Date: Sat, 14 Jul 2001
Subject: Re: Hannah's visions

The word I was searching for earlier ('not taking that label to be a
"label of an illness" per se but a label of a condition,'), rather
than "condition," is more correctly "DISABILITY." We are talking about
Weiner's disability, about its relation to contemporary poetry, and its
nature in general.

(1) First, for Camille: another relevant reference I crossed upon in my
papers the other night, sorting:

Mehlman, Jeffrey, (sic) "Portnoy in Paris," in DIACRITICS, Winter 1972,
pp. 21 etc.,

about the "self-professed" schizophrenic Louis Wolfson, of Brooklyn, who
wrote Le Schizo et les langues, a sort of schizo-autobio, in grade
school French, published in France by Gallimard, 1970, preface by
(apologies) Deleuze.

Sylvere Lotringer recommended looking into Wolfson when I was doing my
research/paper on Artaud (which later turned out to be a presentation at
the Museum of Modern Art's Artaud centennial).

(2) As far as "the body without organs," "desiring machines," and
other Deleuze terminology and whether such "dubious metapsychological
concepts" form "an adequate basis for a theory of our collective
postmodernity," etc., --- well,--- the idea of "postmodernity" itself
is notorious for the same vagueness, and is a kindred and equally French
(Lyotard) notion that came out of the same wave. To me, that seems like
asking what escargot can brie can add to a croissant (metaphor).

"The body without organs" was a term borrowed from Artaud, so quite
authentically schizo in its pedigree (Artaud's technical diagnosis was a
phrenia slightly to the left of schizo, I forget which). The value of
the concept, when paraphrased into the more normative discourse that's
been asked for, had to do with aboriginal or infantile states of
indefinition about the body. Linked to other
psychoanalytical/metapsychological concepts: "le corps morcelée" or
Melanie Klein's "the body torn to bits and pieces", i.e., the fused,
undifferentiated, pre-self/other pre-baby/Mother, oral-anal-genital
self-object of Klein's infantile anal sadism stage). The contribution
of these concepts is that schizo consciousness would no longer be seen
as alien to the self-styled "normal" mind (viz. the frequent
references to famous violent schizophrenics as "monsters"), but
fundamental to it.

"Desiring machines": ---well, where would you be now without the
desiring machine whose keyboard your fingertips are touching? I hardly
know what to say in response to a rejection of "desiring machines," I
find their aptness so self-evident. "Desiring machine" then, cyborg
now. Perhaps more palatably (normatively) re-stated under different
schemata in Lury, Celia, Prosthetic culture: photography, memory and
(Routledge, 1998). (The French sense of the biomechanic or
automaton, as inheritted from Decartes.)

Without this French revisionism of stereotypical schizophrenia,--- what
are we left with?? American ego psychology? Strides were made with the
Sullivanian approach toward the treatment of schizophrenics,--- but the
obstacle here, Barrett, is that schizophrenia is otherwise disregarded
as unanalyzable, hence not really meritting or benefitting from

The schizophrenic is innately and irradicably subversive.

Was Weiners a "professional" schizophrenic? That is, was her diagnosis
and state disability payments her means of livelihood?

The problem of "visions"/hallucinations/seeing words does not seem to me
as disruptive a problem in her texts as the larger literary problem of
where she stood (border-line) one foot in Language Poetry and one foot
in second/third generation New York School East Village Personism (her
frequent diary-style references to Doug Messerli, Rosemary Waldrop,
Charles Bernstein, etc., whom she calls "the language boy": still more
of a problem! is this little joke of hers a slow fuse time bomb critique
of New York branch Language Poetry as male-dominated, a boys' club).
The critical urge (especially the one, Camille, I've seen you use
viz-a-viz Bhaktin, etc.) is to read Language Poetry as autonomous text.
The loose ends, the ligatures that Weiner leaves explicit between her
literature and her life force biographical inquiries that will seem
antithetical to the Language aesthetic, as more and more biographies
gradually emerge (there's a David Lehman waiting to undo all their
efforts by story-telling a Life of the Poets).

Schizophrenia is never "pure" schizophrenia. There are schizophrenics
who hoard (the iconic "street person" dragging around plastic bags full
of rubbish) and hence are toward the hoarding-&-saving
obsessive-compulsive axis; there are schizophrenics whose self-delusion
comes out as the old "He thinks he's Napoleon" New Yorker cartoon
(Nietzsche eventually declaring he was Christ, all the many other
"crazies" who are Jesus, etc.): there, there's an inflamed narcissistic
pole to the personality, with religious mania (Christ/the equally
widespread popularity of the Apocalypse among schizophrenics); etc.,
etc. Those secondary aspects are where schizophrenia can downgrade into
something in the direction of "normalcy": if the religious maniac can
make it into church, they may be allowed to hang around, given soup
kitchen support, in a way that re-contextualizes their religiosity into
a like-minded community; the hoarding-&-saving compulsive has
survivalist tendencies beneficial to making it through rough winters
outdoors, versus the --- exhibitionist/nudist? schiz', who walks around
without shoes or a shirt in freezing weather.

>From the one Weiner book I own, "Spoke," her above-mentioned
friendships, and that she did manage to sustain relationships with
fellow authors, is quite impressive. The LSD business would also change
the diagnosis: drug-induced psychoses are treatable and more short-lived
than idiopathic schizo-psychosis.

Do the stylistic parameters of Language Poetry allow the
half-functioning schizotype to "blend in" or be concealed through the
very genre, the way that homosexuality is undecideably blurred by the
sentimental passion rhetoric in pre-XXth-century male-male

But I'm not sure why her poetry requires explanation by recourse to her
life. (!) The claim that capitalized word in the books were words she
saw, often stated briefly in an introductory note, functions as a
completely endogenous feature of the work. That claim ("clairvoyance"),
once put aside, allows a re-examination of the capitalized words: often
they seem to rise out of the preceding text and in no way to contradict
or interfere with a theme she's unreeling; at other times, some of her
"introjects"/"voices" make harsh accusations against her that threaten
to undermine the text's forward progress.

This is similar to James Merrill's use of a ouija board in "The Changing
Light at Sandover," which also provides transcribed "voices." I don't
really need to know whether or not Merrill "actually" used a ouija board
in his personal life, or what he believed about it. It is fully
integrated into the literary machinery of the poem, as a symbol or a
myth or a real-life quotation might be.

I hope I do not seem patronizing (recommending Deleuze to Camille Martin
now seems as embarassing as if I'd recommended The Chicago Manual of
, it's so foundational). If I do, it's not directed at you(s).
These sentences are partially my own attempt to work through some of
these ideas/questions.

I find the weakness and frailty of her persona(e) to be one of the most
appealing features of her writing. In contrast to (masculinist) grandiosity,
her protagonist is having a pretty laughable scrapple of a hard time managing
even simple things. Like Beckett characters . . . or, more recently, Heather
's Lost Wax, where the poor nit is constantly rummaging around
through a closetful of socks, a Philip Guston kind of littered Parnassus.