A=r=t M=e=a=n=s

by Joe Brennan

     Years ago, when the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet and literary entrepreneur Douglas Messerli and I were students at the University of Maryland, I attended a poetry reading at which Messerli, then a graduate student participating in his first public reading at the University, was the featured artist. While for me his poetry was not particularly striking, what has stayed with me all these years is an off the cuff remark that Messerli made at the beginning of his program, that he understood "the first task [of a poet] is to detach oneself from one's poetry." Although he didn't explain what he meant by either self or detachment, I found the remark intriguing; at the time I was in analysis and avidly reading Ezra Pound and the Moderns, along with Freud, Lacan and Foucault. I was concerned with the question, what is an author?, a question which was eventually transformed into what is a subject? As Foucault, remembering Mallarmé, reminds us, anterior to the question of what is being said is the question of who is speaking? (1) Lacan points out that even prior to who is speaking is the question of what is speaking?(2) Who is to be "detached" from what? Who would determine when this detachment is achieved? Messerli's attempt on that occasion to detach himself relied on his assumption in his poems of the persona of Christopher Columbus. As I believe it is impossible to understand the synchronous and the diachronic(3) simultaneously, I think Messerli achieved very little by way of detachment in attempting to effect such a displacement. I would say in that instance Columbus was little more than a distorted reflection of Messerli, who in turn is a fragmented reflection of his Other; in other words, the underlying signification of a fixation at the level of the ego is identical for all three positions. The ego, perhaps the most misunderstood and the most abused concept Freud put forth, has come to be accepted within the framework of general psychology, including mainstream psychoanalysis, as the chief executive of an agency of disparate psychical processes grouped under the heading of mind,(4) an elaboration which Jacques Lacan claims is antithetical to Freud's discovery. Indeed, on one occasion, Lacan likened the ego to a desk.(5) From this perspective Columbus is merely a roll top from whose pigeon holes the various faces of Messerli pop out, each one just as diffluent and as eager as the next.

     At the beginning of his work on the Cantos, Pound observes that it is difficult, if not impossible, to apprehend the lived experience of ancient Greek directly, that it is most comprehensible when mediated through Latin cribs.(6) In much the same way, I believe it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand the Freudian ego except through mediation by Lacan. This is a radical position, but it is only fair to allow the reader some insight as to what informs my understanding. "A=R=T M=E=A=N=S," the initial result of a preliminary study of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetics and poetry, is an effort that begins to explore to what extent Messerli's vague goal of "self detachment" has been achieved, or is possible, within L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetics. It is of little interest to me whether or not this project is still viable within the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E movement; as relative objectivity can only be expanded through an informed subjectivity, the issue of "self detachment", or more correctly, the decentering of the subject in relation to the ego,(7) has a life, not to mention a radical importance of its own; for example, the current mean-spirited attacks proffered as critical argument that seem so commonplace in our literary journals these days -- all the more vicious for being so overtly intellectual -- are more interesting for the malevolent inflections that belie their stated objections and opinions, or their studied erudition, than for their ability to provide any lasting insight or clarity. Such critics confirm the deleterious effects of this mal-adapted(8) "executive" on the ethical register of everything that passes between lips, especially in our current anti-collegium of intense competition, where there's so little to lose and even less to gain except for the huge cash jackpots that now accompany distinguished awards and the plush chairs of well-oiled, prestigious universities.

