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Poetics/Aesthetics: NOMAD MANIFESTO by Pierre Joris

From:J Y S Czhang <czhang23@...>
Date:Wednesday, April 28, 2004, 5:27
    Joris seems to be quite conlang-friendly... if not openly pro-conlang...

--- from

P i e r r e J o r i s



[version 1.02b]

"nomads-by-choice in the welfare of settled rings"

Allen Fisher, Dispossession & Cure

    The days of anything static - form, content, state - are over. The past
century has shown that anything not involved in continuous transformation
hardens and dies. All revolutions have done just that: those that tried to deal
with the state as much as those that tried to deal with the state of poetry.

*   A nomadic poetics is a war machine, always on the move, always changing,
morphing,moving through languages, cultures, terrains, times without stopping.
Refuelling halts are called poases, they last a night or a day, the time of a
poem, & then move on. The sufi poets spoke of mawqif - we will come back to

*   A nomadic poetics needs mindfulness. In & of the drift (dérive) there is
no at- home-ness here but only an ever more displaced drifting. The fallacy
would be to think of language as at-home-ness while "all else" drifts, because
for language to be accurate to the condition of nomadicty, it too has to be
drifting, to be "on the way" as Celan puts it.

[Think through Heidegger's Abgeschiedenheit, apartness as the free domain or
land where such nomadic drifting takes place. But that domain is always here &
not somewhere else. It is the smooth space in D&G that deterritorializes all
striated spaces.]

nomadics: the poet as comet. See Hölderlin's "In lovely blue" & thus to
escape the metaphor of sun, center, etc.

10/25/94 If the mind is only the body's invisibility (Merleau-Ponty) then the
poem is merely the unreadability, the non-transparency, the opaqueness of
that mind. An opacity grounded in the materiality of language as much / if not
more than in the viscosity of psyche. A turbulent opacity -not a monumental,
laminary , marble-or-granite opaqueness.

Robin Blaser: "The muse requires a politics
where the tongue meets
in the thick of it
the sour sweat." [Cups, 1960]

If Empedoklean terms or reveries may be taken as valid, then the two major
modes of poesis would also involve love (eros) & strife (nike). To see the
poetics of the century thus would divide them between, say, Pound/nike and
Duncan/eros. But somewhere else - here, now, later & beyond this fin-de-siècle
identikit - eros & nike are both less & more than self-sufficient modes, are both
simply that tiny deviation from equilibrium, stasis that makes movement, i.e.
life, i.e. poetry, possible: they are the clinamen, thus in a poem from the early

One moment earlier
something had deviated

This is local fortuity
the clinamen exactly
& more exactly
deviation from equilibrium
the incline

the streak of lightning

bars the clouds
immediately a shape happens
roughly (&) circular no need for more
a little hole around which people gather like bees
a dead body at center
a world where accident is rule


& now these five points:

1) that language has always to do with the other, in fact, for the writer
(l'écrivant) is the other.

2) that there is no single other, there are only a multitude of them -
plurality; even multitudes of different multitudes - hetero-pluralities.

3) language others itself always again -> nomadic writing is always "the
practice of outside"; writing as nomadic practice -on the move from one other to
another other.

    [3a: the critic/theorist: the dog that barks as the caravan passes]

4) poetry is always, then, "on the way" -- yes, on the road, as Kerouac has
it here in these States where, as Sun Ra has it, "space is the place." It is
also unterwegs, (underway) as Celan writes, where I hear the unter also as under
the Weg, the way. (& pace, the Schwarzwalder's Holzwege!),


under the way

a between-ness as essential nomadic condition, thus always a moving forward,
a reaching, a tending. (I hear the need for both tension & tenderness). & an
absenc eof rest, always a becoming, a line-of-flight [as against Being, which
is always a veing-toward-death, stillness].

[4a: insert here a critique of Buddhism, of any spiritualism as quietism --
certainly Euro-Am adaptations of Buddhism are transcendental -- while only a
truly immanent spirituality is viable. cf Janus
5: Celan: "Reality is not. It has to be searched for and won." Replace
"reality" with "poetry" or "millennium."

