Sebastiaan Boersma

Sebastiaan Boersma

O Vancouver, I chant or Kant or simply can’t say when Olson first arrived and read to you and what the ongoing effects or poetic experiments were that he, among others, you could say, gave way to. My decision not to comment further on this genealogy, not to pry the seam of its historical-becoming, not to mention the continuous and sedimented poetic exchanges up and down the West Coast (time) line, as they partially correspond to Moten’s visit as a possible contribution or disruption of that history, is perhaps my condition of uncertainty gone awry into the swerve of a digressive blogpost. Furthermore, it strikes me as not finally dialectical. My wish is to make a return to the racial, sexualized, and gendered implications of Moten’s disruptive contribution to that history by getting lost in a different set of referents, which are in no way to be disarticulated from the voices and bodies of the poetry conferences of 1963/1965 (and 2015).

What is refused is any attempt to reproduce what cannot be captured in the first place: namely, Moten’s performance, or what he calls the “animative materiality”; that is, “the aesthetic, political, sexual, and racial force” of his musicked speech, which continues to unfold and deepen incalculably as it remains in the swoon from which it was reawakened.

As Moten and Harney conclude The Undercommons: "There's a touch, a feel you want more of, which releases you." (Oh how I heard, which is to say felt myself touch, the extension of two asymptotic and interrelated lines of flight from Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts: “The abolition of private property is therefore the complete emancipation of all senses and qualities,” and that “the senses have become directly in their practice theoreticians.”)

Those who were at Moten’s October 23rd reading at the Or Gallery witnessed how, in his own words, “the work of blackness is inseparable from the violence of blackness”; how the “transformational imposition” of colonial architectures uncannily returns in precarious dis/guises; and how “violence is where technique and beauty come back, though they had never left.”

After he read some of his old-new poems, Moten was asked that irreducible non-question: “Where are you from?” That “My life had stood – a Loaded gun” question, motivated by a desire to dis/place precisely what continues to surround and threaten the garrison. To ask that non-question is to seek to dematerialize what happens before and alongside the blindsighted cut that is figure-ground anti-social relations: namely, the social and sensuous ensemble of undercommon grounded normativity. Or, in other words, Bee Alliance.

The extramusical, (re)inscriptive work of blackness; its transportive life and thought—what Denise Ferreira da Silva, in her magnificent essay “Toward A Black Feminist Poethic,” calls “affectability (relationality, contingency, immediacy)”—is the swoon from which it is continually re-en-gendered. Indeed, as Roderick Ferguson has recently argued after Audre Lorde, the Poetic is not a luxury, but a sensual matter or mobilization; a rematerialization of the Black Mother (Poethic) that passes through us all; the human differential in totality and burrowing alongside the general ecological catastrophe.

Moten’s work rematerializes in the service of a plenum (the interconnectedness of all matter) that might go by the name of “the general socialisation of the maternal.” Or what Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, addressing land dispossession and indigenous resurgence, calls the general “ecology of intimacy.” The plenum blurs or converges if one follows the letter (literality). 

Leibniz writes of a plenum in his Philosophical Essays:

“In a plenum every motion has some effect on distant bodies, in proportion to their distance. For each body is affected, not only by those in contact with it, and in some way feels the effects of everything that happens to them, but also, through them, it feels the effects of those in contact with the bodies which it is itself immediately in contact.”

Moten works not to write poetry, but to be (more or less than) poetry. To be in its jurisgenerative service toward the end of the World as it is known:

“I once heard my friend CA Conrad say, ‘I don’t want to write poetry, I want to be poetry.’ And I feel like what I would like to do is to be an instrument of poetry, a servant of poetry. What I understand poetry to be is the practice in which we cultivate and serve and protect our sociality by constantly changing it, by constantly disrupting it and improvising upon it. And I would like to be an instrument of that, a participant, so to speak, in that practice. Poetry not only cultivates that practice, but it also engages that practice. It is that practice and it is also the documentation of that practice. I guess what I mean is that I would like to be a documentary instrument, a camera eye, or a recording apparatus—some kind of a seismograph to register feeling up to the point at which whatever I think I mean when I utter the word ‘I’ fades away.”

All that need be recited is there. The social space that such a Poethics radically opens, though it was never closed. This line of animaterial flight is more than prismatic; it’s earthly, it burrows and borrows and transgresses as the impossible extension of the old mole, as both more or less than a singular being, and therefore susceptible to impossibly strange undercommon affinities and re-routings.

It’s not so unlike Lisa Robertson’s ambulatory field recordings made at the sites of Atget’s documentary photographs of Paris. How this extramusical indeterminacy of noise is “Infinity, plenum, chaos, dust.” (How the stray animals of the market stalls become the fugitive properties of perfume.) 

Just listen to the imaged words (in the now of their recognisability) of Édouard Glissant’s announcement in motion:

“When the poet travels to the ends where there is no country, he opens with the more deserved relations, in that space of absolute elsewhere in which each can attempt to reach him…The relation does not consent to the footpaths of traditions, but surfaces impure from all chaos lived there and by all illuminated. To be born into the world is to be aware, to suffer, to feel the energy of this share, heavy to carry, stern to say.”