity or substance of - definitive of - a thing). Substances and accidents - how important this concept was to the Middle Ages is indicated by these lines of Dante's final vision, at the end of the Divina Commedia (Paradiso 33) :

I saw that in its depth far down is lying
Bound up with love together in one volume,
What through the universe in leaves is scattered;
Substance, and accident, and their operations,
All interfused together in such wise
That what I speak of is one simple light.

Today hybrid cars are all the rage (focusing our attention on the species "automobile", to the neglect of the genus [mass] "transportation"), as well as hybrid poetry (see the Norton anthology American Hybrid - a politic fusion of "old & new") & hybrid art forms (or product diversification) of all kinds...

I wonder if there's a way to recuperate this distinction (between "of" & "in") for poetry criticism. Today the "impure" holds the positive valence, whereas the "pure" is under suspicion (logocentrism, racial "purity", essentialism, etc.). But the political manipulation of racial hatreds, for example, could be analyzed as a version of logical category-confusion (ie. the "purity of the (German, white, black, take your pick) race" posits a substantial aspect (race) for what is in truth an accident (race is an accidental aspect of the genus human being). & the proposition of "hybrid" poetries - ie. Ron Silliman : "there is no such thing as poetry, there are only kinds of poetry" (I'm quoting from memory) - referring to such things as, I guess, slam, post-avant, "SOQ", elliptical, neo-objectivism, Slow Poetry, Investigative Poetics, conceptual, flarf, etc. etc. - might also be a kind of category-confusion. Cui bono? Who benefits? Is it possible that these hybrid forms offer a sort of brand diversification, a way simultaneously to make inroads in, & to maintain (or re-vivify), the academic industry of teaching poetry-writing? & in the pursuit of "accidental" qualities, are we obscuring (or denying) poetry's more basic, integral substance?


posted something new over at the Plumbline.


Lanthanum. End of chapt. 3 !


Froggy went a-courtin'

Chester the cat with his courtly friend.
& yet a little more Lanthanum.
& again Lanthanum (nearing the end of 3rd chapter)



nouveau Lanthanum


The Word is Psyche

Working on Lanthanum this morning, looking back through older sections, I was struck by the sense of another level, a poem-beyond-the-poem. Something just intimated or suggested, unexpressed. As if the keynote of the various sections had something to do with this effort to evoke or enunciate a presence or a state of things or persons beyond the actual details, the "narrative". & the whole vague unfinishable quest feeling hanging over it.

Speaking for myself anyway, poets are not very reliable guides to their own poetry. Maybe we're too close to be able to recognize our own distinctive shape or characteristic music... I don't know.

This is another way of saying that often our determined formulations of what we think we're doing are actually expressions of resistance or opposition to our real tendencies as writers - tracks of an inner conflict, maybe.

Thus my harping for years & decades on Acmeism, realism, plain speech, etc. - may have something to do with the fact that in reality I'm sort of an Edgar Cayce of poetry (I exaggerate) - not the "dreamer-prophet", but just the blind dreamer (my resistance to early affinity for Ashbery, a telling sign).

It's this idea of music or evocation - Mallarme, suggestion - Symbolism, heaven forfend! The idea that poets don't really know what they're about, that there is a finer level of meaning, a kind of resonance tone we can barely recognize, inner sight, inner vision...

we each have our own distinctive private relationship & inner bond with speech & language, & with the persons hovering in the background of those rivery sounds we love & echo-resonate...

Mandelstam : "the Word is Psyche"...

More could be said on this, but I have to go....


& then some Lanthanum (p.s. revised, 8/6)


more Lanthanum

Providence/Dhaka jam

Scenes from the backyard... with my son-in-law Khaled, & Phoebe. Playing Khaled's Bengali-pop song.