Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Getting Past the ‘Lyric Block’ & the Individual as Ego:
Poetic Method in John Clarke’s In the Analogy

By Bruce Holsapple

[Previously published in House Organ, No. 82, Spring 2013, Edited by Kenneth Warren]

            John Clarke’s masterwork In the Analogy (1991) is a formidable book, even after informed readings.  The five lectures that compose From Feathers to Iron (1987), on the other hand, detail a method of composition that clearly forwards the initiating work of Charles Olson from the 1960s when Olson and Clarke were at SUNY Buffalo.  In that book, Clarke cites several controlling texts or presences, William Blake—Jack was a Blake scholar—Olson and sources from Olson, for instance, the philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, and the Orientalist, Henry Corbin.  And in both of his books, Jack quotes extensively from Novalis[1]; in point of fact he adapts several concepts from Novalis’s Notes for a Romantic Encyclopedia, such as “the Antithetical Synthetic Recognition,” “felt thought,” and “the Strengthening Method.”[2]   The soul, according to Novalis, is that through which everything becomes whole, and I am especially interested in the role Novalis plays in Jack’s thoughts, for example, in the project Clarke calls “World Completion.”  My project is to use Jack’s sources, mostly Novalis, as leverage by which to explicate one of Jack’s key phrases, “Momentary Irregular Incursion,” and so open up the methodology put forth in From Feathers to Iron, for I see in Jack’s method a means by which to understand experience not as discrete sensations or patterns of motivated behavior, but rather specific paths and aspirations, as well as an approach to Jack’s own poems.  I’ll work towards  the “deep telluric connection” Jack intuits between nature and imagination, by way of how his poems push, as I see it, to bring the future to bear on the present.

            In the Analogy is composed of some two hundred and forty-three sonnets arranged in seven books.  Five books are forty poems long; the sixth contains thirty-nine poems, so the plan is obviously forty per book.  Jack projected twelve such books, or some four hundred and eighty poems, but died in 1992 before completing them.  Each sonnet is typically preceded by three to four quotations, bearing sometimes direct, sometimes oblique, perhaps over-reaching relevance to the text, but generally setting the tone and field of reference.  The punctuation is telling.  Each fourteen line poem begins with a capitalized word and closes with a period.  Commas, quotation marks, and italics are common but there is only one period per poem.[3]  The effect is that each poem reads thru as a single sentential unit, tho composed of several embedded or dependent and independent clauses, such that one is propelled forward by various clausal extensions, often thru a bewildering amount of information.  For instance, ignoring what the poem proposes for the moment, notice the cascade that builds from the syntax of “A Planispheric Guide to Avoiding Eye Contact”:[4]

They thought the gods were far away
in the heavenly regions, so why address
the fear-drained husks riding the rails
before the Grand Coincidence contemplated
in the mind’s embryonic eye on the way
in which stray thoughts henceforth/forever
rest in the right contention amidst the alphabet
of wordings that become one’s movable sphere
(and Time, too, must adhere in the analogy),
the patriotic American shortcut in geometry
of perfection, subway satori when all follow
the backside of the glandular organ firing
the roving eye of Colonialism out the window
about ground furniture moving delivery velocity.

(In the Analogy 138)

The often baffling connections between phrases establish a nebular field of reference; those references require some shaking out before a reading can be made.[5]  Content varies wildly--intense autobiographical accounts, wry social and political commentary, historical assessment, mythology, philosophical quip, grim cosmic statement—and the poems weave that miscellany into a synthetic whole by one combinatory thrust.  That is, the poems seek epic “domain,” and in doing so invoke a number of registers, personal, social, scholarly and cosmological, one connection followed instantly by another, paraphrasing Olson, developing a complex presentational immediacy.  But the push of this “sentence” comes not simply from syntax but rather from how Jack engages syntax to connect and drive his propositions. What sustains the sentence is both cosmology and the vectored force of the clause.

            Jack explains in From Feathers to Iron that if Athena enters a poem—and this would be an example of incursion—one is obliged in that recognition to “discover the rest of her world” (33).  Insights expressed therein may be beyond the poet’s understanding; for he can “speak before he knows” in an attempt to “constellate” the epiphany (Feathers 152).  Moreover, the reader also has an obligation, for “If a poem delivers the setting in which the recognition was made, the reader must restore its narrative relations within the world frame” (Feathers 33).  “World frame” here is an historical world concept or epoch.[6]  Jack adds that this doesn’t mean “the incursion of Athena is returned to the Indo-European mythological overlay” but that the poem should lead through that image “to the experience of ‘regulation’ that gave rise to the recognition in the first place” (33).  To anticipate slightly, such ‘regulation’ raises the level of information and reorders the world.

