~ Aprilia Zank - Experimenting with Words
~ Aprilia Zank - An Interview with Jennifer K. Phillips
~ Chris Tanasescu - History into Poetry ... after 9.11
~ Ormeny Francisc-Norbert - A philosophical inquiry and expansion...
~ Patrick Călinescu - Freud Sang In Sangfroid
~ Luminiţa Petcu & Adrian Grauenfels - Last Train to Cairo
~ Diana Todea - Psychedelic Trance
~ Diana Todea - A Crazy Night
~ Diana Todea - Russian Love
# other texts in English can be found in section "Invitat/Guest"

Experimenting with Words
[What's New in Concrete Poetry?]

by Aprilia Zank

To try and answer the above question at length would amount to a doctoral dissertation, which is neither the aim of the present author, nor, presumably, the expectation of the readers. Yet in order to understand the new aspects of concrete poetry a short survey of its development in time might prove useful.

Concrete poetry emerged almost simultaneously across Europe and in Brazil in the 1950s. Eugen Gomringer with his Constellations in Switzerland and Öyvind Fahlström with his Manifesto for Concrete Poetry in Sweden drew the poetry consumers' attention to a new creative potential of language. At roughly the same time the Brazilian poets Haroldo de Campos, Augusto de Campos and Décio Pignetari started a similar movement of spatially structured, three-dimensional poetry, and formed the group Noigandres. In 1955 Haroldo de Campos called it Poesia Concreta from which the term concrete poetry was then derived. Visual writing was by no means something new, mention can be made of well-known pieces of writing such as the Calligrammes of Apollinaire, the mouse's tail in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol, some of Ezra Pound's and e. e. cumming's poetry, and further back in history, the permutational poems of the cabalists, the anagrams of the early Christian monks, the carmina figurata of the Greek Bucolic poets, the pattern poems of the Babylonians, picture-writing itself.

What is concrete poetry? An almost futile question. Due to the huge diversity of artefacts which have been grouped under this label, the attempt to define it has proved to be as strenuous as to define poetry in general, but since we all believe to have an idea of what poetry is, we can be confident that concrete poetry is also possible to grasp.

It may be useful to start with what concrete poetry is not. It is decidedly not the opposite of abstract poetry, on the contrary, quite a few concrete poems are provokingly abstract, reduced to a minimum of material devices selected for the intended message.

The English critic Mike Weaver, who organized The First International Exhibition of Concrete and Kinetic Poetry in Cambridge in 1964, distinguishes three types of concrete poetry: visual (or optic), phonetic (or sound) and kinetic (moving in a visual succession). In 1964 this distinction was still relevant, nowadays with the computer technology having developed as it did, we witness a melting of the three in the most complex ways.

So, basically, the term concrete poetry is being used to refer to a wide range of innovations and experiments with language, which are reconsidering the art of the poem and enlarging its possibilities for expression.

According to Weaver one of the main features of concrete poetry is its reduced language, whereas the degree of reduction varies from poem to poem and from poet to poet. A poem can be reduced to a word, or even to a letter, both being nevertheless able to convey a message through different patterning: repetition or deletion, unorthodox setting in the page, various colouring.

In the following poem created by Eugen Gomringer the way the letters of the word transparent are scattered on the page is indicative of the semantic meaning of the word:

[Aus: vom rand nach innen. die konstellationen 1951-1995 [GA Bd.1], © Edition Splitter, Wien]

Another very important feature has to do with the way the 'reader' experiences concrete poetry. Recipients of visual verse in the 1960s were no longer facing linearity and successive perception, but were supposed to experience the poem "with a sense of simultaneity and multidirectionality" (Mike Weaver).


These are a few statements made in the 1960s, a flourishing, according to some, the most flourishing era of concrete poetry. The question is to what extent they still hold true in the present day.

Michael Basinski, contemporary poet and theoretician talks about the so-called New Concrete and defines it as follows:
"The New Concrete has multiple entry points. The poem may be engaged from any point, bottom, top, and side. Composed of active color, stuff, the newspaper, film, scholarship, cursive text, images of Lara Croft, paint, symbols, the Gods, word fragments, rewritten text, cartooned letters, 186 languages, written in magic marker, all juxtaposed, symbolic and interpretive and shepherded by duende and pixies, The New Concrete excites the poet and/or reader to verbalize meaningful poetry and glossolalia".

Basinski views the poem as a sort of map suggesting areas a poet might engage, and leaving it open if he does. The book can hardly still be the medium for such poetry, other media take it over. According to Basinski the best place to exhibit such colourful, explosive and impulsive improvisation is the Web. Only here it is possible to let:
"The poems rise and fall, fly like superheroes, and crash. And there is room for Bizzaro poetry. Characters can speak, sing, blab and blah! the poetry. Letters speak of themselves. Color has a form of voice. Dracula and duende meet, seek, merge, and inhabit a space opened by the innovations of The New Concrete."

Basinski himself displays a joyful, colourful, playful sort of concrete poetry which makes the reader/beholder linger upon it, take a closer look, take a second look - and what else can satisfy a creator more?

Click on miniatures for poems!

Basinski's definition may of course engender the question as to what extent the product he is describing still corresponds to what we commonly call a poem. But then again we are facing the dilemma of how one is to define poems and poetry in general. Have we got the ultimate definition? Can we talk in terms of language of anything valid for the eternity? Language is a living mechanism, prone to change and develop. Why not poetry.

A further, very interesting perspective on the new concrete poetry is provided by Jolanta A. Lapiak, a native speaker of Ameslan (sign language). She dwells on what she calls the Awareness of the Physicality of Language, which amounts to the realization that language is not only an intangible idea but a material thing, too. As such it offers an endless range of creative designs: "/.../ it can be manipulated, reshaped, reformed, turned inside-out, measured, tested, bent, broken, put back together again, investigated, and, because it is real, it can be photographed or filmed in the process." What comes out is "Photospeaking and/or Photowriting" also called Photocalligraphy by Jolanta A. Lapiak.

Here are some pieces intended to convey the traces of a text translated into Ameslan, thus trying to seize the movement of language into a digital image:


These are fascinating images about what meaning might look like when conveyed not by words, but by what words could be like.

Nevertheless, the main material for concrete poetry is provided by the infinite potential of words and their endless capacity to intercourse. Experiencing with words turns out to be a fascinating adventure. Take, for instance, the very words concrete and poetry.

My visual three-part poem "Variations on a Given Theme" illustrates but a few of the possible patterns.

A first, very economical device would be to place the two words into a combination of horizontality and verticality with the letter O as a point of juncture:


       p O e t r y

The result is an image suggestive of the very nature of concrete poetry: combinatory capacity of words, multi-directionality, momentous impact of word message. It is like a very dense, sublimated definition of poetry itself. Even single letters may be carriers of meaning like the letter O in the combination above. This letter, as counterpart of the circle, often connotes harmony, completion, and it is used as such in concrete poetry.

In the next example colours enhance the potential of the two words:


The 'pearls' on the string convey the playful, kaleidoscopic character of concrete poetry. One can play with the pearls: change their places or colours, add more, or delete some. The openness of the last pearl invites the reader/ beholder to interfere, to collaborate.

Quite the opposite is the case in the third example:








concretecont reteconcreteconcrete



Here we have the word poetry cast in concrete, prisoner, with no possibility of escape.

It suggests on the one hand the formal constraints, the canons which poetry has had to obey in the course of time: form, rhyme, rhythm. On the other hand it points to the lack of freedom of expression in the creative act and to the restrictions imposed upon it by political, social or other factors.

Two everyday words can thus develop a high potential of expression, reaching far beyond their daily use. They can at the same time convey a unique aesthetic experience, and be carriers of significant semantic content such as protest, criticism, awareness of questionable states of things.

Some poems are even trying to provide solutions, like the following, very compressed visual poem, consisting of the repetition of one word and its embeded alternative, indicating refusal to follow enforced norms and constraints:

oneway oneway oneway oneway oneway
oneway oneway oneway oneway oneway
oneway oneway oneway oneway oneway
oneway oneway oneway oneway oneway
oneway oneway oneway yaweno oneway
oneway oneway oneway oneway oneway

© Anna Barbara Braun, 2007, member of the Dichthauer Workshop

Do we have a vision of what the future of poetry in general and concrete poetry in particular are going to be? The keyword seems to be cyberspace, concrete is being increasingly replaced by spatial and the book by the new technologies. Poetry is for the eye, no longer for the ear. Computer generated poetry offers an infinite range of possibilities. The three-dimensionality of the poem can be split, divided, combined at other levels. Animation gives the 'reader' the opportunity to witness the emerging of the poem, its development, its ability to combine the most unexpected facets of images, sounds, mathematical formulas. A poem is often an event, a happening, an experience and, the recipient can interactively contribute to it.

A perfect illustration of everything a visual poem can combine, but also of the interactive status the poetry recipient is supposed to adopt is the following image:


In the multitude of elements reunited in this construct the careful reader may discover a small text, a poem in the poem, begging for 'being done'.

I'm a bad text  
I used to be a poem
but drifted
from the scene
Do me
I just want
you to do me

I think there is no better way to describe the message of the new concrete poetry.

# Notes:

Jolanta Lapiak is an Ameslan literary and media artist, narrator, and poet in video, performance art, photography, digital art and text. She is also a presenter and instructor. Born and raised multiculturally, the nomad had lived in multiple cities in Canada and U.S., Austria, and Poland. Jolanta has presented, exhibited, and performed nationally and internationally. Besides being a native Signer since birth, her first fundamental language hypothetically was mathematics in her childhood before she received formal education through ASL/Ameslan and written English in her preteen. Jolanta received a MFA in Media Arts from NSCAD University, Halifax, N.S. in 2007, along with a BFA with Distinction in Media Arts & Digital Technologies from Alberta College of Art & Design (ACAD) in Calgary, 2005. She also earned a BA with Distinction from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Michael Basinski is the Assistant Curator of the Poetry/Rare Books Collection of the University Libraries, SUNY at Buffalo. His poems, articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including: Proliferation, Terrible Work, Deluxe Rubber Chicken, Boxkite, The Mill Hunk Herald, Yellow Silk, The Village Voice, Object, Oblek, Score, Generator, Juxta, Poetic Briefs, Another Chicago Magazine, Sure: A Charles Bukowski Newsletter, Moody Street Irregulars: A Jack Kerouac Newsletter, Kiosk, Earth's Daughters, Atticus Review, Mallife, Taproot, Transmog, B-City, House Organ, First Intensity, Mirage No.4/Period(ical), Lower Limit Speech, Texture, R/IFT, Chain, Antenym, Bullhead, Poetry New York, First Offence, and many others. For more than twenty years he has performed his choral voice collages and sound texts with his intermedia performance ensemble: The Ebma, which has released two Lps: SEA and Enjambment. His books include: Idyll (Juxta Press, 1996), Heebee-jeebies (Meow Press, 1996), SleVep (Tailspin Press, 1995), Vessels (Texture Press, 1993), Cnyttan (Meow Press, 1993) , Mooon Bok (Leave Books, 1992)cand Red Rain Too (1992) and Flight to the Moon (1993) from Run Away Spoon Press.

Poetry - an Endangered Species?
[An interview with Jennifer K. Phillips]

by Aprilia Zank

A leading representative of contemporary concrete poetry, Jennifer K. Phillips, born in New Zealand and resident in Australia, is also a digital artist, songwriter, teacher and webmaster. The reader may be puzzled by her artistic interests going into such divergent directions, yet this fusion of different forms of art and creative media seems to be increasingly descriptive of the artistic behaviour of the present day. Jennifer Phillips herself admits that:

The exploration of image triggering and message transmission as an artistic form of communication can cause a blurring of the boundaries between poetry and art, if we can say that they in fact do have boundaries. We have created words to say this, such as word art, concrete poetry, visual poetry, pattern poetry, animated poetry, visual riddles and puzzle poetry. (“What is Poetry Becoming?”)

A.Z.: When did you first discover your love for poetry ?

J.K.P.: I think the word side of poetry was a gradual building that took place in my life whereas I think I was born with a love of imagery. My love for poetry cannot be pinpointed to one instance. It is better understood as being part of the development of all the forms of writing and art in my life beginning with the many books that my parents read to me. I was introduced to poetry before I knew it as an art form or what it was called. Although I loved listening to stories it was the pictures that caught my attention to begin with, more than the rhythm and rhyme of the words.

We travelled a lot when I was young and on our many car trips we played rhyming and other word games. We laughed as we looked at car license plates and made funny words from them. I noticed that you came across my initials JKL when you said the alphabet and I thought that was clever, but I think it may have been a present that triggered my curiosity and passion for the juxtapositioning of words. I was about eight when a boy friend gave me a little china deer and a card that said, "A wee deer for a dear". This astounded, delighted and inspired me to think of other interesting things about words and word patterns such as, “A plain plane”.

As soon as I could write, I began writing stories and plays and put on little concerts using what I had written. I read poems that other people had written as part of the performances but it wasn't until I was 12 years old that I wrote my first poem as a poem. It was part of a class exercise. I loved it. I remember being surprised that it was so easy and so much fun and that the activity was called "Poetry". I had seen and read poems in a range of situations before but somehow I hadn’t attached the label "Poetry" to them.

Family friends came round for a meal about that time and when they heard that I was going to be a writer when I grew up, they wanted to read some of my work. After reading some they said that I should get my work published. I asked them how and where. They suggested I start with the children’s section of the Evening Post newspaper. I took their advice and everything I sent to them was published. Praise whatever form it takes can trigger a love response. I think it did in me.

A.Z.: When trying to give a definition for concrete poetry, where would you place the emphasis: on concrete or on poetry?

J.K.P.: If I placed the emphasis on the word “concrete” someone might think I was talking about a “hard road” if you get my pun! Concrete is the type of clothing the poetry wears. It is a branch of the poet tree (poetry) so emphasis depends on where and to whom the concept is defined. Somewhere in the definition the concept of concrete would need to be distinguished from other forms of poetry.

A.Z.: Do you have a certain audience in mind when you create your poems?

J.K.P.: Some of the poems I have created were for specific audiences and situations; others have been revelations or interesting discoveries about a particular juxtaposition or shape of the words. I create because I can more often than because I am considering a particular audience. I did however create a range of motivational poems to motivate my art students and I did speak in poetic form in some of the chat rooms I went to when I first discovered the Internet. I played with the pattern of the letters and words that others “spoke” and had a lot of fun. I called myself Silvrwing. The missing e was not a typo. I was in a philosophy chat room!

