t he bk,
t he referent 4 wch consists of,
t he non-materialized transparent punch-outs from a letter/whatever stencil
Michael Frederick Tolson et al's
t he bk /
t he referent 4 wch consists of /
t he non-materialized transparent punch-outs from a letter/whatever stencil
by Eddie Watkins - September 24, 2008
I toyed with different approaches to reviewing this book: - write a new and different review after each reading of it add to and modify the initial review until it reaches the max limit a parody of tENT's unique "way with words". Instead I'm going with a straight but malleable approach.
Rather than engage in wonky nitpickings of what this book actually is, I'll call it a book of poetry, in that it is composed of words used in specifically unique ways with one of the primary foci of the book being the words themselves.
A little history This book was written and published during a time of immense upheaval in the poetry world late 1960's to mid 70's. During this time a group of poets intentionally formed a movement called L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. I will not presume to be privy to all their intentions or to know much of anything what they were (are) about, but one intention was very clear more than any other movement ever had they wanted to foreground language itself in their poetry, and by doing this they intended to simultaneously "cleanse" language and expose it as a fraud. They were very politically oriented extreme intellectual leftist and so there was also a utopian element to their movement, where a kind of New World of pure language was dawning Now I'm getting a little slanted enough history and anyway tENT's book is not to be defined and/or analyzed by its relation to this movement.
I'll jump right into it - This is a book about liberation liberation from language, from self identity, from time, even from physicality. There is what I'll call an "objective clarity" to the writing that gives it the quality of issuing cleanly & directly from the mind of the author, but it also enters just as cleanly and directly into the mind of the reader, thus creating the impression of there being no barrier between the author's and reader's minds, and so it seems to issue from Mind (the mind behind/above our individual minds). That is to say there's a kind of transcendent quality to the writing.
But this is not to say that the writing is bloodless and theoretical, for at the same time there's a "punk" quality to some of it that draws the focus of the language back to an individual living a particular life there are mentions of depression/loneliness/madness/suicide, of "guerilla" film projects, there's punk and puckish humor, mention of peyote ingestion, and even 2 photos of (I assume) tENT himself in funky street performer garb. All this helps to "authenticate" the more impersonal/transpersonal qualities of the writing.
I say there's an "objective clarity" to the writing, but that's not to say there's an objective meaning (though tENT might argue this). This lack of objective meaning is what helps create the various liberations at work within this work, for instead of focusing the mind on the word surface in its search for meaning it actually helps to focus the mind beyond the words and into the Mind from which they issued. This is very interesting for me because many of the techniques deployed in this book such as blocks of disconnected words and word fragments arranged in alphabetical patterns, replacements of letters with other letters within words (e.g. r(v)c(v)iv(v) for receive), a plastic bag containing individual letters stapled to a page, manipulation of a paragraph of a scientist's description of dyslexia which mirrors that very dyslexia, &c. seem to attempt to focus the reader's mind on the brute mechanics of language; but for me even these techniques also help to focus my mind beyond the page, beyond the words.
As tENT mentions in his own description of this book, even the title of the book exists beyond the book itself, and so I'll say that the book itself is a guide book into how to live and BE beyond this (or any) book, that is to say it's about total freedom, and I mean that.
It's also very fun to read. BING!
t he book
t he referent 4 wch consists of
t he non-materialized transparent punch-outs
from a letter/whatever stencil
was the name of my 1st bk. I wrote it between yrs 1974 & 1977, ages 20 to 23. The title wasn't written anywhere on the bk & very few people (other than a few close friends) had any idea that that's what it was called. It was usually referred to as "the white book" or, as I sometimes explained it, "the white book with the oil stain on the back cover". I wrote it in substantial 'isolation'. I definitely had read William S. Burroughs by then & was sympathetic to his theories of undermining control thru "cut-ups". I may've seen concrete poetry by then. Those wd've been the writings closest to what I was experimenting w/. I kept a list of all the bks I read during my 22nd yr. That wd've been from September 4, 1975 to (you guessed it!) September 4, 1976. As is so often the case, you, dear reader, may find my attn to such detail insanely (or inanely) annoying, but I'm quite pleased that now, over 30 yrs after having compiled this list, I was able to find it w/in 3 minutes of having decided to consult it for this explanation. It's evidence of my extreme organization & structuredness. The list is retyped below somewhat following my original form & spellings.
