Tuesday, 1 May 2018

(ROUGH DRAFT) Burn up as Trust Plasma: On Precarity and Poetry Iterations and rhythms in J.H.Prynne and Keston Sutherland


Burn up as Trust Plasma: 
On Precarity and Poetry
Iterations and rhythms in 
J.H.Prynne and Keston Sutherland  

The voice, as active hearing, is the pure self positing itself as universal, expressing pain, desire, joy, contentment. Every animal suffering violent death has a voice, and thereby declares its own supersession. In voice, sense returns to inwardness and is negative self or desire – the feeling of its insubstantial nature as mere space, whereas the senses are saturated, filled space.
G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature
For in lyric both form and content are provided precisely not by the external world or by individual action but by the poet himself in his own personal character.
G. W. F. Hegel, Aesthetics

Lyric poetry can ignore the phenomenalisation of the first nature and can create a protean mythology of substantial subjectivity out of the constitutive strength of its ignorance. In lyric poetry, only the great moment exists, the moment at which the meaningful unity of nature and soul or their meaningful divorce, the necessary and affirmed loneliness of the soul becomes eternal. At the lyrical moment the purest interiority of the soul, set apart from duration without choice, lifted above the obscurely-determined multiplicity of things, solidifies into substance; whilst alien, unknowable nature is driven from within, to agglomerate into a symbol that is illuminated throughout. Yet this relationship between soul and nature can be produced only at lyrical moment. Otherwise, nature is transformed-because of its lack of meaning-into a kind of picturesque lumber-room of sensuous symbols for literature; it seems to be fixed in its bewitched mobility and can only be reduced to a meaningfully animated calm by the magic word of lyricism. Such moments are constitutive and form-determining only for lyric poetry; only in lyric poetry do these direct, sudden flashes of the substance become like lost original manuscripts suddenly made legible; only in lyric poetry is the subject, the vehicle of such experiences, transformed into the sole carrier of meaning, the only true reality. 
Georg Lukacs, Theory of the Novel

The ‘I’ whose voice is herd in the lyric is an ‘I’ that defines the expresses itself as something opposed to the collective, to objectivity; it is not immediately at one with the nature to which its expression refers. It has lost it, as it were, and attempts to restore it through animation, through immersion in the ‘I’ itself. It is only through humanisation that nature is to be restored the rights that human domination took from it. Even lyric works in which no trace of conventional and concrete existence, no crude materiality remains, the greatest lyric works in our language, owe their quality to the force with which the ‘I’ creates the illusion of nature emerging from alienation. Their pure subjectivity, the aspect of them that appears seamless and harmonious, bears witness to its opposite, to suffering in an existence alien to the subject and to love for it as well-indeed, their harmoniousness is actually nothing but the mutual accord of this suffering and this love. 
Adorno, On Lyric Poetry and Society

Throughout the course of this essay I will go on to argue the lyric as it has been deployed by two contemporary British poets. Here I wish to detail the ways in which both poets share intellectually ambitious projects that go against the provincial timidity usually expected of English verse. Both poets have worked or deployed the lyric or lyrical features of poetic construction to force the expressive contradictions of language under capitalism. It is here that we can begin to explore not only the variation of poetry produced, but the question or questions that extend out of this kind of poetry, as it foregrounds the construction of the subjective in language and the promise of interiority. 
I will attempt to trace the ways in which both Prynne and Sutherland’s poetic constructions loop and repeat by dis-articulating across the textual space of the poem itself, where the terms of poetic violence as experience of ‘unrestrained individuation’ (1) takes place. It is this term, as articulated in ‘Lyric Poetry and Society’ by Theodore Adorno, which historicises lyric poetry’s distance from language’s employment within every day communication. Adorno states that within the pressures of the fin de siècle exacted by a rapidly developing capitalism, European lyric risked all by distancing itself from every day language
In the preceding passages, I will attempt to chart the ways in which the experience of ‘precarity’ is constitutively and ontologically altering subjecthood and the modalities of (non)communication, wherein the varied cartographies of social crises of capitalism form and deform the bodies and activities of those subjects forced to survive within them. We can in turn begin to think the conflictual field of the material effects of language when affixed to the laws of state and economy as instrumentalised assets. I must stress that the poets think through in this text do not offer to heal damaged life, as per a conception of poetry’s ‘exceptionalism’ but rather to they seek an alternative means of surviving capitalism. To read unanswerable questions closely is to ask with Anne Boyer, in her essay ‘Questions for Poets’: 
What is the direct trial that is today? Is it the grim work of mimesis, the paralysis of speculation, the soft disappointment of prefiguration? Is it the cruel history of enlightenment or the crueler history of romanticism or the cruellest history of modernism? Is it to end the 20th century or end the 21st century or the end of all centuries and pseudo-cyclical time? 
Is it the trial of survival? Is it austerity? Is it state violence? Is it wage labour? Is it reproductive labour? Is it the furnace of affliction? Is it the womb of fire? Is it art, culture, capital, borders, getting past borders? Is it how to collapse a structure that we know will fall on our own heads?
Is it memorializing an hour of pain, two hours of pleasure, eight hours of boredom, each night of worry, fifteen days of resistance, a decade of friendship, twenty minutes of assault, a dream in which our atomization ceases, a geography we imagine in which our care could multiply? Does it send new ships, to seek what new feeling can be felt? Is it gymnastic? Is it in a startling cadence? Is it rhetorical? Does it take the form of inquiry? Does it throb with live interrogation? 
Boyer’s essay, itself composed entirely of questions, specifically  questions for poets, both addressed to them and for them to ask. The questions contain the logical and speculative power of which is to be found in their grammar of persistent negativity. Each new question threatens to cancel its precedent one by the urgency of address they all exude. The very form of the essay asks, not altogether pessimistically, whether the trial of the poet that is today is an arena in which we perform only in fidelity to the tradition of what is unanswerable? What are the forms of attachment, relation, intransigence or antagonism that such a trial would effect?
Herein, my argumentation will hopefully become clear, in that I am not attempting to make claim for the contemporary lyric as programmatic refusal, since I acknowledge the dynamic of contemporary lyric is far too variegated and differentiated as to be remotely enveloped within this essay. Alternatively, I wish to read instances of where procedures of lyric poetry refuses to confine itself to an exiled and protected space in contemporary culture and might in some sense contain an acknowledgment of the very opposition they meet, even an acknowledgement of its necessity in various acts of defiance. Here, lyrics self- appointed desire to ‘speak for’ or ‘on behalf of’, and its complicity in the very machinations of power and exploitation that it would speak out against is animated and punctuated by the very construction of lyric identity as an incomplete language for pain that in turn seeks to disrupt the presuppositions of language as it encodes experience. I understand the poetic construction of the lyric ‘labours’ of/for subjectivization and out of this material as the pain of individuation as it is interrupted, counter-balanced and constituted. The interruption of subjectivization is itself painful: as expression is cauterised by financial logic which is the material base of its possibility as value in this world
Here, the equivocation of metrical stability/instability is precisely laboured by J.H. Prynne in L’Extase de M. Poher: 