Someone asked me where I came from and I typed, “Silvrwing flies on the wind of words, she dwells in a land of flightless birds”. Someone praised me for the way my words could be taken many ways and I replied with “Silvrwing bow”, which also had a double meaning and some thought that it was an example of my typoetics. Should it have been “Silvrwing bows”? The missing s was a typo but I liked it better the way it came out. As a response I wrote “Rosetted By the Bow”

Rosetted By the Bow

Love bowed to one so low
pointing out her bow (Oh).
Should she not congee (Bow and leave)
for the honour goes to three,
the greatest to her Beau
who tooled her with this bow (Oh).

Where typos are made
To shelter a typo maid
Where invitation clicks
To talk to a lady chick
Love can be seen……….

I’ll leave it there. It was a bit of fun on the run!

It was a Christian leader who gave me the idea of putting my poems into a book, which I did and another Christian leader encouraged me to keep on publishing books. My four books contain poems that I hope will appeal to people generally, regardless of the label they attach to their own belief system or the things they like and dislike. The songs (musical poems) my books contain are less mobile across the many possible audiences. They came from the relationship and audience I have with God. God and I are always my first audience. I often ask Him for help if I am writing for a specific audience. For the beginning of my second book I wrote an explanatory poem. I was thinking of my husband and all those who think that poetry has to rhyme, when I wrote it:

Do you think that ‘good’ poetry rhymes?
‘Good’ poetry speaks.
It may be just a word
but it opens doors
sometimes like a snail moving
a seed growing
sometimes like a volcano erupting
a machete slashing.
It clothes the unseen
makes visible hidden things
and publishes that which is silent.

Rhyme is a style
like the fashion of clothes
sometimes ‘In’
and sometimes ‘Out’.

I have clothed some of the ideas in rhymes
especially for those of you who think
rhymes are ‘In’.
Whether its ‘In’ or ‘Out’
may you find the snippets of truth
in this clothing store
and share their treasure.

A.Z.: In the article “What is Poetry becoming?” you wrote:
“In visual poetry, the juxtaposition of letters, sound and shapes may be played with. The synergy of these words, letters and shapes trigger images, sounds and messages that can be called the art of the poet....making more from the sum of the parts in a visual communication.”
Do you mean to say that concrete poetry is in the first place a visual aesthetic experience, or can we talk of such things as meaning/message to the same extent?

J.K.P.: We bring or attach meaning to everything we see including the label of “meaningless”. To be called “concrete” a poem must have some visual feature that may not be communicated if the poem is read or performed. The visual experience whether we attach aesthetic value to it or not is the first connection we make with the poem, but the aspect of “synergy” was what I meant to convey in what I said. Synergy is the key to poetry and the synergy of what is seen visually is the key to concrete poetry. For instance the words love and bridge by themselves have meaning and may even have a message if we meditate upon them. The depth of meaning we give these two words depends on our interpretation and the complexity of the experience we have in relation to the words, but if we place them visually together as I have in the following example, they communicate a lot more than if you just heard the two words. I have become the director of thoughts, causing them to go somewhere near what I am thinking about. This poem contains one word and one image but the synergy of both produces the poetry. The message the image produces is part of that synergy.

from my book “In Their Likeness” (1995)
[Can be viewed at: www.geocities.com/visualpoetry_au/vpoem19.html]

A.Z.: Can concrete poetry, also, be attributed to social and political involvement? Could you maybe mention some of your own poetry in this respect?

J.K.P.: Yes Aprilia, poetry can be a powerful political and social comment or changing tool. My concrete poem “Exhausted” is a social comment designed with the following message in mind: Some of the social ailments that we have today could be minimized if we were not so busy, if we allowed ourselves the time to reflect and rest. In this “instant coffee” age we tend to rush into things, grab the ‘quick fix’ solution and end up exhausted instead of satisfied.


I wrote “Solomon’s Gift” which has a poem within the poem, after talking with a member of a royal household. It was politically motivated. It was written rather quickly and is not my best but I hoped that the message about what we do with our power and it’s effects would be seen and that it would trigger reflection.


The dawn of man
saw the dusk of
I want what you have
forever more

A world-time of loss
propoganded as gain
nations reflecting
the desire of Cain
scything the harvest of fear
killing the gift of care

Solomon’s gift
was a crown
happiness all around
for high rank and low
he shared his wealth
a crown

A king
with the reign/reigns/rains of peace
and the earth
with itching ears
But who will share their gifts
the crown of care
to wear

Dusk, fear, a crown to wear
or happiness a crown to share?

A.Z.: What has been the impact of the electronic age on creativity in general and on creative writing in particular?

J.K.P.: It has given us more tools, methods and environments in which to communicate. It has made it possible to communicate multimedia experiences with a wider audience. It has opened the door for opportunities for us to be influenced by others from all over the world very quickly. It has enabled some people with disabilities to communication and be communicated with more effectively. The electronic age has improved accessibility in many ways. To give an example: in the past being able to make an animation was limited to a very small community in the movie making field, who had the wealth to own or use such tools. Now anyone with internet access and the inclination can make an animation using free online tools. Perhaps the effects of the electronic age on creative writing can be summed up in the words speed, interactivity, accessibility and control. One of the specific things that the electronic age has done for me is eased my frustration. I no longer have to write out my poem many times in order to correct the typos. I can use the “spell check” feature of my software….I should use it more often! I like the control that the electronic age has given us all as well. We don’t need to be so reliant on others for the production and publication of what we create. We can self publish very quickly….. and let us not forget that it has enabled knowledge to increase. This makes research more accessible and so creative writing can be more historically authentic or believable.

A.Z.: A prerogative for worldwide reception of poetry is translatability. Is the new sort of poetry, especially concrete poetry, still translatable?

J.K.P.: Words are culturally anchored. They make the sharing of experience possible and meaningful. But we have trouble even defining words in our own language so translating into another language has its difficulties. For example the word “Education“ is a multiconceptual word. The word evokes a spectrum of images ranging from institutional labels to philosophical ideologies and signifies a range of activities as diverse as the people engaged in them, or mentioning them. For some to be called "Educational" the activity must result in some form of worthwhile personal change and to others it must have some form of intrinsic worth and choice. The term is also used to cover any activity in a building or institution that is labelled "educational". Education seems to range from being whatever anyone likes to call it, to what the political power of the day enforces! The conglomeration and accumulation of opinions and beliefs does not easily produce a consensus as to what "education" actually is, but we all think we "know" what we are talking about when we use the word.

I am teaching myself Hebrew at the moment and I think that all languages can be translated. A lot however can be gained and lost in the translation. Some languages lack the variety of words to convey the nuances of meaning from another culture and colloquiums cannot be translated word for word, but require contextual understandings.

The difficulties in translating any language are similar to those that affect the translation of concrete poetry. Bringing meaning to images has similar problems to those you encounter with words. For example, religious literacy is needed to understand the symbolism in much of what we call the “great art” that has been created by past masters.

Another difficulty is that the meaning of words and images can change over time. For example the meaning of gladness is probably no longer triggered by the word “Gay” and an image of a plane might have triggered thoughts of strange birds to one of our ancestors if they had a vision of one. It might trigger thoughts of fear and danger to an indigenous tribe living simply with little experience of such things. In my concrete poem Love, those who have heard of the song “Bridge over troubled waters” may bring a different meaning to the image of the bridge. The concrete poet as a director of thoughts has less control when the poem is shared in the world wide arena.

You may only peak
Into my world.
The subjectivity of words helps and hinders
One perspective.

(From my poem “Perspective”)

What do you think Aprilia? You are a translator. What are the main problems you encounter when you translate concrete poetry?

A.Z.: Does tradition still play a role in this new creative era ?

J.K.P.: Nothing is created in a vacuum. Traditions are a part of what has preceded our creativity, they are a part of the “nothing” that “is new under the sun”. They enable us to bring meaning to what is new. I may have been the first person to coin the term “typoetics” or to publish such a poem, but typos and poetry existed before my “typoetic poetry”. We would not be able to bring meaning to the word poetry or typo if there was no tradition of poetry and typing to precede the word. For example, rhyme may be viewed like the fashion of clothes, sometimes “In” and sometimes “Out” but when I think of my own poetry, its effectiveness is dependent upon whether I have used the best “clothing” to convey the message. If the message is enhanced by the rhyme then I have done well, if it detracts from the message then I should have changed the clothing. I feel the same way about art. The medium affects the meaning and therefore the message that it conveys. Without traditions how would we classify what we do?

A.Z.: Are you familiar with the steampunk movement?

J.K.P.: One of the online digital art communities I belong to has steampunk as the theme for their latest art challenge, which involves choosing a traditional myth or legend and reinterpreting it using elements of gears, springs, brass and steam power. I may have time to work on something for this challenge (http://features.cgsociety.org/challenge). In art I enjoy ‘clothing’ shapes with textures not usually associated with the shape. From what I understand of steampunk, they have a fascination and inclination to do this too but seem to be limited to one period in history. I on the other hand am not enamoured by one period of history. I like to create parabolic images, show likenesses and use images synergetically, for example “Canberra Ice-cream”. The image in the shape of an ice-cream shows the similarities that the dry land has with the dry ice-cream cone. The rain clouds that we love because of the drought are like a cool refreshing ice-cream, and ballooning is like the lolly on top. It is something extra special and all this is seen from a balcony view. We like a room with a view and this is the view we like to see – rain clouds to water the dry earth!

[This can be viewed at citwings.com/art.html]

I do enjoy many of the “kings, castles and Lord of the manor” stories that are set in the Victorian era and enjoy some of the modern fantasy movies. I love the elegance of some of the clothing too! However I have no desire to live in a Victorian type society that values class distinctions. I love the level “playing field”, the equality that I find valued and practiced by Australians. I may have been influenced by the gaming industry to enjoy the way beauty, adventure and mystery are portrayed in some recent movies, but I think the timeless qualities of the stories is what I and others enjoy about them. I have always liked super realistic imagery and symbolism also appeals to me. I like a story that has a moral and I like a poem that gives me something. Life is too short to be wasted on things that do not add value. I hate having my eyes and ears raped. I think the aim of some of the artists today is to shock. I have been shocked and I prefer the romanticism of love to explicit sexual or violent imagery or sound. I can appreciate how clever some works of this nature are but it is something I would rather avoid.

I am working towards an integration of message and media. I want my art works to be a product of my own uniqueness rather than someone else’s, but that doesn’t mean that I completely disregard existing poetry styles. I have played with a range of poetic forms and grabbed words that famous poets have used in the past to trigger present thoughts. The poem I wrote called “Paradise” has some examples of this, hinting at Milton and Tennyson:

If you seek to find this treasure
then Paradise will wind
her wisdom arms around you
to keep you both entwined.

Even after googling I haven’t seen enough poetry classified as streampunk to say much more. If any of my poetry earns the brand it was not because I planned it that way.

A.Z.: There are poets, critics and others who say that concrete poetry and poetry in general is in a phase of decline. The leading American poet, critic and educator Dana Gioia, for instance, in his much debated article “Can Poetry Matter?” (The Atlantic Monthly, 1991) maintains that poetry has increasingly become the specialized occupation of a few relatively small and isolated groups. Do you agree to that?

J.K.P.: Am I a prophet….? I am not a statistician. Poetry as “Occupation” probably did belong to a few in the past. The number of people earning enough money to say that it is their “occupation” as opposed to being preoccupied with it may be proportionately similar to the time when poetry was first published in books after the invention of the printing press. I don’t have any statistical evidence to make a judgement. I can say that poetry has been increasing. Just look at the number of poetry books available now, but then the number of people in the world has also been increasing so it is a difficult thing to assess.

We have greater means of storing or “saving” poetry and it is easier to publish it now. It is certainly more accessible because of the internet and the groups no longer need to be isolated. Poetry sites are increasing but so is the number of other sites. In 1991 when Dana Gioia’s article was published, the internet was not the vehicle it is now so it would be interesting to see if he still stands by his prediction. I think animated and interactive poetry is in its infancy, although I haven’t seen much of it that I would class as animated concrete or visual poetry. It tends to be animation without the emphasis on the poetic arrangement of words.

In this proliferation of poetry, poetry that astounds, amazes or adds significant value to our lives has and may always be a “specialised occupation”. At least now these gems can be shared easily via email forwarding for example. The more memorable poets we have, the harder it is to remember them all. Schools certainly had less choice when it came to memorable poets from which to choose in the past.

I have noticed that many cities now have regular poetry sharing events and “poetry slams” seem to be very popular. A similar proportion of poetry groups may have been around in the past. It just may be that our technologies have made them more visible, changing our perception of what is really happening.

I have many ideas of how I can use the “poetic clothing” of animation and interaction to share my messages. When I made my first animated poem in 2001, I had to format it as a gif file and so it lost a lot of the information in the file conversion, but now most browsers read a “Flash” format so I have more freedom to create a wider range of electronically translatable concrete poems and more people have the means to see them. If I have many poems within me yet to be shared, other poets must too. Therefore in the future I can see much more poetry being published.

[This image can be accessed at: www.poyema.com/wisdom.html]

A.Z.: What can we do for poetry to survive as an essential act of creation?

J.K.P.: get to know the “creator”…… (lots of smiles). I hope you don’t mind my smile here! Share it….share the best of it enthusiastically. If poetry is an act of destruction, avoid it, unless it makes way for further acts of creation.

A.Z.: You are a very cooperative person, always ready to assist young people in their creative endeavour. What advice do you have for young poets?

J.K.P.: Make time for poetry. I think a lot of the things I said in my article “How to promote your art” which can be accessed at citwings.com/art_promotion.html apply to poetry. Try substituting the word poetry for art and don't just read the article. Do what I suggest.

History into Poetry and the “Word Trade Center” – American Verse after 9.11

by Chris Tanasescu

The topic of American verse after 9.11 is quite a complex and demanding issue to tackle since, practically speaking, an account of all phenomena that could be entered under such a header actually amounts to all of the poetry published in the US after the ill-fated attacks, an enterprise no one would probably undertake to treat exhaustively lest their were given the time and the space (supposing they had the expertise) to write a full bulky history of the poetry of almost a decade of innumerable publications. On the other hand, if by “after” we mean “as affected by” or “and its most important trends and evolutions in the wake of those events,” the topic is again very generous and substantial, and the recent observer can only venture to pinpoint some of the main landmarks and make (fatally debatable) predictions regarding the near and the not so near future. In an attempt to present the Romanian audience with this subject matter, I have published myself an already one-year long series of full A3 page long articles in the prestigious monthly literary magazine, Timpul. This paper is not going to be a summary of that series of extensive articles, but a more concisely and academically articulated expression of my long time interest in and focusing on the phenomenon.

