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Saturday, July 5, 2008

The machine that says: "I'm possible"

a review of Michael Peters' Vaast Bin; n Ephemerisi (Calamari Press, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-9798080-0-5)

by Michael Jonik

Michael Peters has not written a book of poems, nor drawn a series of diagrams, nor composed a score.  He has built a machine.  What type of machine? His Vaast Bin; n Ephemerisi is clearly a text-machine or word-processor, at once a sound-poem, visual-poem, and tone-poem, but to call it any of these alone would be to arrest it in its motion.  It is at once star-machine, animal-machine, imagination-machine, desire-machine, blade duplicator-machine, elektrope-machine, and absorption plate-machine. It combines a spare part from Klee’s Twittering Machine and one from Alan Turing’s Machine, it takes the keypad from Joyce’s typewriter and the sharp-point of Brahe’s stylus. Yet, the Vaast bin is maybe better labeled a locomotive-machine. The experience of reading the Vaast Bin; n Ephemerisi is much like the experience of a boy watching a freight-train roll by for the first time.  Its genre is excitement, excitement in the now, of the now, what the now means in extension, etc etc etc…

To a great extent, Peters’ work is textual investigation of this now, of the stroboscope of train-cars passing before the mind’s eye. Through its innovative inter-combinations or words, ideas, graphs, and marks, it works to say this “at once,” – at once in its structure and genesis. For Peters, this now is divided or is division itself, it is the cut, the present’s perpetual becoming-other, its ephemerisi.  As Peters writes in “Vaast bin – 1 } 15” (read “vast bin minus one becoming fifteen”): “a noth is in the now } in bird laughter/in wind synchronous to an un-power…in a spanning happening”  The now, the “spanning happening” is the opening of the instant, an opening of blank (textual) space into which we write each instant.  Time and again throughout the series, Peters opens and reopens how we can think of this now, providing us with a rich, varied and dynamic vocabulary for how to articulate its opening forth.  The now is the possibility of all our æffects and attractions, it is the radiating, radiant, and radical opening of the new in life, its celebration. It is each new now of words pressing to be said “Right now!” in the unguarded heat of the instant of living. Peters renders a sound-picture of the ongoing performance of this perforation, puncture, or punctuation of language in the instant, always forward “to ward the word.” 

Thus Peters approaches Joyce’s exfoliation of the “myriadminded instant” in Finnegans Wake, but with a cardinal difference: Peters never reintegrates his exfoliation back into a systematic cosmic all-now (the HCE family, reterritorialized language, the wholeness of the Book, even as a recursive structure) as Joyce attempts to. Rather he unhinges the now into an unbounded series of potentials, opening language, locution, and our ongoing temporal experience of each.  To be sure, Peters’ sonic and graphic language games, puns, captions and diagrams are a sub species of the Joycean æternity. But Peters lets his star points each go super nova, to shoot like comets (or comas or commas) across the black-ink of night.  In other words, to maintain for one more moment this Wakean lexicon, Peters allows the “nonce ends” of each instant to open out in both directions. The vaast bin is the vastness of what has been, its coordinate is the crossroads of Chronos and Aeon.

This evidences the often explicitly Deleuzian charge of the bin: its series follows the form of the n-1, whereby the n becomes the container or vaast bin itself, never filling quite to completion but always subtracting something as it accretes, always leaving something over for the next in the series.  Repetition is always difference, in that it gains in complexity as it becomes other than itself. In its succession (again the spanning of happening) it always is becoming other (and thus less than it was and at once more as it progresses in the series). Peters in this way could be said to explore notions of seriality Deleuze outlines in the Logic of Sense. But, in his Vaast Bin, Peters proposes a sort of “Logic of ‘Nonce ends.’” Though we must be quick to add, if Peters produces a logic of “non-sense,” it is non-sense in the best sense.  It is the (non)sense that overflows each instant of language, “rendering the sense of all yet’s unsung”

Including Deleuze, Peters hides his interlocutors, or rather immerses them within the welter of his word-static. His affinity is clearly with the poet-thinkers: Kostelantz, Blanchot, Charles Olson, Allen Fisher; the thinker-poets of other media and materials: Robert Smithson, R. Buckminster Fuller, Franz Kline, Petr Kotik, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and lesser known figures like Fleury Colon (modernist engineer and architect, the Norman cum Quebecois counterpart to Fuller), and contemporary sound and visual poets such as the Be-Blank consort. Each becomes another, perpetually joining or rather co-joining the “chorale machinations of distortion” of his noise-writing-machine.  He sets each of his sources in motion. He polishes Colon’s keen sense of metallurgy into further alchemico-textual potentials in a way that would make Brahe jealous. He draws up a living rhizosphere, gesturing to the vast earth-brain of Gustav Fechner; he scopes out a star chart or two, but smashes the quadrant with as much gusto as Ahab ever would. By bringing together all these sources into the penumbra of the bin (philosophical, aesthetic, musical, scientific), the Vaast bin, fits in the lineage of experimental works that each have that have both substantial referential resources and the rare ability to lift themselves out of themselves, to move. Peters thus draws a line in the sand for the current avant-garde. Like Schwitters, Cage, or Joyce, or later sound and concrete poetry, the bin opens out onto all perceptible planes. Peters’ drawings and animations perform an extension of his typographical figures, allying them with and extending them into a series of related geometrical shapes.  Punctuation marks proliferate: periods, apostrophes, commas, dashes, colons, and “beaks ( })” etc. commingle with if not “beak-come” the spiral, the cone, the and point in his drawings. The drawings, along with Peters’ handwritten titles, give us the point of his own stylus, superposing another intimate plane onto the textual face. Besides all this, the bin often offers us some sound advice: “ride your bird”; “you’ll have tilt your star machine projector out”; “you’ll have to pour your form from a sphere/into genealogies of dispersal, into radiant white combers”; and, perhaps best of all, “Un-practice yourself.” 

If, as Frank Zappa once said, the “crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe,” for Peters the cookie is a priori crumbled; he thus presents everything as it is, fractured, fractaled, plural. All is a “fertilized (fertilizing) cluster.”  Unlike Stefan George,  for Peters, where word breaks off every-thing must be, the everything that is the same as the opening itself, or the opening for the self.  If the vaast bin is another way of saying the immensity in which we find ourselves, it’s “bin” is the ontological statement of us often lost, in our own locomotion, in the midst of everything. (“O I am, am I?”).  It is indeed the apostrophe (or the “strophe slanger” as Peters writes) that keeps the “impossible” as the “I’m possible.”  His text performs the joy of this “I’m possible” the crux of which is its apostrophe, its spacing, its etcetera. It says: “I will stand amidst everything” no matter how impossible it might seem – everything that is, in its crumbled, chaotic multiplicity.

It keeps on saying:

          — "everything"

and yet
    here I am

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