     If there is a common critique that runs through this most eclectic body of poetics known as L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry,(9) it is an almost unanimous denunciation of the role of voice and its concomitant depth in contemporary poetry,(10) to what Barrett Watten refers to as the loci of "pathetic & referential fallacies" and Bruce Andrews calls "false fronts".(11) When objecting to the critical preeminence of voice in the poetry of the imagination, it isn't the value of the imaginary as such that comes under fire but rather the naive modes in which it is deployed in the overdetermined fantasies in which it eventually stagnates. The imaginary is in part structured by the hysterical blowbacks of one's obsessive history.(12) From this perspective the function of fantasy is seen as a register operating within the entire continuum of memory including, most importantly, the repressed significations, which impart meaning to fantasy and (re)structure it. The imaginary provides the forms and ostensible themes for the inscribed signifiers displaced within fantasies, signifiers constructed in sympathy with the multi-dimensional meanings(13) that structure the temporal hic et nunc with the ahistorical time of the subject.(14) I take this to be the essential dimension of voice that the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets have attempted to neutralize or sidestep within a series that includes, but is not limited to, displacement, reduction, projection, elision, lapsus, repetition, contrivance, accident, subjection of texts to epistemologies borrowed from other disciplines, capriciousness, randomness, juxtaposition and deliberate obfuscation. They have denounced and trivialized speech, the conventions of grammar and the logical unities of standard syntax.(15) They are extremely varied in technique, although many of their methods appear at times to be little more than a series of positivist constructs overlaid in subjective terms.(16) In the confusion they have thus far carried the day as the dominant school as regards experimentation. Notwithstanding, in so far as the achievement of subjective neutrality, recast here as the decentering of the poet of imaginary speech from the poem at the limits of the symbolic field, the project has not yet succeeded, for the reasons that follow.

     A general failure to (re)recognize the temporal disjunction of the subject of time from the subject of desire.(17) Ironically, while there is much about L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets to admire, many of their methods tend to exacerbate the very stultification of poetry their poetics originally sought to undermine. One such consequence results from the arbitrary and intentional skewing of traditional accesses to meaning. In a strict sense, any method devised to decontextualize or obscure access to conventional meaning is arbitrary and discrete in both structure and employment, whether or not its discretions are assigned to any other order. Operations of this kind must necessarily be parochial since repressed speech, in its logical forms as hidden meanings,(18) structures all discretions by insidiating its mark within each fractured w=o=r=d, and thereby, in the name of desire, decisively influences the thoughts or nodes of thoughts that enter into consciousness.(19) It is at this determining moment that the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E project falters in its effort to free speech from the dominance of predetermined significations; its methodologies fall within the structuring parameters of an anterior, atemporal speech (desire). Forms of positivism, in their roles as signifier and signified, are both products of this speech and this speech itself.(20)

     The resistance of the subject as a subject of speech.(21) This refusal results in essentially ambiguous and arbitrary reconstructions that are reformed following initial operations of dislocation: personal communications, disparate allusions, random series, banalities, abstruse philosophical arguments and appeals to the associative powers inherent in the reciprocal syntagmatic play of possible meanings shunting between w=o=r=d=s and the accidental juxtaposition of words, operations whose ambiguities enforce a random and occasionally jarring destabilization of the relationship of the signifier to its signified. The results thus far have been the production of a body of work that is for a great many readers impenetrable or uninteresting,(22) works whose aporias result from a general failure to recognize that a signifier is always a signifier for other hidden signifieds, not merely possible ones.

     A conscious appeal to a discrete objectivity, that is, to language as a structure either outside speech or at its core.(23) This consequence results from the contradictions inherent in the logical absurdities of conclusions that fail to understand that language-as-structure is identical to speech-as-meaning; oscillating between the twin poles of displacement and condensation disguised as metaphor and metonymy, speech represents thought (repressed or otherwise) as thought represents itself. In moments of ambiguity and stress the influence of the repressed expands, an expansion that refers expressly to the emotional intensity of projective coloring.

     The refusal of full speech. Full speech refers to all the meanings and dimensions, including voice and referential depth, that discrete methods necessarily ignore. Ontologically, such an approach is always resisted, overwhelmed not only by the resistance of the unknowable and unknown reality arrayed against it, but also by the fact of its methodological inadequacy and the harsh grip of the countervailing control exercised by the heterogenous powers of repressed speech. Instead, within narrow, arbitrary and usually advantageous parameters, positivism in any form imposes post-ontic methods, using such discrete categories as symmetry, regularity, certainty, possibility, equivalence, frequency, pattern, category, counting, distinction and similitude -- forms that, when arbitrarily and prematurely imposed, significantly increase the levels of violence to all the causality and consequence each discretion abuts, confutes, confuses or denies. There is no such thing as empty (free) speech. Speech is structured by meaning which is structured by signifiers which, though organized like a language, can only be revealed as a language through speech.(24)

     The arbitrary reductio ad absurdum of the place of the subject. This reduction refers to the intentional destabilizing of rational consequence by constant and capricious subversion. In overwhelming the intersubjective structures of reason by reducing them to states of possible serendipity, positivist expressions in any form rest on a phalanx of similar proto-rational assumptions susceptible to the same logical deconstruction. By insisting on understanding function in their own mechanistic terms and on their own rigid, discrete turf, positivists attempt to elevate their conclusions to the level of a world-view instead of the strictly local measurements that they represent.

