On Proliferation Part B, Having to do with 3.141592653589793238462643383279…

by on Aug.06, 2011

Why to stop where we stop? Why break it off where it’s broken? To round up or down? By what standard? To what place? Pi to the millionth place and still going…this post a continuation that will only trail off after digression, implication, circulation…

There are many aspects to proliferation and its dampening, many faces it shows us in the mirror, but there appear two basic and opposing sides: the impulse to proliferate and the impulse to control. It is maybe a reflection of what we often call “the human condition” (the human dis-ease?) that we fail to notice proliferation until the impulse to prune takes hold.

(Hey everyone, there’re immigrants here. I mean, immigrants, like, people not from here, from somewhere else…as if people could be the mold that one has been ignoring as it grows in one’s poorly ventilated bathroom in unseen places….)

Of course, the poetry world is no stranger to this dialectic of proliferation. Poetry consists, it can be argued, not of one or the other, but of their synthesis, the old form and content debate, Hegelian leftovers, a continuum along which various poetries can be placed but differentiated only by degrees, and thus the mystification of those who hold to strict standards of defining form, the equal mystification of those who deny that a significant difference of quantity does not precipitate a difference of quality (Lucaks).

The page is both an invitation to proliferate and a set of potential boundaries. Words run down the page or up, left or right. Limitations are inherent. Even web pages must either run (hypothetically) to the left or right or up or down — they cannot run both horizontally and vertically, and their possibility for infinitude is clipped or made episodic by the need for continual input in order to run on forever. (At least as far as I know; the possibility, if it exists, would be fascinating, of a web page that generated its own infinite content in both horizontal and vertical infinitudes, an impossibly expanding universe, a reality to itself, a space-time within space-time; yet even here would be a filler and killer of server space and pusher of processing boundaries, necessitating a constant increase of the datasphere and computing capabilities, only infinite to the extent of infinite human input…)

Choices must be made, and not choosing is a choice. Choices for are choices against. Inclusion is inherently exclusive. Exclusion is exclusive, or is it inclusive? It IS inherent, unless and until it’s not. My cells won’t let your cells inside them, though they’ll admit the virus you carry with you.

But is exclusion exclusive? No one can be inside this boxcar who is outside this boxcar, but the whole world is outside this boxcar, a careless lover through which we boxcar travelers rattle along. What is in the poem is in the poem. What is not in the poem is in the poem, its shadow, unreasonable graft and hairy tendrils clinging to unseen undersides. There, but not there. Ghostly history. Biography. Psychology. Philosophy. Madness. Humorology.

Lines break, or they do not, but even in not breaking they must at least bend to the margins of the page. (The prose poem?) If they do not, they trail off into space and are lost to us, a printer malfunction, intended or not. Even such a malfunction, however, is not an end. What was perhaps unintentional becomes the newly intentioned because poetry is language and language goes on as long as we keep speaking and listening (hurting and feeling?). Malfunctions, chips in Rosetta Stones, the Gospel of Judas fallen to fragments, pieces lost provoke endless alternatives.

In February, I heard Raul Zurita say something to the effect that the best poetry is the poetry never written because poetry is reaction to the wrong in the world. The unwronged write no poetry. Silence, a world without poems (without humans?), would be the poetry of a perfect world. Or would it? Would it be the poetry of swallowing whatever pill? Milton’s Lucifer falls from heaven because of the perception of being wronged.

And so, perception. Though I heard, I didn’t understand Zurita. He spoke in Spanish I could not have recalled a moment after he spoke. My boxcar moves by the steam locomitive of what I remember of what I heard from his translator, Daniel Borzutzky, his Zurita multiplier, Zurita’s injector-into-English. I accept this as authentic Zurita, as inauthentic Zurita. I accept and recall and add my own time-space distortions.

Translation, poetries hurdling gaps in time and space, an inter-dimensional wildfire, neither singular nor plural, the emitting of energy as light and heat, Big Bangs. How to translate pi? Poetry leaves Rosetta Stones and apocryphal gospels ripe for translation, weeds and blooms in unlooked-for places. Proliferation works on the world with and without trying.

Proliferation runs to the millionth place of pi and beyond, it does not yet end. When it ends, will there be anyone to hear the silence? What kind of universe would that be? Could there be anyone at the end of the universe and it still be called an end?

7 comments for this entry:
  1. Lara Glenum

    I keep thinking about what Raul Zurita said about poetry and reacting to horror in the world, too.

    I love this: “Poetry leaves Rosetta Stones and apocryphal gospels ripe for translation, weeds and blooms in unlooked-for places.”

    It reminds me of what Octavio Paz says in _Children of the Mire_ about how the poem does not stop time but “contradicts and disfigures it,” producing what he calls “anti-history.” Each new poem is a code for a reality that is being unraveled as the poem proceeds. The poem is “the universe’s double: a space covered in hieroglyphics.” It is an act of deciphering the universe that produces a new cipher, the poem itself. The reader, in turn, produces a third (or tenth or thousandth) cipher as they read the poem, inevitably converting it into a new poem.

    Proliferation, indeed.

  2. Jared

    Lara, really like the idea of the poem as “a code for a reality that is being unraveled.” Makes me think of DNA splitting, replicating its missing half, and zipping back up. A literal and physical cipher but also the dividing of cells and more proliferation. Also, the possibility of mutations creeping in.

    I’ve found an expert in the Mayan calendar who compares DNA to the Mayan calendar. He finds their similarities striking. Will have to post on that and relate it back to the writing of poems, which maybe dramatize or perform in micro what is happening in variations all around us in the physical world that, on its surface, can seem static and fixed, but below the surface all sorts of interesting things going on. Yes, proliferation!

  3. Lara Glenum

    Do post on this, Jared, when you get a chance! Sounds totally awesome!

  4. Kent Johnson

    >I’ve found an expert in the Mayan calendar who compares DNA to the Mayan calendar. He finds their similarities striking.

    Jesus, I hope this isn’t more confirmation that the Mayans were right about December 20-something of 2012!

    If so, then poetry really WILL be dead.

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  6. Jared

    Yes, I’ll have to revisit and think through the connections with the Mayan calendar. I was actually reminded of the Mayan stuff when reading Sarah’s post on Influence and the zodiac. The Mayan system is a galactic rather than geo- or heliocentric system, making it arguably (from some perspectives) a fuller vision than either sun or earth centered cosmologies.

    To my knowledge, only specials on cable TV have said that the world will end in December 2012. For the Mayans, it was the end of their “long cycle” calendar, which means simply starting over, just like we do every second, minute, hour, day, month, year, and so on. The significance is in the 5,000+ year length of these cycles and the Mayan belief in a particular type of galactic influence that goes with these time periods.

    Getting jazzed up by the re-thought of this!

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