            The sometimes perplexing references and mixture in content result from plan and method, then, and the reader must make some of the connections[7].  Some in fact are easily made.  Here is the initial poem, “An Evening Coming In”:
First of all we should have learned to wag our tails
not just to strengthen the prostrate, or pelvic floor,
but so we had something to do waiting in line or
otherwise standing fully clothed, as Reich and Comfort
found they could shower better keeping their shirts on,
so you never know, we are all so quick to ridicule
what seems odd behavior, not knowing the rationale
behind, even the benefit of the doubt is too much
in cases of taboo, such as knowing that one is lazy
instead of acting compulsively, Tillich watching porn
to hone his Augustinian edge, so if deviation has gone
by the boards it can only mean after writing stopped
people had no need to sharpen their indifferent beaks
and soon everyone put on birthday suits and died crazy.

(In the Analogy 3)

The poem is about both human nature and our present historical condition, and they are in uneasy relation.  It’s preceded by quotes from Yeats, Baudrillard, Virilio and Olson, so one is prepared to connect “indifferent beaks” with Yeats and Zeus’s rape of Leda (initiating the Trojan War). The Olson citation is that if you “leave out the true animal bearing of the species” you pay for it by sex, which is how Wilhelm “Orgone” Reich, Alex “Joy of Sex” Comfort, along with the theologian Paul Tillich watching pornography plus Leda’s rape and our wagging our tails comes in.  Contrasts of animal and divine, naked and clothed underpin the critique.  Being quick to ridicule contrasts with keeping our shirt on, but of course, wagging our tail is an inept response.  Our laziness, indifference and spiritual inertia are being satirized as well.  The Baudrillard quote invokes an historical moment dominated by media, when all are homogenized into consumers and the object prioritized over subject, in short, hyperreality, where every quality, to paraphrase Baudrillard (186-7), ceases to be related to its opposite—true to false—but instead becomes superlative, truer than true, and we are absorbed within a morass of simulations, hence the end of writing and, consequently, our waiting in line, perhaps for the shower.[8] 

            By aligning the poet’s recognition and insight with an epiphany of Athena above, I’ve set direction for discussion of “Momentary Irregular Incursion,” but we’ll need more background.  For instance, Jack opens the first lecture of From Feathers to Iron[9] with several concepts--actually tropes—taken from Marie-Louise Von Franz’s Number and Time, a book developing ideas from Carl Jung on synchronicity, where she in turn borrows from the cybernetic theories of Olivier Costa de Beauregard.  In fact this borrowing extends back to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the concept of entropy, the tendency for the energy in a system to progress toward inert uniformity, organized energy into disorganized energy.  With cybernetics, entropy is a measure of the lack or loss of information about the structure of a system.  And there has emerged a corresponding concept, “negative entropy” or “negantropy,” for processes that either delay decay or restore order.  New information, according to von Franz, leads to the possibility of greater organization, where “every increase in information is equivalent to the possibility of a system’s entropic state being reduced by an ordering intervention.”[10] That ordering intervention could be as simple as an insight.  The information consists, she says, of no more than “a representational idea which becomes realized in consciousness . . .” (von Franz 208-9).

            “Ordering intervention” is von Franz’s term for a negantropic moment.  But when Jack introduces the term, he explains an ordering intervention in terms of a poet comprehending his work, bringing comprehension to his work, such that both the course of the work and the world are changed.  Comprehending the work then is a marked phrase, one I think connects to Whitehead’s “subjective aim” and Novalis’s concept of exponential heightening, a point I’ll detail.  Jack then asks, by way of analogy, “When the ordering intervention disappeared from the cosmos, where did it go?”  (Feathers 35).  That’s to be his first topic.  As he eventually reveals, de Beauregard (following the mathematician Minkowski) posits that the ordering intervention has gone “elsewhere,” neither past nor future.  Elsewhere for de Beauregard is the “infrapsychisme.”  Von Franz points out that infrapsychisme “corresponds to the psychoid aspect of Carl Jung’s collective unconscious” (von Franz 209).  For de Beauregard that constitutes a “far more primordial psychic universe . . . of which the material Universe represents a passive and partial double” (von Franz 192).  Jack adopts all four terms, negantropic, ordering intervention, elsewhere and infrapsychisme.  His second topic, he explains, will be the momentary, irregular incursion of negentropy into our lives, and he provides an historical schema for that event.  I’ll ignore the historical for now. Suffice it to say that, as an ordering intervention, negentropy is, he later states, “a human potentiality and responsibility” (Feathers 176).

            In the passage on Athena, quoted above, Jack explains that “poetry leads through image to the experience of ‘regulation’ that gave rise to the recognition in the first place” (Feathers 33) where “regulation” would be an instance of negantropy.  His notion of image is complex; for now take “image” as the organization or gestalt of incoming novelty.[11]  One difficulty for the poet is that this incursion instantly fuses with “the site of recognition, both blinding and binding one to that place,” (68) and there is a “lyrical pull” to momentary expression, leading one to squander the contents on “manifests of momentary incursion” (26).  This would result in lyric poetry.  But if you “have a burning desire to get past the ‘lyric block,’[12]” Clarke writes, then you must have “a way to restore narrative to image.”  He argues as well that a narrative is already implicit:
If you think of an incursion as a thought coming through the neocortex not knowing the image of itself, then content derives from the manifest of that moment, and poetic composition can become an extension of such content searching for a narrative form already present in the incursive order. (Feathers 68)

The thought doesn’t “know” the image of itself, because the poet hasn’t brought an ordering intervention to the work.  But incursions happen sequentially.  When accumulated, they take on “the actual frame in which they are time-factored unknown to the poet who may still think of the information as connected to where he got it” (Feathers 26).  “Time-factored” is a term from Alexander Marshack’s The Roots of Civilization.  Marshack uses that term to describe notations in archeological artifacts that suggest integers—measures—of periodicity, rate, velocity, and duration.  He believes such quantitative measures are “storied,”  i.e. organized representations of events “in time” (Marshack 25-6, 109-23).[13]  So Jack promotes a narrative approach to the material.

            It follows that he argues for a particular use of incursions as a means of getting beyond the lyric block, but that usage isn’t simply narrative.  Here is where Novalis becomes important, for Jack proposes that representation of the irregular incursions from infrapsychisme must be “be antithetical to the regular object flow of nature,” where “antithetical” is a term from Novalis (rather than Yeats). But we need another step back.  Jack talks in several places of exegesis—a theory of reading involving recovery of meaning—and he adopts Nicholas of Lyre’s exegetical method, with its four levels of meaning, the literal, the allegorical, the moral and the anagogical (Feathers 183).[14]  “Anagogic” typically indicates an allusion to Scripture, and anagogical means, elevated, spiritual. The anagogical level has an analogue to Corbin’s notion of an exegesis of the soul, that of restoring the text to truth and the soul to its origin (Corbin 31), and these in turn parallel Novalis’s concepts of empirical ego and absolute ego, so implicit here is a method of reading that brings heightened meaning to a text, construed in the widest terms.  An “analogue,” Jack explains, indicates something similar in structure, and as a chemical term means “structural derivative of a parent compound.” The analogical, he explains, as “a lateral mental movement that makes narrative provision for the mind to bring to bear on the text.  You apply textual pressure by using at least five different analogues simultaneously.  If you want a text to be a door to the present you must complete the world of its construction” (Feathers 62).  He is speaking here of his use of Olson, Blake and Novalis as making for “narrative provision,” but he is not speaking simply of books.  He’s speaking rather of the “text of perception” (98), of gaining entry into the present moment by use of analogues.  In fact, he’s talking about a way of perceiving the world.  As Novalis writes, all perception is representative, “mediate” (Stoljar 61); and Jack (adopting de Lubicz) posits that nature itself is hieroglyphic inasmuch as it is “an embodiment of principles” (Feathers 107).  All perception then involves reading the world and we read the world at four exegetical levels.  In a crucial passage in the Logological Notebooks, Novalis proposes one’s perception of “the whole world” to be “of the nature of analogy” because one can only have full knowledge of elements of the world by a process he terms “antithetical synthetic recognition.”  This later term is central to how Jack proposes we use information from our momentary irregular incursions.

            Jack encountered the passage from Novalis in the journal Archai, published in 1973.[15]  In a notebook entry, which I’ll paraphrase, Novalis distinguishes mediate or representational knowledge of the objective world from immediate, internal (subjective) knowledge.  Sensation is a means of knowledge.  But “all sense perception,” he announces, “is at secondhand.”  In order “to feel and come to know a thing completely,” he posits, it must be made both the means and the object of knowledge, mediate and immediate, by an exponential heightening.  We would in short then “vivify it,” make it absolute knowledge, and here Novalis uses a paradigm of subject, object, absolute as an analogue for thesis, antithesis, synthesis, or the Fichtean ego, non-ego, absolute ego, wherein a “true antinomy” is understood as “an absolute equation” (Stoljar 61-3; Wood 84-7, 107, 218).    

            Novalis then takes a second step .  If he were to incorporate just part of the world into an element of the world’s meaning, he would acquire both mediate and immediate, perfect and imperfect, subjective and objective knowledge of the world, and he would consequently find himself, as a body, partly self-determined and partly determined “by the whole,” with both aspects “inextricably united,” such that one couldn’t refer exclusively to one or the other.
My body would seem to me not specifically different from the whole—but only a variant of it.  My knowledge of the whole would thus have the character of analogy—but this would refer in the closest and most immediate way to the direct and absolute knowledge of the element.  Both together would comprise an antithetical synthetic knowledge.  It would be immediate, and by means of the immediate it would be mediated . .  .” (Stoljar 62).

