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From: "Tom Taylor" <>
Organization: PSU Cramer Hall
To: (recipient list suppressed by xian)
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 1996 15:41:18 PST
Subject: Diction 
Priority: normal

A N A B A S I S    E L E C T R O N I C
        S P E C I A L    P A P E R

               D  I  C  T  I  O  N

            Thomas Lowe Taylor
                 General Editor


<Diction (part 1) snipped by xian>
Stephen Ellis
	 -from 2 letters


	...diction, L. dictio, pp. of dicere, to say, orig. 'to point out in words'  
as a speaking.
				not so fiercely opposed to 
grammar, i.e., 'the whole apparatus of literary study' but perhaps more the 
nimbus w/in these "confines".  this 'speaking' seems a primary curriculum, an 
active term of study, back from Homer, say, to get the Arges again in full sail - 
the 'trial/trail' then the voyage thru the Speakable - the common - unrehearsed 
(!) - i.e., if there is NEED to 'rehearse' the common, how common can it BE?  
and where dies this put writing, vis-a-vis it being not so much a codification of 
that rehearsal?  Olson (& Clarke - and Clark Coolidge, so some extent, say the 
whole LANGUAGE proposition, in part) still bears significantly on this issue. 
The issue being, the temporally formal.  Writ has to remain a 'speakable 
voyage' if it is to have value - discussable - as in 'therapy' as exchange (from 
whence to understand HOW 'law' is this permanentized rather than (to get its 
BEAT) valorized....
	The nature of this thing do w/ accelerating TEXT past its most 
obvious definitions, and into the more primary question of method - how to 
sustain the necessary harmonics of relation, to encourage the fluid, the fluent 
(as Clarke got from 'analogy', or Olson, his (misunderstood) 'allegory'): to enact 
the questions ('speaking', again) so not to make any answer redundant.  Any 
other seeking after 'plurality' is the burn-mark (brand-name) that remains 
enforcedly NATAL.  Undiscovered/covered-the Childe enclosed (engulfed) in 
aeons of soft-sweet sadness, rather than simply, nakedly, availably THERE.  in 
conflictis, yet valuably so, as Vincent Ferrini is currently in tremendous 
mastery of (alas, ignored)....



	Interesting implex, this diction business, as yr own 'word choice' 
extends, of course, as everything does, after the fact of itself, into, well, as it's 
guided in some sense, toward, health(?) - that's if learning has some practical 
application for other than to its own sake, as, the aesthetics of the body, 
corporeal life the embodiment of whatever estate one finds themselves within 
the limits (advantage!) of, as it makes itself known, to, and as, the forms of (its) 
feeling - 'things' that pass, a kind of counting that makes a visceral 'crowning', 
as to each evening its stars possible (meaningful) - each dictum a passing 
reference that leaves its interweaving trace as the floor the mind sets its favorite 
things out upon, 'as if' t'were indeed the 'dance' that it in actuality ever IS - a 
'floor' sewn with 'seeds' - so (just maybe) there is in back of 'diction' just that 
stream of vision that produces same, and the question therefore points to one 
of actual value, especially in that (again, just maybe) the 
L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E group hasn't really been 'feeding' anyone, as per, look, 
just what ARE one's "favorite things?" [& how might they be proffered, 
primped by whatever 'pomp-and-circumstance' is necessary toward making 
them other than codified self-aggrandisement? (the whole 'problem of 
reference' is just the university ditty, "ding-dong the hitch is dead" - as if that 
could produce any thing that more than analogously [merely] an effort toward 
'freedom' studded with the good fortune of 'tenure.']

diction, L dictio, a speaking pp. of L dicere, to point out in words Gr deiknynai, to prove, Ger zeigen, to show, OE teon, to 
accuse, taecan, TEACH

	teach, ME techen TEACH, TOE, DIGIT, DICTION -- a sign,
	indication, symbol, sample, [syn., PLEDGE]

	pledge, ME plegge< plevium, security 
	warranty, infl. by Frank *pligi. liability, akin to OS
	plegen, to warrant, "the condition of being held or given as
	security for a contract (or promise); also, a toast (of

	digit: finger, toe, inch, orig. any of the numbers 0-9,
	'cause all was counted 'pon one's own digits.