A first step in this approach would be discussing the poetry that explicitly tried to evoke or react to the historical events under discussion. An impressive number of anthologies have been published since 2001 in which verse of starkly uneven value expressed various professional and amateur poets’ response to the great tragedies that horrified America and the civilized world. Although this shall hopefully restrain our area of research, things may sometimes prove tricky, as one can come across poems that have been declared as being written in relation to those events even if that is not explicit or plainly apparent in the text.

One of the most consistent and praised anthologies was the one edited by Todd Swift and published in 2006, Babylon Burning. 9/11 five years on. Poems in aid of the Red Cross, a book that initially started as a website open to international contributions and that was finally published on print with additional updated material. It remained though accessible on the internet and free for everybody to download, on the kind request that the readers also make donations to the Red Cross. Among the 90 contributors one can encounter grand figures such as the legendary LANGUAGE poet and critic Charles Bernstein, Bob Holman a very active poet and poetry editor who, as we shall see later on here, also edited a 9.11 anthology, the Nuyorican awarded slam poet Hal Sirowitz, the maverick and monodically metamorphic Nathaniel Tarn, the Australian James Tranter whose Jacket magazine is a leading publication in American poetry criticism, etc. Here is Charles Bernstein’s prose poem “The theory of flawed design”

The theory o flawed design is not a scientifically proven alternative to evolution. It is based on the everyday life experience that natural selection could not have produced such a catastrophic outcome. Optimists and the religiously inclined will naturally prefer evolution as an explanation, since ascribing design to the state of humanity is almost unbearable. For the rest of us, we must continue to insist that the theory of Flawed Design be taught cheek and jowl, neck and neck, mano e mano, with Mr Darwin’s speculations.

The theory f flawed design postulates a creator who is mentally impaired, either through some genetic defect or because of substance abuse, and is predisposed to behave in a sociopathic manner; although some Benign Flawed Design theorists, as they call themselves, posit the radical alternative that the creator was distracted or inattentive and the flaws are not the result of malevolent will but incompetence or incapacity.

(Bernstein 3)

The patriarch of LANGUAGE poetry voices here the grievous dejection of those who were affected and/or witnessed the tragical events. Nevertheless, the poem (just as a significant number of other contributions to the anthology) falls into the category I have mentioned at the beginning of this discussion, namely the one of the texts which do not explicitly and sometimes not even in a discernably allusive way refer to the attacks. But the fact that they are selected in such an anthology somehow “forces” the reader to try and refer the poem to the historical events.

Whereas Language poetics unmask generalities and universals as mere conventions imposed by a politically informed tradition, this text is nonetheless a “general” (a theory as the title states in its facetious manner) or even “archetypal” testimony of possible reaction towards misfortune, an Eli, Eli lama sabachtani of sorts in prose verse. Still, the pervading irony reverses in a very typically Language manner the established clichés of Western tradition such as the unfailingness of the (supposed) Maker while also scuffling with and scathingly teasing the alternative-pretense of another locus – Darwinism. The underlying poststructuralist poetics – which David Baker once, while commenting on Susan Howe, relevantly labeled as “not being nice” (Baker 2000, 120) – is clad in “cheek and jowl” niceties as a way of being indeed not nice towards the established values which, just like the “creator” (in lower case, unlike the name of the theory), the author of the world / poem who erratically rambles in feigned scientific accuracy.

As we can find out from a precious secondary source – Susan M. Schultz’s A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, where a full chapter is dedicated to Bernstein’s concept of “dysraphism” (misseaming, seamlessness) and his “fashioning” of texts out of cultural shreds very much in the spirit of low feminine cultures such as the ones of design clothing and fashion – Bernstein reacted immediately after the attacks in a way that practically denied his life-long (anti)poetics. Schultz ran an inquiry of her own after the 9.11 attacks (in an epilogue to the book whence the word play in the title of this article has been borrowed) in which she emailed or phone contacted poets of various schools and ages to try to take the pulse of their reactions towards the events. Bernstein’s accounts of what happened and of his own reactions and the stories about people’s solidarity to each other are unmasked by Schultz as being rooted in the traditional way of writing in which premises related to coherence and unity (and not the denunciation of such deceitful conventions) as well as assumptions of a homogenous non-contradictory self of the speaker (and not intimations of traditional mythologizings of a mere repository of clichés) are the text generating paradigms employed by the author.

That author is obviously the “creator” in the above quoted poem written by a poet who senses that such a catastrophic historical event has started an earthquake not only in his community and his own public life but also in his own psyche and, moreover, in his poetic voice and his poetics. A stylistic and ars-poetica schizoidism mirrors the dualism in “The theory of flawed design” where two structures of power are contested at the same time and thus mockingly reconciled, an interplay which in its turn constitutes a correspondence to the historical and political bi-polarity of American imperialism and fundamentalist Islam.

Thus, the very image of the Twin Towers becomes an epitome of both the dualism of a time in which radical conflicts and stark divides actually stand for equivalent inequities, as well as for the catastrophic consequences of the collision between the political Scylla and Charybdis. The iconic image of the towers and their symbolic potential has been exploited in numerous poems by poets of different backgrounds and standing. Poems After the Attack is an open anthology also available online edited by Margery Snyder and by the already mentioned poet Bob Holman, who had already urged the poets as early as September 12th 2001: “Don’t withdraw. Use words!!!” (“Cement Cloud”), his own contribution being dated September 13th. One of the poems present in this anthology draws relevantly on the same iconic image – “I Saw You Empire State Building” by Edwin Torres. Torres is a young poet who experiments consistently in poetry performance and multimedia and who also pseudo-theorizes shrewdly, copiously, and in variegatedly multifarious ways on the idea of poetry on stage or in interdisciplinariness. Here is the first stanza:

I saw you Empire State Building

looking for your twin brothers

I saw you

watching your brothers burning

helpless to the ground

I look up at you, tall proud beacon

I too am a tower

it's my last name in spanish…

(Torres, unpag, his spelling)

At an O’Harian pace and on a Whitmanian tone, Torres identifies with an older, monumental building, an elder brother of the collapsing towers, which in comparison with the fallen ones, “ha[s] more character” (idem). We can see here how the already located ambiguous symbolism of the twin towers requires a third role-player, able to solve the vacillation that the fall of the former two inspires in the heart of poets. Just as by identifying with the dead Lincoln, Whitman writes, as David Baker deftly points out, a self-elegy in which not only the dead, but ultimately death itself is taken through a metamorphic ritual that consecrates a worldly, “westward” Paradise (Baker 2007, pp 9 et infra, 16-19), the speaker in Torres’s poem identifies with the emblematic building in his attempt to find an expiating alternative to the dead-end dualism of contemporary politics of life and poetry.

The fashion of online (and sometimes live, in progress) anthologies evoking the attacks and their aftermath has reached the much wider contingent of amateur poets, of which some just discovered that they were poets on the spur of such wide-scale events and evolutions. In the case of Aimee for instance, 12 years old at the date of publication, those lines were very likely (among) the first creative writing attempt(s) ever. “...the workers stopped working the teachers stopped teaching,/ all the alarms sounded and the preachers kept preaching...” (“We Watched…”). Discussing the aesthetic value of such testimonies would inevitably conjure Adorno’s ghost and his famous (and often inaccurately quoted) dictum about poetry and Auschwitz. The dictum is actually two dicta – “writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” and “It is impossible to write poetry after Auschwitz” (Adorno 34). But the idea has been again famously restated by Jerome Rothenberg in his long poem “Khurbn”: “no meaning after Auschwitz,/ only poetry is possible” (Rothenberg 14, italics mine), a restatement that also talks about the death of a certain side of the poetical, the “death of metaphor” (ibidem 25); the poet develops his own verse into the conclusion of this long poem, where we read about a god whose perfection should make the quintessential trope impossible: “o god of caves (the stricken fathers cry) if you are light / then there can be no metaphor” (26).

The demise of figurative speech together with the assertion of poetry’s capital importance in post-Auschwitz (and post September 11) eras may not only invite, as it is the case with Rothenberg, sacred-loaded “technologies” and avant-garde re-translations of various tribal traditions, but also a total politicizing of poetry, turning verse into a spearhead of political struggle, subversive activities, and unmasking discourse that does away with any established stylistic and prosodic niceties. It is the case of Amiri Baraka who was New Jersey’s Poet Laureate at the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks and who wrote soon after them a poem titled “Somebody Blew Up America,” a poem voicing a stance that certain critics regarded as flagrant New Anti-Semitism, though Baraka and his defenders prefer to define his position as Anti-Zionism.

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed

Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers

To stay home that day

Why did Sharon stay away? [...]

Who knows why Five Israelis was filming the explosion

And cracking they sides at the notion

(Amiri Baraka Homepage)

The fourth line in the fragment quoted above alludes to the fact that Ariel Sharon, then prime minister of Israel, allegedly cancelled at the last moment his visit to the US on the day of the attacks. Protesting against something means here, as it turns out, to use poetry against another (self-declared and historically acknowledged) victim. The statement regarding the Israeli prime-minister together with the other allegations in the above quoted stanza prompted the Anti-Defamation League of New Jersey to denounce the poem as Anti-Semitic in a letter they sent to the Governor and in which they protested on behalf of all residents of New Jersey. The Governor agreed and asked Baraka to resign, who did not comply and thus made obvious that there were no legal provisions under which he could be removed from office. It was only in late 2007 that the Governor solved the problem by finally eliminating the position once and for all.

A less outrageous but definitely craftier and very often more credibly honest corpus of poems is Poetry After 9-11: An Anthology of New York Poets, edited by Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians, a book that made quite a sensation when it came out in 2002, when some TV networks even promised that they would include on their daily news shows some of the poems in the book read by the poets themselves – which would have been so inspirational since an impressive number of poems in the anthology are imbued with televised scenes and cinematic references. Amongst the 45 poets featured were Pulitzer Prize for Poetry-winner Stephen Dunn, the editor of the Best American Poetry series David Lehman, Jewish Feminist and National Book Award finalist Alicia Ostriker – who also signs the foreword, Jean Valentine and the poets laureate of Brooklyn and Queens, a poet we have already mentioned above – the Nuyorican Slam Champ Hal Sirowitz, etc. Stephen Dunn’s poem in that anthology, “To A Terrorist,” gracefully in the beginning and fiercely afterwards speaks about the speaker’s understanding for the terrorist’s “ache” and rage at his (speaker’s) welfare and his country’s imperial way of being “so muscular,/ so smug, it thinks its terror is meant/ only to mean well, and to protect,” (Dunn 36) but, according to the dualist equation we have circumscribed above, also disagrees with his hypothetical addressee’s cruelty. “Still, I must say to you:/ I hate your good reasons./ I hate the hatefullness that makes you fall/ in love with death, your own included.” (idem)

The courage of such an approach met a reception other brave attempts did not entertain, or at least not in the beginning. This was the case with another reputed poet – J. D. McClatchy – whose “Jihad,” which was later on included in The Best American Poetry 2003 had a quite bumpy publishing history, thus proving, through its stunning frankness and openness, how mixed are the feelings of those affected by and/or involved in those events and in their media coverage. McClatchy had written a sequence of three sonnets in which the octaves consisted of two Sicilian quatrains and the sestinas of two mellifluous tercets rhyming ABC CBA and which represented, as he himself declared, “pastiche[s] of the Koran.” (McClatchy 214) What is peculiar about this elegant poem is that although it had been written long before September 11, 2001, and it just testified the poet’s long-time interest in Arab culture often evoked elsewhere in his verse, it was solicited for publication by the op-ed page editors of the New York Times who somehow learnt of its existence, shortly after the attacks. To the poet’s amusement, they called back after a huge wrangle in the editorial board saying they would eventually not run it because it offended Palestinians. The surface amusement stemmed from the fact that the poet was actually in favor of the Palestinian cause, but then, deeper in his concerns, the stake of such writing was, again, to find certain political and stylistic / formal alternatives to the notoriously single-minded two ways of dealing with the issue. “In this poem, I had wanted to look at things not from the victim’s side or the dazed teenaged bomber’s, but, as it were, from as remote a point of view as scripture’s.” (ibidem, 215)

What could be for one poet the abstracted and serene perspective of the holy writs is for another the punning and the sour mocking on the history of science. A sort of West Coast replica of the above mentioned New York poets anthology came out also in 2002 under the witty title inspired by one of Mahatma Ghandi’s ear-catching statements: An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind: Poets on 9/11, whose editors are the raffish philosophe-poets Allen Cohen and Clive Matson, of which the former, as we find out from the book cover presentation, “lives in a basement apartment in Oakland, CA where he receives improbable impulses to save the world and celebrate life.” Regarding the latter we are informed that, “"Squish Boots", his seventh book of poems, was placed in the coffin of his mentor, John Wieners. "Delightful and penetrating at the same time, these poems are a revelation," comments Susan Griffin. John hasn't been heard from”. The bitter-jocose and anarchist tradition of the West marks the tone from the very introductory poem (while still major figures like Robert Pinsky also represent the East in the selection) which belongs to the legendary Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, Beatnick, painter, director and co-founder of the epoch-making City Lights press. (Robert Creeley is also present with a contribution not long before his passing). Ferlighetti’s poem is titled “History of the Airplane” and pushes tragedy through punning to joke and then back to the deep historical concerns that pervade his poetry in general. The mid-story-like opening line brings about a serene atmospherics which can later on slide into a fake fable tone that mixes prankish personifications with lurid hovering threats:

And the Wright brothers said they thought they had invented

something that could make peace on earth (if the wrong brothers didn’t

get hold of it) when their wonderful flying machine took off at Kitty Hawk

into the kingdom of birds but the parliament of birds was freaked out

by this men-made bird and fled to heaven

(Ferlinghetti 15)

The hackneyed perception on the fundamentalist East as the source of all evil is deconstructed here by tracing it back, dark-humorously to the (w)righteousness of the West. But thus, despite its fairy tale tone and its initial playful mood, the poem couldn’t and wouldn’t find a way out – the conclusion is fierce and apocalyptic, and the messengers bear no alternative.