We’re speaking then of a restoration of unity, from part to whole.  Thesis is completed by antithesis, in an act of synthesis.  Novalis again gives an example of the antithetical method[16] when he proposes to romanticize the world:[17]
The world must be romanticized.  This yields again its original meaning.  Romanticizing is nothing else but a qualitative potentization.  In this operation the lower self becomes identified with a better self.  Just as we ourselves are a potential series of this kind.  This operation is still entirely unknown.  By giving the common a higher meaning, the everyday, a mysterious semblance, the known, the dignity of the unknown, the finite, the appearance of the infinite, I romanticize it—For what is higher, unknown, mystical, infinite, one uses the inverse operation—in this manner it becomes logarithmicized—It receives a common expression.  (Wood xvi)

To paraphrase David Wood, Novalis’s operation here is to “re-present” the world, extend it beyond “its narrow quantitative domain” to a higher power (xv).   Our perception of the world as a base quantity is raised to a qualitative power by an antithetical operation which completes it, finite with infinite, low with high—or more tellingly, the natural with the marvelous.  Alternately, one “logarithmizes” the infinite with the finite.  Consequently, Novalis will speak of making “imaginative substances and powers the regulative means of the substances and powers of nature” (Feathers 179).

            When Jack cites this passage from Novalis, he quotes one of his own poems, one which alludes to Olson’s “Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum.”  “It is the multiplication of ‘the time-factor by the instruments of creation,’” Jack says, “Zeus and Typhon, that produces this exponential heightening” (Feathers 103).  (Olson concludes “The Secret” by citing “the Zeus-Typhon / battle? the instruments / of Creation?” (sic; Stein 187).)   Jack’s own “The Brooding End” opens: “The Athena-potential is naturally neglected if not / expedited by the rate of Los’s art which multiplies / the time-factor by the instruments of creation” (Quoted in Feathers 132).  The blacksmith, Los, is Blake’s figure for the poet as the creator of what is.  Los accelerates the rate of realizing the Athena-potential by multiplying the time factor with the instruments of creation.  Jack glosses those instruments as Zeus and Typhon in their battle for control of the new aeon.  In In the Analogy, Jack notes that this battle is neither sequential nor martial (101).  Rather, Typhon “is as everlasting as the Zeus light, / they are the war that must be, they are both my own, / they are one and the same, / there is no contradiction” (88).   So this is an “eternal event” to cite Olson.  As Jack said in “Avoiding Eye Contact,” “They thought the gods were far away” (In the Analogy 138), outside, remote, in the sky, when they are actually inside.  Jack glosses “Athena-potential”  with a quote from Kerenyi on Athena’s sacred relation to clay vessels and the hearth in prehistoric Athens, hence holy vessels.  “Athena-potential” is our potential alignment with the divine world of Athena.  The phrase “naturally” in “The Athena-potential is naturally neglected” is a marked term, used in contrast to Los’s act of intervention by the antithetical method.  To hook Novalis back in, the natural is squared or equalized with the marvelous.

            Jack proposes that we use that incoming information from infrapsychisme (through momentary irregular incursions) in an antithetical way in the synthetic process he calls “World Completion.”  He explains: “The representation of information coming to species having been lost to cosmos, is antithetical to the regular object flow of nature. The word ‘antithetical’ . . . . means that the imagination must pursue the irregular incursions in an antithetical and systemic way. . . . The laws of the representation derive from the antithetical shape of the information within a potentially complete system” (Feathers 25-6).[18]  This he claims would restore “energy” to its circuitry, and he attributes the idea to the Anagogical level of Amazonian exegesis (151).

            When we counter the “object flow of nature,” that is, the finite natural world as given, with the Antithetical and imaginative, we enter a propositional phase, termed the Antithetical Systemic Representation, where the two positions are equal, and “the ground of contention” Jack says, “is no longer natural but synthetic” (105).  Jack quotes from Novalis several times regarding the representational, the following passage in particular:
“All representation rests on making present that which is not present . . . . My faith and love rests on representative faith.  Thus the assumption—eternal peace already exists—God is among us—here or nowhere is America—the golden age is here—we are magicians—we are moral and so on.”  (Stoljar 134)

When operating with the Antithetical, our present degraded world is countered by a Golden Age, just as freedom counters necessity.  And if there is “freedom in the whole,” Novalis insists, “then there is freedom also in me” (Stoljar 131).  That same conclusion follows with eternal peace;  a “representative faith” makes eternal peace present.  Jack provides a quick example of an antithetical synthetic recognition from Moby-Dick, Ishmael’s use of Quepeg’s casket as a life-saving raft (Feathers 110).

            I mentioned this stage was propositional.  There is a different way to configure it.  Borrowing from Keats, Jack explains that there are three steps from feather to iron, from thought to belief to action (29).  Taking the moment of incursion as the poet’s inspiration or thought, the second step would be belief, believing one’s inspiration.  The only way to understand one’s inspiration (construed as propositional), Jack says, is to ply it, to act on your beliefs. “By plying a proposition to its realization . . .” he proposes, “writing can accelerate time to the point of what Novalis calls ‘the eradication of sin . . .’ (154).  But moving from belief to action requires faith, and here again Novalis is useful.  Jack reiterates that moral action depends upon “representative belief,” which “rests on making present the nonpresent.”  Novalis writes that “the moral sense is the sense for presence despite the absence of external affects” (Feathers 159) :
 “If a person suddenly and genuinely believed—that they were moral, then they would be moral.  Supposition of the ideal—of that which is sought—is the method to find it.  (Wood 107) 

Jack underscores this:  Moral sense does not indicate a ‘mediate perception’ but an ‘infinite expression.’” (159)  That is, moral sense is antithetical, not natural.  Likewise, Novalis speaks of moral action in terms of that same exponential heightening:  “Moral law now appears here as the only truly great law of raising the universe to a higher degree—as the fundamental law of harmonious development.” (Wood 113)  Jack’s proposals then are focused on ethical action.

            The third exegetical level is moral. One moves to the ethical by going beyond the individual to the communal (Feathers 111) and Jack builds his fourth lecture from Octavio Paz’s remark about an “elsewhere” always here in this moment—a “spark of otherness in each one of our acts” which Paz hazards is spiritual. Jack bridges from the antithetical to “otherness” by what he terms “the Strengthening Method,” in the process of proposing “a groundwork for your life other than your own reality . . .” (114).[19]  He presents this as an epic shift from psyche to infrapsychisme (114), but is quick to add “the imaginal alone isn’t ‘strong’ enough to constitute the ‘World Complete’” (151).  One needs to create a “second I,” as Novalis advocates, “a mind constructed by the incorporation of acts of Antithetical Systemic Representation,” Jack writes, which can withstand “animate stirrings of our poetic nature” (Feathers 160; 173).  We move beyond the individual to the “post-individual”[20] by creating a mind capable of perceiving the text of the world.  The term “Strengthening Method” is from Novalis.
Method of healing the present inadequate condition.  Formally through fasting and moral cleansing.  Now perhaps through the strengthening method.  (Feathers 154)

Without the Strengthening Method, Jack insists, the imagination “exhausts itself in the presence of its own information” (30).  The Method supposes, following Novalis, “that which is sought after—is the method whereby it is found,” that is, it involves the same “procedural change from unknowing something to countering it with its antithetical representation.”  The Strengthening Method brings the antithetical under control (174) and “makes redundant all [other forms of] self-displacement” (60), but it’s “not achieved by a shift in position to what Lautremont calls ‘the ambiguous plurality of myself’” (170).

“Under Antithetical Representation ends and means are reversed so that it is the initiation of elsewhere itself which breaks down the body-image by locating the center outside the self” (Feathers 60)

The lyric center of the individual  is systematically displaced by irregular incursions from elsewhere as one applies the Antithetical.  Jack comments that any “attempts to manifest the momentary irregular incursions from elsewhere without the ‘antithetical’ [can] not succeed in constellating the epiphany in a communal place . . .” (152)   But as said, the proportions have changed; we’ve gone beyond the individual to the communal, from psyche to infrapsychisme and that requires an “aeonic circumference of action” with mental acts occurring on “the emanative circumference rather than in the spectral center.”  Consequently, we need the larger narrative context that only epic provides (175).  Jack remarks: “Without the noncentral placement that the Antithetical Systemic Representation of epic offers, there is no position from which to make the gesture of epiphany society depends on” (177).  The “epic calling” is to “restore the cosmos to the frame of time” (31). One returns energy to its circuitry—restores order—by “an acceleration of time” (59).  Jack also speaks to that acceleration in “A Web of Lead”: “Caught in Einsteinian space by mind-sound-substances / the poem bends, impends, speeds-up, cools the local / field of time (the one we’re in), allowing some control over the tide . . . .”  Echoing Keats, he concludes that poem by granting the poem agency in unifying time with space:  “letters, syllables, words that load the riffs with ore / making time (not history) not only run but become fully / topological in its red ripping course . . .  “ (In the Analogy 195).  That also means lifting oneself out of product mentality into process.  As he explains in a prior poem, “there is no product, it’s all in / the making, we are making it together at the same / time” (194).  In common parlance, “accelerating” time means to shorten time between the present and a future event, just as a catalyst does.  Novalis talks in a similar way of exponential heightening as an enlivening or vivification, stating that “the world of writing is Nature that has been raised to a higher power” (Wood 36).  “By plying a proposition to its realization,” Jack explains, “. . . writing can accelerate time to the point that Novalis calls ‘the eradication of sin . . .’” 154  Returning “energy” to its circuitry, is the fourth, Anagogical level of exegesis (151).

            When the two positions appear equally true, natural and marvelous (99, 103), Jack says, “the ground of contention is no longer natural but synthetic” (fn 67, p 135).  Both appear equal, “But there is a difference:  the Aeon has exchanged ‘the Body / of Divine Analogy’ for human comprehension” (34). ‘Divine Analogy’ is Blake’s term for the Anagogical.  And it is at this final, synthetic stage that the relation between imagination and nature is altered.  For as said Jack also posits a “deep telluric connection between Nature and Imagination” (Feathers 103).[21]  For Novalis, thesis and antithesis are potentially in harmonious relation;[22] and the poet would be “the prophet of the imagination of nature” (Stoljar 131).  At this stage, according to Jack, “Imagination reclaims the natural world as its own forgotten Ordering Intervention.” (103). 

            Jack posits infrapsychisme as both the origin and objective of all information (113) and speaks of “infrapsychisme consciousness” as our “second nature” (174, 177), one that bears immediately on the present situation. “The inversion that lost Ordering Intervention to the Cosmos,” he points out, also gains it “for infrapsychisme where it resides as a potential human power” (164).  For both Jack and Novalis, we are called to humanity (Feathers 175, Stoljar 156).  Jack notes, “We didn’t, and don’t now, become human by a direct assault upon the present moment, but by that indirect making called ‘art’ which sets up a ‘twinship’ in the mind’s eye that otherwise would refuse to believe in anything but what is ‘past.’”  He likewise comments, “It is the burden of poetry to be, as Olson said, ‘Equal, that is, to the Real Itself’” (66), and further, “a prophetic epic can restore time to its present moment” (175).  Novalis writes that we imagine the world of the future above and below us “or in a relation of metempyschosis to ourselves,” but though we dream of traveling “through the universe,” the universe is actually “within ourselves.”  Novalis then contends, in the same phrasing as his passage on “representational belief”: “The depths of our spirit are unknown to us—the mysterious way leads inwards.  Eternity with its worlds—the past and future—is in ourselves or nowhere”  (Stoljar 25).   Novalis proposes, further, that “Time and space come into being together and are therefore probably one, like subject and object” (Stoljar 134).  The present, he posits, is a synthesis of the future and the past.  “One can only become, insofar as one already is,” he explains, contrasting the imperfect present with the Absolute Present (Wood 198).  Jack counters “art must equal / infrapsychisme or there is no future” (Feathers 35, 51).   
 “Yes as Novalis says, ‘space and time are identical—only reversed—as nature and person.’  To accede to the antithetical statement is to experience that reversal in the cosmological context of the Disappearance of the Ordering Intervention.  Only when process and reality coincide can a text produce the shock of recognition.  Make that your critical axiom.” (Feathers 119)


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---.  In the Analogy.   Toronto:  Shuffleoff, 1997.
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Marshack, Alexander.  The Roots of Civilization, The Cognitive Beginnings of Man’s First Art, Symbol and Notation.  New York:  McGraw-Hill, 1972.
Novalis, “The Encyclopedia IX.” Karl Siegler Trans.  Archai 1 (April 1973).  1-40.
---.  Philosophical Writings.  Trans. and ed. Margaret Mahony Stoljar.  Albany, NY:  State University of New York, 1997.
---. Notes for a Romantic Encyclopedia, Das Allgemeine Brouillon.  Trans. and ed. David W. Wood.  Albany, NY:  State University of New York, 2007.
O’Brien, William Alexander.  Novalis:  Signs of Revolution.  Durham, NC:  Duke UP, 1995.
de Santillana, Giorgio and Hertha von Dechend.  Hamlet’s Mill, An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time.  Boston:  Gambit, 1969.
Stein, Charles.  The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum:  The Poetic Cosmology of Charles Olson and His Use of the Writings of C.G. Jung, Including an Annotated Facsimile of Olson’s Last Text.  Barrytown, NY:  Station Hill, 1979.