					but the 'accounting' of that also implies 
"toe hold" - a 'digging in' (also 'toeing the mark') - even as it is our TOES wch, 
like the tails of dinosaurs, are one of the more important elements in keeping 
one's balance in the sheer 'accounting' of each step - i.e., that they (toes) are 
TELLING.  thus, to bring it back to diction, telling of just what, exactly - 
TOES leave the likes of letters in the sand w/ each step (given that yr going' to 
the beach every weekend!) -- you count on yr fingers, but you remember w/ yr 
toes given that they are what most obviously are imbedded in the matter of the 
moment -- fingers are sensitive, toes are "of an more steady apprehension", the 
'sounding' of wch keeps one in concert with precisely that sense of PLEDGE as 
a 'grip upon' "each forth along each their own trail", plurality for sure, not 
KULTURAL so much as to each individual in his/ her own ability to receive, 
the RATE (truly what diction might point out) of the common occurring 
profoundly within the locally possibly and fortunately small 'pledge' that counts 
anywhere between 0 and 9 - & each that, our own tithe, moment attached to 
moment as life's only true lineage, and thru wch diction's allowed to indentify, 
what shall we call it, The Family Name.....

	A 'behavior' and 'a method' are productive contradistinctively as to 
what their confluence 'dictates', we're in the realm of counting here, say, the 
rungs of the ladder that must then be climbed - though not to emphasize duality 
- 'up' and 'down', as either way, as you call it 'the rush' is what overtakes the 
moment at any rung (& there's your 'constancy'!) - 'that which exists through 
yourself' - such that a composition is located essentially 'beyond itself' (like in 
the song just came o'er the radio, "Stuck In The Middle With You") at the 
outset, and that the apprehension of that 'place' cognitively is 'a result of' the 
strengthening action that both makes the soul 'dry' and the 'construction' (of it) 
on foundations that are thus sufficient to supporting it - the presence of 'the 
mysterious' itself essentially what is 'outside' the parameters of the construction 
of 'the temple' (Gr: "back of head") materially, yet is referred to precisely as 
such construction's extent.  Diction is thus forwarded as the 'sound 
construction' (the projective)that alone is able of producing the 'tokens' that 
mark the whirlpool whence 'behavior' and 'methodology' commingle - the litral 
'ark' of Utnapishtim which not only was not necessarily 'a ship', but also was a 
stone - either of which was 'square[d]' - and both of which were meant to 
'excite the waters' whilst keeping them 'at bay' such that the literal 'source' of 
materials on which to work also defined its limits as Bellerophon's invocation 
via Poseidon of a 'flood' against Iobates contradictionedly loosed from within 
Iobates' temple (the equivalent 'object' of Bellerophon's quest against Iobates' 
'ingratitudes') the Xanthian women, who hoisted their skirts above their waists, 
and rushed Bellerophon butt-first, offering themselves to him if he would only 
relent.  Bellerophon turned tail and fled, as this wasn't the 'flood' he'd had in 
mind - an object lesson of the invocatory 'power' position is capable of, i.e., the 
'undescribable' IS described 'elsewhere' - (as behavior come incidentally to 
'instruct' the former restrictions of the methodology that unwittingly 
encouraged it.)  So, sure, the 'journey' as you say, is 'it', though only insofar as 
you do admit there be actual 'beads' to string on its 'thread' - beads as word-
choice, and word-choice made 'new' only by reference to that which in actuality 
has been so felt - the 'innate', including the extent to which the person of it does 
deliver his/her excursion' of it (that 'innate') through to the aeration of - the 
'playing' - the 'leading ledger' (first blurts) of - the con(ed) from which might 
lilies rise.  The unexpected whose 'ground' has yet been thoroughly laid - the 
group ensemble and solo work, unhedged, that the best of 'head arrangements' 
allows - and includes maximal possibility of 'dishin' on so-and-so', making the 
whole time' a rune-bridge, dictated across as epaoide, 'to lay a trip on', & as 
"precision abiding in passion to 1st powers' / invocation, flooding amor, cor, 
flor / by analogy, no mere repeating of the magic / words, but making mum to 
an act shimmer" - diction as that sound(ing) knot.


Ivor Winters (In Defense of Reason)

	...The poem, to be perfect, should likewise be a new word in the same 
sense, a word of which the line, as we have defined it*, is merely a syllable.  
Such a word is, of course, composed of much more than he sum of its words 
(as one normally uses the term) and its syntax.  It is composed of an almost 
fluid complex, if the adjective and the noun are not too nearly contradictory, of 
relationships between words (in the normal sense of the term), a relationship 
involving rational content, cadences, rhymes, juxtapositions, literary and other 
connotations, inversions, and so on, almost indefinitely.  These relationships, it 
should be obvious, extend the poet's vocabulary incalculably.  They partake of 
the fluidity and unpredictability of experience and so provide a means of 
treating experience with precision and freedom.  If the poet does not wish, as, 
actually, he seldom does, to reproduce a given experience with approximate 
exactitude, he can employ the experience as a basis for a new experience that 
will be just as real, in the sense of being particular, and perhaps more valuable.