That is the fin mot, last words, toward the fin-de-siècle, or a poetics
thereof. (Celan's phrase is the quest, as it includes the critique of the "society
of the spectacle" -- & of the whole specular natures of our mis-takes on the


    We can still use notions such as Burroughs "astronaut of inner space," or
Dorn's "inside real and outsidereal," though we must be aware that for the
nomad- poet, the NOET, even those distinctions have to be abolished. There is no
difference between inside & outside at the poem's warp speed. We can still
use Olson's statement that the need is to move, instanter, on -- but no
Interzone for us, no Idaho, in or out, no Gloucester hankering for a more perfect past.

    NOET: NO stands for play, for no-saying & guerrilla war techniques, for g
NOsis & NOetics. ET stands for etcetera, the always ongoing process, the no
closure: it stands for ExtraTerritorial, for the continuous state of being
outside (not a margin that would be always definable as the margin of something
called the real (territory).

     ET stands for Electronic Terrain, where the poem composes, recomposes,
decomposes before your eyes, de- & re-territorializing at will or chance --
without there being the ability to tell which of those two determinants it is.
(The WE here is not-I, or if you prefer, the Wild East)
    As far as moral or social values are concerned, total miscegenation is
the only goal we believe in. Purity is the root of all evil.
    We will make good use use Nate Mackey's sense of a DISCREPANT ENGAGEMENT
    From Pound we will retain that a poem has to include history. And we will
add that a poem and its poet are included in history, which he forgot.
    We will keep all of Valère Novarina's theatre for its ludic nomadology of
names that dissolves character into a fluidity...
    We will keep Robert Kelly's notion of "ta'wil of the first line," the
poem as nomadic/ rhyzomatic extension of some given or found beginning, but a
ta'wil reduced to immanence, to a "writing through." As he tells it otherwise in
A MY NAME (RA 185) "This chant was my first news of the Great Trade Route
along which scarce and isolate merchant-poet-nomads carried goods from tribe to
tribe, over the mountains and under the sun, bringing the only news."
    We will reread Melvin Tolson's The Harlem Gallery & ponder it's
"bifacial" multiphasic poet Hideho Heights & ponder Tolson's statement on the poet's
place, a statement which still startles: "The most violent revolution in the
world is taking place -- not in Russia, not in China, but in American poetry."
    We will meditate on Henri Michaux's drawing-poems, scribe of the post-
semantic nomadic condition which is ours.
    Of Rothenberg's work we will keep everything, because his
immigrant/emigrant nomadology of translation, poetry-making, anthologizing is an exemplary
process at this end of the century.
    We will attend to Don Byrd's Nomad Encyclopedia, he'll lead us through
what he calls the "mesocosm -- the dense locale of the common, that is absorbed
by the exaggeration of symbolism, on the one hand, and by mere biology, on the
We will reread Maurice Blanchot again and again & think through, among other
things, the following of his reflections on the idea of exile and exodus as a
legitimate movement: "If Judaism is destined to take on meaning for us, it is
indeed by showing that, at whatever time, one must be ready to set out,
because to go out (to step outside) is the exigency from which one cannot escape if
one wants to maintain the possibility of a just relation. The exigency of
uprooting; the affirmation of nomadic truth. In this Judaism stands in contrast to
paganism (all paganism.) To be pagan is to be fixed, to plant oneself in the
earth, as it were, to establish oneself through a pact with the permanence
that authorizes sojourn and is certified by certainty in the land. Nomadism
answers to a relation that possession cannot satisfy."

    Right here 78 pages of commentaries on the century have been deleted to
be summed up now:
    From the 20C we will retain everything -- in memory. We will forget
nothing and we will forgive nothing.
    We will also remember that the twentieth century was the tail wagged by
the nineteenth century dog.

04/05/96 a nomadic poetics' method will be rhyzomatic: which is different
from that core 20C technique, collage, i.e. a rhyzomatics is not an aesthetics of
the fragment, which aesthetic has dominated poetics since the Jena romantics
even as transmogrified by modernism, high & low, & more recently retooled in
the neo- classical form of the citation -- ironic &/or decorative -- throughout
what is called "post-modernism."
    & remember that the romantic is the anti-nomadic par excellence, i.e.
Wordsworth's "emotion recollected in tranquility."