[1] “Novalis” is the pen name of the German poet Friedrich von Hardenberg who died at 28 of tuberculosis (1772-1801).  Novalis studied both Kant and Fichte, studied under Schiller, was a friend of Schlegel’s (through whom he met Fichte and Holderlin), and published in the Athenaeum. He’s well known in this country for his Hymns to the Night, but left most of his work in manuscript.  For instance, there is a notebook of Fichte studies, two novels, and the manuscript Notes for a Romantic Encyclopedia, as well as smaller notebooks.  The Romantic Encyclopedia was intended as the systematic description of knowledge, a Bible of science,  and a unified classification of all sciences. The post mortem history of his publications is a story in itself, for editors often felt entitled to select material from these notebooks and present them as separate texts.  (See O’Brian 11-26).  I don’t know how much of Novalis Jack knew, but not much had been translated in the 1980s, and his footnotes indicate that he worked from several partial translations, some of which misrepresented the material. For instance, he worked from what he understood was Book IX of the Romantic Encyclopedia in the magazine Archai in 1973, but it was in fact a text combining material from other notebooks with the Encyclopedia.  That said, Jack thoroughly studied what texts were available, as is evident from his extensive use of quotes and key phrases from Novalis. 

[2] I will be quoting from four different translations of Novalis.  Citations will be made to the translator rather than a particular text, e.g. “Wood xv” would refer to Wood’s translation of the Encyclopedia.

[3] There are exceptions, e.g. “Cool Customers” (154), but they are rare and all seem to involve the question mark.

[4] I gloss this poem as about seemingly stray thoughts  making the right albeit unforeseen connections. Notice the use of “thought” twice, mention of contemplation and “mind’s embryonic eye.”  The husks are fellow subway passengers, which “I” doesn’t typically want to think about.  Two quotes preceding the poem focus on thinking and one other quote on the pun of eye/I. The “roving eye of Colonialism,” in contrast to the mind’s embryonic eye, would appropriate the outside.  The speaker obviously knows the gods are within, not “far away” in the heavens.

[5] In “Exceeding the Sensible” Jack advises: 
First the construct, then the referent, world-thing as
“reading” of dream, labrys, the fire of thine eyes,
then the likening, this is the order of the eventual
finding (fingering) out of everything, as first June,
the outline precedes the seeing by at least a night

(In the Analogy 165)

[6] Jack is probably referencing de Santillana and von Dechend’s Hamlet’s Mill, where they speak of a “frame” as defining a world-age.  See for instance 232-3.

[7] The obscurity that results resembles that of Blake and Olson, and Clarke’s poems are as demanding of readers as those poets often are.  But when it’s important, one seeks out the source material, as we do for Yeats, Pound and Eliot.

[8] For future reference, note that that our supposedly “natural” state invokes an antithetical divine status.

[9] I will hereinafter  refer to and cite this text as Feathers for brevity.

[10] The link or parallel here to Whitehead’s concept of Novelty is conspicuous, but would take us far afield.

[11] Jacks use of “image” is made complex by two factors, his concept of an inborn world image and his concept of representation.  For instance, Jack writes:  “If the ‘gift’ of an initial picture of the world comes to us from an elsewhere into which the Ordering Intervention has disappeared, then to accept it we must complete the “cybernetic loop” implicit in the tetradic propositional picture (160).  Von Franz writes that infrapsychisme “contains pictoral representations of the outer world which we produce in our psyche.  These images constitute the basic elements for the production of all higher orders (negentropy and information)” (17).

[12] Jack coins this phrase from Olson’s “A Comprehension (a measure, that” where Olson remarks, in a discussion of the emergence of the lyric in Greece and of the recovery of a prior Indo-European poetic:  “Such matters, each word following on the other, and that the world of things isn’t the block the lyrick throws in the way of nature; and Hesoid’s epistamenos to describe the manner of his own composition, belongs to us (as well as that Sophia of his, & Celtic and Norse and Vedic poets and Arthurian English tale-tellers) Epistamenos Works and Days, 107”  (Olson 363).

[13] Marshack is explicit about the relation of integers—number—and story, and because Clarke makes explicit reference to notions of number and image (time and space), let me quote Marshack:

                Now, processes, sequences, and periodicities of female, sky, and season were surely recognized.  As we have seen, they could be explained and unified, compared and related only by story and, in story, only by the use of images, symbols, rites, ceremonies, and words . . . .
                Let me repeat, for the concepts are crucial: every process recognized and used in human culture becomes a story, and every story is an event which includes characters (whether spirit, god, hero, person, “mana,” or, in modern times, element, particle, force, or law) who change or do things in time.  (283)

[14] The four exegetic levels correspond to what Jack terms “tetradic narratology” (175) and Blake’s “Fourfold Vision.”

[15] As mentioned above (fn 1), this passage was presented as belonging to The Romantic Encyclopedia (as passage #1670), but subsequent scholarship has assigned it to the Logological Notebooks.  I am quoting from Stoljar.  Below is the translation that Jack would have encountered, translated by Siegler.

