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Jacket 17 — June 2002   |   # 17  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |


from: Homi Bhabha and the Forty Words —

The Locution of Culture, Smothered in its Gratitudes

First published by Black Square Editions, 1999

Part One

Who is Who
Schuldt, face

The following piece is an open-ended tale of desire. Unlike many a love story, it has plenty of characters. It is about broken hearts uttering themselves in broken language. That language, of course, is just a lucky find.

The sexes are so different! That must be why we encounter so many expressions of difference in this piece, and again, so many words for bridging or fudging or splitting the difference. Add to this the well-documented fact that the sexes are thickly, horribly and unjustly overlaid with gender, and you get some measure of what we are all up against, not least the poet writing about it.

The obscenities in the poem, if any, are unintended and not of my doing. This is found language. I just use the stuff straight from the can.

The poem might have been called Couples of the Would-be, or with equal justification: Spiral Binding, or with a vowel shift propelling us toward descriptive accuracy, Spiral Bonding, and with progressive degrees of veracity (“I tweak veracity from varsity”) one might divulge that it is Homi Bhabha on Love, or rather Homi Bhabha on the Difference of Love, or in fact, Homi Bhabha on the Love of Difference.

Let me add a quick rider for those of you who are unsure of who Prof. Bhabha is, a world-renowned figure who travels the globe from conference to conference while holding simultaneous appointments at the University of Chicago and the equally prestigious London School of Economics: Someone once said that “Homi Bhabha can get through a thirty minute talk using no more than forty words forever churned around. Talk about the sestina. That’s nothing compared with Homi Bhabha.”

And someone, who must have made a more in-depth study of Prof. Bhabha’s output, said: “Homi Bhabha can get through a thirty minute talk using no more than forty words, and the striking thing is that not one of them means anything.”

It should be obvious that I do not agree with this assessment, for if I thought that these words had no identifiable flavor of their own, I would hardly want to use them in a poem.

The Names

The names in the poem come from a trove painstakingly researched. Those of the women who must once have been envisaged as girls in their first blush speak of the hopes and preciousness and longings of plain folks endowing the names of their children with a certain luminosity; speak of dreams for the childen, of notions of personalizing a name, and I have no doubt that their deliberate spellings are carefully molded caresses. The names of the men are more of a mixed batch. Less overt sweetness has been invested in this field or thought appropriate, and I have also reached for shopworn regular standbys so as to add a dash of salt to the custard and put some grit into the reverie of romance.

The only other additions I have made to the original phrases lifted from my source are wants to, oryearns to, etc., inserted in order to pursue the story I had to tell but also in order to overcome the near absence of verbs, though occasionally a verb came with the phrase and was retained.

Replacing nouns

A simple and common method for modifying any text is “N + n”. In this formula, “N” stands for the noun, “n” for an indefinite number to which the “author” of the resultant text (i.e. the method user) can assign any numeric value as long as it is a whole number such as 1, 2, or 3. Fractions will not work.

Each noun in the text is then replaced by the n-th noun following it in a dictionary. How different the replacement noun will be from the one it replaces depends both on the dictionary selected and on the numerical value assigned to n.

Members of the French Oulipo group have promoted small dictionaries and n= 7, but other values are just as feasible and may be as valuable, more valuable, less valuable.

An Extreme Value

By trial and error one can establish which number (and dictionary) will shed the most light on a given text, whether by distanciation, disrobing, dissimulation, dissing, disaffection, disturbance, dissection, disaster design, dizzy desire, or diss-construction. The poem presented on the following pages is unique because the substitutions in the discourse were all made with an extreme value for n that has never before been attempted in the history of literature, and that will certainly never be surpassed. Experimenting with figures up to 20 on several rather different dictionaries, the value found to be most revelatory was invariably n = 0.

n = 0!

You’ve got to hand it to the man.

