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Leslie Scalapino
  Secret Occurrence
Secret Occurrence
A talk written for the "Page-Mothers" Conference held at UCSD in San Diego early in 1999. This piece is 2,800 words or about eight printed pages long.


R O D R I G O   T O S C A N O ' S   P O E T R Y - positing a relation of "one" (of the person) to force/world/class/transformation or control by the outside - moves that relation itself to be that transformation (to be "one" as "their" "us" "we"). The relation he makes is language-flicker of a motion: "Those objects, she said, subjectify one."
      His Partisans manufactures space, is a relation of times, gleams as future/past, that is "historically-soluble" - "WHAT WILL CAPITAL'S CULTURE BE TIMING (then)? - "WHAT WILL MANUFACTURED SPACE BE DEFINING (then)?" That is, "then" is also the present: "But to dream now/of something/that isn't that. . ."
      The individual is a worker as a "wordworker." Toscano places "one" in relation to that "force" or "world" as an intentionality. There is a simultaneity created by his language's motion that is a contemplation that is an occurrence itself. Line/word as motion/shape becomes a motion, also one's perceptual motion, that moves 'the terrain' (language and world).
      What moves the existing terrain is something non-existing - premonition that 'becomes' a future "Social-volition" or noticed to have been there? That's premonition in non-existing events, as say in strangers who approach unpredictably in city squares in real-time, encounters as emptiness that are events "then" in the world, yet as writing now are simultaneous "to act/sounding" at once.
      In other words, there is a double (or multiple) of events non-existing while seen (social-erasure yet present/in time) - and non-existing because they haven't occurred yet, are premonition that's the active present.
      "HIGHLY-PROCESSED SUBJECTIVITIES - AS PART OF A SOCIAL SURPLUS" are such premonitions, noticed. These are part of the manufactured space in which actions precede, accumulating, noticed: "What person/couldn't sense force/aimed at their body/was likely ill."
      The past is in the present and is still a ground that's "Complicit continuum of inattention," a deafness.
      "Sounding" as premonition is in occurrence there - that is, it is "between" periods of time and strangers. As such, it is both a lack of relation and a relation (the "sounding," which is language creates relation): "to what future/between us."
      "Nothing will answer." Feed-back isn't going to occur, premonition is future.


Bernadette Mayer's choice is writing as "experiments" in the scientific sense of a set of perimeters or structure designed to enable discovery ("an operation carried out under controlled conditions in order to discover an unknown effect or law"). Examples of this mode are her books Studying Hunger and Midwinter's Day, the first being a month-long period-of-time as structure of the book, the second being a single day as the structure (and process) of the experiment. The pressure or the looseness of time in (or as being) a designated time-period has itself an effect on what occurs then.
      In Studying Hunger, she indicates wanting "to find a structure for MEMORY & you" associated with (or differentiated from) "language border which seems to separate, just barely, observation & analysis." (1) Memory is not language-border? Is language-border present-time per se, as its function?
      The relation of memory (which can only be one person's) and "you," someone else, an object neither created by memory nor 'dwelling' in it - is placed beside language-border (always present-time) that which only barely separates observation and analysis. The discrepancy (language-border not being the same as memory) is the code that transcribes an event? Mayer says:

"I had an idea before this that if a human, a writer, could come up with a workable code, or shorthand, for the transcription of every event, every motion, every transition of his or her own mind, & could perform this process of translation on himself, using the code, for a 24-hour period, he or we or someone could come up with a great piece of language/information." (2)

The writing is states of consciousness as if every event of which could be experience - (in order to do the experiment) one would have to be separated from the experience by the structure/design of the experiment.
      She may mean transcription of every event, every motion, every transition of one's mind - is looking intensely at the mind's present, which dissolves memory and language border. In this dissolution the two, always separate from each other but as if 'solely' able to transcribe each other, are simultaneous.
      There should be no lineage in order to see what the mind is.
      Transcription (as writing) of mind or transcription of one's characteristics is different from the "social." This is related to lineage.
      What is the relation of one's mind to people's, including one's, behavior. Writing being itself separation of these could see relation - by showing they aren't 'as' each other.
      "Behavior" implies long-term and also transient -people's patterns, but which are events. Behavior is fact/action/events, and also characteristics and repetition.
      If writing is viewed as a given or prior form, then it is not the relation between a mind and (that person's or people's) behavior.
      If writing's form is mind-formations it is a relation to people's behavior, outside one. In parks say. We'd see our relation to our own mind.