books etc. read or reread (rr) "completely"
since 22nd birthday
sept - 6
maldoror le chants de maldoror - isidore ducasse/comte de lautremont
the banquet years - roger shattuck
ubu cuckolded - alfred jarry (rr)
venus in furs - leopold von sacher-masoch
nadja - andre breton
funeral rites - jean genet
oct - 8
bizarre - barry humphries
the man who was thursday - g.k.chesterton (rr)
de sade - everything in the 120 days [grove comp] except the 120 days of sodom
the tin drum - grass
the communist manifesto - marx & engels (pamphlet)
sidetripping - gatewood/burroughs
lenin - interviews given to foreign correspondents (pamphlet)
our course: peace and socialism - l.i.brezhnev (pamphlet)
nov - 12
the tolkien reader
the best of new directions 18
the 1st 186 pages of: wilhelm reich selected writings: intro to orgonomy
the mystery of burnleigh manor - walter livingston
the gloyne murder - carl clausen
faust - pt 1 - goethe
emma - jane austen
secret missions of the civil war - stern
volume 9 the world's best detective stories (rr - with 2 exceptions)
pride & prejudice - jane austen
penguin edition: confessions of an english opium eater - de quincy
december - 2
grapefruit - yoko ono
the eustace diamonds - anthony trollope
january - 4
vathek - william beckford
hypnosis - fact and fiction - f.l.marcuse
the iliad - homer
poésies - lautréamont
february - 8
the 120 days of sodom - de sade
finnegans wake - james joyce
oldenburg - ellen h. johnson
1001 ways to live without working - tuli kupferberg
andy warhol - films & paintings - peter gidal
masculine feminine - jean-luc godard et al
exterminator! - w.s.burroughs
dubliners - j.joyce
march - 5
underground film - a critical history - parker tyler
the stranger - a.camus [rr?]
surrealists on art - ed. lucy r. lippard
the satyricon & the fragments - petronius - trans j.p.sullivan
fathers & sons (fathers & children?) - i.turgenev - trans r.edmonds
april - 9
against nature - j.k.huysman - trans robert baldick
conceptual art - u. meyer
nightmare abbey - thomas love peacock
penguin edition - thomas de quincy - recollections of the lakes & the lake poets
crotchet castle - thomas love peacock
surrealist art - sarane alexandrian
2 days of boccacio's decameron
surrealism - ed. herbert read
dada & surrealism chapter in painting & sculpture in europe 1880-1940 - hamilton
new directions 26
may - 4
edifices - dubuffet
dada - w.verkauf etc.
quotations from the anarchists - ed. p.berman
salt seller - duchamp
june - 7
travels in peru - dr. j.j.von tschudi.
rigadoon - céline
house of incest - anais nin
the floating opera - john barth
exiles - james joyce
collected poems - james joyce
the theory of the modern stage - eric bentley
july - 4
the transformative vision - argüelles
the peyote dance - artaud
shards of the gods - a novel of the yippies - ed sanders
mansfield park - jane austen
august - 4
artistry of the mentally ill - hans prinzhorn - trans. eric von brockdorff
discovery at the rio camuy - russell & jeanne gurnee
manifestoes of surrealism - (ann arbor paperback) - andré breton - 1st, 2nd, soluble fish, etc.
the book of breeething - william s. burroughs
sept 1-4: 2
junkie - william lee (alias -> william s. burroughs)
the velvet underground - michael leigh
There you have it. Some of the intellectual community I was aware of. A satisfactory selection. Nonetheless, these examples are given to illustrate the isolation I was writing in. I had very few friends & I was experimenting w/ language in ways that I had either not encountered at all or had encountered very little.