	*...the poetic line...should be a functioning part of the larger complex, 
or poem.  This is, imagine, what Mallarme should have had in mind when he 
demanded that the poetic line be a new word, not found in any dictionary, and 
partaking of the nature of incantation (that is, having the power to materialize, 
or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, being, a new experience).


Style is psychoactive                                                      Thomas Lowe Taylor

Suddenly there is no cultural history.  Maybe it snuck up on us, but I prefer to 
think of it as a coincidence of critical mass and the cumulative effect of the past 
20 years of media-glut.  There are I suppose some consequences of the post 
WW2 turnaround.  Not only the death of the image, flattening the canvas to a 
two dimensional phenomenology but the cumulative effect of surrealism 
moving from a cult of secrecy to basic fare from the ads, this rendering of a 
intentionally & privately obscure code becoming common discourse ("It was Surreal, 
man.")  An ironic success for the for the Surreal, to create a world in its own 
image.  But the flattening of the epoch into an oppressive immediacy bears 
some examination.  First of all, the audience has become frighteningly literate, 
at a nonverbal level, it is Hip.  It responds primitively to a sophisticated set of 
signals or messages, but you can't fool it (all of the time...);  the main 
consequence of this immediacy, what makes us "hostage to the moment", is a 
subsequent flattening of all doctrines whereby none is  ascendent--it is an 
entirely `democratic' situation in which each school of thought has its direction 
discretion and no body is right.  In fact "being right" seems to have nothing to 
do with anything.  Nor being wrong, for that matter, every man has the right to 
be whatever kind of fool he wants to be.

What this means to poets is the same was what it means to everyone else--if 
nobody is right and nobody is wrong, or, rather, if it doesn't make any 
difference, how then do you talk about things.  It used to be you'd compare an item, 
a poem, say, to the existing canon and see if it came up short, succeeded, or, 
perhaps, lead the way to something new.  Here in the third generation of "do 
your own thing" there is no established canon, and the elitists who act as if 
there were one are, uh, cute.  I don't buy into too much of this. There is a future, of 
course, and we all have a place in it.  It's fine to talk about the past, but all 
those fine writers we get compared with are dead and we're the only game in 
town.  That seems important to me when talking about a basically closed 
shop that seems to exist at present.

Times change and with that change what was once disallowed 
becomes the rule, or gets its fifteen minutes, whatever.  Measuring a poetics 
against itself is a different matter.  We are hostage to the moment 
because we want it that way, we chose to imbed ourselves in the cultural 
immediacy of being present in the present--after all, one of the mystical goals of 
self effacement.  Poetry is a progressive series of seizures on the part 
of the practitioner, and the cumulative effect of those seizures is that one 
develops and improves or else one stagnates and withers on the vine like 
yesterday's eggplant.  This vitality is manifest, measured by the feel of the 
work, how it strikes you living in your own present; to that extent, yes, 
indeed, syntax is psychoactive, you get a little thrill after you've weeded your 
way through a complicated transmission and arrived at the end with a sense of 
completion, of  'passing beyond.'      It is the poet's task to take 
you there, into the beyond, by hooking you onto his little red pony and pushing 
through the fog into the next room.  That's the job.  

There is a statement from Gertrude in What Are Masterpieces.... to the 
effect that since each of us lives in our own time,  when it comes 
around to voicing what and who we are, we do so in the character of the 
moment in which we find ourselves, for we can do nothing else.  To do 
otherwise, that is, to write a complicated poetry from another time, is, well, 
nostalgic and vital, but it does nothing to advance the cause.  I'm sure this will 
piss somebody off, but now that the avant garde is just another school of 
thought, embedded in the soul of the academy as tomorrow's salvation, where 
then is the so-called leading edge, why is it invisible and where is it going and 
how do you know when you've bit into an olive?  By its taste?  Hence the focus on 
Diction, it being an examination of the smaller units of the poem to discover 
what kind of glue holds them together and whether the current crisis, which is as
much epistemological as it is anything, is getting anywhere.

Of course, criticism and theory have done little but confuse the issue by 
competing with the poem for primacy in the cultural dialog.  If in the present 
where all arguments are reduced to the same platform where none is right and 
none is wrong, all you get is your fifteen minutes on the soapbox and it's time 
for the next one.  This is what bothers us about the Slam, not that 
it's competetive, but that it reduces to mob rule the ivory towered moment of 
purity and grace; nonetheless, what rises to the surface is usually what is 
permitted to do so by the relative buoyancy of the medium itself.  So
what has been there, so-called Language Poetry, got on center 
stage because it was safe, it involved a celebration of consciousness without 
any of the messy, spiritual stuff which usually accompanies that venue.  LangPo 
really worked over a lot of territory which actually precedes the poem, issues 
of resemblance and repetition, issues of consistency and sense, the vague 
feeling that one was being lied to, or at least that the deeply true and private 
self of the writer either did not exist (a currently attractive notion = there Is no 
self), or that if it did, it was all a game to get five pounds into a four pound bag.