     A double conflation; perception with understanding within consciousness.(25) Any system that can not account for the operations(26) that occur between the initial moment of perception and the final moment of conclusion can never overcome the dominance of the subjective determinates that structure systemic objectivity. Appeals to randomness and whimsicality, far from settling the issue, serve to create the most febrile contexts for the structuring interventions of repressed memory. Only when repressed meanings are remembered (acknowledged), understood (assimilated) and accepted (integrated) can the extent of their influence be substantially reduced. If, as Pound claimed, breaking free of the dominance of iambic pentameter was the first heave into modernism, surely breaking free of the effects of the discordant aggressions(27) of infantile ego captures is the second.(28)

     The regression to subject/object instability. Language is organized as the field (domain) of an Other,(29) which refers to the fact that when one speaks, someone other is listening; this is true even when one is speaking or thinking to oneself. In the context of this argument, the Other is always an inversion via projection of the perceiving subject,(30) an identification in the primary sense, which, as one can easily see, is only random or capricious in the completely indifferent manner in which this narcissistic subject, filtered through the all knowing eyes of its Other, chooses objects to reflect from.(31) Rather than extend our knowledge of the subject, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetics actually provides an endless proliferation of available objects on whose indifferent surfaces the infantile dramas of its Others are mindlessly and slavishly (re)enacted. Under these circumstances an uninformed poetics designed to induce a creative emergence from the interstices between words, morphemes or whatever, should hardly be expected to produce little more than clever variations of truncated repetitions of the disfigured and unrecognizable motifs of one's secret being.(32)

     The absence in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetics of an appreciation of the effects of the overdetermined affects of ego captures, or psychic anchoring points.(33) This lapsus further exacerbates the nature and magnitude of their errors, whose consequences lead to a kind of collective parataxic distortion which assures, if nothing else, a prodigious output of work. It is characteristic of a poetics that arises from the imposition of an acephalic, intellectualized discipline over a polycephalic, eristically driven praxis -- except in this case the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets intentionally blur the line between their poetry and the discussion of the strategies (poetics) that surround it, à la modern art, and in the process make it difficult to see where they stand. Yet the distinction to keep in mind is not that the aim of art is to posit or reveal secret meanings within itself, although it may do so; it is that repressed meanings, for as long as they remain secret, tend to structure (limit) one's creative process. Notions that one can merely side-step this dimension are breathtaking in their naiveté, reflecting a monumental ignorance and denial of fundamental psychoanalytic principles.(34) While there is no question that at some point the artistic process is given over entirely to chance, the point at which one throws the poetic dice is generally best situated at the limits of what is knowable, for whenever and wherever discretions are imposed -- where meanings multiply exponentially within each discrete act and overwhelm the rigor to contain them -- we make choices which have consequences whose exact influences cannot be immediately known but which will inevitably, sooner or later, come to serve the purpose of an orthodoxy -- whose value, as everyone knows, is principally that of a refuge. Whenever Avant Garde art is found to be in the service of an orthodoxy, it usually loses that distinction in the moment that such a relationship is revealed; it is one of the reasons that appeals to Art for Art's sake usually fall on disinterested ears; as the most murderous and brutal century of human existence draws to a close, refuge in such a maxim hardly seems noteworthy. Despite the claims of those who conveniently and arbitrarily neutralize notions like voice and depth merely by accusing them of being everything from stock expression to neurotic overindulgence to brain dead, one cannot easily distance oneself from one's intersubjectivity -- as the poet says, "you can't just walk out of history." The fact that I'm having to argue this a hundred years after Freud discovered in absence the presence of an unconscious subject in every human being testifies to the continuing difficulty and terror of such a journey.(35)

