by Tom Hibbard (Author of The Sacred River of Consciousness)
“With the nomad, on the contrary, it is deterritorialization that constitutes the relation to the earth, to such a degree that the nomad reterritorializes on deterritorialization itself.”
-Guattari / Deleuze
If globalism involves a perspective or a change of perspective, one thing that might be pointed out is that the micro and macro versions of that perspective are dramatically different. In demeanor and style, Edward Abbey, as an example, would seem antithetical to a scientist such as Arthur C. Clark or, let us say, Sigmund Freud. Yet the opposites on this scale of measurement are presumably both talking about and seeking the same things. Often found in solitary places, in rickety shacks or beside a campfire under the stars, the micro practitioner of globalism might be anarchistic, nonconformist, calloused, whiskey-drinking and speaking a crude colorful language produced from matching concerns such as growing food, raising children or keeping a rusty pickup truck in working order. The macro practitioner of globalism might be or seem entirely at home in society, unostentatiously dwelling in an “ordinary house,” preoccupied with work in a crowded urban office building, politically involved. The micro globalist would observe such things as types of building materials or tools, guns, hiking trails, or the natural cisterns where water is found in the desert. The macro globalist would observe population numbers, language syntax, science articles, and temperature variations in layers of the planetary atmosphere.
The excellent poetry collection, California Poems by Carolyn Welch, published by eco-publisher Moon Willow Press in 2014, is undoubtedly an example of the micro perspective. From the first line of the collection, “A whiff of calendula is eternity going backwards,” the reader is directed toward an idiosyncratic world where unobserved remnants are treasured and protected, and stragglers from the ever-confusing and alienating present are unwelcomed trespassers. Calendula is a bright-colored flower with medicinal powers also edible in salads. The idea of “eternity going backwards” is a sort of cantankerousness toward aestheticism corresponding with the title of this poem, “Eternity Stinks, My Darling” (acknowledged as a line from an Elvis Costello song). As a general protest, the speaker is removing herself from the forward or, for that matter, any flow of time. This initial poem furnishes pretty much a one-way ticket to the heart of the discussion.
Eternity Stinks, My Darling
A whiff of calendula is eternity going backwards,
Mute laughter beneath weeping willows in a rural yard,
kitchen mothers translucent in doily curtains, bending
gracefully over sun-squeezed limes. We stuck our feet in mud
and eyed geldings sucking clover beneath apple trees
singling in on the psychedelic transparency of one horsefly
wing-tipping a bluegrass blade and hovering in jasmine
burying feet in delicate dew of alfalfa and hay
composed hours of mint-scented squints and smirks
In ad-hoc cascade, the simple building block images highlight essential solitude and a “rural yard.” The organic textures of transcendent love and life quantify a potent materiality that produces memory, feet, pleasant odors, life-giving interplay of water and sunlight.
Summers simmered like pale ginger tea
and crisp blue tarts placed on a white tablecloth
an offering for supplication
small hands creating dandelion bracelets—
Sacramental form is acknowledged, but these objects, which are no longer objects but origins, sources, friends, particularities are identified in an nonsymbolic way, no longer associated with a monetary value, nor even with coherence that is anything more than a common autonomy, a common signification, a signification of “ginger tea,” “blue tarts,” “dandelion bracelets.”
scolded then heel clicks across polished floors
to a deeper part of the house to spray water and soap
on yellow stains. They return, little apparitions
to bow heads, and the substance they might regain
in later years is quickly subdued in one breath
On polished floors, all heels click, everything clicks like a heel, as it moves in its hierarchical machinery of unilateral negation. Discipline is a part of life in “a deeper part of the house” where “stains” connected with the future remain or are washed away so that “little apparitions” in time gain “substance.” It’s from this deeper part of the house that the decisive geometry of days and people are eventually inscribed with their various defining versions of exteriority.
Although, to some, the allure of the virtues outlined here must be obvious, one definitely could encounter a questioning of the relevance of this vision of moments filled up from quaint antiquities. Surely the healing powers of modern medicines exceed that of calendula. Yet on the directional plane of accumulated realities the simulacrum of an herbal remedy might have a more lasting significance, not from its naturalness but simply from its imaginativeness and variation.
In Felix Guattari’s brief prose tract, The Three Ecologies, first published in 1989 and in English in 2000, some of the terminology appears—such words as “deterritorialization” and “reterritorialization”—that is also found in his book Nomadology: The War Machine, co-written with Gilles DeLeuze. In these books and with this terminology, the macro view point is quite different from California Poems, but the perspective and the “message” of globalism are the same. “Territory” and “territorialization” are understood as words referring to an idyllic loose “unincorporated” early stage of development of a land in which the human population is sparse and poses no threat to the nature qualities or the necessary and natural activities of that area.