which   she 
what for is a version 
of when, i.e.
some payment about time again and how
“can sequence conduce” to order as more 
than the question: more gardens:  list
the plants as distinct 
from        lateral
front to back or not 
   grass           “the most
successful plant on our 
heart-lung by-
pass and into passion sliced into bright 
slivers, the yellow wrapping of what we do.
 Who is it:    what person could be generalised
 on a basis of “specifically” sexual damage, 
the townscape of that question.
of the wanton elegy, take a chip out of
your right thumb. Freudian history again makes
 the thermal bank:    here
credit 92°
a/c payee only, reduce to
now what 
laid out in the body
or grass etc, hay as a touch of the
social self put on a traffic island. Tie
that up, over for next time, otherwise there
 is a kind of visual concurrence;
the immediate body of wealth is not
 history, body fluid not dynastic. No
poetic gabble will survive which fails
to collide head-on with the unwitty circus:
no history running 
with the french horn into
the alley-way, no
manifest emergence
of valued instinct, no growth
of meaning & stated order:
we are too kissed & fondled,
no longer instrumental
to cultural in ‘this’ sense or
any free-range system of time:
1.Steroid metaphrase 
2.Hyper-bonding of the insect
3.6%memory, etc
any other rubbish is mere political rhapsody,
gallant lyricism of the select, breasts & elbows
else is allowed by the verbal smash-up piled
under foot. Crush treat trample distinguish 
put your choice in the hands of the town
clerk, the army stuffing its drum. Rubbish is 
pertinent; essential; the
most intricate presence in
our entire culture; the 
ultimate sexual point of the whole place turned
in a model question. 

The position typically applied to lyric practitioners is one which dis-abusively depends on their being ‘made out’ of the catastrophic exploitation and violence of others. Here the lyric registers the experience and crux of an ethical assemblage that enjoins suffering and the structural violence within the semantic field. Prynne’s disparate organisation of materials in a rhetorical series make irrecoverable the possibility of completion; its rhetoric is driven on through and over complex series of reticulations of heterodyne, slipped, incomplete and scrambled propositions. It is a way to model lyric, to make a language or poetic construction shift in terms of a moralism of knowledge which labours toward a project of the lyric beyond subjectivity. One that is beyond the reductive conception of the lyric as voiceprint of a speaker or bourgeois ‘individual’ subject. Yet the lyric form is precisely the poetic language that enables the possibility of subjective in language to take place, or at least does not seek to displace such to the mechanisms of conceptual outage as per the self-proclaimed extremity of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, couched within the predominate US literary avant-garde. Prynne’s most recent work and projects exemplify this lifelong resistance, most notably with Acrylic Tips (2002), Not-You (1993), For the Monogram (1997) and Triodes (1999). Prynne’s poetic constructions perform textual, poetic and ontological operations, varying poetic function within the textual construction and representation of violence itself. Prynne’s own rhetorical assemblage make clear the construction of a lyrical standpoint as not only fragmentary, but as discontinuous with language that comprises of the grid. As I will attempted to make clear, it is rather a ‘damaged’ reticulation poised to make a new order of poetic construction that both Prynne and Sutherland introduce into the lyric form, and is in turn the focus of the text. Jolting from one scrap to another, as if the poem were indifferent to whatever schedule into which the reader is shunted, Prynne has described as the critical ‘necessity’ the task ‘to keep the moral structure of immediate knowledge from damage during its transition to the schedule of city-settlement.’ (2) 
It is clear that upon reading L’Extase de M. Poher, the value of the hypostatised text is uncertain throughout and the value of our efforts to reconstruct even more so. The poems appliqué-work is not only violent in its making or reconstruction but attempts to inscribe the inescapable tradition of making order and meaning from textual ‘rubbish’ or the various discarded bits & pieces of the language of economy and its metrics that turns into business speak ‘a/c payee only’.  Refuse is what is perhaps produced as a form of resistance with its repeated references to consumption, to the idea of control over the needs that ought to be recognised as most basic to the body (the demos) as the very site of contestation and precisely the ways in which the loss of political status, loss of a ‘home,’ loss of rights is identical with absolute domination, natal alienation, and social death. We can herein begin to articulate a complicated political-juridical structure that persistently disavowals a subjective capacity for interlocutory life. 

