Poetry and the Love of Friendship


A solution? . . . Yes.

The mosaic of simulacra comes unglued. I mean that the whole set of social combinations could never win out against the anxiety that grouts our very flesh, stoning it. No limp flail will EVER victoriously resist this deep tide, this mysterious élan, which is not, pace M. Bergson, vital, but mortal, its marvelous antithesis.

Concerning a suicide I was lucky enough to witness, the author-actor of which was at that time the most dear to my heart, the most salvageable being—about this suicide which—for my formation or deformation—was beyond any retroactive-regressive attempt at love or hate, ever since my childhood ended I’ve felt that whoever hastens his own death is the accommodating and reasonable instrument of a capital (i.e. capital-F) FORCE (call it God or Nature) which, having planted us in the midst of terrestrial mediocrities, delivers the few courageous souls in its own trajectory beyond this actionable Sphere.

A person commits suicide, so they say, for love, for fear, for AIDS. It’s not so. Everyone loves or thinks they do, everyone is afraid, everyone is more or less positive. Suicide is a means of selection. The suicides are the ones who have none of that near-universal cowardice that struggles against a certain soul-tonality so intense that, until further evidence, we must take it for truth. It is only this feeling that sanctions suicide, the most realistically rigorous and definitive of solutions.

No love nor hate is realistically rigorous nor definitive. But the esteem in which I must, despite myself, and despite a despotic religio-moral education, hold whomever has NO fear, and who has IN NO WAY bound his élan—mortal élan—each day makes me more envy those whose anxiety was so strong they could no longer take the episodic entertainments.

Our human triumphs are nothing more than monkey-money, than grease for the carousel. If some fleeting happy affect lets you play patience—it’s only insofar as it is its own negative, like a soporific. The life that I accept is the strongest argument I have against myself. The death that tempts me far surpasses in beauty that essentially vulgar fear of dying AKA timid lived routine.

I wanted to open the door and I didn’t dare. I was wrong, I can feel it, I believe it, I want to feel it, believe it; since, finding no solution for life, in spite of and through my all-too-hot-blooded search, would I still have the strength even to flail after it hopelessly if I didn’t see there, in that final, definitive gesture, a solution?

                    —René Crevel


this essay is dedicated to the friends the pleasure of whose company delayed its arrival by prolonging my life

“Easy out. The truth friends the truth us the truth me the truth is there’s nowhere near enough phosphorus near enough red anger in our hearts’ fucking blood.”

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

This loop, the vocal track that accompanies my nightmares, an unlimited edition of “levelled house” dreams set in a variously Minotaured labyrinth that opens out from underneath the unfinished basement of my childhood home, still fazes me. It’s not what you know, it’s who. It’s not what, who, what, who, what, who.

The who is my father, who repeated to me endlessly this sermon on getting along for getting on. The usury of the phrase stems from its deployment as propadeutic brickbat: my life as a child was not allowed to continue until I’d paid it lip service, completing the lacunae in the spoken workbook. Growing up, this is what “growing up” was supposed to mean. Not what. Who.

WHAT are these things I scribble, other than grotesques and monstrous bodies, made of various parts, without any certain figure, or any other than accidental order, coherence, or proportion?

WHO is me, Jackie, who has a problem with poetry and the love of friendship: she couldn’t write it, because it was about her life and she couldn’t stop her life, already so long, for long enough to write it. “I’ll write when you’re dead,” sure, but when I am? In other last words, “To my friends: my work is done. Why wait?”

BEAR in mind that I am not trying to make an argument, I am trying to make an act, a real one, in the sense of passage à l’

ACTS, in which

In a pair of “reading experiments,” 30 readers each representing a separate small press read simultaneously for 30 minutes, in a room where there is essentially no one not reading poems out loud to no one, thereby literalizing the connection between narcissism and the atomization of audience.

(Red Rover reading at Table XYZ, AWP, 3.2.2012)

NAT Otting writes a brief chapbook for each of the 60 attendees who RSVP on Facebook for this edition of Private Line. He reads them in rapid succession, being handed one after the other by John Coletti seated at his elbow, and then discarding them on the floor. Audience members listen raptly for their own name or those of their friends and pick through the discarded chaps once the reading is over to find the book made just for this, for them.