     I want to emphasize again that this is a preliminary and therefore limited focus with all the hazards that such limitations impose; the necessary presumption (conflation) of unities that in fact probably do not exist: the unity of the subject, which is usually mistaken in literary texts as an alias of a consciousness undergoing a series of epiphanies; the unity of consciousness, as if consciousness was merely a dimension of thought transparent to itself; the unity of a logic predicated on an empirical process that, even discounting unconscious determinants, is intrinsically limited and therefore flawed.(36) The fact that my focus is necessarily critical in every sense of the term belies the fact that in many instances there is much that is said and done under the rubric of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetics that I agree with.(37) I consider my observations merely the opening gambit in what I hope will become a productive and interesting discussion. I certainly hope that no one takes these remarks for any last words, which, as I understand things, no one will ever be around to hear.


1. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (Norton, 1970).

2. "[Being] says-- I'm the one who knows that I am. Unfortunately, if it does perhaps know that it is, it knows nothing at all about what it is. That is what is lacking in every being." Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book II: The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis 1954-1955 (Norton, 1988), p. 224. "The subject doesn't know what he is saying, and for the best of reasons, because he doesn't know what he is." ibid., 244-45.

3. I call this, somewhat tongue in cheek, the uncertainty principle of literary historicism.

4. "Freud states . . . the ego is the sum of the identifications [captures] of the subject." Jacques Lacan, The Seminar: Book II (Norton, 1988), p. 155. As Lacan points out, the initial incarnation of the ego in the earliest phases of Freud's development of psychoanalysis was as a kind of homeostat centered between the tension of the internal pleasure principle and the external reality principle, a position from which Freud never retreated. From Lacan's perspective, which is informed by a consistent application of this kaleidoscopic structure, each ego identification represents the transformation of a reaction to an historical fact into something similar to a psychical conditioned reflex, a transformation which is characteristic of defense mechanisms generally, both in operation and structure. Lacan's elaboration of the ego as the sum of its fixations is a complex issue and cannot be reduced to the simplistic definitions I offer. Suffice it to say that he considers the ego to be in its essence a defensive mechanism whose formal structure derives from the initial rupture that occurs in the formation of every thinking being. cf. Jacques Lacan, The Seminar: Book II (Norton, 1988) p. 44; Jacques Lacan, Écrits: The Mirror Stage (Norton, 1977), 1-7.

5. Jacques Lacan, Écrits (Norton, 1977). 131-32. That is, as an object. cf. Jacques Lacan, The Seminar: Book II, (Norton, 1988) p. 44. "....the ego isn't the I, isn't a mistake, in the sense in which classical [orthodox] doctrine makes of it a partial truth. It is something els -- a particular object within the experience of the subject. Literally, the ego is an object -- an object which fills a certain function which we here call the imaginary function."

6. cf. "Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is, Andreas Divus,/In officina Wecheli, 1538, out of Homer." Ezra Pound, The Cantos of Ezra Pound (New Directions, 1934), p. 5.

7. Jacques Lacan, The Seminar: Book II (Norton, 1988) p. 148. I do not claim that this register is superior to other possible decenterings, but I do claim that it is anterior and prior to them.

8. Adaptation is defined as a commitment to an optimal regulated by an economy. There is no doubt that in the development of the human psyche any significant changes, no matter how fortuitous, eventually produce consequences that at some point limit or work against the organism. The ego came into existence as a mechanism by which the intensity of internal stimuli was muted and diffused. Therefore, as with all change, at some point this adaptation predictably inhibits further development of the psyche and becomes itself a target of deselection. Critics should not take this to mean that henceforth the ego will be evicted from the human psyche, an unthinkable result. Instead, the ego, rather than being the end-phase of the conscious processes that it now dominates, will, like the other forms of magical thinking that preceded it, lose its authority to transform speech whenever its historical roots, knotted in the unconscious, are unraveled to reveal their hidden meanings.

9. "The reason we have shied away from a number of confining labels in editing L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E is that our project, if it can be summarized at all, has involved exploring the numerous ways that meanings and values can be (& are) realized--revealed--produced in writing. This involves an opening in the field of activity and not its premature foreclosure." Charles Bernstein and Bruce Andrews (Eds.), The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book , (Southern Illinois University Press, 1984), ix-x.