On Conceptual US Poetry and White Historicity: Kenneth Goldsmith and ‘The Body of Michael Brown’ 
I wish to speak to the recent poem by US conceptual poet and author of the acclaimed Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age (2011). The book explores the ways in which word processing, databasing, identity ciphering, and intensive programming have coalesced and altered the terrain in which poetical language is being engaged. Goldsmith holds steadfast to a celebration of the management of poetry which in turn overlooks the very real, physical, and non-digital modes of labour exploitation and oppression that have come to be displaced when considering Goldsmith’s contribution to poetry. In 2015, Kenneth Goldsmith read a poem entitled ‘The Body of Michael Brown,’ reading aloud to relatively packed audience at Brown University, he described the operation as: ‘ altered... for poetic effect; I translated into plain English many obscure medical terms that would have stopped the flow of the text; I narrativised it in ways the text seem less didactic and more literary.’ (3) Goldsmith's ‘model’ of feeding texts through html. coding processes, regurgitating traffic reports, or re-typing Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road' on a blog - or, for that matter, the ‘Flarf Poets' re- combinations of internet spam texts as ironic parody/celebrate of the ‘virtual spectacle’ wherein all discourses seemingly made equivalent by a series of deft operations
As Goldsmith has previously expressed, ‘language works on several levels, endlessly flipping back and forth between the meaningful and the material: we can choose to weigh it and we can choose to read it,’ (4)  where texts are considered as ‘fodder’ for remixing and embellishing new types of meaning as the ‘purpose of détournement’ comes to take the most hateful language and neuter it, the ‘sweetest and making it ugly...restoring, rearranging, reassembling, revamping, renovating, revising, recovering, redesigning, returning, redoing: verbs that start with re-produce provisional language.’ (5)  Or how Goldsmith in his anthology, 'Against Expression,' where excepts from M. NourbeSe Philip's Zong! explores late 18th century British court case of 150 slaves, who were thrown overboard so the slave ship's captain could collect the insurance money. Goldsmith characteries the inclusion of Zong as the: ‘ethical inadequacies of that legal document . . . do not prevent their détournement in the service of experimental writing.’ (6) Goldsmith extinguishes all boundaries that prevent experimental writing from expanding the ground of its own cartography, in doing so by enveloping apparently all forms of language, legal or otherwise under the same rubric or operation ‘one performs’ to the lexical order in order to subvert and recover the very nucleus of experimentalism, to become ‘a continual submitting to sacrificial... value (that) exists only in what it opens for and echoes of what is essential to the tradition.’ (7)
Here, autopsy findings not only attempt to reduce structural and ontological violence to a category of examination in determining the ‘cause of death’ but as it presupposes and postulates the realisation of the subject’s true cause of corporeal finitude. Such findings and ‘evidence’ ensure one can witness and ‘read’ Michael Brown’s blackness through its own lens. Herein, the violent temporal force that marks and sutures the black body to the trappings of pathology and diagnosis ensure the violent structure of its rationalisation. Pathology as it is defined, is either the cause and/or effects of disease(s) or abnormalities that through examination stage the space of diagnosis and forensic reasoning. It is here, within the domain of the laws of the body politic that governs and configures access to the body, both internally and externally; as ‘physical death is only the most evident effect of the post-Enlightenment desire for transparency and the historical and scientific signifying strategies that (re)produce it.’ (8) The historical logic of capture is herein reproduced as a gesture that re-institutes the transparent subject of science, and it is here that the poetical language of Goldsmith collapses with dramatic consequences. Examples of black violence can only be brought into view, can only be through the perspective of staging pained existence for inspection, and the ways in which ‘scientific strategies, (become) alibis that sustain racial and colonial juridical domination and economic exploitation.’ (9)
The very ‘experimentalism' of Goldsmith is one that seeks to structure by the opposition of spectacle and routine, violence and pleasure as it perpetrated under the guise of a new radicalism of writing where the mundane and the quotidian alloy the suffering of black life with the edifying pleasure of cultural production. Goldsmith evidently understood the body of Michael Brown as nothing but a death-archive to be enumerated, dissected and possessed by language and the state. Brown's autopsy report relies on the 'silence in the archive’ as a space not only of confinement but of erasure where the violent repetitions maintain genealogical destruction. By the focus on legal documentation detailing the particulars of black death, Goldsmith not only discloses the ways in which black life and death are entangled but ensures that the shotting of Michael Brown is inscribed in the afterlife of slavery as a poetic act.

