One corollary of conceptual writing, following Sol LeWitt, maintains that “the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work” and that “the execution is a perfunctory affair.” Hence, in its purest and most rigorous application no writing results at all: the concept alone is worth contemplation and would only be determined in its execution. Another corollary maintains, to the contrary, that writing resulting from the execution of a concept or procedure should itself be at least as interesting as the concept or procedure. From this it follows that value inheres to concept or procedure chiefly insofar as it yields compelling, engaging, interesting writing. I intend my review of American Dialectics to operate somewhere between these corollaries. I want as much as possible to collapse this very distinction and make the concepts and procedures an integral part of the very material occasion of the text’s being.
Yes I am a poet, truly, and I was struck dumb, stammering, attempting to speak in the presence of your glance. Shall we talk? In faith and in hope, I am listening.
I can certainly imagine procedures to obtain the circumspection of my pleasures. The business of coiling, rattling, and spitting. This describes the situation obtaining. Somebody else did it before we did it. I am nowhere gathered together. I recognize that scene of language. Do you remember shape-shifting? It frees the air of dead influences. I am transported, beyond language, i.e., beyond the mediocre, beyond the general. I can do everything with my language, but not my body. And no silence exists. I am not interested in my mind. Music is not different only simpler. Now that things are so simple, I hear rumbling menacingly a whole other world. I engage in dialogue, to the point where I lash out furiously against the importune outsider who wakens me from my delirium. “We have three”: the close anonymous collaboration. I perform, discretely, lunatic chores. I am caught up in a double discourse, from which I cannot escape. I sustain this discourse. We will change direction constantly. Phrases begin and end. I want, I desire, quite simply, a structure. Does it matter which?
If one hears what one writes—by which I mean not just paper poems—how can one not be seduced by the sensuality of the language? It is physical, very exciting, and when organized it can have the impact and grandeur of Wordsworth. The struggle is between this sensuousness which is elegance and the newer, easier to arrive at, excitement. On the one hand language is comprehensible in that it evokes a sentiment, though the sentiment itself may be incomprehensible and far reaching. Language is all our dreams of poetry. Non-referentiality is poetry’s dreams of us. And those moments when one loses control, and language like crystals forms its own planes, and with a thrust, there is no language, no idiom, no sentiment, nothing left but the significance of our first breath.
I love splitting and scuttling American Dialectics. You go crazy traveling through logic, blaming it all and fucking over in ya. Words, terrible scuttle. You like his alright. Move over if talk can grab ya. No trust can doubt you.
“A Conceptual Review of American Dialectics by Tom Orange” is a treatment of Tom Orange’s American Dialectics (Slack Buddha Press, 2008), conceived of on 16 February 2013, actualized on 17 February 2013, and performed on 18 February 2013. Each paragraph of this review contains language taken from a particular piece of conceptual writing found in the original text. The original text contains seven compositions, five of which Orange actualizes/performs and two of which remain conceptual.