In the writing of Deleuze and Guattari, “deterritorialization,” the transformation from “territory” to something else, is a shift in population and activity that, due to excessive centralization and commodification, greed, conformity, repetition, mass-media standardization, causes in the land continual stress and dehumanization, self-destruction, stagnation, wasteful expenditure of natural beauty and natural resources. According to Guattari and Deleuze, deterritoriailization is synonymous with “the war machine.” “Numbers gain mastery” of the land. But, at the same time, “the war machine does not necessarily have war as its object.” The war machine has no object, but is an absence of an object—the object of globalism. “Property is precisely the deterritorialized relation between the human being and the earth.” (p. 64, Nomadology)
In Guattari and Deleuze, this stage then would be followed by reterritorialization, the return to the “Territories of existence.” Guattari, by himself, also uses the word “resingularization.”
For its part, mental ecosophy will lead us to reinvent the relations of the subject to the body, to phantasm, to the passage of time, to the ‘mysteries’ of life and death.
The Three Ecologies begins with the statement:
The Earth is undergoing a period of intense techno-scientific transformations. If no remedy is found, the ecological disequilibrium this has generated will ultimately threaten the continuation of life on the planet’s surface.
Guattari argues that “alongside these upheavals, human modes of life, both individual and collective, are progressively deteriorating.” In parallel with California Poems, Guattari talks about diminished “kinship networks,” “poisoned” domestic life, “ossified” and “standardized” family and married life and neighborhood relations “reduced to their meanest expression.”
It is the relationship between subjectivity and its exteriority—be it social, animal, vegetable or Cosmic—that is compromised in this way, in a sort of general movement of implosion [of ideas] and regressive infantalization.
Of course, the fear of civilization’s self-demise (and its ecology) is recurrent. In basic terms, the transforming process, as it alters and reshapes infrastructure and social surfaces, produces heightened instinctual apprehension and conservatism. But discussing this idea with philosophic and scientific thoroughness as a practical unbiased schematic is, in turn, reassuring. According to Guattari, “new modalities of subjectification are emerging.” In particular we recognize the violations of the spatial symmetries of the global logos being committed along with their harmful consequences. Our modern consciousness is prepared for risk and precariousness that it must endure. Human values have evolved so that “gain” no longer suffices as ultimate incentive in itself. We breach the borderlines of desperation in hopes of finding an advanced and multiple order that unlocks the movement and activity constituting all human life.
So how are we to define this matter-movement, this matter-energy, this matter-flow, this matter in variation which enters assemblages and leaves them? It is a destratified, deterritorialized matter. (p. 96, Nomadology).
We open ourselves from infuriating servile static positions to perceive a “different logic” of migratory patterns on a purely structural scale, discovering small openings that lead away from dominant and false ideologies and technologies and establishing the stable structures of “love they neighbor,” justice, balance.
I have already stressed that it is less and less legitimate that only profit-based market should regulate financial and prestige based rewards for human social activities, for there is a range of other value systems that ought to be considered including social and aesthetic ‘profitability’ and the values of desire. (p. 64, The Three Ecologies).
These broader value systems provide a less troubled, more efficient society. In moving from “economy” to “ecology,” in establishing the global perspective, we look to the past as much as the future. As in California Poems, we become “nomads” (“[with] the war machine was the invention of the nomad”). We look for a lost world, a hidden world, a virgin world—in short, a global world the existence of which has become utterly denied but continues and is recognized nonetheless. According to Deleuze and Guattari, the nomad stays in one place but without a feeling of belonging. The nomad in facing his- or herself discovers an imperfect disorienting setting, an identity of ”antagonisms,” defeat, and incomplete totalities that “suddenly appears.”
The question becomes one of how to encourage the organization of individual and collective ventures, and how to direct them towards an ecology of resingularization.
The real possibilities are in regret. In light of Guattari and Deleuze’s Structuralism, which is globalism, in light of the European Union, in light of the czarist Ukraine fantasy of Vladimir Putin, in light of the U.S. Tea Party’s nostalgic misreading of Charles Darwin, in light of 9-11, we observe the great migration of virtual revolution. We learn in California Poems of this gloom of nomadology, this same “reterritorialization,” this same troubling intervention of subjectivity and unexpectedness that liberates invisible fields of motion. There is more to writing poetry than popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly. At what level do the crisp blue tarts on their natural white tablecloth that is about to be soaked in a miraculous blood cut themselves on the temporality of the sharp conceptual edges of Hillary Clinton? Is our “recherche du temps perdu” (search for lost time) an entrapment or an escape, a concealment or a revelation, an ocean or desert? Adolf Hitler has gone up to heaven, leaving only the abyss of deception that undermines our chances of reaching the end. The first poem doesn’t tell it all. In a sensibility that witnessed concentration camps, fascism is no longer a tyrannical style of government but a rhizomatic erosion of the global perspective, of the intense non-linearity that reduces our crimes to traffic violations and views reality as an inaccessible hallucination of eroticism.
Only old America sits here with Emma Jean,
on her night porch, lit by a river of orange
from a lantern in the window;
no howling mad streets in regalia
or flash neon signs and fast cow dinners.
The only sign says “Cadiz, 30 miles.”
