[-empyre-] Belated hellos

Maria Damon damon001 at umn.edu
Sat Oct 12 05:10:08 AEDT 2019

Empyre 1 poetics and play

Belated hellos, all!

I am so grateful for the opportunity to interact with ideas here that i
almost don’t know where to begin.

It’s always *awkward* to introduce oneself (Truong Tran: “You begin with a
foundation premised on shame”),

but *awkwardness* (that weird mash-up of eagerness and diffidence) is often
an initial stage of play, of making, of thinking, and especially of

Awkward: *awk (adj.)*

mid-15c., "turned the wrong way," from Old Norse afugr "turned backwards,
wrong, contrary," from Proto-Germanic *afug- (source also of Old Saxon
aboh, Old High German apuh, Middle Dutch avesch, Dutch aafsch), from PIE
*apu-ko-, from root **apo-
"off, away."

*Apo*, in turn, “forms all or part of: ab-
<https://www.etymonline.com/word/ab-?ref=etymonline_crossreference>; abaft
<https://www.etymonline.com/word/ablaut?ref=etymonline_crossreference>; aft
<https://www.etymonline.com/word/aft?ref=etymonline_crossreference>; after
to human company, love of solitude”); aperitif
apo- <https://www.etymonline.com/word/apo-?ref=etymonline_crossreference>;
(“destroying angel of the bottomless pit”); apology
awk <https://www.etymonline.com/word/awk?ref=etymonline_crossreference>;
<https://www.etymonline.com/word/awkward?ref=etymonline_crossreference>; ebb
<https://www.etymonline.com/word/eftsoons?ref=etymonline_crossreference>; of
<https://www.etymonline.com/word/of?ref=etymonline_crossreference>; off
<https://www.etymonline.com/word/off?ref=etymonline_crossreference>; offal
<https://www.etymonline.com/word/offal?ref=etymonline_crossreference>; overt

With all this catastrophic baggage, how can we help but want to run away
when asked to account for ourselves? Let’s take refuge in *play*, as we do
in our teachers, our body of resources, our communities, however flawed or

And guess what? *Play*’s ultimate etymology is, fittingly, uncertain!

play (v.) <https://www.etymonline.com/word/play#etymonline_v_16469>

Old English plegan, plegian "move rapidly, occupy or busy oneself,
exercise; frolic; make sport of, mock; perform music," from Proto-West
Germanic *plegōjanan "occupy oneself about" (source also of Old Saxon
plegan "vouch for, take charge of," Old Frisian plega "tend to," Middle
Dutch pleyen "to rejoice, be glad," German pflegen "take care of,
cultivate"), which is apparently connected to the root of *plight* (v.), *but
the ultimate etymology is uncertain*…

But, on the other hand, on the very same website:

plight (n.1)

"condition or state (usually bad)," late 12c., "danger, harm, strife," from
Anglo-French plit, pleit, Old French pleit, ploit "condition" (13c.),
originally "way of folding," from Vulgar Latin *plictum, from Latin
plicitum, neuter past participle of Latin plicare "to fold, lay" *(from PIE
root *plek-
<https://www.etymonline.com/word/*plek-?ref=etymonline_crossreference> "to

(That Proto-Indo-European is an entirely speculative endeavor makes it all
the more appropriate for this kind of diasporic play, which maintains a
fraught/speculative relationship to points of origin.)

Too much already here to unpack. That “play” and “plight” should form the
two-in-one Janic nexus that indicates both joy and implicitly-bad condition
–“danger, harm, strife” –should come as no surprise, and its embeddedness
in “plait,” or braid, further underscores the indivisibility of putative
opposites. I read this most poignant of Walter Benjamin’s exhortations as a
declaration of the value of cultural and artistic play and resilience:
“[The spiritual stakes of revolutionary struggle] manifest themselves … as
courage, humor, cunning, and fortitude.” Through “humor” and “cunning,”
*play* takes its place as necessary for survival and resistance.

Complementary colors collide to create the braid’s ornamental qualities.
The fold (“pli”) invites a Deleuzian insight, which perhaps someone else
can further unfold, exfoldiate, or un/revel. If “the fold is an event” then
so is the playful gesture, so is the untenable plight.

The idea –or maybe “impulse” is more apt –that we are braided into a
narrative that far supersedes us is catalytic to my making process. Though
always starting from a place of doubt, of shaky awkward shame, i stand
perpetually half-submerged at the edge of the great expanse of the sea of
linguistic and material poeisis, looking out at the exhilarating and
frightening endlessness. (Material: of the mother, the sea, la mer.)
(Truong Tran: “I was playing around with language in the hopes of getting
inside of language” oh yes.)

When i weave or write, i never know what i’m doing: does anyone? One starts
from impulse, and it’s in the making process that uncovery is made. I don’t
consider myself an artist, a poet, a scholar (though i’ve been trained as
the latter) but rather a fellow-traveler in all regards. This frees me from
having to live up to standards, from having to take to heart the
intimidating competitions set up for artists, poets and scholars. I enjoy
making things. I enjoy collaborations. My primary collaborators in the word
have been mIEKAL aND, Adeena Karasick, and Alan Sondheim, all of whom are
admirable risk-takers in their flamboyant contributions to verbal
sub/cultural production. They help me realize effects i could never achieve
alone, wouldn’t even know how or where to begin. As a semi-young person i
had a private dream of having a house made of jewels. When mIEKAL and i
made the online version of *Literature Nation *with* Hyperpoesy* (
http://joglars.org/literature_nation/litnat/index.html) I realized that
this was my house of jewels. The audio gifs no longer work on my laptop,
maybe on no one’s. But the house of jewels lives in my mind.

Late in this mesh of musings, let me ask for help. I have been trying
without much success to theorize the text/textile nexus from a variety of
approaches. I am experiencing frustration. I thought that maybe a rigorous
investigation of metaphor would get me someplace, but I’m stalled out over
my indignation at text-workers having colonized textile metaphors for their
own purposes, rarely understanding the material aspects of their somewhat
glibly appropriated figures of speech. Some exceptions –rigorous
thinker/makers on text/textile –include Francesca Capone, Elizabeth Barber,
Jen Bervin, Cecilia Vicuña, Jen Hofer, Jeffrey Gibson, whom am i leaving
out? I would be grateful to expand my set of references.

Is this an introduction? Let’s play...
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