J.H. Prynne and the Violence of Jargon

To return to Prynne, we can begin to situate the lyric as one that ‘labours’ the poem, where the mimetic rationality that gave it order is meted out as it tautens and translocates the discourses of economics and consumerism into the contemporary lyric form. Prynne works from the latticing of differential time-scales, geological and astronomic, personal memory and social history; a repertoire of counter movements that run from lyrical to literal densely studding the text by which the first person is unconditionally located in the process of estrangement from ‘the home we may not/have’. It would seem impossible to take anything on trust in a poem by Prynne; even the pronouns refuse to be pinned down, no register is permanent and the poem addresses an absent question which defies the reader’s attempt to supply it. The complexity of Prynne’s lyricism is displayed in The Ideal Star-Fighter in full force: 
Now a slight meniscus floats on the moral
     pigment of these times, producing
displacement of the body image, the politic
     albino.  The faded bird droops in his
cage called fear and yet flight into
     his pectoral shed makes for comic
hysteria, visible hope converted to the
     switchboard of organic providence
at the tiny rate of say 0.25 per cent
     “for the earth as a whole”.  And why
go on reducing and failing like metal: the
     condition is man and the total crop yield
of fear, from the fixation of danger; in
     how we are gripped in the dark, the
flashes of where we are. It pays to be
simple, for screaming out, the eye
converts the news image to fear enzyme, 
we are immune to disbelief. ‘If there is 
danger there ought to be fear’, trans-
locate of the self to focal alert, ‘but 
if fear is an evil why should there be 
danger?’ The meniscus tilts the 
water table, the stable end-product is dark
motion, glints of terror the final inert 
residue. Oriental human beings throw off
they leafy canopies, expire; it is 
the unpastured sea hungering for calm. 

Prynne’s typical extension and nervous line breaks clearly demarcated ‘the body image, the politic/albino’ where the gestalt of the body politic experiences some kind of genetic mutation into an ‘albino’. Scientistic language alternates with a more affective structure of metaphor, as ‘The faded bird droops in his/ cage called fear’. The implication of ‘faded’ becomes more associative than the specificity of ‘pigment’, which leaves room for the ambiguity of ‘flight’ and the bridge between two discourses in the conversion of hope to the ‘switchboard of organic providence/at the tiny rate of say 0.25 per cent/‘for the earth as a whole’’. The next switches to a much broader statement: ‘the condition is man and the total crop yield/ of fear, from the fixation of danger’. The figure is again an organic one, as in the way plants fix nitrogen, but fictionalised into the notion of danger as omnipresent in human affect uptake, so that fear becomes quantifiable as a ‘total crop yield’. But this generalised expression is rapidly followed by a more conventional and literal line, ‘in/how we are gripped in the dark, the/flashes of where we are’ which do the work to return us to a subjective stance, wherein ‘trans/locate of the self to focal alert, ‘but/ if fear is an evil why should there be/danger?’ The insertion of the metabolisation of fear is a product of the meniscus which ends in ‘glints of terror’ as the ‘final inert/residue’. Here, the opaquely lyrical fatalism of ‘Oriental human beings throw off/their leafy canopies, expire’, particularly in the single word of the latter clause. Throughout the stanza phrases form a certain pressure extending out the poems own rhetorical structure. The lyric buoys the threat or imposition of morality as the experience of alienation from social structures and the maintenance of sovereign consciousness incorporates the ‘inhuman logic’ or concept of the number that Prynne deploys that hassles the poem into scientistic discourse as ‘apprehension’ and ‘appearance’. The regulated and repeatable thought of the scientist and engineer promotes the supposition of neutrality that Prynne here imports rhetorically and re-fashions the lyric form out of its inclining rational discourse. Adorno noted that ‘the neo­-romantic lyric sometimes behaves like the jargon…(as) lyric poetry, as in philosophy, the jargon acquires its defining character by the way it imputes its truth…doing this by making an intended object present-as though this object were Being without any tension toward the subject.’  (10) The self-importance of jargon declares its objective and procedural function as official language, as the lexical form of bureaucratic stocktaking or prepared meanings, ‘indifferent to the matter at hand, it is to be used for commanded purposes.’ (11) Here, Adorno stages the notion of ‘lingustic non-sense’ as the ‘heir of integrated strictness of the system…like a worthless construction, it is forever falling off its stilts and stumbling around’ (12), as the ‘jargon of authenticity’ itself ‘turns in a circle…it wants to be immediately concrete without sliding into mere facticity…forced into secret abstraction’ (13). Here dictated by economic rationality jargon appears as a form of reason. As in the concept of ‘idle chatter,’ comes to assemble for Adorno where the ‘dialectic is broken off…between word and thing as well as the dialectic (itself), within language, between the individual words and their relations’ (14) where the business of communication and its formulas cut in between the matter and the subject, and ‘blind the subject’ against the very history and polity sedimented within it. Language is damaged ‘within itself’ and as Prynne has noted the poem should be intimate to a ‘panic-stricken encyclopedic impulse…which confronts the decline& splitting of awareness’ (15) and proceeds to elaborate this in his own writings: 

in many different contexts I observe habits of language formation which are not only grammatically retarded; they exploit the potential for thought and feeling to which they refer by milking it of potency and in the same sweep drastically abridging its connection with the physical substrate. ‘Steel is the pacer of the will’; ‘Love is the glove of anxiety’; ‘The act lives under the lintel of time’; in each of these cases the force of the idea grabs strongly the means for its apodictic assertion. The verb is an imperious recruitment and material is suppressed in the very act of claims for its release. (16)

The imperative to a universal exchangeability of objects within organised economic life, where the reduction of human labour to the abstract universal concept of average working hours is the very ‘obligation to become identical, to become total.’ (17) Adorno speaks to this very limitation upon thought by the exchange of equivalents, as they proceed to exchange ‘unequal things’ in the name of exchange itself, as the category of measure and rationality inherent in the exchange principle ensures the very qualities of commodities are regarded as irrelevant to their expression as exchange-value. It must be noted, that the Adorno’s project of integrating critical thinking in order to reconstruct the generation of historical forms of consciousness demonstrate how they misrepresent social relations and thereby justify the kinds of violent mystification of domination. A refusal to close the gap or synthesise the differences of post-Fordist immaterial and affective labour of globalized economies is an advance of the types of pain produced, especially by way of Prynne’s poetry in terms of its being ‘difficult(18), that is as a manner of presentation of a new poetic thought that exacts or labours the reader. Prynne argues that ‘[p]oetic thought does indeed demand the unreserved commitment of the poet, deep-down within the choices and judgements of dialectical composition; but before the work is completed, the poet must self-remove from this location, sever the links not by a ruse but in order to test finally the integrity of the results.’ (19) 