In an email to the author, Otting “clarified” that he’d been inspired by the number of Facebook guests being equal to his grandmother’s age on that day, her 60th birthday. I can however do nothing with that detail.

(Private Line, 3.31.12)

PAUL Legault and JOSEPH Bradshaw perform “Of Being Numerous,” for which Bradshaw dictated to Legault a poem composed of appropriated texts addressed to Facebook RSVPs and others at Joseph’s discretion. Legault sings the poem, improvising a melody to Bradshaw’s banjo accompaniment, while a screengrabbed video of audience members’ Facebook profiles being clicked through is projected in the background.

In an email to the author, Legault “should say the idea of incorporating names from the facebook event was inspired by Nat Otting’s Private Line reading in which he made a chapbook for everyone who said they were attending on Facebook. Maybe you were there too?” The author was.

(Totem III, 5.20.12)

LANNY Jordan Jackson performs “A Glamour,” in which he shifts a mirror approximately the size of a sheet of A4 paper, facing the audience, from one side of his head to the other. When the mirror was on the left, Jackson delivers a short section of an increasingly surreal prose text about a cat; when on the right, Jackson repeats nearly the same text in intentionally distorted, Google Translatese French. The two texts gradually diverge, but each sweep of the mirror that toggles between shows what holds them ineluctably together, by showing the audience to itself. The texts are merely a pretext for this reflexive airing of assembled auditors, each craning a neck to catch a glimpse of him- or herself in the gap of speech.

Since the reading was held outdoors, Jackson had to read first in the lineup, before the declining sun could obscure the audience’s self-visibility, i.e. the poem’s legibility.

(Unnameable Books, 7.13.12)

THIS at a time when a rash of mirrored covers (Mercury, Commitment) already reflect even the solo reader back to herself, allowing her (“we return to the inclusive form of the icon”) to really “see herself in the text.”

THIS at a time when to be understanding media, poems (even “Poems 1.0”) may well simply be Facebook’s idea for generating more network linkages (“Poems 2.0”), when Mónica de la Torre, at a Triple Canopy seminar “addressing the act of reading as a part of contemporary artistic practice” (“Automatic Reading,” 10.20.12), with the (admirable) air of one enumerating elephants in the room, states that the reading of poetry written by her contemporaries, by living poets, is limited almost entirely to auditing it at readings.

THIS at a time when perhaps the most perversely clever reading of poetry involved no reading whatsoever, when Wonder Books’ pair of “Crush Parties,” by physically aggregating the same social networks that would typically aggregated be by a reading, but by releasing those networks from the tedious need for poetry as social lubricant, created perhaps the first pure works of Poetry 2.0, catching the reading up to the opening, as a social space in which the less one says about the art (there to perform its lubricating function and be ignored) the better—at last.

THIS at a time when devoted to the religion of an absolute model, this ‘tribe of angels’ that had assembled in the most productive atelier in Paris provocatively crossed the threshold of silence, of absence, of nonpainting, out of the conviction that only meditation and ecstasy could grant them access to an archetype that seemed impossible to attain by any other means. And so, in the years between the terror and the empire (the background is France between 1794 and 1802), the Barbus proceeded in their drastic reduction of the means of expression until they reached the point of theorizing the blank canvas and the abandonment of the palette: “Ils continuèrent à fréquenter les ateliers, à visiter les musées, mais ils ne produiserent plus.”