— Schuldt

Homi Bhabha and the Forty Words

Jacalyne longs to be re-read by Woody.
Woody seeks reinscription in Bernabette.
Bernabette mirrors her selfhood in Denzel.
Denzel feels connectedness with Todd.
Todd is out to interweave with Tanisha.
Tanisha dreams of being erased by Billy Ray.
Billy Ray reveals his temporality to Rasheeda.
Rasheeda interrogates herself about Jamaine.
Jamaine soaks up all that alterity in Hank.
Hank can’t quit theorizing about Jason.
Jason wants Latifah to transform him.
Latifah cannot resist totalization by Tyrone.
Tyrone seeks the unrepresentable in Sharion Marie.
Sharion Marie makes libidinal investments in Latoya.
Latoya can only articulate herself through Marvin.
Marvin looks for in-betweenness with Lauribel.
Lauribel means to encounter a past with Rick.
Rick craves an interstitial intimacy with Hughena.
Hughena represents her otherness for Lawanda.
Lawanda sees Jonathon as an agent without a cause.
Jonathon senses his manifest boundary in Tawana.
Tawana is dying to have Jesse’s seminal experience.
Jesse cannot totalize experience without Betty Lou.
Betty Lou will not weave the global text without Camaleitha.
In Camaleitha’s eyes, Chuck is the trajectory of desire.
Chuck offers Voicelyn a moment of undecidability.
Voicelyn fantasizes about Hal as a liminal horizon.
Hal is into cross-referencing himself with Zachary.
Zachary needs to construct the difference with Texanna.
Texanna is not afraid of rethinking herself with Oona.
Oona is into essentialising her blackness with Drexel.
Drexel homes in on Violaine’s structure of ambivalence.
Violaine urges Lenox to inhabit an intervening space.
To Lenox, Tyshika emphasizes an expressive totality.
Tyshika is going all out to be an intervention with Milligan.
Milligan seeks a translational sense of his hybridity in Icerlene.
Icerlene lusts for LeTicia’s hybrid figuring of space and time.
LeTicia expects an overlap without equivalence from Wayne.
Wayne wants Yasmine to enact a dissolving of his coordinates.
Yasmine is itching to rearticulate binary division through Maryalise.
Maryalise yearns for spatial horizontality of community with Gordon.
For Gordon’s sake, Sondra is ready to question binary divisions.
For Sondra, Daisy Darlene evokes a harmonious patchwork of cultures.
In Daisy Darlene, Deshon incites a complex form of pleasure/unpleasure.
Deshon can’t wait to pose for Teena from the interstitial perspective.
Teena reminds Derrick of the mixed and split texts of hybridity.
Derrick lingers in his dream of an entirely free-floating Chanda.
Chanda longs to rediscover a sense of personal agency with Ron.
Ron needs to feel the liminality of his migrant experience with Delbert.
Delbert contemplates consensual contiguous transmission with Desiree.
In Desiree’s mind, Charmaine coalesces in an immediately readable present.
Charmaine pleads with Joe to force with her the limits of the social as we know it.
Joe wants to plunge himself into the realm of the intersubjective with Laverna.
Laverna wants to weave Doug into her alternative histories of the excluded.
Doug is beset by the repetitious desire to recognize himself doubly in Shoshana.
Shoshana’s present is an essential section which makes the essence visible to Pete.
Yet Pete enjoys Missye in his compensatory and vicarious processes of signification.
Missye can’t wait for Yvora to be undermining the immediacy of her self-consciousness.
For Yvora, Barry marks the moment of panic which reveals the borderline experience.
Barry wants to trace the in-between hybridity of the history of sexuality with Crystal.
Crystal experiences herself as the connective tissue that constructs the difference between black and white for Alicestine.
Alicestine wants her present to coincide with the present of all the others.

Part Two

Mimicry Grasped Instantly

The Acknowledgements Series

This is not just instant. It is all grasped. Not just mimicry. Poetry. In subtle shifts and twists the material is bestirring itself, and as it comes alive, iridescent effects are revealed, cameos proffered, or those succinct and sweeping statements laid bare that more commonly gravitate to fortune cookies whose inner void they never fail to fill to the brim.

Whatever there is, whatever you see, has been transformed. It is what it is. And something else as well. And it is also what it was before the poet got to it, or the word voider and -feeder, as Walter Savage Landor’s South Sea king addresses his interpreter in London.

So it is what it was, too. Maybe. Probably. Who knows. It’s a tricky issue and one known to have caused many an itch. At any rate, we are not in a documentary here. Though mostly the words are the same as in another book (the one that can be considered the source or quarry), in poetry they may be uprooted or recognized for what they really are or they may form a purely coincidental overlay or a parallel world. The same words other. Only one thing is certain: this does not make them more innocent.


In remembrance of Amadou Diallo
annihilated February 4, 1999

It Ahoua.
It gives Yacouba.
It gives me Aissatou.
It gives me particular Vassindou.
It gives me particular pleasure to Aliou.
It gives me particular pleasure to note Sekou.
It gives me particular pleasure to note that Bakary
It gives me particular pleasure to note that most of Ousmane.
It gives me particular pleasure to note that most of those Drissa.
It gives me particular pleasure to note that most of those mentioned Oumar.
It gives me particular pleasure to note that most of those mentioned below Kalifa.
It gives me particular pleasure to note that most of those mentioned below have Mamadou.
It gives me particular pleasure to note that most of those mentioned below have sat at our Lalla.
It gives me particular pleasure to note that most of those mentioned below have sat at our kitchen Malick.
It gives me particular pleasure to note that most of those mentioned below have sat at our kitchen table.