10. There is no mistaking what the unanimity of their attack on voice stands for; a denial of referential depth as the principal vehicle of poetic meaning (i.e., Pound's ply over ply of historical rhyme), and a diminution, if not an utter disregard, of the dominance of the contiguous, linear logic of narration. As Barrett Watten insists, "there is nothing to decipher./there is nothing to explain." cf. Charles Bernstein, A Poetics: State of the Art, (Harvard University Press, 1992), 2-5. In fact, when one reads through the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E literature, one finds so many various and conflicting references that it is practically impossible to refer critically to voice without indicating which particular slant is under consideration. It is also worth remarking that generally one can easily distinguish Bernstein's poetic voice from Ron Silliman's, as well as from that of Leslie Scalapino, Hannah Weiner or Bernadette Mayer. I believe the issue turns on whether or not one believes that one can speak in something called a universal voice -- which one calls truth -- or whether one can only ever speak one's own truths in one's own voices, in voices which are fated to be perpetually misunderstood. Clearly what is at issue here is the transcendence of subjective meaning into a universal discourse.

11. Such metaphors more closely resemble descriptions of the affects of an ego register structured by a series of fixations, or captures, and should not be confused with voice, which is, at the very least, a synthesis of everything that informs the subject, including the effects and affects of repressed speech; that is, we should not confuse the stasis (effect) of a regulation with its mode of expression (affect), which is of an entirely different order. The fact that we can detect the reflections of such captures in speech does not alter the situation.

12. That is, structured by the ego, "...which in its most essential aspect is an imaginary function." Jacques Lacan, The Seminar: Book II (Norton, 1988), p. 36. cf. Jacques Lacan, Écrits (Norton, 1977), 165-166. Obviously, repressed desires displaced and/or condensed in memories are not the only determining constituents of the imaginative process: psychic capability, opportunity, chance and accident, to name but a few other (provisional) categories.

13. Meaning refers to the relationship/s between signifier/s and signified/s, and always reveals, at some forgotten level or in various hidden motives, truths whose ahistoric validation results from their successful resistance to invalidation by a succession of discrete investigations: naturalism, positivism, new criticism, structuralism, deconstructionism, new historicism, poststructuralism, the relevant hard sciences, et al. Meaning should not be thought of as a complete unity; meaning is that complexity which, at its limits, submits to the annihilation of ontology.

14. i.e., the unremembered and/or the repressed reality, which is experienced at the level of the unconscious as being timeless and irreducible.

15. cf. Robert Grenier, I hate speech. Quoted from Ron Silliman, In The American Tree: Language, Realism, Poetry, (The National Poetry Foundation, 1986), p. xv. cf. Ron Silliman, The New Sentence, (Roof Books, 1977).

16. cf. Charles Bernstein, The Sophist: I & the, (Sun & Moon Press, 1987), p. 59; cf. Bernadette Mayer, The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book: Experiments, (Southern Illinois University Press), p. 80; cf. Bob Perelman's remark that "The utmost reduction compatible with efficiency is the first & last thing to aim at." Ron Silliman, ed., In The American Tree, (The National Poetry Foundation/University of Maine, 1986), p. 66; cf. Silliman's discussion of the specific qualities of the new sentence: "As noted, the length of the sentence is a matter now of quantity, of measure." Ron Silliman, The New Sentence, (Roof Books, 1977), 89-91.

17. There are other vantage points from which to see this disjunction; that of the subject of time from the time of the subject, and that of the subject of history from the history of the subject; though similar, they are viewed from entirely different perspectives.

18. "Secret meaning is not a hidden level, but a hidden organization of [at] the surface." Bruce Andrews, The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book (Southern Illinois University Press, 1984), p. 33. Actually it can be advantageously viewed from several perspectives; it is in the dimension of depth (succession) that the historical continuum of ego captures is the most revealing. While I agree that the notion of a hidden organization of the surface is in keeping with synchronous linguistic models of psychical processes, a problematic such as regression, which I understand to be the spectral decomposition of the ego, is to me more clearly understood as a dynamic diachronic mode which structures, and which is structured by, an atemporal synchronicity -- which has nothing to do with any notion of any normative stages of an instinctual development of the ego. It is important to remember, in any case, that neither description is ever anything more than a convenience -- a spatiotemporal, and therefore reductive, topographical representation of an indescribable praxis.

