Friday, April 22, 2016

there, there


I can still recall the feeling of certain words--words, perhaps, that I read a long time ago. Maybe this is the minimal index of there being a still there, there. It's kind of like thinking back to certain things I was doing or did when pregnant, and being able to viscerally glimpse the clumsy, over-affected way I felt, tinged with a nausea that still remains poignant, when I read or thought about certain things--about Edith Jacobson's book Depression, for example, or the poems in Gr├╝nbein's Grauzone Morgens. Words that I remember from other times retain a place on this spectrum--about the way that they felt going down. I can still recall the feeling of taking them in.

In Don't Let Me Be Lonely (2004), Claudia Rankine explores a tension there, between different ways of feeling, between expressing emotion and feeling loss "to the point of being bent over each time" (57). I'm not endorsing this kind of distinction and its perhaps implicit valorization of the rough form of the latter, as the embodied aspect of an experience, but I am interested in the persistence of associative "feeling." How you are even supposed to "think" about this might be the subject of Feeling in Theory, which I have been coming back round to, largely out of the desire to give it as a gift to a couple of my undergrads, and then realizing that I have forgotten its arguments, though perhaps "forgetting" means internalizing to the point of nonrecognition. "Forgettable living" (Rei Terada, "The Life Processes and Forgettable Living").

On the last double page spread of Rankine's DLMBL, there is an image of a billboard with the words "HERE." Above this, in the text, there is a fair amount of writing that explicates "here" as both a statement of presence (of being in a place) and an assertion of a certain kind of exchange, like a "handshake," Rankine says, referring to a comment of Paul Celan's about the poem being like a handshake, an offering. One of my students observed that this billboard was the same as the image featured on the cover, in which case, these were photoshopped words on the billboard. This provided us with a sort of formal circularity, between the cover and the last pages (at least the last of the pages of poetry, before the many pages of notes). And, as I spun my book around performatively, trying to feel like we could make some kind of cohesive (or complete?) statement about the book in the last 5 minutes we had, I said, what is it that this kind of circularity allows us to see? A student responded, it's a sentence: Don't let me be lonely here." We were all captured, I think, by the simple brilliance of this statement, about the completion of syntax; there was a looking at that, for a while. It was also about the way that completing the sentence undermined the feeling that we had initially had, that the book is announcing its arrival at a particular place, a particular time, that the book gets somewhere, that the speaker gets somewhere. I then asked, what does it mean, then, if it's a sentence? Another student spoke up, "Don't let me be lonely here. But you could let me be lonely there." Another moment, differently felt, of yes. But what is this distinction? What seems to speak in it?

Throughout the book, loneliness seems linked to a certain being towards death. I don't myself know if Rankine is inviting us into this irresolvable space or critiquing the lack of resolve for it not to be. On some level, what's the difference? Where would it be okay to be lonely? Maybe on the "other side," thinking with Fatih Akin's Auf der anderen Seite [translated: The Edge of Heaven, but literally, in my translation: On the other side]. But then, it's the transcendence that cannot be supposed--it's like, waking in the middle of the night, inches away from wall, and thinking of death, thinking of death from within your dreams, waking from thinking of death, inches from the wall. Let me be lonely there.

People talk about the "flow" of the market. Today, in the Gender, Culture, Capitalism Reading Group, talk was about the market as a river. Fuck the river, I thought. What a fantasy of life, what ontology, presupposing life, as if this is all we "know." It's not a "fiction" wherein fiction is a river.  On the other side, there's nothing like this. Imagine the river: don't let me be lonely here. I think Rankine is still on this side. The parts of her text that seem to suggest that living is dying don't seem to go there; they don't seem to say let me be lonely there. They seem to stay on this side of here. Consider that there is no river; there is no flow, except as perceptible entities. The wall is also a perceptible entity, and so is the billboard. So there.

picture: Wisconsin, sunset

No comments: