I’ve been asked to write a manifesto. This doesn’t suit the person I now am, but I did write one 20 years ago (it was published in an anthology of manifestos, Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh, Manifestos and Unmanifestos, edited by Rupert Loydell) and I have never really explained or qualified it. So perhaps I will now.
Here’s my original manifesto:
I numbered it according to the Fibonacci sequence (where each new number is the sum of the two previous numbers, and, as it proceeds, any number divided by the previous one in the sequence tends towards the answer 1.618034. Now, this number turns up throughout nature in a spooky way, and is called the golden ratio or golden mean. But I was into it then because Ron Silliman was in his book Tjanting, a very left wing poem that nevertheless alludes to Pound, which helped me reconcile that others might read him without colluding with Pound’s politics).
(As it happens, I failed to have a proposition zero, and I should have had a second proposition one).
1) Spiritualism. Never assume that in attacking something as religious, you are not part of a religion yourself. Jung not Freud.
Freud was much more ascendant in 1995 than he is in 2015. Moreover, Jung and mysticism and the uncanny were frowned upon, and not much has changed there. Materialism remains on the rise, as well as dumbass fundamentalism. I still do feel that anti-mystical positions are held by some with the same certainty and dogma, albeit atheistic, as fundamentalist religious positions.
2) If you are going to use the I-Ching, notice how your interaction with it produces a different work than is produced by someone else using the I-Ching. Notice that your works are more like each other, than your I-Ching works are like I-Ching works by other artists. Stockhausen not Cage.
I was very interested in chance procedures, and still am. I like to leave gaps in any poetry reading I plan, to be sorted out just before, or even live. But, over time, I want to avoid treating the I-Ching as an oracle. I just like to remain open, to leave undecidables (or not-yet-decidables)
3) Keep listening.
Very much my aesthetic. I still recognise in myself the desire to say “that reminds me of me” when in a conversation and to change the topic. But I am at my best when I by and large don’t do this, and don’t do it routinely. Sound is important in poetry, realising that I’ve made a sound pattern with a new poem that I’m in a rut of. But I’ve never fully composed for sound. Sometimes the look on the page will make me change a poem as I’m writing it, will decide the form. At the same time, I like sometimes dictating a draft into voice-to-text software (both for the mischief of mis-hearings, and to get at a directness or a drive I wasn’t getting on the page. I don’t think, however, that all poetry has to be written as if in a speaking voice, nor that the final test is reading it aloud. I think some poems may not come up off the page, and that’s fine, or some may take a proper setting, for percussion or instrumentation, to be read aloud.
5) Have Pound’s decency to look back on what you’ve represented. Next Generation not Kirk.
I was obsessed with Pound, then and now. I’m not sure that Pound did always look back as much as I suggest here, but he did at least recognise in his old age that his anti-semitism had been a “stupid suburban prejudice”. But this line speaks to my clod-hopping do-gooding, where listening and reflection is a vital part.
8) If improvisation is free, why do many of its evenings go out to the same boundary and no further? Leibniz not Newton.
Pound led me to look at Leibniz, who may well have had some of his ideas “popularised” by Newton. Leibniz stands here for the messier, freer mind.
13) To lecture, Stein milking not mocking a restrained common vocabulary to write descriptions, not Derrida punning and concatenating with abstracts to provoke, always with fixed unspoken loyalties of his own, and not own explicitly. Close to who you pretend?
I go back and forth on whether I use Stein as a stick to beat Derrida or vice versa. I read lots more Derrida after 1995, and rather love him. At the same time, I’m not at all sure about the problems of institutional position, and I’m not sure Derrida fully solves them. Not that celebs do, either.
21) Non-Freudian not neo-Freudian post-structuralism, if any.
Since I don’t like Freud, except the Freud of his 1985 essay The Aetiology of Hysteria, I want to admire some of the moves of the post-structuralists but challenge whether they have opened their discipline up enough, in terms of sexual politics.
34) Gloria Steinem not Julia Kristeva.
See above. And above.
55) Fuck gender-fuck, open up genre. Harryman not Silliman. Thresh hold of “becoming” an adult and “no longer” being like a child. Neil Gaiman not Ridley Scott. Nurture, non-sexual love sexual life; actual practice of community, professor. Elizabeth Burns’ _Letters to Elizabeth Bishop_, not Derrida’s _The Post Card_.
Or rather, do sexual politics first.
89) Hyper-reality and reality, extend, object both ways. Posters and paintings of words not handwritten notebooks. Brush syntax. Johanna Drucker meets Emily Dickinson.
To understand the appeal of all of it.
144) The sentence was a good stretch, but now I choose my jailors. Sing energy. So long when you misuse lyric poetry as a prison term. “The voice makes possible the entire continuum from the most extreme consonant-like noises to the purest vocal sound, and is far superior to even the most modern apparatus for creating tone-colours”. Stockhausen not Zukofsky, the musical phrase, remember, not the metronome.
There was too little lyrical musical structure in the avant-garde at the time. Possibly too much waffle about it now.