It is ‘difficulty’ as a mode to that of jargon which advances the types of pain produced by Prynne’s poems, not only to the ‘the pain in the head / which applies to me’, but in relation to the ‘events’ which can be witnessed by individual narrators and through the events of historical violence that are represented in and by language. Prynne’s poetry labours the poetic composition as posed by the non-identical as dialectics. To think: ‘dialectics (as) the consistent sense of non-identity. It does not begin by taking a standpoint.’ (20) Crucially, this notion of standpoint has been articulated by emerging British poet Danny Hayward, who has noted in turn that the ‘standpoint’ of the proletariat is the essence of Marxism and of the Marxist dialectic because of its objective function offers insight into the totality; especially the epistemological status of the proletarian ‘standpoint’ in which a certain poetics are conceived as forms of solidarity with groups or individuals negatively determined by the capital relation. Here, the pain of poetry is the labour of composition and the impossibility of its final determination as thought

Giorgio Agamben in his essay ‘The End of the Poem’ gets, quite explicitly that poetry should really only be ‘philosophised.’ The end of the poem for Agamben reveals the goal of its proud strategy: to let language ‘finally communicate itself’, without remaining unsaid in what is said. Agamben’s intuition is to treat the threatening excess of tension and thought that he identifies at the of end the poem as potentially figuring what he calls the mystical marriage of ‘sound’ and ‘sense.’  This is because of what he thinks poetry is: the name given to the discourse in which the possibility of enjambment exists. Agamben’s thesis would only really work, or apply, if it were possible to read a poem only from beginning to end, and only once. It relies on the distinction that poetry needs to be conceptually promoted to an object to be thought of, and not a thing to be read, in order to be amenable to the rigours of Heideggerian disclosure. 

Here, I believe Prynne’s poetic compositions do the work to lessen the propensity towards communicative exchange, as poetic violence is itself evinced through a degraded or compromised/wounded language that implicates the constrictions placed upon the subjective voice as damaged or degraded lexicon: ‘The whole thing it is, the difficult’. The constrictions on language determine the lexical arrangement as it comes to inscribe the exposition of violence in varied forms: political, rhetorical, pathological, socioeconomic and linguistic. Prynne’s poetic of resistance sutures the freedom of the imaginative act with a moral imperative to represent suffering in a manner that seeks to invert the exploitation of victims. His poems create an experience through language rather than a representation of the experience, and do so by utilising the limitations created and determined by the language of the dominant power structure. The violence represented enacts particular and contingent operations on the function of the poetic, to the point at which Prynne’s poetic of resistance calls for a recalibration and reconstitution of the limits of expression. From this position Prynne creates a model of lyric reflective on the violence of the event, in which subjective expression and the ontological model of the poem might be preserved

The preservation of the language of subjective expression is crucial to the relationship between violence and bearing witness, and determines the manner in which moral representations of violence and resistance are interrelated. Through the enactment of resistance, new poetic thought establishes the capacity to bring awareness to the forces of violence and to preserve the ontological realm. In response to acts of violence, the task of the poet is to create new poetic thought, a response of urgency for Prynne in resisting systems that create and enforce dominance. It is here, in Prynne’s syntactic status that constantly disturbs the comfort provided by distinctive personal voice as the relinquishment of the vantage in order to throw into complication the very standpoint of universality and the concept of the whole. 

Here, the surplus of information and near-constant exposure to forms of communication technology and intensification of its rhythm comes to be  resist language as it comes to be ‘transformed into a psycho-cognitive automatism.’ (21) The question of the ‘virtual intersection’ of  processing information in time, not only relates distinctly to the ways in which ‘informational labour circulates in the global web as the agent of universal valorisation… yet its value is indeterminable(22), as connectivity and precariousness captures and submits ‘cellularised fragments of depersonalized time; capital purchases fractals of human time and recombines them in the web… this flow is uninterrupted and finds its unity in the object produced; however, from the standpoint of cognitive workers the supply of labour is fragmented: fractals of time and pulsating cells of labour are switched on and off in the large control room of global production.’ (23) 

The digitisation of communication processes have resultantly lead to  general rise of forms of psychopathology; dyslexia, anxiety and apathy, panic, depression as the reconstruction of subjectivity appears in conjunction to these connections. A paradigm of exchange between conscious organisms as connection now takes on the form of repeatable and punctual interaction of algorithmic functions as the very same ‘false con­sciousness’ produced by ‘reification’ and alienated social patterns that Adorno happened to be extorting several decades earlier. According to Adorno, untruth is located in the substratum of genuineness itself, the individual, as he goes on to write:

The whole philosophy of inwardness, with its professed contempt for the world, is the last sublimation fo the brutal, barbaric lore whereby he who was there first has the greatest rights; and the priority of the self is as untrue as that of all who feel at home where they live…The more tightly the world is enclosed by the net of man-made things, the more stridently those who are responsible for this condition proclaim their natural primitiveness. The discovery of genuineness as a last bulwark of individualistic ethics is a reflection of industrial mass-production. Only when standardised commodities project, for the sake of profit, the illusion of being unique, does the idea take shape, as their antithesis yet in keeping with the same criteria, that the non-reproducible is truly genuine. (24) 

Keston Sutherland and the Lyric Machine in White Hot Andy

It is here that I believe Keston Sutherland’s lyrics attempt to labour or make explicit our present and continued entrapment and blindness to capitalist exchange value qua the net of man-made ‘things’. In White Hot Andy from 2007, Sutherland’s insistent hammering construction does not bother to resemble a familiar reading script; its slashes and square brackets and arrows and bullet points at capitals and italics that in the speed and volume of delivery threatened to disarticulate the reading poet into a demented puppet. The puppet of babble on simultaneously-broadcasting channels.