            Sense is a tool – a means.  An absolute sense would be means and end simultaneously.  So every thing is the means by which knowledge about it is acquired – it is experienced or affected.  If I wish to experience a thing completely therefore, I would of necessity have to make it my sense and object simultaneously – I would have to enliven it – make it into an absolute sense according to the above.
                Now if I would not or could not do this completely, I would have to make a part of it, but a very individual part, totally its own – a limb, into a sense.  What would be created by this?  I would acquire a simultaneously mediate and immediate – representative and nonrepresentative, complete and incomplete – unique and not unique; in short an antithetical synthetic recognition and experience of the thing.  The limb or sense would be simultaneously limb and non-limb, since through my enlivening I would have in a certain sense parted it from the whole.
                If I were to call the whole thing a world, then I would have an integral limb of the world inside me and the rest outside.  I would theoretically appear to myself, in consideration of this sense, as dependent and under the influence of the world.  (3-4)
My body would not appear to me as specifically separate from the whole, but as a variation of same.  Thus my perception of the whole would be of the nature of analogy – this however would relate intimately and immediately to the direct and absolute perception of the limb.  Both in conjunction make up an antithetical synthetic recognition.  It would be immediate and through this immediacy, mediate; real and symbolic simultaneously.  All analogy is ‘symbolic’.  I find my body through itself, and the world soul at the same time determined and active.  My body is a small whole and therefore also has a particular soul, since I call soul, that through which everything becomes whole, the individual principle.  (Archai 4) 

[16] When Jack cites this passage, he quotes from one of his own poems, one which alludes to Olson’s “Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum”:  “It is the multiplication of ‘the time-factor by the instruments of creation,’” he says, “Zeus and Typhon that produces this exponential heightening” (Feathers 103).  When the time-factor is multiplied by instruments of creation, it results in what Jack calls an acceleration of time:

only the heat from one’s own discarded elements can
produce the proper fire, the energy from that stock-pile
make ‘bronze,’ the dragon of the past (entropy) eaten up
faster than it can project at it’s natural rate of more
growth, the cybernetic loop in time used to restore
itself as the haste-made-waste is returned to
its true end away from deceptive False Dawn.   (Feathers 132)

[17] Jack read the following translation in Romanticism: Self-Definition (quoted in Feathers 103).

The world must be romanticized.  So its original meaning will again be found.  To romanticize is nothing other than an exponential heightening.  In this process the lower self becomes identified with a better self.  Just as we ourselves are part of such an exponential sequence.  This process is still wholly unknown.  By investing the commonplace with a lofty significance, the familiar with the prestige of the unfamiliar, the finite with the semblance of infinity, thereby I romanticize it.  (Furst 3)

[18] Jack also explains that “Representation is necessarily antithetical because our mediate perception of the world sees only” what he terms “a degraded Sophia,” reference to Novalis’s fiancé who died during their engagement (159).  Novalis writes:

By believing that my little Sophie is around me and can appear to me, and by acting in accordance with this belief, then she is indeed around me—and finally appears certain to me—precisely there, where I least expect—within me—as my soul perhaps etc.  (Wood 107)

[19]At this point in his lectures Jack introduces the term, homophrosyne, which I gloss as “like-minded” or “thinking the same truth.”  He writes for instance, “Without homophrosyne there can be no consensus within otherness, however much there is about it” (Feathers 167).   The term is importantly used by Homer to talk of family life and the relation between Odysseus and Penelope, and the concept is critical to the Strengthening Method, but I have resisted introducing it because there are already many special terms, and I am not utilizing Jack’s arguments on the sexual.  Jack sets forth the Strengthening Method in terms of like-mindedness this way:   “When ‘equals meet’ whose narratives are ‘self-begotten’ in the ‘same breath’ of otherness a strengthening occurs that no other method practiced by ‘isolatos’ can accomplish” (168).

[20] Jack appropriates this term from Gerald Heard’s The Five Ages of Man (Feathers 182).

[21] Jack’s phrasing is in the conditional.  Quoting Blake, he writes:  “If ‘Nature is a Vision of the Science of Elohim’ and Los is of the Elohim, then there is a deep telluric connection between Nature and Imagination” (103).

[22] From Siegler’s translation (23):  “#1719  The general, intimate, harmonious nature is not, but it shall be.  (Inference of magic, astrology, etc. – They are schemata of the future – of the absolute present.) 


Bruce Holsapple works as a Speech-Language Pathologist in Magdalena, NM.  He’s published six books of poetry to date.  His most recent is Vanishing Act (La Alameda 2010).  An essay on Phil Whalen’s poetry recently appeared in Paideuma, and one on the verse line in W.C. Williams appeared in the English Studies in Canada.  He is currently writing a book on Williams.

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