Poetics of Space: Schematics and Assemblies
A poetry collection in four books
Book I Schematics
Book II Assemblies
Book III The Event Horizon
Book IV Fine Passage through Hope and Despair
Book I Schematics
Poem 1: First principles
First principles crest at the event horizon,
the vanishing point of all properties.
Relationships must be in series or in parallel.
There are no other options.
Every relationship has its own interface.
One must choose sides: high voltage, low current,
the aesthetics of resistance.
Passage is limited.
“Left and Right have become mirror images of each other. There are stories of conspiracy, of America being hijacked by an evil cabal … Their purpose is not to persuade the other side but to keep their bases agitated … to beat the other side into submission … what has been lost in the process … are those shared assumptions – that quality of trust and fellow feeling … [This is politics, but] there is another story … millions of Americans who are going about their business every day … [All] those ordinary citizens … who have found a way – in their own lives, at least – to make peace with their neighbors … are out there, waiting for Democrats and Republicans to catch up with them.”
“Any attempt by Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we’re in … keeps us locked in either/or thinking.”
“I’ve never had the option of restricting my loyalties on the basis of race, or measuring my worth on the basis of tribe … I reject politics that is based solely on racial identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or victimhood generally.”
“I believe in free speech, whether politically correct or politically incorrect.”
(click images for links)
Review of Art Wars, a novel by Paul David Adkin
Art Wars is a postmodern mashup that moves between the writer’s present struggle to write the book and past encounter with an insane, and insanely creative, punker girl artist. The register is informal, full of fragments, street language, and hilarious, drunken asides that intrude in stream-of-consciousness style. But the more sophisticated language of Adkin’s earlier novels makes itself felt. The writer, however informal, is in full command of his language.
The basic configuration superimposes two pairs of characters: the narrator and the punker girl, Placenta (past), and the narrator and Placenta’s mother (present), who hires the drunken, underemployed writer-narrator to recount the story of her long-lost daughter. Although the overall structure of the text has the postmodern feel of colliding surfaces, the threads of plot never lose their human interest. We know the characters are characters, but we continue to feel for them as they struggle with authenticity – both in their relationships and in their views about art/non-art. Well-done!
(click for links)
4 stars out of 5
Pinker’s big push for the Enlightenment values that got us where we are is the right message at the right time. Not perfect, mind you. Pinker’s cheerleading for capitalism goes a little overboard and understates the problems commensurate with it. His treatment of cultural movements that press against the Enlightenment, such as Romanticism, are at times astonishingly simplistic. Enough so to undermine his credibility in isolated passages. When he criticizes Thomas Piketty’s landmark Capital in the 21st Century, Pinker has a point in that Piketty’s emphasis on wealth inequality elides the improvements in material life that have carried all classes forward. But Piketty’s willingness to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of late capitalism makes his work seem more impartial overall, less slanted than Pinker’s. The charts and counter-charts that make Piketty’s book more tedious and less readable than Pinker’s more informal tome also make Piketty’s analysis seem more balanced and complete.
Overall, though, Pinker’s own core thesis is persuasive and exceedingly timely. After all, the Right has always had a deeper investment in religious and authoritarian structures that cut against the Enlightenment’s commitment to open inquiry and to a principle of individual freedom that transcends religion, region, or demographic. It is only recently that the postmodern Left has joined in the attack, often renouncing the Enlightenment standards of universal truth (accessible to reason and science) and condemning the Enlightenment-based liberal Western democracies as hopelessly enmired in racism, sexism, and other oppressive formations. In this regard, Pinker’s pushback against the Left as well as the Right is spot on. Despite the obvious bumps along the way, and bumps that are still with us, the Enlightenment, with its philosophical message of universal rights over tribalism and of the universal standards of reason and science, has resulted in the most humane, anti-sexist, and racially tolerant sensibility in social history. This is measurable in Pinker’s statistical graphs (and most visibly of late in the Washington Post’s worldwide survey-based map). That there were bumps and contradictions along the way, that challenges of social justice are still with us, is no reason to attack the foundation of the Enlightenment and of the Western liberal democracies that go along with it. Indeed, it would be preposterous to expect no bumps, no contradictions and challenges. We need to improve, perhaps even to do so at a revolutionary pace, but we need to start by working with what we have, not throwing it all overboard and creating a vacuum for some less Enlightenment-based power formation to move in.