Lavrov and the Stock Wizard levitate over to
the blackened dogmatic catwalk and you eat them. Now swap
buy for eat, then fuck for buy, then ruminate for fuck,
phlegmophrenic, want to go to the windfarm,
Your • kids menu lips swinging in the Cathex-Wizz monoplex;
Your • face lifting triple its age in Wuhan die-cut peel lids;
ng pick Your out the reregulated loner PAT to to screw white
chocolate to the bone. The tension in an unsprung
r trap co
            The tension in an unsprung trap.
                ck QUANT unpruned wing: sdeigne of JOCK
                of how I together grateful anyway I was
                Its sacked glass, Punto
                                                    What is
be done on the sly is manic gargling, to
to blacken the air in hot manic recitative from a storm throat,
WLa-15 types to Tungsten electrodes Aaron Zhong,
feazing that throat into fire / under its
hot life the rope light thrashes I in its suds, [is] Your chichi news noose
/ Dr. Unicef Cheng budget slasher movie hype on Late Review
I keep dreaming about you every single night last
night I you making love Stan, I didn’t know him then
it hurts, and I disappear but the nights stick.
Abner Jon Louima Burge Cheng.

Sutherland’s reading in turn render clear that a type of pain is induced and/or performed at the level of the text. Conspicuously in re-thinking how informational labour is re-shifts the limits of the natural day by convening on the recommencement of work as a process of generalized proletarianization attention. Here, it is very important to mention how industrial technics, as the essential phenomenon of reproducibility, opens a new political question of the systematic organisation of the capture of attention made possible by the psychotechnologies that have developed with radio (1920), television (1950) and digital technologies (1990).

At one point the conditions of reading, Sutherland’s rapid shift in speeds work to perform over-work, exhaustion or over-exuberance as they link to contemporary forms of work in post-fordism. As John Wilkinson notes, ‘lyric poetry as a mode promises (to) override to autocue, the technology of override must vary according to the linguistic programme it would detourn or transcend. There have been times where a song or a roar or stately measure would do the job. Sutherland does it at full throttle.’ (25) . Here between notions of abstraction that underpin capitalist exchange and abstract labour are in turn inherent in that abstraction as an antagonistic dynamic. The lyric in Sutherland constructs a ‘virtual subjectivity’ in which the terms and historical consequences of the ‘individual’ are not constitutively useful in understanding poetic subjectivity per se. 
The very feeling of reading poetry under capitalism as the ‘unbinding’ crack-up of emotional and psychic energy temps one to comprehend what it would be like to articulate this monstrous accumulation of everything there is, and then look at it as I believe Sutherland performs in his poetry. We can begin to understand the distorted role of speech and its rhetorical features in forms of discursive and/or symbolic intervention as variegated inscriptions of neoliberal generalised anxiety, to which Sutherland ‘interrupts’ his own poetic composition by the psychic pressure that maintains its provisional exceptionalism. 

Yet, it is this disproportion that makes up the material from which Sutherland’s bruising poetic constructions are pressured to perform as they take as their very object the ‘totality of capitalism’ not merely as concept or system or even a set of social relations whose very reproduction maintains the very survival of capitalism at the expense of the immiseration of living people, but as a thing which is normally and fundamentally impossible to so depict or even think. Sutherland’s poetry keeps going by the very intensification of its ‘rhythm’, where the machine of speed antagonises the psycho-cognitive automatism of speech as interrupted by the constant insertion of the electronic into the organic. The proliferation of artificial devices in the organic universe, in the body, in communication and in society demarcates itself clearly: ‘I didn’t know him then/it hurts, and I disappear but the nights stick.’  Here, the subsumption of the time of the mind under the competitive realm of productivity deranges the previous stability of mental and physical labour. In section A: Turbo of Sutherland’s White Hot Andy, we have the same metrical instability interrupted by numbers, URLs, decimal points, abbreviations, acronyms, etc.

A: Turbo
The Zhejiang Hengesen rope light to the tortoise hash-
Hot white passion to the chatstushka in livid grout, 
But not just in the grout, really blocked in it-
Amity to the pyrite on the ironing board, what is
It for this rupture of transitivity, this equivalence hypodermic, 
The infinity of desire? What do I spread for?
Long wind straightens unfinishable and equated sea. 
Cracked shut. Disorder is the enemy of progress.
A;; distant objects are veiled in a species of bright obscurity: 
omnidirectional scanning allows any article
Orientation provided the Article jargon faces the scanner
As you know, this holds for Article 2 up

Fig. (a)

Article 2
Article 3
Article 4

Retrogression beyond this is just dad to a brick wall,
Heartsquirt and neoplatonic drivel about the origin. 
Chen necks: 1. Your Sex on the Beach. 2. Your Colostrum Slammer. But the rapture, what is its negatum?
It is whispers,
Cheng the Fetischcharakter, not of commodities but of dialectic itself see through the Moscow limo windscreen pyromantic oxygen stew transmute watch it slavered by the Beijing cosmos onto new eyes superstitious to their frosted core, whoring the shut lids they claim merely to underwrite the Zhejiang Hengesen rope light to the tortoise hash/ You soften inside the to, Harden in the craniofrontonasal Berkshire disco. 