This lack of alternative turns into even harsher indictments of US imperialism in the case of another great West Coast poet’s verse – Robert Hass’s. The former US Poet Laureate is able to combine in his unmistakable way serene contemplation, landscape and flora pastels, actual and processed/improvised translations (ranging from Horace to Czeslaw Milosz), meditation on the state of art and the planet, etc, with the tautest most taunting critique of scrupleless politics and social/economic inequities. In one of his Horatian “Imitation” of an ode that originally spoke of the Parthian wars, a contemporary Sunni mother turns shuddering to her daughter-in-law after catching sight of a marine and says: “Pray God our boy / Doesn’t stir up that Roman animal / Whom a cruel rage for blood would drive / Straight to the middle of any slaughter.” (Hass 42). The elegant cadences of the lines in this poem and in others make room at a given moment to a stolid sturdy text in prose, defiantly titled “Poem” in which Hass impassibly records some crude and cruel facts. But under the reportage like tone blisters and throbs a blasting revolt and an unquenched (though withered) hope:

More Iraqi civilians have now been incidental casualties of the conduct of the war in Iraq then were killed by Arab terrorists in the destruction of the World Trade Center. In the first twenty years of the twentieth century 90 percent of war deaths were the deaths of combatants. In the last twenty years of the twentieth century 90 percent of war deaths were deaths of civilians.

There are imaginable responses to these facts. The nations of the world could stop setting an example for suicide bombers. …

(Hass 67)

As compared to the approaches we started with in the beginning of this article, where certain voices were trying to find an alternative to a stark stultifying dualism, these latter poetical responses come with both a grimmer diagnostic and a more responsible and wider, planetary perspective. Theirs is also a perspective given by the distance in time which fostered lucidity on the matter but not forgetfulness of its ongoing painful and expanding consequences.

What about the Midwest? David Baker, the most prominent poetic voice of the region, edited in 2007, together with Ann Townsend an impressive collection of essays (already quoted here), Radiant Lyre, a bulky volume consisting of essays on a systematically organized table of issues in the strict field of lyric, contributed by only the two editors and five other poet–academics (seven co-authors of which only two live and work ‘strictly’ off the Midwest area). The book is undoubtedly one of the most outstanding prose accomplishments of the recent years and shall be paid, I am sure, even more and more attention as the time passes over (or lyrically speaking, to paraphrase one of the editors, into) it. I have already reviewed it for the Romanian audience, and this is not the place for a review in English. I shall just briefly point out some of the aspects that are relevant to this article’s topic.

First, there is no reference whatsoever to 9-11 nor to its consequences. As a matter of fact, no references are made to historical events in general unless they are connected to issues of literary history, and it so happens that apart from the analyses they conduct on Greek and Latin classics, English Renaissance poets or Romantics, and American founding figures such as Whitman, Dickinson, Pound, and Stevens, none of the contributors who goes deeply into contemporary verse quotes any poem related to the 9-11 attacks or to anything political in particular. One could suspect a die-hard New Criticism heritage here, including via the Kenyon Review, where Baker holds the position of Poetry Editor. But then, Baker’s poetry itself often proves so pregnantly that ‘the most lyric’ elegies and pastorals can be ‘very’ political.

Hence we may conclude that it was not the lack of value or the triviality of subject in any poem inspired by or reacting to those events that prevented the contributors from bringing them to the reader’s attention. It is rather the general focus and approach of the collective work (the area spanned is at the same time so specialized and so immensely wide that for instance John Kinsella’s New Arcadia, so much within these bounds, only gets to be mentioned once) and also the poetics of some of the contributors that result in such consequences. In the “Introduction,” the editors delineate the scope of this work as they define the exterior of a poem not as the historical context in which it emerges but its “linear body” (Baker and Townsend xi), while the questions to be asked further on are stated as “why a particular landscape… or time” (idem) inspires a lyrical poem and not what landscape and time. Landscapes and time become specific only when there are deemed as paradigmatic for a whole culture, e.g. the endless trail of the sun westward (and beyond death) and the autumnal harvest moon season which are in Baker’s and respectively Stanley Plumly’s view the perennial axes of reference of the poetic Americana. The contributors favor the idea of free-play and of poetry writing as a means of discovery (“we write poems to find out what our poetry is like” (idem), and also Richard Jackson writing on Horace and beyond – “This process of discovery […] is perhaps the central driving impulse of the process of making poems,” Jackson 71) and are not so much into irrelevantly depicting obtrusive realities. The subject matter of such approaches is literary history and not history, and moreover, it is neither history nor atemporality but, as Baker argues in another contribution, “time [, which] is an inevitable, central element in lyric poetry […] [for] time provides the subject, the story, and the style of lyric poetry.” (Baker 2007, p 239).

Thus, while never mentioning any 9-11 related poetry, the Radiant Lyre anthology masterfully instructs about masterly ways in which poets of the (ancient to closer) past dealt with such subjects and is probably one of the best guides on how a contemporary poet could (or sometimes even should) write valid and hopefully relevant 9-11 poems.

While, as we have seen, and are savagely simplifying in such a short account, the West gains momentum and perspective by combining its rough radicalism with its refinement in diversity, and the East, which has started with o flood of evocations of the attacks, seems to have gone back to its “avant-garde”, “language” and subcultural discourses, the pastoral Midwest stayed on its track and finally provided an amazing lyrical poetry aesthetics, poetics and poetry craft kaleidoscope that can help best with tackling in verse both personal and public capital events. But although the West and the Midwest prove a consistency that can lithely and extensively accommodate change, it is the metropolitan East that sounds the bugle of overthrow and renewal as infra-language trans-genre musicians like Harryette Mullen and assamblationist Flarfs like Kilem S. Mohammad surreptitiously depose Howe and Bernstein by means of oblique emphasis on content, contortedly passionate Ellipticals (to borrow Stephen Burt’s term) like David Berman, Lucie Brock-Boido and Suji Kwock Kim may outstrip the last year’s MTV Poet John Ashbery, subtle formalists and visionaries like D.A. Powell, Brian Teare and Dan Chiason (backed by David Wojahn and Dana Gioia) try to bury Robert Duncan’s ghost and Timothy Steele for good, exuberantly dark and oneiric humorists like Mathew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman want to wring the necks of Charles Simic and Billy Collins, Lorca-time-cadenza-dancing Monica de la Torre and Tracy K. Smith would gracefully outride (via Espada) Bly and Charles Wright, etc, etc. But still, beyond the frontier, in the vast territories of James Wright – and more recently David Baker – Rexroth, Theodore Roethke, Richard Hugo and Gary Snyder – younger poets like the freely-riding Amazon Karen Volkman, the spooky gold-digger G.C. Waldrep, and the melancholy haiduk Ilya Kaminsky may have actually started themselves the really fierce revolution in poetry.

I know all these geographical and stylistic labels are evanescent and can sound and sometimes even prove deceitful, but that is what the frankness and commitment of the speakers in quite a significant number of 9-11 poems actually sound or even prove to be like, for various reasons. Experience in and into verse are not always true to each other and even less often to any rhythmically signifying universe(s). Switching from off-beat to on-beat (and the other way round) with the world may be the real craft of the poet, in a way which should make people ask themselves not only who is s/he, but sometimes also who they are. But the scene grows wider and wider, and it seems that the murderous explosions of September 11 have, on the unhoped-for upbeat, also been the signal for an amazing outburst of poetically creative energies.

Note: This article has also been selected for publication in the 2009 biennial RAAS-Fulbright academic anthology.

Works Cited:

Adorno, Theodor W, trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber. Prisms. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1967.

Aimee. “We Watched…” on the Free Republic website, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/1699653/posts, 09.12.2006, initially posted on the 9/11 Poems webpage, 09.24.2001, accessed on 1o June 2008, http://www.firehotquotes.com/911/911-3.html

Baker, David. “Elegy and Eros: Configuring Grief” in David Baker and Ann Townsend, Eds. Radiant Lyre. Essays on Lyric Poetry. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2007: 5-19.

Baker, David. “To Think of Time” in David Baker and Ann Townsend, Eds. Radiant Lyre. Essays on Lyric Poetry. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2007: 235-246.

Baker, David and Ann Townsend. “Introduction” in David Baker and Ann Townsend, Eds. Radiant Lyre. Essays on Lyric Poetry. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2007: xi-xvi.

Baker, David. Heresy and the Ideal. On Contemporary Poetry. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

Baraka, Amiri. “Somebody Blew Up America”, Amiri Baraka Homepage, October 2001, 12 June 2008, http://www.amiribaraka.com/blew.html

Bernstein, Charles. “The theory of flawed design” in Todd Swift, Ed. Babylon Burning. 9/11 five years on. Poems for the Red Cross. 2006: p. 3, 10 June 2008 http://www.nthposition.com/babylonburning.pdf

Burt, Stephen. “The Elliptical Poets” in Jerry Harp and Jan Weissmiller, Eds. A Poetry Criticism Reader. Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2006: 61-84.

Dunn, Stephen. “To A Terrorist” in Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians, Eds. Poetry After 9-11: An Anthology of New York Poets. New York: Melville House, 2002: 36.

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence. “History of Airplane” in Allen Cohen and Clive Matson, Eds. An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind: Poets on 9/11. Oakland, CA: Regent Press, 2002: 15-16.

Hass, Robert. Time and Materials. Poems 1997-2003. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.

Holman, Bob. “Cement Cloud” on the About.com: Poetry website, 13 Sept 2001, 11 June 2008, http://poetry.about.com/library/weekly/aa091201a.htm

Jackson, Richard. “Eros and the Erotics of Writing” in David Baker and Ann Townsend, Eds. Radiant Lyre. Essays on Lyric Poetry. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2007: 66-85.

McClatchy, J. D. “Jihad,” plus a prose explanation of the poem in the “Contributors’ Notes” section in Yusef Komunyakaa, Guest Editor and David Lehman, Series Editor. The Best American Poetry 2003, New York: Scribner Poetry, 2003: 120-121; 214-215.

Rothenberg, Jerome. Khurbn & Other Poems. New York: New Directions, 1989.

Schultz, M. Susan. A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2005.

Torres, Edwin. “I Saw You Empire State Building” in Bob Holman and Margery Snyder, Eds. Poems After the Attack, online poetry anthology, 2001, 12 June 2008, poetry.about.com/library/weekly/aa092501h.htm

A philosophical inquiry and expansion on the types of the Post-modern Informational Societies and their dynamics, as presented in Andrei Marga’s “Dignoses, articles and essays”

by Ormeny Francisc-Norbert

In his most recent book, “Diagnoses, Articles and Essays”(Diagnoze, Articole şi Eseuri) Professor Andrei Marga, when approaching the mediatic culture, draws our attention upon the necessity of making as clear as possible the following distinction:

-the society of communications

-the society of cognition(also known as “a society which fosters knowledge-sharing”)

-the society of communication

-the society of transparency

-the mediatic society

These five types of society re in fact, five dangerous “false-friends”.

The Society of Communications is seen by Andrei Marga as a society of information; more precisely of raw data…of data flowing bluntly, like a river toward the sea/ocean. What counts here is the circulation of data(if possible, at the fastest achievable speed[1]). Here a consesnsus, or some other types of agreement upon the transmitted information out of the agenda.

It is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals of

cybernetics in the civil sphere. It managed to develop a highly sophisticated and consolidated infrastructure for spreading the data. But the civilians, in the absence of some appropriate techniques for processing/ analyzing/using such big waves and mountains of data, see themselves in an utter impossibility of giving the slightest (real)“use-value” to any of such piece of information they constantly receive. It is as if being thirsty in an ocean of water from which they are unable to drink as they lake the appropriate techniques for the desalting of ocean/sea water.

Here, within such a society, communication is reduced to the very act of broadcasting news(and never goes an inch further than this). The unavoidable consequence of this is the fact that the mechanical news, as heard on tv, slowly but surely becomes but a noise – like the electrical whizzing sound produced by neon.

Andrei Marga’s final conclusion related to this type of society is that a society of communications does not necessarily imply/denote/equal a communicational society (too). A communicational society is supposed to be based on the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior…in short, on a real interpersonal rapport. Within a society of communication one finds only the raw circulation of data, without any concern for feed-back; for its proper assimilation; or for achieving its envisaged target. In order to obtain a real feed-back(which would be able to place you in a true society of communication), one needs, first and foremost a correct assimilation of information. That is, one cannot go/evolve straight from a society of communications to a society of communication-he needs an intermediary phase. This intermediary and necessary phase in the transition from a society of communications to a society of communication is what Andrei Marga calls “a society of cognition”.

The Society of Cognition

The question arises: Why is a society of cognition needed in order for us to be able to successfully evolve from a society of communications to a society of communication? The answer is: BECAUSE, IN ORDER TO TRULY EVOLVE, FIRST AND FOREMOST, A CORRECT ANDCOMPLETE ASSIMILATION ON THE PART OF THE RECEIVER MUST TAKE PLACE. Such assimilation will find its most complete and fertile processing within the Society of Cognition. Here I am talking about the possibility to put „the matter” through the correct steps of the bestly contextualized procedure; about the possibility to prepare, treat, or convert “the matter” (in order to o gain an understanding or acceptance of something; to come to ideal terms with something) by subjecting it to the most desirable process; about the possibility to perform appropriate operations on data.

Should we consult The Free Dictionary by Farlex for the word “cognition” at the following location on the Internet http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cognition, , we are to find the following definitions:

“1. The mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.

2. That which comes to be known, as through perception, reasoning, or intuition; knowledge.”[2]

By simply regarding the above given definitions one could see that within cognition one no longer simply absorbes information(like a sponge); that, within cognition one also develops some techniques by means of which he filters and processes that very information. For this reason, Andrei Marga calls such societies “societies nurtured by diversity and its capacities.”

Communities are based on shared concepts. In Andrei Marga’s vision, cognition equals a community’s capacity to generate/produce concepts:”While the <<society of communications>> simply demanded us to further spread the infrastructure on which the information circulates, the <<society of cognition>> requires, the absorption, the spreading but also the production of cognition.”[3] By replacing the necessity to spread knowledge with the necessity to produce knowledge(even while absorbing it), such societies gave the decisive impulse for economic and cultural developments, in the sense that such impulses found their expression in proactive politics. The proactive politics are project-based politics having as prime engine resourceful initiatives, pensiveness as resulted from an authentic process of knowledge-sharing, and a fertile collaboration with the public interest(instead of simply subordinating it to some immutable patterns of absorption). In Andrei Marga’s view, Cognition should be regarded as the very engine behind social activities and not as some sort of auxiliary element within the equation of such actions. Professor Marga speaks of Singapore as being illustrative for the success of such a theory: in 1965 it was known as an underdeveloped country, but, by means of proactive politics targeted at cultivating abilities with high social applicability, it managed to turn itself into an emblematical country for what the idea of modern development should stand for. When all these requirements are met successfully, we nter the Society of Communication…a sort of utopia in matters of fertile political feed-back.