Sometime during the writing of this 1st bk I met Kirby Malone in Baltimore, a somewhat kindred literary spirit. I was probably 21, he was probably 20. He left for England immediately after, on a funded academic trip, so we didn't get to know each other until a yr later. Probably thru him I eventually met Marshall Reese & Chris Mason, 2 more kindred spirits. Again, thru these folks, I met Jackson MacLow. Jackson was one of the 1st writers to give me support upon seeing my writing. I even showed him a piece that was all numbers & explained it & he complimented it! Despite these early contacts, though, my bk was written more or less independently of any substantial participation in a writers' community.
Then along came "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E" magazine. A journal dedicated to the discussion of "language writing" - wch I took to mean something like: writing that focuses on a non-transparent use of language, that focuses on the language itself rather than what the words refer to, on the use of language in such a way that the reader is more self-conscious of their engagement in the reading process, on a use of language that casts the reader adrift in a sea of possibilities rather than sucking them into a prenavigated flow, etc. &, supposedly, these writers had revolutionary political purposes. Fine. This was the closest I'd come to finding a community of like-minded writers yet & the afore-mentioned friends were all participating.
But, I'm jumping too far ahead. My 1st bk. In my "Printed Matter" list I describe it as:
- 61 6&1/2 X 8&1/2" white pp printed on with black ink
+ baggie with 9 letters inside it
+ 5&1/2 X 8&1/2" insert pamphlet with 2 printed surfaces
+ page written on with 'invisible ink'
+ page with text on flash-paper attached
- edition of 431
- concrete essays
The idea of "concrete essays" is perhaps most important here. I most likely didn't think of this description for the bk until long after it was written. Regardless, it's probably the most apt one I've ever thought of. I wasn't interested in being a poet. I liked Concrete Poetry & Picture Poems & Visual Poetry but I was mainly interested in thinking of a variety of uses for language & then trying to create a form that seemed appropriate to those uses. &, to me, this seemed more essayist than poetic. I didn't, & still don't, even like poetry very much.
The bk was a collection of the experiments that I'd made that I thought were the most fertile. These were organized in a way meant to keep the reader's interaction w/ the bk exceptionally busy. As such, one page wd introduce a list of acronymns & the next 2 wd put them in 2 different contexts. An acronymn such as TTQ-EA was a miniature concrete essay in the sense that by standing for "thoughts too quick - expressions anachronistic" it cd provide a speedier way of expressing that thought &, therefore, attempt to bypass the anachronism problem. Getting up to speed.
The 2nd printed surface of the bk is the "Introduction:". That's reproed after this explanation section. It was an introduction not in the sense of being a 'transparent' text that directed the reader's thoughts about the bk in a particular way, but in the sense that it engaged the reader in a field in wch the only obvious left-right/top-bottom organization was, on one level, alphabetical but, at a sub-level, non-alphabetical. Ie: words beginning w/ "a" are followed by words beginning w/ "b".. by "c", etc.. but w/in the "b"s, eg, brew 'follows' burg & bugs 'follows' bald, etc..
This "Introduction:" is a list of 4 letter words arranged in a grid 12 words across & 12 lines down (12 obviously being a triple of 4) w/ an additional 2 lines that disrupt that pattern followed by a grid of 5 letter words 10 words across, 10 lines down (10 obviously being a double of 5). The 4 letter words being slang, the 5 letter words not being slang. The organization was meant to present a vocabulary for the reader to play w/ & navigate thru w/o instigating a 'need' for them to worry about a definitional meaning outside their own navigational process.
I was a person who liked to count things & this was very important to the structure of this bk. This was also something that went completely unnoticed by people who read it. Why? Perhaps because even the "language writers" were more oriented around looking for the expressive than they were in looking for organizational patterns. Read about that in the "l;a;n;g;u;a;g;e" section that (eventually) follows this.
