An interview with Pierre Joris by SJ Fowler.
3:AM: The primary legacy of your work and your thought to me has been your ability to make clear the axiomatic negative totality at the heart of poetry and its writing, and that to embrace the poem as always unfinished is to engage with the process of fragmentation and not seek to wield poetry as a quest for neatness, for completion, as essential. Is this a notion that has bound your work together over your 40 years of writing?
Pierre Joris: I’m not sure if that’s the primary legacy of my work (or what, if any, legacy my work will eventually have), but if I were to agree, I would have to add immediately that in this case I am in excellent company — my sense being that this is a fairly common & well-shared realization (passive realization, certainly, even if not everyone acted on it or put it squarely in the center of her artistic process). I’d propose that this realization & the process it logically demands reaches from John Keats & his “negative capability” all the way to Mallarmé’s Le Livre and on through the various arts of the 20C from Pollock’s “abandoned” rather than ‘finished” canvases to John Cage’s or Jackson Mac Low’s writing and so on. In fact for me it is the core event for the whole lineage of so-called “experimental” or avant-garde art, in fact of the lineage of innovative 20C thought generally, be it the so-called humanities or the exact sciences.
3:AM: Do you think there is an ethical / political nexus around this notion of complete-ness / incompleteness and poetics? I.e. is the search for totality the root of whether or not poetry can truly represent something inethical, something suffocating?
PJ: Absolutely. It seems obvious to me that the various 20C totalitarianisms of the left as well as of the right, are conscious and unconscious reactions against the scary fact that we now know that the universe is not fixed, total, one-directional etc., but variable, undetermined, relativistic, an “open universe.” The religious fascisms of the first decades of the present century, be they Christian as here in the US, or Islamic as elsewhere in the world (there are of course also Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, whatever versions thereof), are prolongations & intensifications of those 20C reactions against what we now know of the universe — in other words they are the frantic attempt to use belief/faith systems to negate knowledge. And human fears — essentially the fear of death — are very strong allies for the ponzy schemes the dealers in religion-based post-life insurance biz are trying to sell us, to their, not our, greater enrichment.
3) Al Filreis’ announcement: