Monday, June 11, 2012

towards a personal summoning: rereading j/j hastain’s long past the presence of common

long past the presence of common
by j/j hastain
Interbirth Books / Say it With Stones (2011)

An admission: the first draft of this review has gone to  the digital ethers, in a bobbled arrival from hard drive to memory stick. Though here I am careful not to say, or pause, to reconsider an initial choice; so, to dial back from what sticks: the first review recalled Will Alexander’s astro-physical planar delving, Simone de Beavoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity, Elizabeth Guthrie’s poetic plays, erotic abstractions, deflated pink rabbits, bank-vault-turned-art-gallery meditations on a cyborg lover. I will attempt to cull from memory the husk of sticks mistranslated, as mere sign:

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j/j hastain and I met in a Frank O’Hara lunch poem. We had been tasked to enact words in Jena Osman’s Summer Writing Program class. j/j, Felize Molina and I sat  in deep Colorado grass pulling lines apart into the sunny morning. When it was our turn for performance, we improvised walking around the room reciting nouns; our bodies charged vessels for the nuclei of words. I remember feeling self-conscious with my moving body and voice on display; watching j/j move with improvisatory, natural force gave me a certain mode of, if not comfortableness, then brief assurance. j/j’s assured fluidness proved the accuracy of our translation’s re/enactment. Recalling our initial collaboration, I’m struck by those energized elements then that continue to present and unfold in hastain’s poetics of 2012: a keen imagination built on performance and physic, a transitional engagement with language charged by inner vision, modest self-assurance and collaborative spirit. With this memory and homage to our meeting place, I constructed the following, “Alternating Lines of j/j hastain and Frank O’Hara”:

After making sure my guests are sleeping
On the poetry of a new friend
And bold bodies in prominent minor key
In it, and a phone call to the beyond...

We fucked like matter
Of tea and tears. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get
This this    brilliant broken American chord
As well as a number of other things
                                                “corpuscle – velvet”
                               Their echoes make a museum
                  Steady                      Nameless
What is already?  Their throats               
         Our blue ash
                                Only an echo
Pushed off the enormous glass piers by hard wind
Steaming above rust and aqua
Though it is cold
And you, marginless
Are made around fire and wood
No leaking biology
Under that I find it restful like a blush
Precise and bountiful
Until the destroyed is converted
Shrouds shot with silver and plasma
Ready and molten
And very small tiptoe crossing threshold away
Only hums,    it hums      of fortitude  


Fortitudes of Particle Arms: a sensuously fused torque. Listen here to some lines in common, delicately morphing sounds – a self-inscribed “phonics of the helix”: ‘both confounded and compounding’, ‘eliptical flickering’ ‘like a mastery of mysteries’ ‘like chewing on a croon   or an orb of light’: as to say, ‘self-summoning’ (p.26) [and forgive the spatial inaccuracies of this blog-version of j/j work]:

due to our generating                    the always proactive and provocative

where cellulose emits                    loam and lather

let this always be applicable

let us know what types of connected
we are


Motion notes for existence within this text: Forms – integrating – while distinct, unique, to each a chosen purpose,

(a) ‘open field’ – projective coagulation, each piece tilted (meant to write ‘titled’) not by ascending
numeral, but by an oncoming of stars – reach to the horizon, a rising peripheral (see the neutronic groupings in the excerpt above, for instance, the ‘sel(ves) generating … contour’ (‘that’ read in a ‘non-linear’ skipping across, then back and again, in the space between, then proactive and provocative’ what encapsulates space in an acknowledgment, missings.). Further, hastain’s spatial, sensual attenuations summon a tensile pull and release of erotic encounter, such as this passage in a later section:

‘your fingers are liquid universe’
as you press my neck back                           drag your hands along my throat


along my heart


we are
a different kind of love story

 one built through oscillations
and politics of entry

(pg. 69). The language intimately progresses, as realms and bodies enfold and blur in an increasingly politicized Eros. The gesture ever pointing to a future opening towards an ecstatic space of ‘borderless infinitum’ freed from limitations of physics, a radicalized autonomous zone (hinting Bey’s term) neither occupied or possessed, where “ulterior truths can converge – this / the body    the book    non-colonizable.

(b) ‘wet concrete’ – the abstract macro-photographs with lines overlaid – printed texts cut into
strips & over-laid on abstract photo images – fleshy, tactile ‘pieces’. For example, an image contains what could be vegetal, cerebrum, or human organ, presses with a tercet: “these concord dynamisms/ these sopping soothed seeds / this vigorous soothsayer’s fruit”. ‘growing out’: a lush excrescence.

(c) ‘scene’ prose interludes – something like a shooting script, or transcription of mis-en-scene –
sensual aspects of body reactions – as mutual mutating viewer/participant, ‘as medium’,

(d) Further discursive hybrid prose of encapsulating brackets, an ongoing integrated self-analysis;
to pose the text’s question: (p.17): “how are we to engage these disparate, yet vigorously juicy
celestial units on the human plane? How are we to allow them autonomy by way of provoking
their existence as form?”


thought bubbles on:
the body’s this weight
doesn’t summon abandon –
“each feelings’ new sense”

Further inquiry: What is a cyborg?