The Society of Communication

Such a society will, first and foremost, systematize the concord among the participants at the social dialogue ; it will make sure that such participants understand what is being said and that they filter through their own personalities the message and then re-release it into society in a Hegelian manner ( but not as they received/absorbed it but embellished with their inner creative subjectivity).It is based on RATIONALITY, ON COMMUNICATION AND ON ARGUMENTATION. The intersecting point of these three elements should be the CONCORD among the participants at the conversational act. Such a concord will evolve on four distinct flexible (shape-shifting) patterns: “intelligibility of messages, the conformity to fact or truth-on the part of the speakers, the veracity of assertions, the participants’ righteous interaction to communication.”[4] Such a vision upon human relations clearly carries the scent of Utopia, and as any Utopia, it is heavily inclined to remain a pure theoretical concept, devoid of actual substance and with no relation to reality(future/past/present) whatsoever.

In order to make this “society of communication” work for us, we must carefully and wisely purge it of Idealism while impregnating it with the most invigorating because rigorous Pragmatism. To better illustrate this first thesis of mine, I will use Mihail Bakunin’s heavy critique of Idealism together with William James’s vision on Pragmatism, as inspired from that of Charles Sanders Peirce.

a) Bakunin’s main point in his masterpiece “God and the State” is that, should one want to efficiently manipulate the masses into following his credo, what he has to do is to first and foremost impregnate those masses with Idealism, The more exuberant and juvenile the Idealism sown in the brains of the followers, the more fluent their obedience. Religion and the State understood this principle and, in their times of absolute tyranny, they gained a tremendous amount of power by assuming their mission and persona as divine guiding lights, as absolute principles with an unquestionable authority over this life as well as over the life beyond.

Ştefan Bolea in his “Ontology of Negation” observes that “Idealism (an appellation for religion and theological metaphysics) taken as a drug, is an instrument for control.” [5]

In order to better illustrate his theory, Bakunin quotes Proudhon: “The ideal is but a flower, whose root lies in the material conditions of existence.” [6]

Concerning poets, poetry and the social implications of their art, Bakunin notes:” The more sincere these believers and poets of heaven, the more dangerous they become.” [7]

Now, speaking of poets and literature, one can’t fail to notice that the comparison between Idealism and Flowers is a technique very dear to literature; a technique more dear to literature than to philosophy:

- Nikos Kazantzakis in his “Alexis Zorba” makes a similar point: the main character, after remarking the wild beauty of a flower, asks himself vexed, why that flower needs dirt and blood and filth in order to rise and shine; why does beauty grow only out of swampy filth.

- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s flower which embellishes an entire desolated planet, still has thorns: ” The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years(...)And it’s not serious, trying to understand why flowers go to such trouble produce thorns that are good for nothing?(…) The thorns are of no use at all. Flowers have thorns just for spite!” [8]

In order to become freethinkers (the only way to evolve, or as Bakunin puts it, the only way to achieve “the development and realization of all the natural laws in the world”[a long euphemism for evolution]; the only context in which a real dialogue could e established ) we must start by abolishing all forms of idealism.

If we take or example nowadays radicalized terrorism and inflamed jingoism(both heavily broadcasted through media channels…and even in the form of negative publicity, they can’t fail to produce a strong impact ), we can’t fail to see that Idealism, ultimately results into desperate and violent behaviour, and is an excellent fuel for hatred and social maladaptation.

The Society of Cognition should be a society where a healthy assimilation of concepts would take place in order to prepare the emergence of the Society of Communication. Yet, Idealism appears within this equation of assimilation as the most evil and perfidious possible catalyst: it sabotages the healthy assimilation of concepts by facilitating some mental and emotional processes while utterly inhibiting others(or dissolving them, like a solvent) and thus manipulating the course of assimilation to the advantage of some well disguised interest groups.

Andrei Marga praises RATIONALITY as the basis for COMMUNICATION AND ARGUMENTATION(argumentation being seen as a superior level within communication; a level below innovation but above the ordinary/daily speech acts) and, he further praises these two elements(COMMUNICATION AND ARGUMENTATION) as the ultimate basis for the CONCORD among the participants at the conversational act.

But without a scientifically correct and a humanely healthy assimilation of concepts, there is no RATIONALITY.

The question arises: WHY IS RATIONALISM WEAKER THAN IDEALISM?(as the Inquisition, the Totalitarian Systems and nowadays Media Manipulation have proved)

My answer is the following: because humans are, first and foremost spiritual and spiritualized creatures and this translates itself into an immutable propensity for mysticism. Ideals and Idealism (as a state of mind) are dangerous sirens/mermaids and an overwhelming percentage of people still fall for their seductive chants. We have an inborn impulse to become lunatic when faced with a skillful rhetoric…to fall for words(Adolf Hitler is maybe the best illustration in this sense). When this impulse gets combined with a taste for fancy, the overall process will fire the insanity. Within the very same psychological pattern, the endurance to madness by means of reason occupies a lower and weaker level (that is why we are fascinated by robots and we try to create them as soon as possible - hoping that they will live at a more effective level of existence by minimizing emotions to the advantage of reason and functionality). Rationalism and judgement don’t have the same energy to mobilize our spirits, as madness does. This happens because reasoning rejects the fancy and takes its refuge in a cold Cartesian equation. Thus, rationalism plays foul against itself. In order to become successful once again and in order to be able o prevail over madness, it has to be deeply re-humanized, on the basis of philosophies such as William James’s.

The final point to be made here is inquire ourselves into the ways by means of which we could find the precise location of that fatal point-of-no-return where a conviction degenerates into a prejudice(thing which happens most of the time because of the evil catalyst-solvent called “idealism”). We also have to inquire ourselves into the techniques by means of which we could recognize and later on avoid stepping into the trap of this point-of-no-return … In order to be able to do this, we’ll have to regard the process of assimilation of information and building of concepts(within the society of cognition) and the process of valorization of knowledge through dialogue and collective mobilization(within the society of communication) not with prefabricated and inherited(in the sense of taken for granted) enthusiasm and idealism BUT with a humanized rationality and with constructive criticism. The place where such humanized rationality and constructive criticism coagulate into a healthy and fluctuant pragmatism(within which valorization equals capitalization) is William James’s concept of cash-value.

b) William James’s pragmatism can be interpreted as a form of radical empiricism[9] or as a “practicalism” obsessed by physical results that can reflect the value of a person, action or idea in “cash” terms (the cash-value concept):

- The great English way of investigating a conception is to ask yourself right off, <<What is it known as? In what facts does it result? What is its cash-value, in terms of particular experience? And what special difference would come into the world according as it were true or false?>> Thus does Locke treat the conception of personal identity”.[10]

- “The cash-value of matter is our physical sensations”.[11]

Those who have comprehended Kant’s “Critic of practical reason”, remained with the impression that, in Greek, there is a huge difference between the terms “praktikos” and “pragmatikos”. This difference can be compared with the Earth’s two opposing poles.

James saw efficiency as an aim in itself and made his philosophy a cult of efficiency. He managed to demonstrate that the two Greek terms are in fact not that entirely different as it was previously thought. A necessary link should exists between the two for the “whole” to be able to function properly. James connected the concepts through a genial castling: within pragmatism he shifted the focus from rationality (Peirce) to perception and extreme personalization of experience. This becomes obvious if one analyses the definition of pragmatism from both sides:

Peirce: “Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object(…)In order to ascertain the meaning of an intellectual conception one should consider what practical consequences might conceivably result by necessity from the truth of that conception; and the sum of these consequences will constitute the entire meaning of the conception.”[12]

- James reformulating Peirce’s maxim: “Thus, in order to bring full clarity to our ideas upon an object we must consider the practical repercussions that the object could include-what to expect to on what concerns perceptions and reactions. Our conception on these repercussions, be they un-mediated and delayed, constitutes for us the entire conception on the object, as far as it has a positive significance.”[13]

Whoever compares these two passages can quickly remark that James accentuated the role of perception as terrain for identification of the significance.

James’s philosophy fits itself in the pattern of Bismarck’s Realpolitik: “the aim must be achieved with a maximum of efficiency, and in order to do so, one must not stumble upon issues of morals and sentimentalism”. Here we enter the sphere of the Nietzschean concept of “ubermensch”(* superman)- the man who lives beyond morality, beyond good and evil and who values the community correctly precisely because he managed to value himself firstly. James’s thesis according to which the true ideas are those that function and can be verified, doesn’t have to be interpreted as a thesis that excludes morality but one that is based on liberty and creativity. The latter is necessary in the individual’s process of appropriation of the concepts of Good and of God. The man’s relationship with God and with his Inner-Self must function as a burning torch fueled by inspiration and by the desire to know the divine beauty (unlike a mirror that merely reflects, or even worst, deforms God’s image). To this end, the American philosopher has decided “to construct the human spirit in the model of a torch not that of a mirror”[14].

The “Cash-value” concept, in matter of dialogue, would express itself, at the level of the individual, in the will to read between the lines(if necessary) in order to find and to valorize the slightest element which could be somehow useful for you and for your community; in the will to replace manipulation and despotic orders with PERSUATION[15]; in the will to try to help an eternal “other” improve his communicational skills(within an honestly well-intentioned team-work – because this is precisely what James says, namely that the “cash-value”concept is desirable only when it is backed by a positive/well-intentioned/benevolent attitude towards society and life in general) – because only when communication fluctuates freely between both sides(receiver and transmitter), will the transition from words to actual facts be an easy-achievable one(that is, only then, the putting of ideas into real-life practice will come naturally). This, I suppose, could be considered the definition of an adaptable mental equilibrium.

The society of transparency

Transparency should imply openness and communication. It is a metaphorical extension of the meaning used in the physical sciences: a “transparent” object is one that can be seen through.

In government, politics, business and law the concept of transparency must be understood as the ultimate opposite of privacy. An activity can be called “transparent” only if all information about it is open to the public and, preferably - freely available.

The army is by tradition the social sphere where transparency feels least at home Military men would often classify their operations and projects as secret or confidential. From the point of view of national security it could be accepted as an unpleasant but necessary must. Yet, in time, such attitudes will most surely result into malevolent secrecy and corruption. Privacy opens an irresistible opportunity for the authorities to abuse the system in their own interest. Transparency, as a political concept, was introduced as a means of holding public officials accountable and fighting corruption.

In the social daily routine, transparency usually appears in the form of government meetings open to the press and the public. Within such meetings, where the participation of citizens and of media is allowed and even encouraged, laws, rules and decisions are open to discussion. In this way, Transparency creates an everyday participation in the political processes. This kind of participation is a basic principle within Modern Democracies, in the sense that it gave birth to collocations such as “participative democracy” – one of the most closely connected to the will of the people type of democracy.

Unfortunately, as Madame Bovary(Gustave Flaubert) put it, there is a darker and abyssal side in every achievement and reason for happiness. Every use is cursed to have an abuse. The abuse and the reversed side of Transparency is the Panopticon.

Mass Media is involved in both the Transparency and the Panopticon.

In order to be able to provide its consumers with the most complete possible general image of truth, the media would often unethically intrude the private sphere of the individual. The State will encourage such a behaviour on the side of the Media as it hels Him to better monitor its citizens – the best example in this sense is provided by Orwell’s “1984”, where TV monitors are ever-present in order to erase the slightest privacy(and thus possibility of freedom).

Foucault politicized the technological gaze(metaphorically assimilating the general concept of media to Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon[16]) and he stated that such a gaze comes at us through the official ideologies of truth which verify the realities of everyday life. These ideologies are present in systems of discourse and centered in those institutional formation which produce truth, including the universities. Taken to new heights by the advanced technological societies, these ideologies of truth are implemented through ever more sophisticated systems of surveillance.

The ubiquitous presence of the media is realized not just through the classical mediatic channels ( TV, cinema, radio and newspapers), but, as Norman K. Denzin observes(in his book entitled “The Cinematic Society”, London, SAGE Publications, 1995), by other smaller but not less malevolent in what concerns the nature of their usages, devices.

We live in an “Information Age” filled with databases, electronic spreadsheets, desk-top publishing, automated tellers, computer-assisted instruction, virtual realities and artificial intelligence. Denzin explains the phenomenon more clearly: “not only aerial viewing and listening devices, but also radar and contact microphones, hidden transmitters, satellite monitoring systems, body microphones, data surveillance systems, computer monitors, hidden cameras, international detective agencies, wiretaps, electronic intelligence kits, intercom systems, personality tests, lip-reading, miniature surveillance devices, two-way mirrors, credit card monitoring systems, undercover agents, parabolic and shotgun microphones, photochrimic micro-images, television-eye monitoring, public opinion polls, managed news releases, subliminal suggestion methods, radio-detection and frequency probes, radioactive tagging, faked documents, scrambling and signalling devices, sniperscopes, sonic-wave devices, spectograms, super-spy devices, video-tapes, high powered telescopes, voice-prints, DNA prints, X-rays, and ultra-violet surveillance techniques.” And I would add to this list the zodiac-readings, that are also a part of the strategy of total monitorization(reminiscences if not even a continuation and a persistence Marx’s “maximum-security society”).