The alarm goes off and Michael slaps it silent, rolling out from under the angled dormer roof and onto the wood floor next to the space heater, where the smell of burning arm hair gets him vertical. Other Michael still wakes up every morning and walks the 4/5ths of a mile to the athletic complex; somehow the impending or at least planned destruction of his body does not conflict with the narcissistic preservation of that body’s appearance. Julia will continue to perform her function of attractively circulating flesh until the bitter end. David wants above all to leave a pretty corpse, except when he doesn’t, walking back down Hope street past the Portuguese butcher and imagining the Cap Verdean pastels of his own kitchen, long the envisioned site of an envisioned act, slicked with red. After the shower, Ariana peels her face off the tile floor and heads down to the café to exchange money for the increasingly rare experience of hearing her own voice. She used to live around every corner, but that doesn’t mean Lindsay’ll cut her hand off just to give you something to hold. Further up Hope, the Laundromat from which Jackie called her mother yesterday to tell her, what? that she’s not thinking about it. Then the hardware store on Wickenden on the way home again to buy some rope and, mysteriously, a pastry binder. There are no exposed beams in Macgregor’s apartment, only unsteady looking light fixtures, embarrassing, running the binder back and forth across his forearm. The two main rooms’ dormers mean that even though she’s short, or rather, Kat doesn’t think she’ll make it work, heads back to the hardware store for a tape measure, trying to remember her geometry, recalculates halfway out and lets herself be drawn from sheer anemia back into the bed where she has this dream.


. . . in which Cropper and Dempsey’s Friendship and the Love of Painting, in which is elaborated a reading of Poussin’s work as network, deeply embedded in and iconographically marked by the painter’s relations with his friends and patrons in Rome, is rewritten into Poetry and the Love of Friendship by a Rosalind Krauss suddenly obsessed by the fate of the lyric post-codex and post-Norton, facing the condition where the most “expressive” works in the new dispensation make a part of the new apparatus the content of the other part of it and vice versa; in which, if “business art is the step that comes after art,” and poetry, as we all know, is a bad business, it is sometimes a good party: an artsy (read: Art.sy?) gregariousness already parodied by Benjamin Peret and Serge Charchoune shaking hands for an hour and a half at the Au Sans Pareil in 1921; in which, “To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility,” which must mean something like “the reproduction of artworks leads to artworks designed for reproduction,” but what about inserting “via social media” after “reproduction”—what about the reproduction of networks? does that reproduction across media lead to networks designed for reproduction? (Something to talk about at the next Crush Party, at which it will be finally revealed, as dream-Krauss points out so adeptly, drawing on her work in “Reinventing the Medium” and “Two Moments from the Post-Medium Condition” as to the dispersal of a medium into an apparatus soldering the circulation of social bodies to a delocalized technical support; and on her work in A Voyage On the North Sea as to the historical moment when it became possible, with Serra, to posit “opticality” itself, “an entirely abstract, schematized version of the link that the traditional perspective had formerly established between viewer and object, but one that now transcends the real parameters of measurable, physical space to express the purely projective powers of a preobjective level of sight,” painting’s entire “mode of address” as a source of “new conventions,” to posit “opticality” itself as a medium; and on her work in “Video: the Aesthetics of Narcissism” as to the possibility that the post-medium condition can make not merely a subject but a medium strictu sensu of a psychological condition, concomitant with the enforcement of a collapsed present tense that “severs [one] from a sense of text,” in an absolute feedback loop that brackets out the subject, and where in a telling desire for Facebook the object (in the improper sense of the “work”) must be instant-replayed in media as “virtually the only means of verifying its existence as art,” where the attention paid in likes and shares and only these creates art qualities, where mem and dor appear as critique 1.0 pre-exposées of Poetry 2.0, by separating the visibility of a work or an other (as art-image) from co-presence—the latter happens in a room from which the wall screening the former is not visible; and from all these dream-Krauss points out so adeptly that the medium of poetry is friendship).


“It used to be: first you go to Broadway, then we can teach you poise. As for me, I had a job as a music salesman, selling sheet music. It was a good job, it paid 35 an hour.” The tone was of a Romney attack ad: man in plaid suit standing over woman at piano turning the sheets for her. But without the negative conclusion or I woke up before the ad could finish itself off, i.e. the dream-ad was too supersubtle for the dream, too subtle to protect it from its own dissolution.

