Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Spirit Stick

                                                                           Photo by Lillian Dun

People stop me on the street. What is this? they ask.

Sometimes I say, this is my Spirit Stick. Sometimes, my walking cane. Sometimes, my Poet Staff.

No one name will do--no more than for any work of art. If we say with Levi Bryant*, that an object is always more and other than its manifestations, that the being of an object is always withdrawn, a work of art differs from other objects in announcing its withdrawal as we encounter it. There can never be an answer to the question--whether asked in general or of a particular work: what is art? what is a poem? 

I call this my Spirit Stick. Though I mean nothing supernatural by it, it leaves open what it is as most people have no set idea of  what 'spirit' might mean in this context. People I'm likely to encounter on the streets of Philadelphia are more apt to have fixed ideas about art--or to use the label to replace the experience, to shut if off. Better to know that you don't know. It's precisely this openness that makes a difference, awakens our mind to question what we have encountered, and is the source of its power.  

* every object is a system organized around a distinction between itself and its environment. ... that every object exists in a state of closure such that it only maintains selective relations to its environment. The paradox, then, is that the distinction between system and environment is a distinction made by each object itself. As such, every system or object constitutes its own environment. If this is the case, then we cannot talk about an environment as such. This would be a consequence of the withdrawal of objects

... being only a sample of Bryant's developing ideas on Larval Subjects. I have found the source of many poems in my free translations of Bryant's ideas.

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