The citizen of such a society has internalized this type of gaze(the gaze which unveils the private and makes it public) to the point where he turns himself into an agent of surveillance; a miniaturized terminal located somewhere on the tentacles of the octopus(the maximum security society is a society which tries to embrace us all, like a Leviathan-Octopus): “In this society, each individual has interiorized the hearing and visual gaze of an <<>objectified> external, generalized, nameless, often faceless, other. This technological other is everywhere and nowhere, in hidden cameras and recording devices, in telephone answering machines, electronic mail systems and home burglar alarm systems(...) A pornography of the visible is now everywhere. Nothing is any longer hidden.”[17]

We live on a broad horizon of “voyeuristic otherness”, where the other’s presence is variously disguised, hidden, obtrusive and taken into account and noticed: “I buy gas at my local service station and watch myself on a video camera paying for my purchase, I check my E-mail and find dirty messages from an angry student”(observes Denzin out of his personal daily experience)

Doctors, anthropologists, tourists, space-observers are, in Denzin’s view, “disguised voyeurs” and hidden journalists and he asserts that “disguised research is unethical”[18]

The State, in implementing such a Devilish all-intrusive technological dimension, played heavily on the paranoia of its subjects ( more precisely on their fear of remaining uncovered/unbacked in front of the unknown) and thus defeated and subjected them with their own weapons(by turning their needs[for protection] against them): “Guilt connected to illicit[here Denzin speaks about the voyeur], secret looking has all but disappeared. It has been replaced and displaced by the fear that if one’s personal surveillance system is not in place, he or she will be attacked by the hidden, invisible other.”[19]

Denzin’s main thesis and conclusion is that “there is a subtle and sudden switching of surveillance codes, from Foucault’s panopticon to a system of detrerrence where the person gazed upon is the person doing the gazing[20] - that is, the once gazed upon one, inevitably becomes a gazer, a perfect agent of the system. The harder the “re-education of the heretic”, the loyal the re-educated one gets to be – as George Orwell has demonstrated with his character- Winston.

The collocation “ a mass-mediated society” makes the perfect junction between Marxism and the Media.

In this context, the Western per excellence ideal and project of an “Autonomous Individual”(self-initiating and self-determinig human agent) becomes highly problematic.

The beautiful English first personal pronoun written with capital letter-“I” becomes highly questionable in matters of what it stands for nowadays…should it really stand for something and not be just an abstract and weird-looking sign on the paper. The real question arises in the following terms: “Is there still a sense of Individuality and Sacred Privacy lurking in the Western atmosphere, somewhere underneath the heavy shadows filled with uranium clouds of guilt left behind by The Nazi unpardonable mistakes…or, this sacred sense gets more and more devoid of substance, wit and inventiveness, every day which passes by, approaching extinction(understood as “A gradual decrease in the excitability of a nerve to a previously adequate stimulus, usually resulting in total loss of excitability”[21]). At best and most desirable, it undergoes a process of transformation – as the German pronoun did after the Second World – War, when, because of the political pressure, it had to make room for the English and the French equivalent pronouns. This subtle aspect is brilliantly rendered by Martin Amis in his novel - “Time’s Arrow”. In this book, Martin Amis makes a brilliant remark on the philosophy of this first personal pronoun singular, showing us how, after what happened with Hitler, the German variant was forced to give free way to the French and to the English ones: ” <<I>> in English sounds noble and vertical, <<Je>> in French has a certain power and intimacy...while the German <<Ich>> resembles the sound of disgust produced by a kid when looking at his shit from the toilet.

The failure of the Nazi Germany also meant the rise to power of Marxism and of other doctrines of equality. The worse consequence of this was the socialist industrialization and monitoring/constant surveillance through technological devices(installed in order to increase[so they said] the efficiency of the Overall System; and in order to provide social safety and unmistakable and safe patterns of evolution). This constant surveillance and, more or less, forced-integration into the technological(and later computerized) society, brought about leveling down of standards; of expectations; and induced a general and irresistible trend toward social conformism(trend which opened new horizons for manipulation).

But, in the very middle of all this Argus-hysteria, the Western society must surely have asked itself many questions among which the following: “Whenever we see an ant-hill what really scares us ? The fact that they have long antennas, tens of legs, bodies covered with scales and hair, that they secrete incessantly all kinds of disgusting substances-or the total lack of individuality that reigns in there?” Nobody has a personal life, each and every individual sacrifices all his life and energy for the sake of the community, a perfect communist society. Sexual difference between two warrior-ants, for the eye of an amateur is a catch 22 dilemma. It is like in a communist utopia where the woman is strongly masculinized, turned into a hard worker, a true comrade if not even a brother at arms for the man.

The power of our machines assures our mastery over the natural environment. Unfortunately, they also turn our society into a programmed society where rationalization(planning, organization, automation) leave little room for independent actions and spontaneity.

The concept of “self” has a whole history behind, is a lifelong project: for instance, the Socratic maxim said “know yourself” and Rousseau spoke of “amour de soi”. Also, carring for the self also provided many professionals with their work: psychologists attempt to heal the self and priests want to save the self from evil influences. This also happens because the self always needs validation, nurturing and realization in order to feel itself alive.

Norman K. Denzin says that this problem can only be solved by means of a new pragmatism; a totally re-conceptualized pragmatism:

A new global politics of identity is upon us, a new public culture that no one understands. This is the complex, global, negotiated order that post-pragmatism addresses. A radical, re-conceptualized theory of democracy, the state and society must find its way inside these gendered, culturally and ethnically complex spaces, and their international arenas and structural domains. This post-pragmatism will critically attach itself to the post-modern family, the media and popular culture, cyberspace, science, protest movements, national identities and race and gender as the critical sites for interpretative-political work. It will push harder at the boundaries and intersections of public science and the media, seeing science and the media as the dominant discourses of power and control in contemporary life[22].” [23]

Denzin’s message is clear: post-pragmatism must not be regarded as a mere philosophy but as a global project, a project above all opened to experiment and innovation so as to gain constant adaptive power/resources. That is why he states that the new pragmatism “will be a media and communication centered pragmatism; [24]it will accept the proposition that the image of reality has replaced reality[25]; it will assume that communication is more than face-to-face interaction and no longer the natural site of cooperation and consensus. Violence, dissent and dispute are the cultural givens in today’s multi-ethnic social order.”[26]

Unlike previous social theories[27], it will(or at least should) be based on “fully dialogic conceptions which are simultaneously reflexive, interpretive and grounded in some sense of internal solidarity that connects the person to a larger moral community[28].”[29]

The final irony about this transparent society is that it is not at all transparent.

The mediatic society

The above diatribe directed against the “opaque transparency” of the transparent society is, more or less(and this, without being untrue or exaggerated in any way!!!), an example of what Andrei Marga calls an “intellectual inertia”, that is, an intellectual’s inability to see both the pros and the cons of an issue; his painful feeble heartedness when it comes to be able to resist the temptation of an enthusiastic but very subjective and perversely narcissistic criticism(in the sense that it is a criticism constructed with a highly premeditated subtlety) in favor of an objective criticism(dedicated not only to his personal gain but to the evolution of the whole community).

This aspect is rendered by Andrei Marga as well, when he states that we live “in a <<culture>> within which subjective opinions pass as veritable ideas; where moods believe themselves to be liberties; where desires are taken for concepts and where, obviously, people talk more than they read.”[30]

Professor Marga goes even further with his pinch criticism:

“However, it must be noticed that today, conveniences are more attractive than the pleasure of striving to include various fields of activity, and than, intellectual inertia - are among the reasons which determine today’s philosophers to remain within the sphere of limited experiences, too narrow for the pretension of their concepts. “[31]

In such a dangerously confuse intellectual environment, “ the crumbling down of culture in the multitude of opinions without horizon(which forced, for instance, the President Of Harvard University to argue that there are many possible opinions, but not all of them represent valid perspectives! ) and the magnifying of the production of books which enlighten nothing(in Romanian context, this phenomenon takes the shape of an ever-expanding number of authors which flatter themselves with the number of books they produced, without actually having been able to release a genuine work) leave behind bitter question marks. On the other hand, any opinion silently assumes fort itself a normative basis, a basis resembling the nature of a diagnosis(by way of example, one may not formulate a factual sentence <<x appeared as a direct consequence of y’s actions>> within the community, without assuming something in relation to what is and should in fact be the society), even though, the dusty essay-writing and the prevailingness of the day’s small/insignificant opinion ignores this normative basis or prefers to live it in obscurity.”[32]

According to Andrei Marga, cynicism plays the heaviest role in the moral degradation of intellectuals: “We are witnessing – anyway, this is Peter Sloterdijk’s diagnosis – on the very peak of the promotion of illumination(and of that of the Enlightenment), in the era of the most complete knowledge of nature, society and man, the expansion of cynical behavior. Instead of enlarging the solidarity among men, each and every one wants to orchestrate the other(…) This type of cynicism manifests itself strikingly in the intellectual life as well. It is not only the case of the context where, for instance, people who have obtained higher positions and who have published books proclaimed themselves <<intellectuals>>(as if being an intellectual could be reduced to this) and claim a <<privileged>> access to truth. It also about something else, deeper and with heavier consequences: the incapacity of so-called intellectuals to lay down a different opinion from those stipended at that particular moment and the inability to pierce by means of an articulated solution through the wall of an opaque future. Everything that these self-proclaimed <<intellectuals>> can put forth is, in the end, a <<negative futurism>>: <<Watch out, it can get even worse!>>. Constructing an articulated solution for the public problems(which is in fact the purpose of the intellectual truth) is none of their preoccupations, nor does it lie anywhere near their horizon.”[33]

In order to be able to throw light upon such a complicated issue as the dynamics of nowadays informational societies one has to come up with an all-inclusive system of analysis: “Virtually, there can’t be philosophy but there where various experiences are encompassed from one particular point of view, even though this encompassing remains burdensome.”[34] This is just another way of saying that we, as intellectuals, need a real-time interaction among various points of view. Because, in the malevolently premeditated or not absence of such a real time interaction, democracy and liberalism have (as Andrei Marga argues)degenerated into pure proceduralism…just as multiculturalism has degenerated to a simple, physical cohabitation.

My conclusion for the transparent society was that it has a somehow cynical, or at least oxymoronic name, s it is far from being transparent in any ways… A true intellectual will try to go beyond the venomous criticism (per se ) of such a society, and he’ll try to come up with solutions for the crisis that he managed to signal. A first necessary step within this process of constructive criticism is to see the causes behind such attitudes and to try to get an insight(with the sense of “capacity to discern the true nature of a situation; intellectual penetration”) into the workings of such a system. Here’s Andrei Marga diagnosis on the issue:

After all, what really holds back the mediatic society from becoming a society of transparency ?(…)” Andrei Marga proposes the following answers (analyzing the philosophy of mediatic society from Horkheimer and Adorno to Vattimo): “a) through its proceedings, the mediatic process spreads the <<common denominator>> of facts and cultivates the <<leveling down>>(equalization) of values; b) it encourages <<functionality>> within the systems and much too little initiatives of change; c) it cultivates the intuitiveness, the fragmentariness, to the detriment of the comprehension of the world’s subtle but tenacious correlations; d) it disseminates whatever is <<consumable>> to the detriment of durable values; e) it weakens the distinctions, within the classic culture, between the necessary and the accidental, between the essential and the hazardous; between the truth and the hearsay; between authentic value and improvisation.”[35]

Despite all these(its huge manipulative power, its unsuspected ways of twisting the truth and the reality to its own advantage), Professor Marga insists on the fact that the mediatic society does not swallow the postmodern world- it is only a manifestation within it, and that, “to regard it exclusively from a critical point of view, would be an attitude just as wrong as the one which simply refuses to acknowledge its real presence.”[36]

Following this thread, we could say that media is just another participant to the society of transparency(like any ordinary citizen), with the only difference that it has at its disposal highly sophisticated technological devices and an army of experts with which to interpret and further spread the message. Its aim should be to make the transparent society even more visible, that is, to translate (whenever necessary) the bureaucratic language for the masses and to read between the lines…that is, to help democracy remain a vivid concept. Unfortunately, a sad phenomenon happened –“On the other hand, the media gains its autonomy, to such extent that it no longer remains just an instrument, but it becomes an enterprise in itself, with its own purposes.”[37] Power nucleuses with personal economic interests come into being, which become stronger by the day, impossible to penetrate and which begin to use democracy instead of working in its service (as they should do, considering the fact that they emerged and derived their power from the democratic theories).

The question arises: what can we do, when faced with such a situation.

Linda Hutcheon, in her “Politics of Postmodernism”, provides us with an excellent answer: not to regard it from an exclusively negative point of view, but to PROBLEMATIZE it.

But what means “TO PROBLEMATIZE SOMETHING OR TO MAKE SOMETHING PROBLEMATIC”? Linda Hutcheon insists that every individual’s postmodern moral obligation is to reflect upon those processes by which we represent ourselves and the world around us – that is, to become aware of the means used to set up the signification and to construct the order within our daily experience/routine.

Hutcheon claims that we live in an epoch not just dominated but simply created by media and by popular culture. That is why one can’t avoid representation, and those who pretend to be able to avoid it or to simply go around it, what they do, in fact, is to avoid and to go around the settlement of their notion of representation while deliberately sticking stubbornly to a philosophy which sees representation as trans-historical and trans-cultural. [38]

Linda Hutcheon in her “Politics of Postmodernism” concludes that we live in an epoch where one can’t avoid representation.

The Poststructuralists also had a similar vision, but on the subject of the language: they spoke of the “language as prison” saying that we live in an “inescapable textuality”, in a vicious circle of the language(immediately after one had stopped thinking in a language, he starts thinking in another one). Leaving the sphere of a language ultimately leads to entering the sphere of another one, we cannot live outside language.

Not being able to avoid representation, we’ll surely fail to be able to avoid media either. But what we can do, is to filter and personalize(instead of just taking for granted ), to apply a philosophical critical method to everything that we are offered – a method that excludes the previous unconditioned confidence and which makes everything problematic(“A great man once said there’s no such thing as a stupid question.”).

Hutcheon says that we can do this by simply reflecting upon the circumstances/the context in which the representation was produced and thus we’ll discover the aims behind its broadcasting. In fact, Hutcheon’s message is to actually start using the media. But, she insists, you can only do this if you stop letting yourself be used by it. Today we live in an era when one finds information everywhere, hanging up on every fence: the issue is no longer to find it but to select it and to process it to your advantage.

But how can you select and process the information that you need, how can you let yourself impregnated only with that information which suits you best?


Humboldt shows how language, representation and politics should function in a sincerely-interested-in-evolution society: he said that language, far from limiting us, it enriches us. Humboldt proposed the metaphor of communication seen as a sexual act: when two people communicate, they leave in each other a GERMINATIVE content which will further develop into a real “foetus.” This foetus stands for the incipient stage of future great and complex idea[39]. He also stressed that, when communication is not staged or politically biased, when it is sincerely and passionately carried out, this “foetus” will evolve in the person receiving those ideas without shattering the initial personality of the receiver. On the contrary, it will evolve by enriching and expanding it(the personality of the receiver) to new and unexpected dimensions.[40]

Considering all of the above as patterned of Humboldt’ s theory of communication, one must, in order to conceive a viable theory able to give an appropriate form to the contemporary conscience, carefully select and filter the informational -“spermatozoa” which get to penetrate and fertilize his brain. He has to do this, in order to avoid the reduction of his sapience to raw information/data.


1) Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008

2) Andrei Marga, Filosofia Americană clasică , vol.1, editura All Educational, Bucureşti 2000

3) Ştefan Bolea Ontology of Negation, ed. Casa Cărţii de Ştiinţă, Cluj-Napoca, 2004

4) Paul Kurtz, American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, a Sourcebook from pragmatism to philosophical analysis, published by The Macmillan Company Collier-Macmillan, USA, 1969.

5) Henry Samuel Levinson, The religious investigations of William James, University of North Carolina Press, Chapell hill, 1981.

6) Norman K. Denzin, The Cinematic Society, London, SAGE Publications, 1995

7) David Brin, The Transparent Society (1998).

8) Linda Hutcheon Politica Postmodernismului, translated by Mircea Deac, Ed. Univers, Bucharest, 1997

9) Cornel Vîlcu unpuiblished course in Linguistics for the 4th year English majors 2006 UBB Faculty of Letter Cluj

10) Vasile Voiculescu Lostriţa(The Huck)

11) Stanislaw Lem’s The Cyberiad, Harvest Books; 1 edition (December 16, 2002)

Internet Sources:


2) Mihail Bakunin God and the State, on-line edition at http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/bakunin/works/godstate/ch01.htm

3) http://www.generationterrorists.com/quotes/the_little_prince.html

4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatic_maxim,

5) http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_701708528/panopticon.html

[1] The speed you can achieve in the actual practice of transmitting data is called “effective speed”. It deviates from the maximum achievable speed.

[2] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cognition, consulted on the 1st of September, 2008, 16:02 p.m.

[3] Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, p.47

[4] Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, p.52, my translation

[5] Ştefan Bolea Ontology of Negation, ed. Casa Cărţii de Ştiinţă, Cluj-Napoca, 2004, p.102, my translation

[6] Mihail Bakunin God and the State, on-line edition at http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/bakunin/works/godstate/ch01.htm , Chapter I consulted on the 16th of May 2008, 12:04.a.m.

[7] Bakunin, op. cit, Chapter III

[8] http://www.generationterrorists.com/quotes/the_little_prince.html, consulted on the 16th of May 2008, 12:04.a.m.

[9] Empiricism, is the view that experience, especially of the senses is the only source of knowledge. The theory that all concepts emanate from experience and that all statements claiming to express knowledge must be based on experience rather than on theory.

[10] William James, “Philosophical conceptions and practical results”, p 117, taken from Paul Kurtz, “American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, a Sourcebook from pragmatism to philosophical analysis”, published by The Macmillan Company Collier-Macmillan, USA, 1969.

[11] Ibid. p.117.

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatic_maxim, consulted on the 16th of May, 2008, 15:28 p.m.

[13] Andrei Marga –“Filosofia Americană clasică” , vol.1, editura All Educational, Bucureşti 2000, p.148. “ Pentru a aduce astfel deplină claritate în ideile noastre asupra unui obiect trebuie doar să chibzuim ce repercursiuni practice poate include acest obiect. - la ce să ne aşteptam în ceea ce priveşte percepţiile şi la ce reacţii trebuie să ne aşteptăm. Concepţia noastră asupra acestor repercursiuni, fie ele nemijlocite, fie întârziate, constituie atunci pentru noi întreaga concepţie a obiectului, în măsura în care această concepţie are în general o semnificaţie pozitivă.”

[14] Henry Samuel Levinson, ‘ The religious investigations of William James’, University of North Carolina Press, Chapell hill, 1981.

[15] Specialized studies claimed that there is a difference between manipulation and persuasion. Namely, that the persuaded social actor(in the sense of participant) is aware of an well informed on the intentions and aims of the one who tries to convince him...while the manipulated social actor is unaware and even unsuspicious of such subversive intentions. Unfortunately, what the nowadays Media is after, is to melt into a single technique both manipulation and persuasion, to create a all-embracing nebula with/in which and to blind people and from where(on the background of ths general state of blindness purposely induced by no one else than they themselves) they could project themselves as the a Light-Giving Star(Sun), as the Guiding Light: ” Believe me.The sun always shines on t.v.”, the way A-HA put it in their lyrics. But it’s an evil light, like Vasile Voiculescu’s underwater deep lights mentioned in LostriţThe Huck): „luminiţa care pâlpâie în beznele nopţii şi trage pe călătorul rătăcit la adânc”(The twinkle which flickers in night’s waves of darkness and which soaks the lost traveler deep down into the dark waters); or like Stanislaw Lem’s Gaurozauron – the most cunning and artful star, the star with shifty, inconstant and versatile flickering which would often mislead the caravans towards the Black Waste.(Gaurozauron is the star mentioned by Lem in his The Cyberiad)

[16] The panopticon is A prison so contructed that the inspector can see each of the prisoners at all times, without being seen; high-surveillance prison;a prison with cell blocks situated around a central area, ensuring that prisoners could be viewed at all times, http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_701708528/panopticon.html, consulted on the 9th of May 2008, 18:30 p.m.

[17] Norman K. Denzin, The Cinematic Society, London, SAGE Publications, 1995, p. 191

[18] Norman K. Denzin, The Cinematic Society, London, SAGE Publications, 1995, p.204

[19] Norman K. Denzin, The Cinematic Society, London, SAGE Publications, 1995, p.191

[20]Norman K. Denzin, The Cinematic Society, London, SAGE Publications, 1995 p.9

[21] Taken from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/extinction, consulted on the 5th of September, 2008, 16: 07 p.m.

[22] My Bold

[23] Norman K. Denzin, The Cinematic Society, London, SAGE Publications, 1995, pp.216-217

[24] My Bold

[25] The unfortunate reality according to which media channels generate reality instead of reflecting it or of analyzing it (as their mission within the democratic equation says that they should do) is also depicted by Professor Andrei Marga when he brings into discussion Horkheimer and Adorno’s famous masterpiece “Dialektik der Aufklärung”(Amsterdam 1946) : ”one enters the era of <<cultural industry>> which changes the very foundations and infrastructure of previous public communication and leaves behind serious inquiries: can it be the case that ever-since the Media entered the political game as a major player, one can no longer speak about serving democracy but rather of subjecting it to personal interests?; can it be the case that the desire to faithfully represent reality was replaced, in the process, with a rat-race for the creation of that very reality? “(Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, p.51, my translation)

[26] Denzin, op.cit, 215

[27] The reality according to which the Self had become a haunted animal; an animal on the verge of global extinction/annihilation through phagocytosis in the informational systems (a phagocytosis carried out by the amoeba disguised under the name of “multi-media societies” ) is also discussed in David Brin’s book - “The Transparent Society” (1998).

Brin deplores the erosion of privacy in the hands(or, better said, TENTACLES) of the surveillance, communication and database technology. He explores, in highly catchy manners and narrative techniques, how important some degree of privacy is for most human beings (in the sense that it allows them moments of intimacy within which to exchange confidences and to prepare - in some security and necessary mental equilibrium - for the competitive world).

Brin’s main thesis is that “true privacy” will ultimately be lost in a “transparent society” but, he still regards the transparency as a necessary evil, as a must in the fight against corruption and abuses of power(“most dangerous and corrupt abuses of power go hand-in-hand with a lack of accountability and transparency”) and in the struggle/need on the part of the individual to adapt to this shape-shifting and constantly overcrowded world.

His solution is that Governments should provide equal in the sense of perfectly reciprocal surveillance for all: the public has to have the same access/right(no more no less) as those in power – when it comes to obtaining personal gain out of the use of such technological devices.

[28] My Bold

[29] Denzin, op.cit, p.215

[30] Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, p.11, my translation

[31] Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, pp.6-7, my translation

[32] Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, p.23, my translation

[33] Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, pp.24-25, my translation

[34] Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, p.7, my translation

[35] Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, p.52, my translation

[36] Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, pp52-53, my translation

[37] Andrei Marga, Diagnoses, Articles and Essays, Ed. Eikon, Cluj-Napoca 2008, p.51, my translation

[38] Linda Hutcheon “Politica Postmodernismului”, translated by Mircea Deac, Ed. Univers, Bucharest, 1997, p.58.

[39] Cornel Vîlcu unpuiblished course in Linguistics for the 4th year English majors 2006 UBB Faculty of Letter Cluj, mimeos

[40] As an off the record fact, Kant, the German philosopher buttoned up to the very last button (of the spirit, of course!!!ha! ha!), when hearing about such a daring approach, said firmly and with a vexed German pride in morality and manners:”Out of the Question!”

Freud Sang In Sangfroid

by Patrick Călinescu

The guy next door is too typically American to exist for real in a Romanian textual world. However, he might as well eke it out from one space to another, the other, had texts, generally, been truly spatially separated like that.

He is a regular crooner, though. He hums away; he does it all day long. He just purses his lips into a worn out much spent leather wallet like mouth and carries his tunes along into the valley of the uninterested his neighborhood is so proudly teeming with. He turns his lips into the carnal bulwark of song that songs themselves have never crossed over. And then he slips into the harked silence you can easily imagine and later on probably sings inwardly to his out of tune self.

We don’t know what he does when he’s at it. Nobody knows because no one cares. He is just the guy next door too typically common and too within his own reach to be cared about and listened to when in strong shouting bouts for his not having been cared about and listened to by the incrementally soaring vertigo of this illogical loop. He should stop it while he can but, truth be told, if it ever is, he has no wish to do it while he’s at it when he hasn’t been at it for so long ever since his story began into an abrupt and soundless birth, courtesy of the woman biologically called his alleged mother. But he doesn’t know her. He was at the time merely slipping through that woman’s vagina loudly screaming out the slowness of gliding from one world to another, the other, and the time was too short for polite introductions that would’ve made her his mother per se. She was actually only a biological humaton delivery machine only too eager to complete its then current task and close for revision until such time another, the other, humaton would have her boot for another, the other, biological delivery. So they were both running out of time on their politeness and, consequently, they acted on it accordingly, slipping off each other casually and without remorse and without a single good bye on the record of his initial lip pursing or of her lip staying in line with its own labial demarcations.

This is his birth that he himself was a witness to while being its very subject. Soon after he screamed his way out of her motherly vagina and moved, on that cant night, to our neighborhood to be our improbable guy next door and all that already told. All told, he tuned out to be quite some piece of musical work we never knew how to work out but for the extraordinary event that dialogued its way into our world with a kind of brute force we never imagined his pursing lips were capable of.

Things went pretty much like this. I offered to stand witness to it all on behalf of everyone who was at that time at work, having jobs to do unless they got fired or something.

I met him in the street. Equally, he met me in the street, too. We both were on one of the street’s sidewalks, in that street, when we met running into each other while we were on opposite sides of parallel sidewalks within the lanes of the mentioned street.

He was unusually tall that day and unusually cast upon the ground by the tall shadow his image projected onto the sidewalk he was staying put on but there was something strange about his demeanor that made me believe otherwise. He was nevertheless very kind to me and even asked me in on the most comfortable part of his shadow, which of course I refused for fear I should bruise it in any pictorial way you might want to imagine. He then smiled appreciatively of my having paid attention to his imagistic extension and asked me in again to sit on the very same spot of shadow. While showing me the way, he explained to me his choice of place by saying that the bit of shadow he invited me to sit on was his shadow’s bunions, all collectively amassed into one single space, so they would naturally feel nothing of my bodily weight as they too had no nerves in them to feel anything with. I nodded in understanding of his explanation, bending my knowledge of it inwardly ground ward and smiled back to him while weighing in on which more prominent bunion of the collective bunions to sit. Then I chose my spot and dug myself in comfortably, actually enjoying the coolness of my séance when he told me I had chosen the perfect spot for our conversation to be safely carried out in the shade of his shadow. I thanked him for his generosity and, as a sign of appreciation, I sunk even deeper into the imprints that my buns had already left on his callous shadow. He, too, appreciated my feeling generously comfortable in his company and all this made him get cozy in the current situation. Then we kept silence for too many things were about to be said so they had to be properly observed. Quite unexpectedly, he wasn’t the kind of crooning rooster I naturally expected he would be. By neighborhood reports, of various degrees of sincerity, he was expected to croon away both loudly and mutely. But he wasn’t. He just stood there, shockingly out of tune for someone thought to be really melodious. I volunteered to break the silence by popping a stupid question out my disconcerted mind. He then took it upon himself to volunteer an equally stupid answer that his lips pursed forth into the space between us, which was shed whither and thither by glimpses of his better shadow. The exchange of similarly stupid retorts went on pretty much like this and they would’ve come more wisely, I think, had not the sage silence preceding it been so extremely superior to everything that succeeded it in earnest.

So, my draft of that initial two line dialogue:

Me: You sing a lot?

Him: Nope.

End of conversation – apparently. He kept on smiling as if my ass casting off any light that his shadow might have shed to any convincing degree ticked him most amusingly on both sides of his being: either on that his neighbors fantastically fancied about, or on that still belonging to his intimate knowledge of himself. Then he kept on smiling at me for no other reason than that of keeping me intrigued a little longer, while his whole shadow took the time of readjusting itself to the lack of my reciprocating smiles. Countless other words vanished into the silence that naturally ensued exhausting the small conversational torrent that we wouldn’t be able to drown ourselves in even if we did our best. Then we just looked at each other encompassing our wordy thoughts by bulwarks of inwardly hearkened silence outwardly dug into what we may never say. Still looking at each other, we came to a mute understanding that I should remain comfortably sunk into the many bunions amassing his shadow while he should keep on smiling at me as a necessary means of avoiding any further words to take the shape of our previously suspended dialogue. He forced his words, and mine, on our mutually agreed upon silence and everything seemed to be working just fine but for the extraordinary force of our hung dialogue, which worked its way out of silence by no other means than those of a repeated series of meaningless smiles on the part of this guy next door and, nothing else but that, on the part of my seemingly singular self.

So the following dialogue really took place between the two of them when they simply embodied this guy from our neighborhood and myself. It may only be an approximate draft of it for in the process of their becoming us some levels of accuracy have surely been lost to the benefit of other equally numerous levels of fictitious certitude.

