0.0 Rodney told me that he was reading Barrett Watten's book The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics and that he saw my name in the index.

0.1 I knew that I had been quoted in one of Watten's essays, because he asked permission to quote me (even though I don't think, strictly speaking, that was necessary, but it was polite to be sure). But this was many years ago.

1.0 My quote consists of one word. I happened to participate in a discussion on the Poetics list back in 1999. I was mostly a lurker on that list, but I had an idea to contribute to this analysis of a word fragment in a poem by Lyn Hejinian, and it this group effort to construct meaning in a resistant text that Watten decided to write about.

2.0 I have only glanced through the book, and don't yet have much more to say about it other than "Hey, I'm in here!" But, hey, I'm in here! I got the book from the library, looked at my name in the index, and then on page 99, and I had a strange sensation. I suddenly felt that I actually existed. My existence was textually confirmed.

2.1 I've had this experience before -- the first time I was in an anthology of student writings, the first time I was mentioned in a newspaper, the first time I had a large article about me in a newspaper, the first time I had a chapbook published by someone else, the first time my music got reviewed... And this is just a little throwaway mention in an experimental poet's book of critical essays, a dense and post-Hegelian analysis that one cannot imagine will ever be widely read (I'm not even sure I will do more than browse it, and I'm interested in its topic and mentioned in the text).

2.2 But it serves as a nice reminder (not that I'm sure I needed one) that when I look at, say, a medieval text where someone is mentioned in passing, where that is all that has been recorded about that person, that that is not in fact all there was to that person, and that the way that person happened to intersect with history may not tell you much about what that person was like.

1.1 Or maybe it does? After all, I think you could make a reasonable strong argument that I am the sort of person who would suggest "Aberdeen" in such a list, that there is a certain amount of humor and seriousness tied up in that suggestion that is typical of my poetics and personality, etc., etc.

1.2 Though for those familiar with the rest of my poetics, it might be clearer that my suggestion of "Aberdeen" was not meant to help create meaning at all, since I found the whole discussion a bit ridiculous. My suggestion was meant to complicate the creation of meaning, to provide an unlikely reading that still might follow the "rules"; I was presenting a possibility that I thought was plausible but absurd. Later in Watten's paragraph, you can see the results of such destabilizing of meaning; meta arguments are brought into play, the meanings of other words become destabilized, etc. Oh etc. Et cetera. And then the bombing of Kosovo. Et cetera.

0.2 I am especially glad to have made it into an index before I made it into a footnote.


  1. R. Allen Snider said...

    A hearty Ivory Tower bravo to you.  


Template based on one by GeckoandFly which was modified and converted to Blogger Beta by Blogcrowds.