    A nomadic poetics will cross languages, not just translate, but write in
all or any of them. If Pound, Joyce & others have shown the way, it is
essential now to push this matter further, again, not as "collage" but as a material
flux of language matter, moving in & out of semantic & non-semantic spaces,
moving around & through the features accreting as poem, a lingo-cubism that is
no longer an "explosante fixe" as Breton defined the poem, but an "explosante
    Useful in this context too is Charles Bernstein thinking about idiolects:
"English languages, set adrift from the sight/sound sensorium of the concrete
experiences of the English people, are at their hearts uprooted and
translated: nomadic in origin, absolutely particular in practice. Invention in this
context is not a matter of choice: it is as necessary as the ground we walk on."
Replace "English" here with "all" or "any" & you have a nomadic idiolectal
Not the end of man, pace the French twisted desire for disappearnce, but,
possibly the end of the alphabet needs to be envisaged as a millennial scenario.
As Don Byrd speculates:

    The great poetry of the 1960's was created in resistance to the alphabet
as a medium that had become dangerously fluent. By the 1970's, no one could
resist. For the time being poiesis is in abeyance.
    Now we gather the resources of modernism for the new medium as the poets
of the sixteenth century gathered the resources of the classical tradition.
Digital speech, musical sound, and image all merge in one grammar. The alphabet
will continue in this mix for some time, but, in popular discourse, this
obsolete mnemonic is even now largely decorative. It remains to be found out if
IBM, Microsoft, and the Turner Boardcasting Corporation have already coopted the

    The alphabet thus done & over with. "We'll keep it for the sake of a
one-day classicism." It belongs to a brief 2000-year history of parcellisation,
hierarchization. It's most useful fringe, its last binge being the Mac Low/ Cage
investigatory methods. The suggestion here is that our space rather than
being visual is much more profoundly "haptic," sonorous.

    The visual thus a special case only & to be revisited as such: The nomad
eye of cubism (& dada/surrealism) as against the sedentary perception of
perspective. As James J. Gibson (The Ecological approach to Vision Perception)
suggests, motion is the natural mode of human and animal vision: "We must perceive
in order to move, but we must also move in order to perceive."

    Thus the usefulness of writing in painting, Cy Twombly, etc. Or for me
right now, the work of Nicole Peyrafitte, her ink drawings, those shapes &
figures crossing & recrossing animal & vegetal, human & non-human, combining in a
wild metonymic grammar of desire, & through that pictorial space, these thin
lines of near-microscopic writing, in red or black ink, traversing,
circumventing, circumscribing, separating, piercing, splicing, connecting the figural
volumes & the smooth space of the paper. The attraction of language, the desire to
read the lines, pushes the onlooker to move in, to close in on the drawing in
order to decypher the text. Her haptic performance of the drawings she calls
"Riding the Line." The lines move freely & the reader cranes her neck, twist
herself around in order to follow the contour of the lines of writing, then
steps back to grasp a figure, moves in again to read -- & while reading can no
longer "see" the organised, striated space of the figural volumes which
themselves now dissolve into lines-of-flight. This constant destabilisation of
view-point, this continuous eye-&-body-act of de- & re-territorialising the spaces of
the drawing keep the viewer from ever being able to find that fictional
single static point, that center outside the painting/drawing that would organize a
fixed, rectilinear, thus hierarchical world & gaze, as was the aim of
Renaissance perspective.
    The nomad poet, the NOET, gives allegiance to INDRA the warrior god as
that is the point of entry to break open the unholy trinity that, so Dumezil,
has ruled the Indo-European organisations, from Asian days to Xtian America. If
Varuna and Mitra, king and priest, constitute the double points of power they
need Indra to consolidate the static state (of everything) -- but Indra always
escapes, exceeds. Write D/G: "Indra, the warrior god is in opposition to
Varuna no less than to Mitra. He can no more be reduced to one or the other than
he can constitute a third of their kind. Rather, he is like a pure and
immeasurable multiplicity, a pack, and irruption of the ephemeral and the power of
metamorphosis. He unites the bond just as he betrays the pact. He brings a furor
to bear against sovereignty, a celerity against gravity, secrecy against the
public, a power (puissance) against sovereignty, a machine against the
    One of the new machines of a nomadic poetry -- & we are not afraid of
technology, all poetry has been techno-bonded from the beginning -- one of the
new machines is the computer. Interestingly enough, one of those investigating
cyberpoetics -- one incarnation of nomadic poetics -- is John Cayley whose
ongoing work is called INDRA'S NET. Here is what Cayley has to say concerning his