Excess and degraded speech slide rapidly across registers riddled with disorder, yoked by violence and impacted into a bits of damaged lexis and syntax. This damage is part of the constrictions of the poem’s ‘consumptive’ action.  Here, the very physical compression of discourses into a singular, integrated register sutures the freedom of the imaginative act with a moral imperative to invert suffering through language rather than as an inversion of experience.  Sutherland does so by utilising the limitations created and determined by the language of the dominant power structure itself. The violence represented enacts particular and contingent operations on the function of the poetic for Sutherland, operating out of a recalibration and reconstitution of the limits of expression, typically of a model of lyric that attempts to preserve that violence as it interrupts speech. As noted, it is the very interruption of subjectivization which itself is painful, as expression which is cut by the financial logic which is the very material base for its possibility as value. We can still fuck whilst being fucked

The metrically distinct and the metrically abusive qualities of Sutherland’s poetics buckles the pleasure of any potential abstract equivocation of syllable and stress. Sutherland’s distorted metre performs an abusive relation because it disrupts the very structure of poetic value itself. We are once again held in a space neither positive nor negative, only incessantly articulated by the expression of each of these spaces flourishing in the wrong body and violence of the event. This is especially clear when the narrators body-image is split into numerous factions of agency, hemmed into states of sexual trauma and negotiation, all barraged by hyper-obscure data. In Sutherland’s poetics, we also have the rampant  intermittence between genders, where the switching of copulative attachment, as reflexive images are distorted by the frustration of desire and intact personhood. As if Sutherland wishes to use the lyric as the potential space to re-animate his own schizophrenic (not man or woman) mutation of this through a textual space. The image-complexes contain intentionally partitioned subjectivities that constitute a number of arguments simultaneously, allowing an understanding of the porousness of thresholds and the violent transgression of the subjective body itself, ‘remains in disjunction: he does not abolish disjunction by identifying the contradictory elements by means of elaboration ; instead , he affirms it through a continuous over flight spanning an indivisible distance.’ (26)  

Another distinctly important feature of Sutherland’s poetic construction is the irreplaceability of the position of the witness, and through the process of viewing ethically problematic and violent images as per the circulation of mass media and social networks. Sutherland works out a grounding of witnessing insofar as the implication and responsibility for such violations implicates us as perpetrators. The position of the witness for Sutherland’s poetry is especially important in understanding the form of the lyric, crystal clear in the poem Song of the Wanking Iraqi, published directly after the appalling images of Abu Ghraib came to light in 2003. 

Sutherland’s poem eschews solidarity in order to present readers with a fractured poem of near- abstraction that compels readers to confront their complicity in torture and barbarism. This is poetry as alternating political thought – a thinking into the circumstances of the tortured and abused constitutes the ethical bind that enables us to think about those circumstances, that situation and that event. It might be said that Sutherland produces an analogous event; given that this thought is actualised in performative conjunction with a reader, a reader is of course also incorporated, part of that event, which itself is analogous to another kind of torture; a declaration of mutual dependency between reader and poet, between sovereignty and nationstate, self and other

Sutherland's poetry and its complication of the perspective of responsibility is an unremitting dimension of his continued poetic activity as it carries with it the question of witnessing as mark of testimony.  In most traditional accounts, to be a witness is to be physically present at an event and report it to those who are absent. The ontological principle that authorises testimony as the individual's corporeal presence at the event, a presence often vouchsafed by the suffering of that witnessing body. Here, the logical extension of this is that audiences are not the witnesses of the events they see, but the recipients of someone else's testimony. It is here that the framework of the lyric and the position of the poet enfolded into the dialectics of bearing witness derives the binary of care and control that Sutherland typically marks out in his poems. 

The ‘damaged’ voice implied by the conditions of the poem relate to the incontestability of subjective loss suffered and the kinds of witnessing that re-engages the complication of subject position within these poems. I say this alongside the established-poetry of people such as Andrea Brady, Sean Bonney and Verity Spott, Sutherland has gone on to note:

 (It) is the poets duty and responsibility and power to investigate hitherto unimagined far extremes of dialectical thinking, and that events such as the invasion of Iraq (and many many others) stand for the possibility for the poet. That isn’t necessarily the case for me. I wouldn’t mind if my dialectic stalled in talking about Iraq…I am against that kind of singularising of historical events and its logic…as a kind of limited case or singularly monolithic catastrophe…So the poem could end up seeming too heterogenous, or with eyes too big for its political belly, just grabbing and demolishing everything. But then that in turn is what finally the analysis of the poem is trained on and tries to understand, accumulation itself, delirious accumulation…of being superabundantly full of stuff…just to insist on the sheer damaging overload of ordinary consumption in all of its varieties…my poetry is trying to conduct a frenzied analysis of the tradition of poetry as the monstrous accumulation of poetical commodities…i like testing the capacities of poetry and my own imagination by seizing on a very improbably specific detail of consumer society and trying to make from that some image of the whole.

