Commentary: on My Poetry

On I discover i is an android

Some, inevitably, will open this book seeking Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquility.” They’ll find it as incomprehensible and off-putting as many still find Finnegan’s Wake. But for those who take a breath, decipher a few of the more elliptical phrases, and read it with an open mind for new aesthetic possibilities, the “generativity” Moore-Williams mentions in his afterword will be plain as day. By now there’s a long tradition in poetry of “pushing the aesthetic of ‘the difficult poem’ to the extreme,” and this work is a valuable, brave and promising addition to it. A goldmine of Zukofskian density, puns, sound play, and homophonic structure, it’s also an especially successful attempt to use speech and dialect as a route into meaning’s deconstruction, modifying an already-aging aesthetic argument that equates anything speech-based with naive referentiality. But whatever larger claims may or may not be here, at the very least there’s the pleasures found in any codebreaking and puzzle-solving (I personally decoded “’n ed’n o’ ‘n id ‘e ‘ad” as “an Eden or an Id he had”). More than that, what I find enduring in this work is the way the extremes of the project still don’t, actually, wipe out all traces of the anxieties, narratives, and lyrical vulnerabilities of being an “I” in this “gore ward” of a world. Consider these poems your first glimpse of the Romanticism of the future.

—Brent Cunningham, author of Bird & Forest, Operations Director at Small Press Distribution

Tracing the analog ego through the digital ID of the android, there is something of the Burgess A Clockwork Orange in the dialect set to a Burroughs cut-up machine. Its stilted and staccato phrasings that take on an order despite their (apparent) attempt at cacophony (a chaosmos). John Moore Williams elicits this in a world where a Philip K. Dick is linguistic engineer of a future fantastic.

A label like “posthuman” may spring readily to mind, but that would court the usual issues of what that “post” would designate. It is not necessarily the end of the human that Williams offers us, but its continuation along the trajectory of a digital-based language. Williams’ conceptual force majeur can be described as an exploration on how a techno-linguistics factors in the re-imagining of how consciousness of our “I” is constructed. It is in each precious and irreparable virtualization of that “I” brought about through our connection to various technological interfaces that sets the scene for our becoming-androids.

It is on that uneven split between the analog and digital, and the golem and cyborg, where Williams wages his poems, the tension for consciousness suspended upon the twisting hyphen of a wobbly dialectic. The frequent invocations of Adam and Eve, beyond signaling some kind of crude genesis where “machines make new men”, asks us to ponder the significance of ourselves as golems living within a given linguistic architecture where the landscape becomes increasingly digital. And, as we know, the biblical Adam was the first golem, made of clay and given the Word by which he came to life (perhaps rendering Eve in the most predominant Genesis narrative of many an Adamic byproduct, a veritable simulacrum).

It would appear that the distinction between analog and digital is juggled throughout WIlliams’ svelte but puissant offering. Language in its analog capacity has a generally apparent function if one exists within the social discourse in which it appears, whereas “objets digitale” usually have their functions nested inside them like a virtual egg, a potentiality. Williams writes in our analog language, but does so digitally, teasing out what an android language – effectively, our language mediated – would look like. A predominant theme in literature and cinema concerning androids is the search for identity, and it is a rough and ready allegory for our own search by way of language. Condemned to meaning, the ego and id are smothered under a technological superego that has its discursive demands for proper participation. Williams retires the old binaries by resisting crude comparison; instead of posing the question clumsily as “how would we speak as androids?” he takes as a starting proposition that we (already) are, if we extend the definition of android to be more metaphorically inclusive. Rather than a voluntary merger where human speakers elect to embrace becoming techno-homunculi, it is the scene of a shocking discovery where at the root of possessing a raft of State-sanctioned ID cards, one is already part of a large normative program:

dior dna not available, evoke sids.
eve’s ok, kid. it’s adam i’d worry about.
iris disc over is an and-ran
diode red nun as ire focus’d in
nods you coffee rise anon dare do id.
i ‘ad cover, I an ID

At first blush, Williams may seem to be relying heavily on the rubric of langpo, but as one reads further, each capitalization is conspicuously marked, and each contracting apostrophe stands like a lemma or an enthymeme, bringing the poetic flow to term by constructing its own flow, its own logic. The discovery is not only that the narrator learns of being an android, but that others are as well, and that the entire social system is run on a program. The question of whether social normative frameworks make us programmed or programmers is left deliciously open for consideration. In the vertically-based arborescent model of a social program that hierarchically attempts to determine identity, Williams demonstrates with experimental vigour and dark candor that perhaps the one adventitious thing that flouts it is the rhizome of language as the real conduit of ego discovery. And so, in the unmasking of that ego, one comes to unmask the real codes that buttress the social landscape. The social is only apparently hardware, but it is the mutable software of our language that truly has the potential to reprogram ourselves and the environment around us.

—Kane X. Faucher, author of Jonkil Dies and Tales Pinned on a Complete Ass

On [+1]

[+!] is like three players and a pile of lettered tiles. Making and breaking.

To what end, we want to know? Will we know, can it deliver that, does it have to? You have to invest that time, see it through to the end, and arrive at your answer. Or not.

Will they arrange the tiles and make words, arrange the words, and somehow answer that FOR YOU?  They won’t, they will cover the table with linguistic acrobatics and masturbatory couplings (paradoxical, yes) then … it seems one of them must  jump up from the table driven by some derrida dada madness shouting something along the lines of a deconstructionist epithet and chatter- the tiles are tossed to the floor.

The reader is left to intuit, the codex. Built. Broken.

—Lynn Alexander, author of Flesh Made Widow

Read the full review at Alexander’s literary journal, Full of Crow.