19. "The human order is characterized by the fact that the symbolic function intervenes at every moment and at every stage of its existence." Jacques Lacan, The Seminar: Book II (Norton, 1988) p. 29.

20. My intent here is not to add to the confounding of language with speech, but to point out that each is made up of the other, literally, in every possible way. Speech, in general, should be thought of at the level of the statement (énoncé) in that every utterance is determined by at least a reference to all the historical facts of the subject. Language is that syntactical structure, determined by those same historical facts, whose function is to assure us that we exist. In his famous Rome Report of 1954, Lacan asserts that language, in Mallarmé's words, serves "as an effaced coin passed from hand to hand in silence." That is, language without meaning -- without speech.

21. The S with a slash through it [unreproduceable in HTML] represents the disjunction of the subject of hic et nunc from the ahistorical reality of a subject mediated by unrealized and unacknowledged desire.

22. Although this would be generally true of most poetry, it seems particularly relevant here, since most of what is offered is made deliberately inaccessible and/or obscure, thereby assuring that most of the poetry produced is ignored by a large percent of that very small percentage of persons who actually read poetry at all. The most common complaints from readers are bewilderment and frustration, though we shouldn't exclude the possibility that the majority who denounce L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, for whatever reason, are the ones who are short-sighted; as history amply demonstrates, there have been numerous examples of such mass myopia. cf. Marjorie Perloff, Radical Artifice (University of Chicago Press, 1991), for frequently insightful and sympathetic explications of how different L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets can mean to an orthodox scholar.

23. cf. the diagram Silliman constructs in reference to Louis Zukofsky, The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book (Southern Illinois University Press), p. 291, where speech, music, perception and the visible are given equal polar weights while language is situated at/as the mediating center.

24. I am not valuing speech (énoncé) over language (structure). Lacan, speaking of neurotic symptoms, observes that "it is . . . quite clear that the symptom resolves itself entirely in language, because the symptom is structured like a language, because it is from language that speech must be delivered." [emphasis added]. Jacques Lacan, Écrits (Norton, 1977), p.59. When we remember that Lacan declares that the Unconscious, which too is structured like a language, is the field of the Other, we can see what it is that speech needs to be delivered from. One can also see that those who want to free up language from speech have it backwards, which is to say their emphasis is misplaced. The subject qua subject, although structured like a language, is a subject of speech. The category of voice is a subset of the category of speech; language qua language is unthinkable without speech to give it meaning, which is equally unthinkable without voice to give it expression.

25. First, there is the conflation of perception with awareness, and second, that of awareness with consciousness: perception as sensation; awareness as the discrimination and ordering of that process; and consciousness as its censored conclusion. What adds to the confusion is that these processes overlap and interact, making any narrative description extremely difficult to construct or follow.

26. i.e. in narrative form.

27. "...We must gain a deeper appreciation of the notion of aggressivity, which we use in such a brutal fashion. People believe aggressivity is aggression. It has got absolutely nothing to do with it. At the limit, virtually, aggressivity turns into aggression. But aggression has got nothing to do with the vital reality, it is an existential act linked to an imaginary relation." Jacques Lacan, The Seminar: Book II (Norton, 1988), p. 177. This maladaptative form of aggressivity expresses itself in narcissistic, egomaniacal structures; that is, in aggressive, indifferent self-aggrandizement and in the wanton murder of the weak in pursuit of same.

28. I understand Pound to mean that iambic pentameter was the dominant form that structured the expression of the pre-modern subject, resulting in specific -- and therefore limiting -- emotional and logical constructs. The imaginary capture by infantile forms is also a dominant structuring form of the subject, resulting in specific -- and therefore limiting -- emotional and logical constructs. If the current literal conclusion of Modernism is the hopeless fragmentation of an alienated subject, then the neutralizing of infantile ego captures marks the only possible egress from such an impasse, just as the subordination of iambic pentameter to the affects of other speech patterns marked the only possible egress from the heroic romanticism that preceded it. The real question is whether one can effectively neutralize such ego captures through technical distancing, or whether one can only escape through analytic abreaction, understood here as the reintegration via speech of plastic recollection with its displaced emotional complement. Of course if you believe, along with Bly, Messerli and Bernstein, that Modernism is/was a diversion or an aberration in the tradition of the tribe (cf. Douglas Messerli, Sun & Moon: Experiments and Traditional Forms in Contemporary Literature, Summer 1980), then most of this won't matter or make much sense.

