Friday, July 15, 2005

In Which I Pretend the Function of Proper Names Is to Organize the Thinking One Does for Oneself, Rather than Mark Human Territory: I hear a lot more Levinas than Agamben, but I'm not nearly as much up on either as I am on Pelikan and Benjamin. Or, my terms are inarguable because I come from a long line of wrong sides of arguments?

Or: I take ethics the same way I take aesthetics -- the two back wheels of the Danish Buddha's tricycle. I was very attached to my tricycle for a while. Now, though...

When I was young and had hopes for success and glory in this world, I went to visit a friend at her college. As she often fell asleep shortly after I arrived, I went to the record store on the main street of this college town. There, among the R.E.M. cds was another friend of mine, a few years older, from my high school. I smiled to greet him, and was surprised when he offered back only a half-smile.

We spoke briefly, he registered his concern that I was listening to childish music, I asked after his studies, he declared that he was writing on the connection of all literature to the phallus, I was mystified.

The weekend passed, the friend I went to visit interrupting her narcolepsy only to quarrel with me. The following week, at home visiting my parents, I mentioned to my brother the incident in the record store. "Thinking like that is like having a really big limo for the prom," he remarked, and went back to persuading his twelve-string that he was in fact Jimmy Page.

Whether or not my friend was experiencing an SSRI-dosage problem, or university literature departments were hotbeds of amusing reductiones ad absurdum, or I was unnecessarily skittish in the face of said absurdities, I was aware that each of us was stuck somewhere in the middle of a biography we only occasionally recognized as our own. In each of these cases, I had a pretty good idea of the scarification rituals, the memories we were using all our energy to suppress. (Why was I surrounding myself with the living dead? That's a story for another day. It begins: "Standing in the middle of Life Street, I realized my self was obscure.")

When I hear about God or Jesus Christ in an American poem, I'm pretty sure I'm hearing about the ordeals of the poet's childhood, as well as the poet's stance toward the complexities of adult responsibility. I'd like to believe these meditations are prompted by feelings of exaltation, what Bataille called the water-in-water feeling. K.L. Evans' Ahab-book to the contrary, I also want to think that I can take an index of the relative health of the poetry community by evaluating these poems for tolerance of other responses to exaltation-stimulus, what some researcher or other called the "god lobe."

But y'know, I'm an unrepentant Gadamerian, Wolin's revelations notwithstanding. Chantal Mouffe got up in my grill for a while about third ways and conflict, but I'm still feeling ongoing blah-blah over shoot-em-ups. Good palaver feels a lot like arguing, but with this difference -- everybody feels alive and heard afterwards.

Whoops, there goes my lunch break.

Jordan - #




I'm Jordan Davis.
I write a lot.
I mention it here.

Say hi: jordan [at] jordandavis [dot] com.

The Million Poems Show.