    "Indra's Net pieces employ generative algorithms and semi-aleatory
processes and the composition of the algorithm is seen as an integral if normally
invisible part of the composition of the piece. One of the unique facilities
offered by the computer in this context is the ability to set up a feed-back
loop. 'Experimental' texts can be generated and the results reviewed quickly and
painlessly enough to allow the processes to be modified and improved. Once
distributed, the pieces 'run' and generate text for a reader. The reader can
interact but does not choose pathways between words directly in the way that she
might choose a pathway through the spaces of hypertext fiction. However in my
most recent distributed piece, readers can alter the work itself (irreversibly),
collecting generated lines or phrases for themselves and adding them to the
hidden given text so that eventually their selections come to dominate the
generative process. The reader's copy may then reach a state of chaotic stability,
strangely attracted to one particular modulated reading of its original seed
text. [NB] Work in progress is towards a series of '(Plastic) Literary
Objects' which will be both generative and responsive, triggered by as many as
possible of the program- and user-generated events which are accessible using a
standard computer system. This latest object will be a far cry from the average
web page."

rest another fundamental misconception recently inherited from France.
Barthes' doleful sense that "the author is dead." Were it so, that would only
tanscendentalize him or her, for who else is god but the dead author, deus
absconditus? The binary on-off logic of Descartian discourse haunts even the most
sensible of the French to this day. No, what has happened is that the author has
multiplied, has lost its his her identity as singular subject. Rimbaud
accurately said, way back towards another fin-de-siecle, "I is another." We now have to
say: "I is many others".
    A nomadic poetics will thus explore ways in which to make -- & think
about -- a poetry that takes into account not only the manifold of languages &
locations but also of selves each one of us is constantly becoming. The nomadic
poem as ongoing & open-ended chart of the turbulent fluxes the dispersive
nature of our realities make inevitable.
    This French Trouble, which has colonized English departments in the
American University, needs further & ongoing critique from the NPLF, the Nomadic
Poetic Liberation Front. Here's how, in a forthcoming book of essays, Don Byrd &
Jed Rasula deal with, and "détournent" (to use that tactical situationist
word), among many other things, just such a sacred cow -- the Lacanian axiom
according to which "the unconscious is structured like a language:" "Lacan's
attempt to make the unconscious homologous with language is a bid for escaping the
vicious circle of representation by affirming a principle of unconscious as
all surface. Where Lacan says, 'the unconscious is like a language' we might
well substitute: the unconscious likes language. The libidinal hunger, the drive
or Trieb that Freud finds lurking as a primal disposition of the unconscious,
thus assumes an amatory/predatory relation to the constitutive grounds of
consciousness as such." This opens up the possibility of thinking the unconscious
as a nomadic war-machine. Freud's hyper-cathexed erotico- thanatosian one-way
"drives" have been refirgured as what D/G call "affects." These represent the
ability to affect & be affected rather than a personal feeling. An affect is
"a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential
state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that
body's capacity to act." "It is the active discharge of emotion, whereas
feeling is an always displaced, retarded, resisting emotion."  Amatory/predatory
affects are nomadic lines of intensity having to do with ways of moving between
different strata such as consciousness/ unconsciousness, etc.

