Aerial Approach / Pre-text
I habitually respond to things without imposing a pre-text. This is both a gift and a diff-ability. For all definitions of intelligence, let this interloper substitute one: the ability to map. We must make connections or forever wander.
I can make connections, but not always the optimal ones for survival or aggrandisement. I used to let others learn the prevailing paradigms and hunt with the hounds while I camouflaged myself in the bramble bush and watched the brilliance of thorns point like stars. When I did venture out, it was with the bush around me for galaxy.
An 'internal' reading will always be insufficient. And moreover impossible. Question of context, as everyone knows, there is nothing but context, and therefore: there is no outside-the-text [il n’y a pas de horstexte]….
- Jacques Derrida(1)
Eventually I lurked further aspace and the rewards have been incandiary. As Anne Carson suggests, if you want to see something more clearly, put an other-thing beside it in the sky, a con-text.(3) To do this, there must be a paradigm called sky, a channel by which to receive it, and sum-things with perceived borders. If you camouflage yourself too well against the hunt, the sky is nothing but unned-shelter.
begins a drum beating from the inside,
skin bulging to its pulse
(still wants to play so, though you were untrue).
- Máighréad Medbh(2)
A fixed star :versus: planets a shifting ellipsis and a terrestrial tilt.
There is a fearful stillness at the heart of MacSweeney's poetry that no amount of stylistic variation can quite cover up. This can be observed in the curious way MacSweeney's literary precursors never change: what Shelley meant to MacSweeney at the age of eighteen is much the same as what Shelley means to him thirty years later.
- Paul Batchelor(4)
Jacques Derrida wrote about the bushiness of origins—all origins being heterogeneous.(5) String theorists chase back and in there too. There is no original plottable spot because all points reduce to distance, like Zeno’s disinherited infinity.(6) The popular phrase “inner space” has a tail of pre and con texts.
What does style mean in a text? Is it always conscious? Is it always sense-enabled in the firm-moment pointable as there? If there is a de-minded com-ponent is it a stringy thing we decant into the texture of our weaving?
and this space
that is cave
has no end
even when with greater calculation
you boldly go
and are swept in
- Máighréad Medbh(7)
Helen Vendler recognises a poet’s style as if it were a body. “…when I know a poet’s writing well, I know it in the way I would know a physical body by sight.”(8)
Latin textus (u-stem) style, tissue of a literary work (Quintilian), lit. that which is woven, web, texture, < text-, participial stem of texĕre to weave.
- OED online
Ah it is a nebula. Hound it then. Lead it to some sense through the senses. Unthorn it give it stars mark it. Other-wise it is for pseudo-eyes in the heterogeneous original.
When a poem is deprived, in critical discussion, of its material body—which is constituted by its rhythm, its grammar, its lineation or other such features—it exists only as a mere cluster of ideas, and loses its physical, and therefore its aesthetic, distinctness.
- Helen Vendler(9)
< Latin criticus (originally as a medical term), < Greek κριτικός critical, < κριτός decerned, κριτής a judge; < κρίνειν to decide, judge. Partly after French cretique (1372, Corbichon), critique (a1590 Paré) both in medical use.
- OED online
What I would like to know is whether One can retain elements of pre-speech in a text and whether these are truer than what Other calls style. I would like to know what I mean when I would like this.
There is singularly nothing that makes a difference a difference in beginning and in the middle and in ending except that each generation has something different at which they are all looking. By this I mean so simply that anybody knows it that composition is the difference which makes each and all of them then different from other generations and this is what makes everything different otherwise they are all alike and everybody knows it because everybody says it.
- Gertrude Stein (10)
If we were to meet this text in differentiated space we would know if we knew about her that it was a com-position of Gertrude Stein. It is in her style—at the end of her pointer—it is her marks. This passage means Gertrude Stein but what does Gertrude Stein mean? She is a thorny star like Venus with a temperature and a particular where to be on a sky we call page.
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?
- T. S. Eliot(11)
Pre-speech is the rhythm and undercarriage in the aural and visual minutiae of vehicle. Pre-speech is maybe in the eyes and ways of the pockets in the body of the poet. Pre-speech is the thing-plus-other-thing the poet points you to be hold be silent. Stumped. Stumm. But
A style is “an assemblage of enunciation”.
- Gilles Deleuze(12)
Sound poets like Jaap Blonk(13) look pre-speech though you could say they are only sensibly that because we are post-speech and we keep com-pairing. I listen to him like I listen to strings and try to see. My body says something I can only tell as YES. Messiaen messes my hair.
As a civilization becomes more complex, more variegated and more overladen, and as the technique of production and social life itself become more finely organized, the old cultural soil is gradually smothered under a rank layer of ideas, systems of thought and knowledge, doctrines, rules and regulations, moralities and conventions which have all lost touch with play.
- Johan Huizinga(14)
But still civilisation depends on play. Its rules. The game sky.
< Old Norse ský (Icelandic ský , Norwegian, Swedish, Danish sky) neuter, cloud ( < original skiuja), directly related to Old Saxon skio (masculine), Old English scéo (doubtful), and more remotely to Old English scuwa, Old Norse skugge shade, shadow, whence scug n. See also skew n.
- OED online
White, slush thick, silver glints, green spots, a red tint.
Traces of ore and settled gold, dints of crystalline spikes.
Slumps of gray, streal of icy droplets, flinty sleet hails.
But a unitary feel. A halted, vast, conspiratorial mash.
No instrument can pilot through, no pilot attempts.
It’s a stomach, a full bowl. Stake your fork and cling.
Nothing pulls. Opposites collapse. Undescription.
History spread so thin it covers everything.
Challenge. Frustration. You sigh and go under.
Should you sleep, ruminate, or shovel to sheds the drippings,
the million blunted swords? You forget grass,
mountain, open sky, all that’s radical in rock,
resign to hope. Miss the sudden scatter, that instant
when you first view Agelast, city of slate, designing
your fall to its order, tonguing you to its hard core.
Dense white cloud above; below, four-square gloam.
- Máighréad Medbh(15)
(1) Derrida, Jacques. ‘Biodegradables: Seven Diary Fragments’, tr. Peggy Kamuf, Critical Enquiry 15, No 4 (Summer 1989), 873.
(2) ‘Be It’. Unpublished poem.
(3) “…you can see a celestial object better by looking at something else with it, in the sky.”
‘Note on Method’, Economy of the Unlost (Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan) Martin Classical Lectures, Princeton University Press, 1999.
(4) Batchelor, Paul. ' "I am Pearl": Guise and Excess in the Poetry of Barry MacSweeney', PhD in English Literature, Newcastle University, 2008, 4.
(5) Derrida, Jacques. Of Spirit, tr., Rachel Bowlby, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1989, 107-108.
(6) For Zeno’s most famous paradox and its disproof see: http://platonicrealms.com/encyclopedia/Zenos-Paradox-of-the-Tortoise-and-Achilles
(7) ‘space’. Unpublished poem.
(8) ‘Helen Vendler: The Art of Criticism’ No. 3, Interviewed by Henri Cole, Paris Review, Issue 141, Winter 1996.
(9) Vendler, Helen. The Breaking of Style, Harvard University Press, 1995, 71.
(10) ‘Composition as Explanation’ (Hogarth Press, 1926)
(11) ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’.
(12) Deleuze, Gilles. Dialogues II, London: Continuum, 2006, 3.
(13) Jaap Blonk online: http://jaapblonk.com/
(14) Huizinga, Johan. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980, 75. Online at:
(15) ‘Aerial Approach’, Parvit of Agelast: A Fantasy in Verse, Arlen House, 2016, 14.