So we were just talking. Actually, we had only just begun to talk. Our dialogue wasn’t faring too well: quite on the contrary. What else it still needed to be a real dialogue was yet to be voiced out. We nevertheless picked it up where we left it off. Its tone was finally fixed in sound by our next controversies.

Me: So you don’t sing a lot.

Him: Yep.

Me: Then you must sing a little.

Him: I guess not.

Me: So you don’t sing at all.

Him: Not true.

Me: You lost me despite my still sitting on your partially callous shadow.

Him: That doesn’t prove anything.

Me: What do you mean?

Him: You’ve been wrong all along.

Me: Throw it at me.

Him: I can’t sing. Never been able to. But my shadow can. The ticklish feeling your buns experienced when you were describing what this dialogue of ours will actually look like when finally voiced in its final draft form came from all the humming that it generated sub-sonically just to support your massive weight without falling apart and in the process leaving me shadowless on such a sunny day. That wouldn’t be nice, now, would it?

Me: Wait a minute. I thought we tacitly agreed on this day’s being anything but sunny, luminous or bright. I thought we agreed on its being quite the opposite of sunny, luminous or bright for the sake of emphasizing the strangeness of your casting a shadow in a sunless environment. And I also thought we agreed on delivering a non-American piece of fiction that would be rather verisimilar to the non-Romanian audience we’re supposed to be addressing.

Him: So what’s your point?

Me: My point is we shouldn’t be talking any differently than in the real dialogue that this is simply a draft of.

Him: And we’re not. This is as real as reality itself can get.

Me: But you can sing. And you can sing in cold blood, too. And you do it so well that no one has ever doubted your singing skills. But you nevertheless argue you never sing, that you shadow does, from the bottom of its shady bunions, so to speak.

Him: I can’t sing. But my shadow, the very shadow your ass is resting on, can. And pretty well, too.

Me: Let me see if I got it right… You mean you are not a singer, but your shadow is?

Him: Correct.

Me. And am I to believe such nonsense?

Him: You are.

Me: Even though it is merely nonsense?

Him: Indeed.

Me: But… this is too much. To begin with, how could a shadow, which doesn’t even really exist, ever sing? Then, how could you not sing, when you are, and do?

Him: My shadow does sing. It is its very hums that keep you afloat on its callous casting.

Me: Then, how do you explain what our neighbors can see? That you sing. You sing your time away. You have been seen singing all the time. By some veridical reports, you’ve even been seen singing when fast asleep. They say you were singing so loudly that your pitchiest snores were rendered inaudible by whatever tunes you sang. You were snoring, or you were singing, or maybe your snores turned into songs by means yet unknown and unexplained to us. But you were singing whenever you sang. No doubt about it. Lots of us, your neighbors, can testify to that.

Him: Not entirely so. But I can explain it quite easily. You all thought I sang. But I don’t. And I’m not. I just snore loudly. So maybe you all mistook my extremely sonorous snores for songs that I allegedly sing.

Me: No. That would be too easy to be true and too true to be easy.

Him: I don’t know what it would be like, but it’s true. I don’t sing. Never have. Never will. I snore. And I sleep a lot. That’s where my snoring comes from: vast amounts of sleep. I cast my shadow on the ground and then I fall asleep in its shade. It’s cool and nice in there. No pressure from the sun that has always woken me up before I was sufficiently awake to strengthen my shadow into the perfect napping nest it is now. Under its cover, and beneath its awning, fully protected from the harming sun, I can sleep all I want. There’s no way anyone can dictate how long I can sleep: nothing of that stuff. I just cast my shadow and fall asleep within its grasp. And I do sleep the most refreshing sleep. So this is what happens: nothing else but that. Sleep in the shade of my own shadow where I feel the most comfortable and secure.

Me: Wait a minute. That’s too fantastic to be either true or easy. First of all, how can you sleep when actually walking in the street or talking to people? Would you by any chance be sleeping even now? And what happens on cloudy days? You can cast no shadow when it’s overcast. Your shadow must sleep in the shade of the clouds above when it’s overcast. So what happens then?

Him: That would indeed be too fantastic for me to tell you as either something that’s true or easy. Are you sure you want to know it all?

Me: Just hit me.

Him: You must already have suspected my shadow is not your regular one. It has bunions on which you can rest your ass. It can sing although I, its caster, can’t. But that’s not all my shadow is. There’s much more to it than that. Truth be told, my shadow is completely unique. It doesn’t need a powerful light source to cast its body upon. My shadow is actually immune to any sort of light. I can even cast it in complete darkness. All it needs to be cast is my wishing to cast it again. And I wish it all the time because I’m very sleepy. It’s only in the shade of its protection that I can sleep the best. So whenever I get sleepy, which happens a lot during the day, I just cast it before me and lay my sleeping self on it and fall fast asleep. Then I can go on with all my work undisturbed and undeterred. My mind is so resting that all I do during its sleep is full of vigor and vitality. I am never tired because I’m never fully awake. My shadow keeps me from ever needing to sleep again while I actually sleep all the time. I am just smart enough to have developed the perfect kind of sleep. The sleep that you never wake yourself from, the sleep that always keeps you perfectly fresh without having to give up on one single of your snores. So what you all thought it was me singing away my time it actually was me snoring because I was sleeping my morning sleep, and then my noon one, followed by my afternoon one, completed by my evening one and finally perfected by my big night one, and so on, without interruption, or awakening, or without ever getting tired. So I sing my snores away, if you will. I cast my shadow on the ground every way I go and then I just sing my sleep away. Or sleep my songs away, if you prefer. It doesn’t matter which way you think it’s closest to reality, for both of them are.

Me: Then, you must be either the best fictitious liar I have ever come across, or the bizzarest form of freak I’ve ever run into, or perhaps both. So you do sleep but what we hear is not the voice of your singing, but the sound of your snoring. Then, may I ask, by what means have you acoustically turned your snores into songs? Why do we hear songs when we should hear snores? And disgustingly out of tune, too, I suppose.

Him: That’s simple enough to explain, as well. You won’t need much of a brain for such a facile explanation. None of you is within my shadow’s reach. None of you has ever gone beyond its perimeter to hear me in reality. It’s your being outside my shadow that renders me so fictitious. Had you ever been inside it, under its protective shade, you would have known better. But its exterior makes you think otherwise. Its outer margins have made me be a singer to you. Maybe its exterior borders on your eyes’ horizon line, where every confluence lies in every confluence, and then gets blurry and ultimately melts into the confusion that has made you so fantasize about me. It’s your eyes’ outsidedness that has created such an unlikely character in the un-splitting image of myself. This is all strange stuff but pretty commonsensical if you think more seriously about it. When looked at from outside my environment, I no longer am what I really am if looked at from inside my space. Somehow I lose my own self when others move me outside. I can only be what I really am when casting my shadow upon the ground. Outside it, I’m only everything all of you imagine I am. And that’s strange in yet another, the other, respect, too. Shadows are generally thought of distorting reality and making it somehow fictitious. When it comes to me, this is not happening anymore. It’s exactly the opposite: not only does my shadow not distort my image, but it also keeps it intact and true to its original structure. Outside it, I’m merely the product of your fantasies. Your clearness of thought and lack of shadow surprisingly mars reality in such a way that completely baffles me.

Me: Hold on out there. You’ve talked too much and been pretty inconsistent with yourself more than every now and then. You’ve spent too much effort on too much repetition and too much stress on repeating time and again the very same things. I got you. So you don’t sing. You only snore. So your shadow, unlike others, doesn’t distort your image. We do it. But this can’t be entirely true, even if it partially is. You shadow may not distort you when you look at its borders from well within its kernel but when looked at from well beyond its perimeter, things get considerably different. It then does distort you to such a degree that it turns your regular snores into songs. From our warping distance, all we hear is songs, not snores. So your shadow distorts reality: if not yours, definitely ours. Your reality of yourself may be held in check by your shadow but our reality of you can no longer be stopped to go astray. So how can you explain all that?

We had by that time been talking for too long to remember; and we had been walking for too long for any shadow, however strong, to remain in one piece exposed to the destructive forces of my sitting ass. All along the street, his shadow seemed to have been worn out by my buns, which for no moment during this interim did they stay put on either side of my buttocks. They played so intensely on the callous surface of his shadow that they literally deviated it off its casting course so now he had to put it back on track if ever he wanted to sleep again like he’s never awaken in his life. But with his shadow slightly steered off its casting course, luck might have struck me instead for this could give me the chance I needed to hear him snore without his shadow filtering it through the songs he allegedly sings. No sooner had I thought of that than I ran out of whatever ounce of luck I may initially have had. He veered his shadow back on track despite my buns’ continuous playfulness. Everything was again like it used to be, only better so. Being momentarily off track, his shadow only fell into a stricter casting mould that had him sleep by several more sonorous snoring levels. His shadow grew stronger on his sleep so he began to sing more loudly than ever.

While working his shadow back into its casting groove, he asked me whether I had chanced to ask him how he could explain to me that, irrespective of that’s original content, which had long been lost in the process of so complex a dialogue as this still ongoing one. And I replied in the positive, to which he replied in the negative, for he had no way in which to explain to me how and in what manner that would be achieved.

When we reached that point in our conversation, we had already been dialoging for too long for his shadow to maintain its poised cast upon the same ground he projected it onto. It had grown extremely difficult to do so especially because his shadow could not be consistent with the many places on the ground that he liked to cast it upon. Every now and then, his shadow would cast itself off the right word that he was supposed to give me in reply to my own right word, and that wasn’t good at all for the general sake of our dialogue, which was in this case in peril of becoming nothing short of two monologues, one, his own, in the shade of his shadow, and the other one, mine, completely exposed to the elements outside his shadow, which would in the long run even strip it of its monologue-like qualities. And all this could be happening without his ever waking up from his sleep. To me, that would be the end of his singing: the beginning of his snoring. To him, that would mean the end of his sleeping: the beginning of his awakening. It would truly be a catastrophic ending to both of us and to all our neighbors because music of the sleeping one would automatically be turned into snores of the awakened one. That would really spell an upside down ending to his easy story and that would only be the beginning of his true life completely outside his story and partially exterior to the unbalanced casting of his shadow, which alone would have made all this mess possible.

So Freud must necessarily keep on singing in cold blood lest he should wake up and begin to snore.

So Freud must be the guy next door who is too typically fictitious to exist for real outside his shadow and inside our music of him.

So Freud must necessarily keep on casting his shadow on the ground before our ears.

So Freud must necessarily keep on snoring to keep on singing so that he may, in cold blood, keep on casting his shadow upon the ground into our music of him.

And Freud sang in sangfroid about all this.

Last train to Cairo

by Luminiţa Petcu & Adrian Grauenfels
[English translation: Rafael Manory & Ion Vincent Danu]

How hard it is for me to leave,

more so because of your melancholic thoughts

without looking back, to search for the light left behind,

light you once used to touch my face and hands

when our ancestral fears penetrate our bones

fears of bitter truths scattered into an old,

heavy nightfall after long hours of love

always borrowing, our repeatable routine

a destiny condemned to relativity

crying in a dead language

a lonely bird turning after the sun

far away – since near-by exists no-longer

leaves that fall in front of you

never gales that could erase

our own traces,

of a last kiss,

in a Cairo museum



How shaken I am by a single gesture

that hurried kiss on a Montmartre bench

I was holding your hand tight

I was looking for you in corners with no light

blinking my eyes attempting to perceive your crevasses,

of which you were unable to get out

but you were mimicking an utmost happiness

everything seemed extrapolated to the fifth decimal digit

and yes, your knee did hurt me

the eye hidden in my left palm

the hurried departures did cause me pain,

the one-way train tickets

my body did contract with every ship siren

I have a pathological uneasiness

when your hand,

absentmindedly raises to gather the hair on your back

with a simple gesture,

devoid of living.



I want to tell you multifaceted truths

Some limpid and some fancy, as some fully epilated feet

other murky, my peasant's brain being what it is

full of happenings and corridas

love affairs and their pregnant absence

I roll myself in a ball

porcupine at your door, hoping that you'll pick me up

on your porch and talk to me

talk to me in old Greek about the negation of my spikes

about the solace I wait for

a hundred years now

just like a summer resurrection

oh, come, gentle and full of bitter tears

on your bitten (bloody) lips

I count you with my eyes, with my clepsidra

my time is your time by now


I've learned to wait and count the days

on your sun-bleached mane

and love the sublimation where

the Avignon Pieta didn't arrived yet

better to have your shadow and your unique voice

on bas-reliefs on details of Venetian masters

another frantic Wednesday

of my galatea time

to pronounce moonstruck speeches

somewhere on the line between possible

and impossible

an aesthetic right in the middle of the summer

it's a long time now since

we don't know anymore

who we are

we still do have some time

to browse for all lives

among bare scorching stones..

Psychedelic Trance

by Diana Todea

You danced in my dreams as a raindrop,
Your blue eyes melted my conscience,
your breathing leveling with mine,

I wish this night to last in heaven,
we are dancers in a psychedelic trance,
my hands reach beyond this hour,
lasting forever as the rain melts in water,

You hypnotized my breath, I cannot see your soul,
You and I forever more,
ice tunnels
loving forever more.

A Crazy Night

by Diana Todea

Last night I slept in front of the telly,
the image sucked me in like a drink of LSD,
distorting my face and making me float.

Inside the virtual realm, I was trapped among sounds and psychedelic dreams,
searching for a paradise made of blue ribbons,
a family and a white Christmas,
at one point meeting Elvis turned out to be a great surprise,
and kissing a kangaroo became the most insane experience of my life,
every move inside the tube contorted my mind,
the reality mesmerized me,
was it natural or fake?

And so my crazy night began-
my head asleep on a caramel moon,
walls breathing in a velvet room,
some green sonata and plastic shells danced around me,
the white was turning red and angel kisses dropped on my neck,
what could be more divine?

Dreaming inside an artificial realm,
thinking that breathing is eating
and loving is smiling,
my mind travelled in the outer space,
just like the agent in Solaris game,
a mind that can be more than brain,
a heart that can become insane!

Russian Love

by Diana Todea

I was in the narrow place inside my mind,
which I define it to be-loneliness,
as an atom flying around, never landing,
like the snow drowning inside the mouth of a Russian child,
the narrow place dissolved my feelings,
what is love when sadness is big enough to fill blue eyes?
where all the love goes when nobody is near to hold you?
are you my Russian storyteller or just a beggar outside the doors to my soul?
I was flying in an empty space with only 3 seconds left to live.


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