–“A Night in the Desert”
“Nobody knows about this cabin.” In reterritorialization, objects reappear and loneliness breaks the silence. The American post-Modern wilderness of Mailer and Al Gore mourns the mystery of boundaries.
Jack ambles down the road
light on foot as ever, from Cadiz,
California Poems remembers the fifties and nomad par excellance Jack Kerouac. The Golden State is site of some of his best novels, such as that homage to mental breakdowns, Big Sur. Also Dharma Bums, Desolation Angels and (though in my mind it lives only in cold-water art districts of Manhattan island) The Subterraneans. In California, the dead live. Everything lives. The great spaces, the mountains, the redwood forests, the Pacific coastlines, the lonesome flecks of towns and celestial cities search for the modalities of consciousness, the dissimulating metaphysics of the Other. California is a new territory of attainment already globalized, living on the level of writing and thought that is always elsewhere, always mapping the misty theoretical ecologies of the absurd.
The longest poem in the California Poems is “Anatomy of Los Angeles.” But shorter (briefer) poems cover more distance. In “Anatomy of Los Angeles” the city is compared to a woman “whose apron is the sea.”
Her hair is the browning of palm fronds,
her arms folded in sand and rock shorelines
accosted by bangles of bistros.
She tosses bread through the Cajon pass
to seagulls who lift up with the wind,
nipping at the desert treats—
she is an old lady bursting through the seams.
Her flesh spills over beaches
But in poems like “Circulation,” “Skipjacks,” “No Groom,” “Feast,” “Awash in Light,” and “Old Bull’s Lemonade Stand,” the distances are cosmic, not entirely calculated in miles but in dialectical plot twists.
from South Africa,
a place as far from here
as sorrow is close to sudden
As though the entire collection were not about globalism and globalization, as if prompted in a feeling of guilt for “acting irresponsibly” in experiencing and remembering everything about California, both its ups and downs, highs and lows that constitute its unique “copa de oro” logos, the last poem of the collection is titled “Three Poems On Climate Change.” Poem one is “Bioluminescence,” poem two “Wildfire,” poem three “Murrelet Song.” Somewhat dutiful, these poems seem less “global” than the others in the collection. Logos, “visual writing,” the “poem-object” express the inexpressible. Does not it seem that globalism and “global climate change” are at odds with one another, the one attempting to establish a “seductive” perception of things in themselves and the other attempting to comprehend, essentially, an ecological problem in worldly economic terms? Whereas, in the earlier poems of the collection, the words gave rise to a metaphor of mystery, in these three poems the words lend themselves to a literalness that sheds no light on the problem. The poetry remains the same high quality, with lines such as:
Big Sur’s night glow
surprises feet in soft whale colors.
We linger in blue-green foam,
thinking it will feel different,
softer than usual,
but the waves touch us, with the same fingers.
I saw it once down in San Juan
the translucent colors crushing water
A forest dies…in black yawns.
Globalism cannot be measured intuitively or with the naked eye—except in the micro position. Even evidence of global warming from temperature records, in some way, seems to confirm this judgment, at a time science has begun to question the validity of linear measurements altogether. The verse “he is going down” only bears this out, for, most certainly, “he,” in going down, is ascending. In this way, everyday life is perceived on the scale of planets and galaxies. But global phenomena and the phenomenon of the globe cannot be anticipated, from the global perspective, in the form of “absolute danger” but only with hope and imagination. The words have not yet found their place in terms of our deepest thoughts and strongest desires. Does the idea of global warming, for example, enhance the sensation of globalism of an astronaut living aboard non-gravitational international Alpha Space Station? Do we reach a relationship of multiplicity with ideologies that resist heterogeneity and illegibility or with globalism already defined as a condition of signification and feeling.
The subordination of the trace to the full presence summed up in the logos, the humbling of writing beneath a speech dreaming its plenitude, such as the gestures required by an onto-theology determining the archeological and eschatological meaning of being as presence, as Parousia… (p. 71, Of Grammatology).
Reviewer Tom Hibbard grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. He graduated with a B.A. from Amherst College in Massachusetts and began writing as a newspaper reporter for the progressive afternoon daily in Madison, Wisconsin, The Capital Times. Hibbard has lived in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Kansas. His writing has been published in many places on and off-line, including Jacket, Exquisite Corpse, Word For/ Word, Big Bridge, Cricket, Moria and Another Chicago Magazine. Besides his poetry, he has also published several essays and many reviews of contemporary poets, including David Meltzer, Amiri Baraka, Larry Sawyer and William Allegrezza and visual writers such as Belgian Luc Fierens and Jim Leftwich. He has also read his poetry in reading series in Chicago (Myopic Books), Milwaukee (Woodland Pattern) and Washington, D.C. (In Your Ear). Among Hibbard’s collections are Critique of North American Space (Bronze Skull), Human Powers, Gessom, Ghoki Crater and Place of Uncertainty (available online at Otoliths storefront). In 2010 he ran unsuccessfully for the Wisconsin state legislature, and this year for the fourth time he swam on New Years Day with the Polar Bear club in Lake Michigan.