29. "The imaginary structuration of the ego forms around the specular image of the body itself, of the image of the other." Jacques Lacan, Seminar; Book II (Norton, 1988) 94-95. "....unconscious phenomenon which takes place on the symbolic level, as such decentered in relation to the ego, always takes place between two subjects. As soon as true speech emerges, mediating, it turns them into two very different subjects from what they were prior to speech. This means that they only start being constituted as subjects of speech once speech exists, and there is no before." ibid., p. 160. cf. Jacques Lacan, Écrits: The Function & Field of Speech & Language in Psychoanalysis (Norton, 1977), 30-113, for a for a wider, more complete field of reference.

30. Jacques Lacan, Écrits (Norton, 1977), 42 & 329.

31. "For there to be an object relation, there must already be a narcissistic relation of the ego to the other. Moreover, that is the primary condition for any objectification of the external world--of naive, spontaneous objectification no less than that of scientific objectification." Jacques Lacan, The Seminar: Book II (Norton 1988) p. 94. [emphasis added].

32. "The language embodied in a human language is made up of, and there's no doubt about this, choice images which all have a specific relation with the living existence of the human being, with quite a narrow sector of its biological reality, with the image of the fellow being. This imaginary experience furnishes ballast for every concrete language, and by the same token for every verbal exchange...." Jacques Lacan, The Seminar: Book II (Norton, 1988), p.319. Indeed, until the connection between language and speech, where the imaginary process joins with the symbolic field, is either breached or transcended, all secondary languages will be imprisoned within the primary language that both determines and is determined by this alienated desire of the Other, and in our confusion our secondary languages proliferate ad infinitum.

33. Jacques Lacan, Écrits (Norton, 1977) 166-167.

34. To any objections that I am being inconsistent by subordinating artistic expression to psychological structures, I can only respond by observing that psychoanalysis is not the intellection that attempts to explain it but a praxis which one must experience to understand, and that it is a method of historical investigation par excellence. It is in its very constitution the inverse of positivist methods of general psychology, whose uniform rules it opposes with the specific revelations of each individual's repressed history. In so doing, psychoanalysis reveals the subjective structure of the subject of certainty; the subject, that is, who exists beyond the scope of any generality.

35. "Such is the fright that seizes man when he unveils the face of his power that he turns away from it even in the very act of laying its features bare." Jacques Lacan, Écrits (Norton, 1977) p. 34.

36. Sigmund Freud, SE XIV (Hogarth Press, 1957) p. 117. To those who would deny to Freud the status of philosopher, I challenge them to produce any text concerning the aetiology of the constructs of scientific theory which is philosophically more profound than these opening paragraphs of Instincts and Their Vicissitudes.

37. Despite their failure, which at the ontological level is predictable, the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets are attempting to create possibilities for a future poetics that certainly surpass the narcissistic excesses of the anti-intellectual neo-romanticism and chronic depression that weigh down the American Poetry Review and other such orthodoxies, works which rely almost exclusively on the intensities of ego captures, and which are therefore subject to the same criticisms being leveled at L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetics, only more so.

Other installments of "A Work in Progress"

"& ... aided & abetted"
"& ... Der Fodderland Über Alles"
"& ... Past relevance and emergence"
"& ... the inward burning"
"...in my career..."

"wo ist dein Stich?"
"møønlight white with envy"
"...the millennium agape"
"Øzeus in dRag?."
"`....I'm on the n=e=t.....'"
"& the Prigmatics hid"

Related essays:
"A=R=T= M=E=A=N=S"
"Response to HENRY GOULD"
"Response to MARK WALLACE"
"Why Is Parcelli So Angry?"