January 31, 2009

Stein Redux

In the comment section of my inaugural post, "act so that there is no use in a centre," Oliver Hogue writes:

"Even though I am weary of imposing interpretation, it is also interesting how one can look at the Stein quote in a socio-cultural and epistemological way. The center of meaning, in the referent say, having been hollowed by post-modernity and a seeming loss of the cultural omphalos that renders individuals and groups as consequences of situations rather than situating those consequences. The traditional center of hearth and town square and steeple seem to have been netted over w/ web of associations where the interstices not only connect but maintain difference in a kind of rhizomic manner. Therefore, the middle, the “naka,” perhaps does fall out. But I guess one the central building blocks of life, the atom, is composed primarily of empty space, no?"

Thanks for your comments, Oliver; you are brilliant. And why, oh why, did I miss that day in science class when we discussed atoms and empty space? Please tell me more...

But does the middle "fall out" of a rhizome? I am thinking about the ginger root. A lovely spice in Japanese cooking, which I like to grate over meats or vegetables as I am preparing curry or stir fry; also tasty in tea, and a lovely palette cleanser in between bites of sushi, but I digress. 

The ginger root has several shoots that emerge from various protuberances. This particular rhizome does not lack center exactly; it has several nodes from which growth occurs. The centers become concentrated and then diffuse, in the same way that meanings in Stein become concentrated then shift, which seems related to your example of the town square being replaced by the web hub connected to this larger web hub connected to a smaller one... And yes, those interstices connect and maintain difference through energies collecting then reassembling, making it difficult to find a fixed point. And so the gesture then feels like a shifting or an angling or a sprawling. The energy continues to redistribute.

And so in poetry, we find ourselves, perhaps, looking for movement, rhizomic directions not necessarily toward or away. But movement. To reject complete stagnation.

The last time I moved abroad, I lived in Japan for two years (1994-1996). During that time, I wrote almost no poetry. Most of my writing was correspondence. I had a need for connection, which I found in epistolary form. I think I have been fearing slightly that that will happen again here, as my writing has been sporadic... More correspondence and blogging with small morsels of poetry in the red notebook and to my friend Jared Hayes and to my partner. But I must acknowledge this new gesture; I must move past this holding on, this tightness, this choking and grasping to past processes. I must embrace transition, travel in rhizomic directions to find nodes and shoots, knots and growth, as my cells re-adjust to the London air and the lack of desert sun and an abundance of moisture, which collects on the sill of my window and coats the black stairwell down to my flat.

I will grate the ginger, skin and all, and hope not to nick my fingers.