I Am

I am
I am deeply
I am deeply indebted
I am deeply indebted to Judy Mobley
I am deeply indebted to Judy Gwendolyn Mobley for it
I am deeply indebted to Judy Gwendolyn Blondie Mobley for making it
I am deeply indebted to Judy Gwendolyn Blondie Sheila Mobley for making it possible
I am deeply indebted to Judy Gwendolyn Blondie Sheila Maude Mobley for  making possible many opportunities
I am deeply indebted to Judy Gwendolyn Blondie Sheila Maude Margret Mobley for making possible many
opportunities for work
I am deeply indebted to Miss Mobley for making possible many opportunities for work and play

A Source of Parents

Although our different lives are now being lived
Although our lives are now in different countries

Although our parents are now in different countries
Although our deepest parents are in different lives

Although our lives are now in different parents
Although our differences are now deep in life
Although our deepest sustenance is different in life

Our lives have been a source of parents

Accounts I


I owe a great debt
I owe a personal debt
I owe a significant debt
I owe an intellectual debt
In that spirit academic acquaintance has often turned into enduring debt

Accounts II


I own intellectual friendship
I own significant friendship
I own personal friendship
I own great friendship

In that spirit academic debt has often turned into enduring friendship

The Fortune Cookies

Impressions from an Obstacle Course

Memory is not best served by gratitude. Neat people shall be accommodated in places of acknowledgement. The hazards we receive are more help. Many ideas are sparked off by novels. Evolution owes a debt to interrogators and co-conspirators. Most of those sit at our kitchen table. Ideas and dialogues provide a skein of people and places. Acquaintance often turns into friendship. The help we receive is a more haphazard affair. A pioneer provides him with a critical terrain. Gratitude is not best served by memory. Stay tuned to the materialist mode. The work of others provides him with an intellectual project. Courage and brilliance have excitement. Many migrant ideas are sparked off by a novel minority space. A profound exploration of space will always provide sculptural cover. A shared dialogue will be forged through a subtle and exemplary project. An encounter with a generous host makes possible an exciting year. In unchartable ways, particular pleasure goes from most to most. The contribution in both places is invaluable. At all stages, the foresight of a friend means an enormous amount to him. There are shown resources of patience and perseverance. Dissatisfaction is the spur to thought. All must bear the anxiety of incompletion. Few will accompany the act of writing.

The Epiphanies

Epiphany Count

Beyond the daily grind
Many epiphanies

Fine readings and tolerance for telephone theory
Countless considerations

Umpteen epiphanies
One pleasure
Countless considerations

Beyond the years
There are others

The contingent development of ideas

One pleasure
Umpteen epiphanies

There are others

Over the Years

Beyond this book
Or any other

The daily grind
Beyond the years
Of shared pleasure

The years of shared pleasure
In epiphany
Upon epiphany
Beyond the gratitude
Of pleasure

The deepest sustenance

Beyond the Other

Incantation in I

I serve the memory of gratitude
I eschew neat lists of people and places
I accommodate acknowledgements
I am filled with particular pleasure
I am in a haphazard affair

“There are others”

I have true companions
I spur thought
I bear anxiety
I accompany the act of writing

The development of ideas comes to me in unchartable ways
The interruptions are frequent and irreplaceable
Resources of patience and perseverance are shown to me.
The elegance of style extends from cover to content
The sanctity of my study is never respected

I receive help
I share pleasure
I have epiphanies
I acknowledge influence
I think in new environments
I am with active participants
I take lessons in perfectability
I owe significant personal debt
I feel the crucial influence of ideas
I am among supportive colleagues
I am with challenging opportunities
I receive generous help at various times
I am in the developments of many themes

I enjoy a cooperative relationship with my fishmonger
I am asked the unthought question

To Temper Time

Dance of Pronouns in the Thick of Gender

Some ask the unthought question
Some leaven scholarship with style
Some lead to the pleasures of precision

She was a ship with style
She gave precision to pleasure
She leavened a scholar with style

They mixed the perfect
Conference cocktail
Two parts pleasure
To one part business
Lots of stirring
And shaking

He could turn
Without missing a beat
From bel canto
To the Gauss seminars

She never failed
To temper time with delight
To mix mimicry with race

He, too, was generous with race
His presence was an inspiration
A re-think
Of unthought

He has weathered many storms
She often brought good weather

Photo of Schuldt

Schuldt (b. Hamburg,1941) lives and works among languages. A poet and essayist writing in English and German, he is domiciled in NYC and in Germany. He is the author of 16 volumes, acclaimed radiophonic works, and live and broadcast performances.
     His Unquell the Dawn Now (with Friedrich Hölderlin & Robert Kelly) was published by McPherson & Comp. in 1998. A five-colored edition with 3-foot pull-outs, plus a bound volume and a CD with a radio play in 38 voices, this elaborate literary engine takes Hölderlin’s German on a roller-coaster ride through the English language, much to the benefit of both.

      In recent years he has been compiling two vast yet selective New York vocabularies (one American, one German) based on observations in his everyday habitat. He will soon begin writing a book in each of them.

     He is currently writing and directing Lustrufe aus Talmi-Welten, an a cappella work for numerous voices to be performed at the Philharmonic for the Berlin Festspiele on the first day of the new millenium.

Schuldt, Berlin, 2001, photo by John Tranter

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