Answer: Robert Duncan – “As we come into the fullness of our sense of a life work, it is as if we were recovering or rescuing the import of what had always been there. We make good our earliest
readings, make real what even we failed to see present at the time, transforming the events of
our earlier life in a process of realizing what our work and life comes to mean. Creating meaning
we create work and life, and, in turn, for meaning is the matter of the increment of human
experience which we come to recognize in the language, we unite our individuality with a vision of
its communal identity.”

No, really. What is a cyborg?

Okay, listen, let’s sing another story in red: I remember j/j’s blood dance performance, the flesh pained (pained: the missing ‘t’) red, in solidarity with souls who died “as ‘slaves’”. I remember the stun: the body pressing at frames, some englassed, some emptied. I remember the piano, after: stained with flushed fingerprints across an ivory politic. Performative reach, informing and adding/subtracting a self or an ego like a skim (skin) vellum. A vaulting, translucent vessel, so moved by dislocations: here. Such a tacit wisdom practice: embodying suffering of others.

On a second attempt at reviewing long past the presence of common, I come across the following quote from John Nelson on Experimental Buddhism, which I intended to use, and however the train of such thought and how it is particularly applicable now escapes me, I nonetheless think it of interest to a potential strand of hastain’s intention as an artist and human:

“One of the most profound developments to emerge from the 20th Century affects the lives of billions of people yet remains largely unnoticed. Alongside dramatic social and political changes, technological and scientific discoveries, and new systems of transportation and communication, historians of the future will surely recognize how the relative freedom to first interpret and then shape one’s own identity has empowered human existence. Familiar frameworks of the self-formed by ethnicity, neighborhood, race, and family (to name a few) are still present but have been diminished through a variety of factors unique to the 20th century. So thoroughly have liberal democratic societies adopted and experimental self as fundamental to notions of what it means to be a person, we rarely consider how significantly this concept forms of social and cultural organization. The ability to select, fashion, and then continually augment our identity in ways we hope are positive has come to dominate how we conceive of and construct our lives.” (from Tricycle : The Buddhist Review, Winter 2010, p.46.)

Perhaps the most appropriate attempt at discussion is to simply present a self-identifying statement. In long past the presence of common, reads:

“j/j hastain is a trans-genre writer and artist. j/j chants, contorts and continues the body (which is reliquary) for the sake of inventing new shapes for proceeding – for trance-poetics --- for transfixion. J/j imagines an experimental narrative (incandescent and always fluxuating) wherein consciousness and infinite futures can be investigated and felt, for the sake of radical revelation, reveries and neoteric joy as embodied politic.”

Necessary fragments of a multitudinous self, or Last chance to chant trance, perhaps:

=transmission line=
=transverse wave=


I  continue to engage with hastain’s performative writing experience, carrying around books and letters, attempted written responses to their friendly revelations, in a sustained engagement with the themes and changes, attempting (flailing) to address hastain’s growing oeuvre: …  this for instance, a vague answer to a question about how body awareness informs writing process, a body in motion through cold, lonely winter or: “when you see a head, it refers, to many, different things, … , your mind, keeps, wandering on”… :
begins in befuddlement and awkward fumbling within the body which is accompanied by shifting attention to consciousness – the same sort of awkward weight the body feels having just woke following sleep  by late-night jazz radio, dull languor pain in elegant classical quartets on same station in between an intricate vague dream of visiting a foreign country with family members... comfortable familiarity with your voice’s tonality: an invigorating strangeness of being in a foreign country where you can’t speak the language, so that all things and voices shimmer in the foreignness of
later, kept. naming desire in an exactitude of naming fulfilled without any outer acknowledgment of resistance that only coming from some nondescript guilt that I should: fulfill a quite easy and obtainable desire; and, that that desire should be so base, a piece of food yet metaphysical, a want should materialize in a nearly one-to-one translation from word to thing (in addition to a roll, cracker, salad, and water) to finally return a belated email response to a friend, pausing to watch an obscured bar-back spoon cranberries into a holiday martini not meant for me, but soon desired. to come to this response, & until couldn’t figure it quite out, but here sitting alone at the corner of a quiet Kendall restaurant, enjoying a chowder and winter lager, “under the canoes”, my oar is in the air…
This is all I can say, or do, in advancement of corollaries. I’ve simply tried to reveal the wondrous, welcoming senses hastain’s writing creates. A ringing positive charge of inclusion: ‘experience of connecting’ emancipatory myriad identities. Actuating commons for future feelings: some things to ask j/j how to do in writing:

to ease the pain of living. to draw the communal. to unify divergences. to meet the universe thru onenesses. to honor ific onuses, ease. the pain of living. to blood dances. to go when it comes to go. to grace. to quell while including the necessary violence (see blood dance). to bed politic. to astral planar delving to the lost scientific. to ache in rhythm. to ‘own the unownable borderless infinitum’. to stitch a nationless flag in starry hills of these radicalized, autonomous commons.

1 comment:

j/j hastain said...

What an incredible engagement Andy! Thank you so much. I deeply appreciate your intuitions, confessions, reaches here. You are a master already dear one--I swear!

Btw-any time someone tries to comment on a blog, there is this odd prompt under the comment box that states: "Please prove you're not a robot"--um, just because I typed in the necessary code to have this comment posted does not mean I am not a robot.

I hereby declare that!