    The NOET learns & then writes in foreign langues (real or made-up ones)
in order to come to the realization that all languages are foreign. Do away
with the prison-house of the mother-tongue, or, as I have written elsewhere:
"..why does one have to write in the papa-maman, the mummy/daddy language, why
should that oedipal choice be the only possible or legitimate one, why should it
not be my own sexual choice, that moment of one's discovery of the other, that
moment when it is our sex that speaks and not that of our progenitors. So now
the mother- tongue will have lost the m and have become the other tongue but
that other will also now lose it's hairy, impronouncable, "the" & gain a lamda
& a little victory- sign and become the lover's-tongue. As if the vowels
somehow stood steadfast while the consonants, like my continents, kept on
drifting. The lover's tongue then." A nomadic language of affects, of free lines of
erotic flight, that break the triangular (the strongest of shapes, as Bucky
Fuller has shown us) strictures of the Freudian scène de famille. Which also
brings to mind an unfinished project -- I'm offering it here to anyone who wants to
pick it up -- I had concocted in the late seventies with my sadly departed
old friend, the Swiss-Italian poet Franco Beltrametti (another true noet): an
anthology to be called BLOWS AGAINST THE MOTHER-TONGUE & which would gather the
work of poets who had written nomadically in a language that was not their
mother-tongue: from Ovid, say, to Anselm Hollo.
    Jerome Rothenberg & I have over the last six years put together a large
work called POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM. Talking about it in Chicago some months
ago I said: "Sometimes I say I. Sometimes I say we: Jerry may or may not agree.
We are two authors but already an anthology in ourselves. To quote Deleuze &
Guattari at the opening of A THOUSAND PLATEAUS: 'The two of us wrote
Anti-Oedipus together.    Since each of us were several, there was already quite a
crowd.'" The authors are, pace Blake, both in eternity & in time. And that vast
assemblage we called POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM, & which on the face of it looks
like an anthology edited by two poets, should maybe better be seen as a
nomadology in action, an event authored by us, which means the two multitudes that
Jerry & I are, plus the multiplicities the poets in the book are.

But if it is all flux, all nomad wandering, when & how to write. How not to
stop & yet do the poem? At the beginning of this text I had referred to the
poem as a poasis, an poem-oasis, i.e. a stop in the moving along the nomad
line-of-flight. Recently the Tunisian poet Abdelwahab Meddeb brought my attention to
a term used by the 10C Sufi poet Niffari who introduced the concept of
"mawqif" into his poetics in order to define what the poem is: The mawqif is the
pause, the stop-over, the rest, the stay of the wanderer between two moments of
movement, two runs, two sites, two places, two states. Writes Meddeb: "It
enjoys a rest, raises itself upright; between two durations it scrutinizes briefly
the instant when from its heighth it confronts the vision or the word
exteriorising itself."
    Of course this notion of the stop-over, of the resting place or moment of
the weary nomadic traveller between two travels or travails gets hypostasized
in Christianity as the stations of the Cross and in the medieval imperial
church reduced from a nomadic line-of-flight to a circular, domesticated movement
-- the procession -- inside or around the church or cathedral. (Just as in
official, imperial Islam the nomadic line of flight gets domesticated into the
circular movement, the circumambulation of the Ka'aba). Fascinating to note
that one of the early text of modern poetry, along the noetic line-of-flight of bl
asphemy & comedy, of universal convertibility of all principles, goes
straight for that corralled hypostasis of the christian stations of the cross,
liberating its movement in a belly-laugh of the blasphemous & absurd. I am of course
    The mawqif has to be conceived as a tension, a movement of a peculiar
kind, & not as some static resting point -- not Wordsworth's tranquility-- it is
a momentary, moving placement on a smooth space, metonymic in relation to
before & after, and not a resting place, metaphor for the final resting place,
that transcendental parking lot, above or below. It is a (momentary) stance in
relation to & with space, the horizonal, thus active, in motion, even if of a
different motion than that before or after. A whirling motion, making for the
connection (rhizomatic) between today's & tomorrow's nomadic moves, whirling
dervish, or that dance/stance, as Charles Olson once put it: "How to dance /
sitting down."
    This "mawqif," or station or"poasis," this moment of movement- in-rest,
of movement on another plane or plateau, between today's & tomorrow's lines of
flight. Niffari, in the 10th century, worked this one out, be it in relation
to something called "god."
    Just such a nomadic poetics is profoundly at work in the great Beduin
poetries -- the pre-islamic mu'allaqat or odes -- that are so often described as
stilted, overdetermined, static poems because of their presumedly
predetermined closed structures and monorhymes. In fact, these poems can be seen exactly
as nomadic dérives, or as rhizomatic structures.
    There are 10 -- in some more restricted canons only 7 -- poems,
mu'allaqat, or odes that make up the established, examplary corpus of pre-islamic
poetry. Of greatly varying length, the odes usually start in the same place (the
atla'l, or meditation on the traces of an old camp the poet comes across in his
wanderings), then goes on to a hymn of his camel (a moment of stasis & then
precipitous movement) after which it will often laud the poet's lady, then his
weapons & exploits in the manner of the praise poem, & go on to tell of the
tribe's great feats. What is fascinating is the rhizomatic way in which the poem,
inside that set structure, proceeds via series of images, moving from realm
to realm, human - animal - vegatable - mineral, & back up, away & around &
through, horizontal & vertical, taproots, transfers. Writes Jacques Berque: "This
process, where one or the other series alternate, does not worry about
coherency. Its most moving aspect, I mean its most mobilizing aspect, is the
heteroclite richness of its calls [appels], much more so than their respective
compatibility or their mutual cohesion. What is important for this process is,
literally, to transfer. It takes the trope seriously, or at leats has not yet had
the time to reduce it exclusively to a rhetoric. And that rhetoric is also
present in some of these poems, permitting the outrageous, the ironic and the
precious to come through, as well as the reflexive from the instinctive, the
factive from the originary, -- it is that dérive, no, that perpetual hunt from realm
to realm, from stadium to stadium, from genre to genre, that could appear as
specifically Arabic."
    The monorhyme scheme (something obviously impossible to reproduce or use
in English -- though some dubb poetry tries something similar but with great
constricting, limiting results) is interesting however for nomad thought. It is
pure repetition & not pattern. One of these, & maybe my favorite, is Ibn
Tarafa's Mu'allaqat, on which I worked with an Iraqi friend in the late seventies,
& which has been much on my mind again lately. He is the most modern, rebel
of the nomad poets, an early Rimbaud. And an examplary political poet, in
Tarafah we witness the clash of the nomadic war-machine, its poetic line of flight
& attack in this case, with the hierachical sedentary orders of king &
governor, arbitrary law & executioner. Vide his VIDA (to borrow nomadically from the
bio-form of later wandering-poets, the troubadours).