The title "Page-Mothers" implies lineage; and of particularly fixed nature: gender-determined or biologically-determined lineage. THE INSTRUCTION HERE: There shouldn't be lineage at all.
      Allusion-based writing (conservative models of this) may be streams of quotations from, or allusions to, luminous 'figures' who become figures only (by being simply 'referred to,' a hidden support in, and of, a fabric of such) - or they are 'figures' by being quoted briefly in a stream (in a series of epiphanies, as if anthologizing or it has the same effect as anthologizing). The form of the fabric of allusions seems thus to transcribe 'them,' the people. And the substance and connections of the actual thought and works (that which is referenced) are absent.
      The 'meaning' or 'ideology' of the fabric (of such allusion-based writing) is the revered 'being' (not the thought or writing) of the referenced person. The 'being' is in the place of consideration or analysis of any writing's characteristics. The allusion-based form as referencing is enshrinement as (apparently passive, a fabric of the idea of tradition) identification with the beatific beings (of authority-figures - who may have actually had radical conceptualizations, but these erased in being reduced to only cited allusions, the figures are now emblems of personal status).
      Thus while apparently submissive, the fabric of allusions - "to allude to" - is hidden enforcement of conception of patriarchy (which may not even be enacted by, may be 'being' dismembered by, those 'alluded to'). Their thought is erased in gesture that is a dual secret occurrence. The mode of this hidden enforcement is anti-thought, thought (here defining it as 'engaging of occurrence') is not the mode of occurrence.
      Another form of lineage is academic format - the format of that type of essay being to assign lineage and describe a poet's body of work solely in relation to that prior manifestation or example, transforming the present poetry into a current version of a description of the past. It is as if history or thought is hierarchical and a poet's work is only seen in that hierarchy. What occurs as the shape/motion or sound that is the language is not in the description or seen to be there, only the writing's relation to other things - that is, the background and its connections to the present are not assessed, rather the background is simply reified. In that way, background and present are both inert.
      Mongolian tankas (one of these may be so large as to cover an entire wall) with scenes (narration whose references would be known to a resident viewer) on vertical-horizontal spatially separate plateaus, or the same figure repeated throughout in the same deep color as the background (the outline of the repeated figure distinguished in gold) are a perceptual change by viewing the figure in that space. The meaning is not the references 'alluded to' or portrayed. The visual is itself spatial change. All times are activated in simultaneity.
      To compare Bernadette Mayer as a phenomenological poet (the mind making visual sites) to the notion of viewing the figure in space: the process of her writing is examination of its vehicle - which is the writing itself as one's mind (either in one reading the text or in one writing it).
      Mayer frequently chooses the conception or design of an experiment which then the writing is. Sometimes she chooses to write a 'given' form (such as sonnets) as 'procedures' or vehicles, as one chooses guides, such as Dante - to do the interior motivation (which is transformation of one's mind and outlook) by the exterior process or structure that's occurring which is conceptual.
      Dante makes a journey that transforms his mind and eye (the hierarchical stages of which are shown to him by Virgil and Beatrice). The form is the site/process?
      In the Divine Comedy, each book or section is prefaced by a synopsis of the content that follows (prose glosses of the poem that follows) - yet the poem's content may not reflect the synopsis, or may be some interior aspect of it not seen in the synopsis.
      I was lying curled up in a landscape, as if in the side of a hill or knoll, and a huge gray elephant was charging me to beat me with its trunk - I thought if I lie very still curled it will not be made angry, not continue and attack me. Then behind me, another huge gray elephant reached out and patted me with her trunk, the trunk stroking the length of my side soothing, to indicate Don't be upset. The other elephant rushing at me wacking with its trunk roiling. I met T. and told him about the two elephants and he said he didn't believe me. Then I got mad because he didn't believe me.
      Bernadette Mayer is very free in writing as venting erotic, which is simply 'when that comes up.' It is not vis à vis centering presentation as an authorial 'self.'
      The men's notion of excising eroticism (that is, removing the "self" from writing - which was discussed at a talk on autobiography in 1980) was to free the writing of that as a base. To free it of having to be rooted in a ego-social base. The effect of this (even there) was actually erasing critique of ego-social base.
      The historical event is similar to my once describing to a man and to Maureen Owen some ridiculous position I was in vis à vis embarrassment offered to a man and my witnessing it (I portrayed my position in the event, and that it was later reported by the men present as my not handling the event properly even though I had nothing to do with the event - but I was described by them as ridiculous in the event because I spoke of it to others later and because I am a woman. That is, I saw it!). In my rendition of this in conversation later with this man who'd not been present and Maureen Owen, I rendered my position as (and) its elements together as a code. The man immediately rephrased what the words I had just said meant, his rephrasing characterizing me in the manner (rendering the portrait of me, rendering the event) that the other men had said - fascinating! - Maureen Owen instantly re-reinterpreted, saying "That is not what she just said." I said: "That's right. That's not what I just said."
      The elements of this episode had to be conveyed in speaking as a code.
      In other words, to write on the terrain or broach the terrain of what is the nature of experience at all - that it is not shared by people - or some people share it but as some other form. Language has to be changed as poetry or as any exchange, it can't be "normative" (what is viewed as that) and be approaching what is experiencing. Because what is viewed as that as the language itself isn't what's occurring.
      In seeing such an event in the present, 'they' are not inside customs, the social accepted ways, and cannot be, can not see as being 'raised seeing reality in a social perspective' - then it is easier for them to perceive that which has to be outside of customs to be at all. Then that isn't lineage. They can't be 'within anything,' have to be always 'outside' grappling as one can't by the very nature of that outside and what is actually any one, fit into what is there - yet then one is grappling with grappling.
      Then that's lineage, of oneself continually.
      As such, one is aware of all occurrence as "HIGHLY-PROCESSED SUBJECTIVITIES" - that these have no time, are non-existent in being erased. Are erased in that they are not perceived in their time. Also are created in and by oneself. And also are active and volatile as present/past action which is premonition.
      In Robert Grenier's color Xerox series, Owl on Bough, the text is hand-drawn words as shape whose 'meaning' is 'their shape/and their conceptual shape' - as reproduced by Xerox exactly as if that is the inside of one's mind as visual.
      He doesn't put behavior in.
      The terrain is large pages sometimes split by a dividing line as if one is seeing physical separation of language from conceptual space by that being drawn (that is, shape cannot be translated as printed font).
      Word-shape overlaps in different colors on the line-split page as if this as only text mirrored the natural world as or by that world being overtly separate from its own manifestation, and as if no aspect of human behavior or characteristic impinges as the visual-physical page - as if that which is human has been by-passed (while, or because, the page still retains the effect of a person's hand and mind). It is 'as if' the viewer sees something else (rather than layers that are of human production) by there being no depth and it being only production (Xerox).
      While retaining or reflecting no vestige of HIGHLY-PROCESSED SUBJECTVITIES, Grenier's pages seem to be mirror images of these as only the nature world itself.
      (His being a way of looking at society, in eschewing it. He thinks behavior isn't criteria? As if people had no actions? His choice itself determines observation. This is akin to the Japanese historical context, theme, and form created by the hermit as writer, who leaves the world and writes a reflection of both outside and inside that.)
      As change of space:
      That is, to take it out of seeing it even (as to be "seeing it" would be having seen it/seeing it before).
      Midwinter's Day is a 168 page book written in twenty-four hours, Mayer describing (in a talk at Naropa) having 'practiced' or 'trained' for the particular twenty-four hour period, even practicing dreaming to then "have good dreams" during the night of the designated time. The writing is the 'events' of that day filling it, and it is also 'on' the events occurring in that day. Mind's events as being the time itself - transcription of all events (mind's, time itself, action of events occurring outside in the time period) - there is no 'place' for the events. Writing subsumes these. Actions 'outside' are opaque and the writing is separate from these continually, at the same time as being these only. Similar to Grenier's hand-drawn text being apparently word "owl" or "bough" as natural world itself, an impossibility which is rendered both by the illusion of its occurring and the viewer's apprehension not being based in seeing (that what is apprehended is outside of the visual, as world or reading), Mayer's "experiments" are 'on' (and are) the separation (from the subject). Her writing enables one's perceiving something about 'outside' and 'mind' at once.
      Marjorie Perloff, at the Page Mothers Conference after I gave this talk, remarked to me that my talk was "seamless" (meaning no separation), a word she'd recently used to describe my writing (to which I'd objected). Is "seamless" 'outside' and 'mind' at once? - so that my attempt to view both of those occurring (and occurrence being separate), which instigates premonition, is by her description of it as "seamless" negated (in that framing or 'way of seeing' my placing of 'mind' and 'outside' together)? If one views mind-phenomena as actions occurring at the same time as the 'outside' - and as both 'not the same thing as the outside or producing it' and as premonition - that could be a view of the mind having an unknown relation to society. The relation (as or in writing) is outside of procedural.