Disruptions of syntax, or the development of the Disjunkt into an ascendant 
style is cause for alarm if one is stuck there.  The progress of styles is 
seen to be a progress in the direction of self improvement if not self effacement. 
The disjunkt is just that, an admixture of styles which declares all states equal 
in the range of their attributes and in the succession of their operations into a new 
whole.  Nonetheless it arises from a hopeless state of confusion.  It's like trying 
to make a decision when you're having a nervous breakdown, all possibilities 
seem to have equal value and one vacilates from one choice to its opposite in a 
continual disarray of decision or growth.  I mean, it's kind of amazing how an invented 
style, as Lang Po was invented, can be proposed and run through an entire 
gamut of acquisitions and disarmaments to become ensconced in the academy 
in less than 20 years, it is suspect to say the least; it smacks of manipulation.  
However, it just, uh, was all that could get through, this dry, non-
musical, definitely non-sappy stuff.  It makes you feel like your skin is covered 
with words, you almost want to wash them off.

And carrying on without music or what's called prosody, technical practices exiled 
without ceremony, the celebratory and hypnotic trance-dance only language 
can create effaced to a set of simpler operations which held the creation of 
trance states to be somewhat illegitimate; nonetheless, the sustaining of the 
disjunkt into a major style is a little like making schizophrenia legal, haven't we?

We are, after all, selling little trips in our poems, and if it feels good, one lets it 
in, and that's where syntax is psychoactive, you can tell how it fits and feels and 
you let it in, and that teaches you to lower your guard and let new information 
in, this is the messaging of the poem, how it Feels in a phenomenological state: 
I mean, now that the criteria for judgement are all reduced to equals, all that's 
left is for me to note how the poem makes me feel, and if I assume the writer is 
being sincere, not always a good guess, as I hope we can note later, I alter my 
inner mood and go with the writer as long as I can trust the intent of the 
message, then I sign off.  And the relevant features here also need to be 
described in terms of presssure, release, time and space perceptions, what sort 
of state the writer is communicating in his non-verbal arrangements.  It is no 
longer a matter of opening the door to let the cat out, we have to decipher a 
strange set of signals and scan them for sincerity.  I think the language with 
which we talk about poems is up for review--how the poem works as an 
organic, phenomenological enterprise, part of my experiencing, enables us to 
discuss poems as events, events which open and close according to what is in 
them, what specific phlogiston enables the phrases and units themselves to 
imply a cosmos, for that's what is happening, each unit becomes the bearer of 
the dna of its message, and if the speaker is not at rest, then, too, the
message is not at rest.  

This is the morality of what we are doing, what cannot be expunged from the 
enterprise at all.  If a style is also a behavior, and it is, that one cannot hide 
what he is in what he is doing, we are that transparent.  Then, too, we must 
consider what we are about as people, we are obviously trying to grow and 
become more complete individuals, more in synch with the world in which we 
write, and that is also expressed; we look at the poem as a sample of what a 
person actually is in relation to all of these assumptions we make about life, 
that, for instance, we are writing to get somewhere, to explore this unknown 
we have blundered into, that we are mapping out an area that is strange to us 
and we are returning these reports to share with the others, to lead into areas 
where no man has gone before, as it were, V GER to our self.  This we share in 
our fragments.  Remember Archilocus' [In discovers...that] the 
total frag.

And so in the body language of the poem, an entire aesthetic and its cosmos are 
described, defined, given holographic presence for a fraction of a second, and 
when my attention is down for that fraction of a second, I'm receptive to a 
degree of reprogramming, to a resettling of my own vocabulary to receive 
something somewhat new or different from what i'm used to.  The didactic.  
And so styles must evolve or the message becomes stagnated and the style 
empty and safe, a haven for the insecure and stodgy, and while the most wildly 
associative stuff may come out, it may be seen as being guided by a kind of 
safety, a reveling in what is disjunkt for its own sake, for the comfort of being 
somewhere at all.  After a while, you just do.  Those incipient questions no 
longer nag you, it just doesn't matter; and when you do what you do, that's 
enough, returned to the realm of play, returned to the realm of just happening, 
poems occurring as naturally as  leaves sprouting from a tree, spontaneous 
extensions of who we are.


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