the tone, but not the effect, or the affect even. we were all staying out in the woods, in a sort of marsh or public wilderness swimming hole. the nature of “the beast in the jungle” (which i had been reading when i fell asleep) was such that it drowned its victims and then aggregated their dead bodies to its own malevolent but as far as we could tell originally noncorporeal self. bryan was to be the marquee victim, we knew, and it almost got him and me in the bargain. i can’t remember how we got away, but bryan fought up through the water with a knife between his teeth. my job was somewhat otherwise, as revealed in the subsequent dream of that guy from the brown english program and the girl i think from julius last night, after i called geoffrey’s machine again from the bathroom typically populated by coke wizards and curators on loan from berlin. they were trying to bomb a school? we had guns to stop them, and couldn’t—they managed to get the bomb off. his name was andrew lack, so we called it lack’s dream, because it was “a question.”

then the question of do i want a yogurt and if so how much i want said yogurt weirdly sort of reproblematizes itself in front of the yogurt emporium, situated on lexington in the exact location of bloomingdales. the kind of compaction into urban space only possible in dreams as it is a superposition—what am i saying: only possible in dreams, and only actual in life, where the noumenal superpositions escape any hermeneutic that constructs itself through eyebeams. in the renaissance, everybody had a cervix at the back of their eyes, the way you can get right out of the subway and into bloomingdales without going outdoors. in the dream, when i said “out loud” “sort of reproblematizes” i meant that tiny ideational yogurts of varying flavors were flitting across the visual field in increasing variety and density, whiting it out. the compaction of a large number of people into a limited space is one of the major efficiencies of cities. if you let someone put their penis into your anus or mouth or vagina because you’re not “using that space right now” or into your nose or ears in the case of giants paired with pygmies or dwarfs say, then that is one of the major of efficiencies of cities.

this is where things get weird. the apartment (i never see it from outside—it’s never really “entered”—you sort of osmose into the space instead), railroad-style had two arms of suites at either end of a long hallway. it was unclear if the long hallway (furnished ambiguously: continuously lit TV, low glass table with some books and newspapers scattered, love seat) belonged to the apartment i belonged to or to the other one, or to no one alltogether and served as a kind of common space. the door to the far apartment slid open and a young girl, a blonde, maybe 10 appeared brandishing an enormous plastic pipette like a drum major. in my apartment, no one was home. have i mentioned i could fly? i could fly. “the secret is to keep your fucking head down.” on the roof, chevy chase in a chaise longue insists that he is some future version of myself or that i am a younger version of him and i stipulate to that. he has a pipette tucked behind his left ear that he uses to pick his teeth and point at buildings otherwise distant on the skyline. on an adjacent chaise longue a black man and HIS younger version both sit, side by side, smiling vacantly. the flying is difficult and chevy chase has to use the pipette (now lit from inside and opaque, like a florescent rod) to direct a landing. “just so incredibly thrilled to be removably bourgeois.” back inside the apartment, my mother is home, but it’s all off. she’s haggard and wearing an old floral gown, and her hair covers her face. when she brushes it away from one side, it’s marie k. in the fridge it’s wall-to-wall yogurts, and yogurts too in each of the crisper drawers. but looking at them i know that they’re not really yogurt (or they are, but). through the tin lid of each of them someone has used a hypodermic syringe to suck out all the yogurt, leaving only an imperceptible puncture. then another syringe was used to fill each and every one of them with blood. i know that if i open one, the blood will have curdled into something like yogurt, maybe strawberry, but that i won’t be able to eat it. something about all this, my mother included, seemed somehow very “Japanese.”

a golden retriever walks by with a pipette in its ass mechanically whimpering and exits pursued by the blonde. that was basically the end of it. but whose blood was it? i have to admit that how this was rhetorical escapes me in the dream, but for that dreams are sociality by other means or by any means necessary which is what defines them as a medium.