(1)Studying Hunger, Bernadette Mayer, Big Sky, Bolinas, 1975, p. 7.
(2) Ibid., p. 7.

You can read a poem by Leslie Scalapino in this issue of Jacket.

Crowd, book cover

Leslie Scalapino attended Reed College and received an M.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley. Her book way (North Point Press, 1988) received the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, the Poetry Center Award from San Francisco State University, and the Lawrence Lipton Prize.
      Her books of poetry include Considering how exaggerated music is (1982), that they were at the beach - æolotropic series (1985), the trilogy The Return of Painting, The Pearl, and Orion (1991), and Crowd and not evening or light (1992).
way, book cover Her recent publications include Defoe (Sun & Moon); a book-length essay, Objects in the Terrifying Tense / Longing from Taking Place (Roof); a play, Goya's L.A. (Potes & Poets); The Front Matter, Dead Souls (Wesleyan University Press), New Time (poems, also from Wesleyan University Press), Green and Black - Selected Writings (Talisman House Publishers, 1996), and Sight (poetry, a collaboration with Lyn Hejinian, Edge Books, 1999). A book of essays and poetic writing called The Public World / Syntactically Impermanence is due from Wesleyan in June 1999.
      Leslie Scalapino has taught at the UCSD and at the Naropa Institute, and presently teaches at Bard College in New York in the MFA program and at the San Francisco Art Institute. Leslie Scalapino founded 0 Books, an experimental poetry press. She lives in Oakland, California.


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