Sutherland  deploys the very monstrous accumulation of poetical commodities as inflicted on the reader.  Herein, the pain or the painful is made clear in his use of commas, specifically. As they come to operate the notation of a repetition which is made out of iterations of the unendurable (they are this restless repetition); because they are the pause and the passage between articulations of inescapability; because they promise not the relative safety of closure as a period would, but the potentially limitless expansion of the material into the future: they are punctuation’s emblem of whatever kind of infinity they are made to express, as information which the poem accumulates. Here, the poems do end, but it is rather the index of their repetition that, especially in the corrupting force in which they are constructed, the ‘reader’ is always on the edge and boundary of its beginning. Sutherland’s poetics carry with it the resemblance to the fragment within early German Romanticism, as it begins to become defined as a genre concept with diverse forms. Towards the potentially infinite disjunctive ensemble of parts or fragments, as a kind of anti-system in which the labour of composition compels the conditions for its own survival. Poetic work must involve the sabotage of its mechanisms of production in order to emerge as a poem. The labour of its composition and the impossibility of its final determination as thought or thinking enables Sutherland’s poetic constructions their inverted relationship to the fragment or fragmentariness as the descriptor which attempts to invalidate poetic thinking by aligning it with Thought as closure or end.

Conclusion:The Poetics of Witness and Ethical Seriousness: Language and Victims
[Poetic language] comprises at its must fully extended an envelope which finds and sets the textual contours in writing of how things are; while also activating a system of discontinuities and breaks which interrupt and contest the intrinsic cohesion and boundary profiles of its domain, so that there is constant leakage inwards and outwards across the connection with the larger world order. (27)
Prynne, Mental Ears and Poetic Work

In the following, I have attempted to reticulate a position for the contemporary lyric as it is performed by J.H. Prynne and Keston Sutherland. I hopefully have demonstrated the relationship between the contemporary lyric by thinking its concern to the damaging and pressuring objectivity of linguistic capitalism. It is with the lyric that the connection between social conditions, precarity and language as the site or struggle against the necessity of such rationalisation takes place. As Mikhail Bakhtin has previously noted, ‘language is where those struggles are engaged most comprehensively and at the same time most intimately and personally’ (28). We can say that language is the place where the tangible struggle against necessity is felt and where those struggles are experienced as both intimate and social, as Prynne and Sutherland constitute a poetics wherein one bears witness to this reticulation of language as it ‘gets’ rationalised and in turn no is no longer made out of the persistent questioning that Boyer had put to poets earlier:

but what is it in them which will be decisive? Can we know? What sort of knowing of this moment is possible? I hope to have exposed us to more questions as apposed to answers in the following text, precisely by inscription of the lyric within society’s economic form since de-industrialisation has transferred heavy industry or manufacturing into post-industrial information society or what has been known as the knowledge economy.

Both Prynne and Sutherland continue to utilise the language of poetry as the very site of increasing resistance to the technical rationality of the present, utilising the contemporary lyric form in all its damaged and compacted poetic violence to demonstrate the overdetermination of language whilst ensure the ineradicability of its autonomy, ‘not least because the dream of its eradication is the first evidence for its continuing presence amidst the debris of self evidence.’ (29) For it is between autonomy and shame that the poetic potential of the lyric can and must survive, and its the lyrics survivalism that precisely pushes the dimension and the stakes of contemporary poetry.
 In linguistic capitalism, language is transformed as an instrument, whereas the continued ‘survival’ of the contemporary lyric is that it which transforms verbal smash-up into exhortation and resistance. Work performed by the lyric in Prynne and Sutherland (among others) attempts to consciously assault the very stable ‘vantage’ or standpoint of identity whilst incorporating the incapacitation of self-support by and through language itself.  Prynne has noted language is ‘damaged within itself’ and labours the notion that the poems should consort to ‘panic-stricken encyclopaedic impulse’. Echoing the monstrous ‘accumulation’ Sutherland locates the finite in its endless variation or as interchange of person/substance associated with the textual construction and representation of violence itself. Both Prynne and Sutherland’s near constant implication of witness composes accusation as its inverted dependency on the reader, especially evident in Prynne’s of wounding the lyric burst: 

the text 
omits, the margin includes, you dope
 provoked to neither shout not sigh

Here, the trauma of personal formation constructs liability as the very same dependency as a ‘conscience’ interweaving of ethics and trauma:  

 The scores read like this: word ranking
              under the Sentences Act gives a choice
       of tempers, arbiter’s freedom to set out
              where the deepest shadows shall fall.
With blood on their hands is a terror attack
              on the Jewish state, Antrim west bank,
                     lemon Kurds. Don’t waver, in order
                            to renounce the use of arms
it is necessary to have weapons to hand
                            and in hand, preferably
       bloodied beyond a doubt. The men
              who would use them must be free
                     credibly to do so if not to do
              just that is to be a free choice.
The crime of the rational script permits a script
       of crime in time to calibrate the forces
                     of pent-up sentence: word by word.

I have hopefully gone some way to explicating the conditions under which the contemporary lyric is understood not simply as (self) possession withdrawn into interiority by demanding a renewal of the faculty of attention as a response to what Prynne and Sutherland consider to be the damaging impacts of modernity on subjectivity itself. The reader must pay close attention to their work to open up the possibility that the ideal stands in opposition to the damaged subjectivity and that in turn a certain kind of poetic can be restituted. As Prynne has noted, the very security of ground is retraced as the ‘reader can learn not to be the captain of his little boat but rather to have patient regard for the currents which hold him up’ (30)
Both Prynne and Sutherland’s poetic work expresses ideas about how poetry presents a conceptual understanding of the relation between subjectivity, knowledge, and language. If lyrical subjectivity can be interpreted as a kind of ‘vertiginous self-exposure’ then Sutherland’s and Prynne’s poetry operates out of this very self-diagnosis by displacement, by the alternation of desiring and gendered bodies in Sutherland and the near continuous use of poetic violence in Prynne. As John Wilkinson has noted, all have come under an ‘autocritical domain’ which appears to see no bound or end to the amoral task of the poet.