For me, this "Introduction:" & other parts of this bk were "language writing" in the sense that I understood it & in the sense I was interested in. & I'd written them before I'd ever encountered the idea of "language writing" or, possibly, before the term was coined. Of course, such writing had been around easily for decades before I was even born. The remarkable Gertrude Stein, eg. BUT, the bk wasn't only "language writing". I had no interest in limiting myself to one theory of writing. Thank goodness. As such, the bk was all over the place. A baggie w/ the letters "e,i,a,y,h,s,t,n,c" wch cd be dyslexically read, because of the deliberate absence of usual orientation, w/ the "n" as a "u" - as the reviewer Bruce Andrews did.
An insert showing the title page of The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary contained inside the definitions for all those words from the same dictionary. A page w/ "IN HEAT" written on it in lemon juice. Lemon juice being the most common of 'invisible' inks. To reveal the writing more clearly, the classic method is to run a flame under the writing to turn the juice brown. I'd demonstrated this particular text to a female friend I wanted to have sex w/ when I was young & shy. A strange intellectual's version of a pick-up line. We did end up fucking. Putting the flame under the page creates the risk of burning the bk.
Hence, that page was followed by a page w/ a small strip of flash paper taped to it: the paper having "READ UNDERWATER" written on it. Reading that underwater resulted in the paper dissolving almost instantaneously because the paper was made for quick destruction. BUT, it wd've saved the bk from burning if revealing the preceding page's text had started a fire. Such paper cd be used by bookies because it cd be easily disposed of before the police cd use it as evidence of betting.
The overall idea was to keep the reader active. The above examples are very clear & direct instances of "concrete essays". Make IN HEAT easily readable by putting it in heat, READ UNDERWATER & the text dissolves. But there was far more to the bk than this. Originally I'd even thought of having it printed in an ink that wd only appear in the cold. Then I'd have the bk shaped like a head of lettuce. If the reader gave up on it as a bk & played along w/ accepting it as lettuce, they might put it in a refrigerator & the writing wd appear. Then it wd be back to being a bk again.
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
idioideo at verizon dot net
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE Anti-Neoism page
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE Audiography page
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE Bibliography page
to my "Blaster" Al Ackerman index
to the site that lists the Books that tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE has something in or is mentioned in
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE BYOC page
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE Censored or Rejected page
to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's Collaborations website
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE (d) compositions page
to Amir-ul Kafirs' Facebook page
to the "FLICKER" home-page for the alternative cinematic experience
to Gifs made by Ryan Broughman
to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's GoodReads profile
to Graffiti index
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE Home Tapers
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE index page
to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE'S minimal International Union of Mail Artists page
to a listing of tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's manifestations on the Internet Archive
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE as Interviewee index
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE as Interviewer index
to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE'S Linked-In profile
for A Mere Outline for One Aspect of a Book on Mystery Catalysts, Guerrilla Playfare, booed usic, Mad Scientist Didactions, Acts of As-Beenism, So-Called Whatevers, Psychopathfinding, Uncerts, Air Dressing, Practicing Promotextuality, Imp Activism, etc..
to the mm index
to see an underdeveloped site re the N.A.A.M.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored Peoples)
to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's Neoism page
to the DEFINITIVE Neoism/Anti-Neoism website
to the Philosopher's Union website
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE movie-making "Press: Criticism, Interviews, Reviews" home-page
to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's Score Movies
to find out more about why the S.P.C.S.M.E.F. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sea Monkeys by Experimental Filmmakers) is so important
to the "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - Sprocket Scientist" home-page
to the Tattoos index
to Psychic Weed's Twitter page
to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's Vimeo index
to Vine movies relevant to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE made by Ryan Broughman
to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's presence in the Visual Music Village
for info on tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's tape/CD publishing label: WIdémoUTH
to a very small selection of tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's Writing
to the onesownthoughts YouTube channel