Tuesday, December 5, 2017
disbelief is the action of not
Reading Scalapino's New Time, 1999, which is a straightforward poem compared to the hybrid poetry-prose of Dahlia's Iris or Defoe, I think how cleanly it accomplishes her idea of immediacy or rupture in comparison to the other two books (because poetry more naturally allows for it, see Ashbery, Trakl, etc), and then I reason that the awkwardness of the hybrids may even be a disruptive point – in fact, is, or so I assume when I hear of her affirming the importance of a "physical alteration being literal" in hmmmm, 1976, a piece of writing in which a man is imagined as a seal.* Not compared to a seal, she says: but is a seal, an impossibility that is supposed to produce "disbelief." "[D]isbelief is the action of not being duped ‘inside’ any kind of seeing either optical or conceptual." So, Brechtishly, if you are disbelieving then you are not duped, you are looking at what is going on 'outside' the words, not only taking a casual pleasure in them, and you are aware that the form here in front of you is not the only form that form can take.
(Regarding Scalapino's automatic writing – the seal/man idea coming up spontaneously, she says – I want to say something about the way that visual artists around the '60s and '70s were developing a trust in the worthiness of poured liquids, e.g., Benglis, Hesse – and I wonder if the connection that her blurb writer at Green Integer made with Breton could be directed there as well, at this faith in spewing something --)
I disbelieve more when I read the hybrids, especially when she reaches the detective-novel inserts. Meanwhile, in a normal detective novel (I am remembering Peter Temple and calling him normal, but is he?), the immediacy moves along with a personality I understand, descending inevitably into misery. Compare to Trakl. The misery is part of the Temple story's continuity. The immediate shocks are always marks on his path into that swamp pit. A Peter Temple detective story maintains this non-chaotic sense of hierarchy that Scalapino saw herself acting against.
But her kind of disruption itself is not, I think, understood (or in other words, felt) immediately, in the way that a disruption inside the hierarchy would be – David Jones, for example, pointing out that his Ancient Romans speak like Cockneys in The Anathemata, 1951, which I want to read as a riposte against T.S. Eliot's assumption that Cockneys are harbingers perhaps of degradation. Here they are at the beginning of things, a group of originators. But since Jones made a point of saying it, I think he envisioned some readers reacting to his Cockney Romans as if he was trying to make them disbelieve - in the Scalapino sense – as if he had given them the equivalent of a seal/man.