The millennium will be nomadic or it will not be: this is paradigmatic:
unless we learn the art of moving & connecting all contents, all languages, all
machines, all bodies, we will be the tail of the 20C tail wagged by the 19C dog.

---  º°`°º ø,¸¸,ø º°`°º ø,¸¸,ø º°`°º ø,¸¸,ø º°`°º  º°`°º ø,¸~->
Hanuman "Mister Sinister" Zhang, Sloth-Style Gungfu Typist
- "the sloth is a chinese poet upsidedown" --- Jack Kerouac {1922-69}
    <A HREF="">=></A>

"Poems are sketches for existence." - Paul Celan

"One thing foreigners, computers, & poets have in common
is that they make unexpected linguistic associations." --- Jasia Reichardt

"There is no reason for the poet to be limited to words, & in fact the poet
is most poetic when inventing languages. Hence the concept of the poet as
'language designer'."  --- O. B. Hardison, Jr.

    "At some point in the next century the number of invented languages will
probably overtake the number of surviving natural languages." - Cullen Murphy

“Linguistics is our best tool for bringing about social change and SF is our
best tool for testing such changes before they are implemented in the real
world, therefore the conjunction of the two is desirable and should be useful.”
— Suzette Haden Elgin 1996.

--- *DiDJiBuNgA!!* Hang Binary,baby...---

Hanuman "Stitch" Zhang, ManglaLanger (mangle + manga + lang)
<A HREF="">=></A>

     Language[s] change[s]: vowels shift, phonologies crash-&-burn, grammars
leak, morpho-syntactics implode, lexico-semantics mutate, lexicons explode,
orthographies reform, typographies blip-&-beep, slang flashes, stylistics
warp... linguistic (R)evolutions mark each-&-every quantum leap...

Pierre Joris

"Some Languages Are Crushed to Powder but Rise Again as New Ones" -
John McWhorter, _The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language_

the the sky-wrecks drive.

Onto this woodsong
you hold fast with your teeth.

You are the songfast
pennant." - Paul Celan

= maeci legosetplex caca plus debri !
    prizerva. saalva. ricue. scopé-gomi plus riçyc'l ! =

English translation of the above _dzjunk lego_, "junk language":
"Fight {Maquis/-machy} Linguistic Waste & Trash!
    Save, Salvage, Recover, (creatively)Scavenge-Found-Objects & Recycle!"


Steg Belsky <draqonfayir@...>