Wakes up and Eric thinks he’s certainly too tall and goes instead of doing anything else to look again at the single Poussin in the Museum. There’s no class today; the museum is empty. The gauzy Venus and Adonis shadowed under a bicycle seat of cloud, the supposed subject of the painting, are of almost no interest, not even to the dozen or so erotes that populate the painting. Only a pair of these epiphenomena of love are for the lovers: one of whom extends a chubby five fingers towards the sleeping couple while the other readies an arrow for Venus from above—obviously superfluous, given their post-coital posture. The other erotes are busied in crueler sport, tumbling out of their cloud mount in an incomprehensible mass of unarticulated putty-flesh towards a fleeing rabbit at the lower left edge of the canvas. The most frontal cloud-borne putto seems to have been caught in the middle of a superman flying tackle; his neighbor has an arrow notched for the rabbit, as does a particularly fascistic-faced putto with arm drawn ready to lodge an arrow in the rabbit point-blank, held as he is in place by three other demiurges of love—one hanging each from his ears, haunches, and legs. Who will the rabbit overkilled by the erotes’ double arrows then love? If not the hound that races from the middle of the canvas to his encounter.

Joe’s certainly too tall, gets up again off the bench and leaves the museum, heads to the bar at 4 PM and writes poems until his handwriting is totally illegible, at which point he doesn’t care what he’s writing anyway. After an apocalyptically (in the sense of Revelation) sterile party preceded by a phone call in the course of which her ex-lover had told her to take another, other Ana jumps off the Point Street bridge for the first time. Dan has a mental GPS that won’t turn off: “Turn left” on the bridge like I’ll sell you a nice destination in the East River. Corina at that exact moment is remembering the drive back from Virginia in the bridal train of Hurricane Irene on no gas, coasting wildly down the unlit interstate, head out the window and never having seen this many stars, feeling like Bruno with his hooded eyes on the stake, like piloting a cloud—everything was so without consequence. The car is parked a block away and Walt takes its mirror off while Ana is asleep. She doesn’t mind, always having changed lanes more on the smell of it than anything else. It’s the middle of an early snow and the water is cold enough but she wouldn’t say it brings her back to herself. It barely tastes like anything at all. Where did “she” go?


JACKIE “had already become a kind of proverbial figure, for she died at the age of ninety-eight, free of disease and healthy to the end. But Persaeus says in his Ethical Studies that she died at the age of twenty-eight and that she came to ‘Athens’ at the age of twenty-five. But Apollonius says that she headed her school for fifty-eight years.

This is how JACKIE died: on leaving her school she stumbled and broke her toe; she struck the earth with her hand and uttered the line from the Niobe: ‘I am coming. Why do you call me?’ and immediately died by suffocating herself . . .”


MARIANNE, poetry is all grown up now and the what is the who and one day, given a long enough rope, hopefully vice versa. So while I want my gimlet eye to cry crocodile tears onto this new dispensation, I must admit that it does something for “me.” Where did she go: lyric poem as the enacted suicide of text into bodies, the utopic side of which would be something like absolute neo-Personalism: at some later stage in our development, I won’t need to write poems, and I won’t need to read yours: I’ll be a purely social body, that is, then, a poem.

MARIANNE, Google Analytics convincingly demonstrates that no one reads to the end of anything unless they’re hoping to find themselves there, so I can address myself to you alone. Checking the index at the end of a sterile party, reception as suicide qua lyric rope, that vanishing point of desire at the end of Commitment (“ART UNTIL DEATH / and in some cases / instead of it / and in some cases / instead of itself”), returning there to the second-order aporia of art wanting wanting art: in some cases instead of death, in some cases, instead of its (art’s? death’s?) promise,

which is Commitment trying to give you the future, not the untransmuted lump of it, not anything quantifiable into installments, but its whole tonal quall. A promise of hope, i.e. not hope but the promise of it. Which is exactly what gives you enough (but not too much), exactly enough to say no to “the life that I accept as the worst argument I have against myself.” 

MARIANNE, am I entitled to make promises? I wanted to be, one way: Deleuze says that Nietzsche says that what distinguishes us from animals is the ability to promise, to use the future in that way. I’m not sure I’m much interested in distinguishing myself from an animal anymore, but I do want to use the future. “Prière d’incinérer: Dégoût”: to become a text as the receivable moment of personal disappearance promised, enacted

for MARIANNE who wrote Commitment, who kills myself for me so I don’t have to. Marianne who is very busy. Who doesn’t answer my emails. For Marianne who “doesn’t know why” she had to write that way, and Marianne, who lives in Britain, who knows.