Academic journal article Discourse (Detroit, MI)

Objects across the Pacific: Poetic Interruptions of Global Sovereignty in Charles Olson and Kiyota Masanobu

Academic journal article Discourse (Detroit, MI)

Objects across the Pacific: Poetic Interruptions of Global Sovereignty in Charles Olson and Kiyota Masanobu

Article excerpt

For a man is himself an object . . . the more likely to recognize himself as such the greater his advantages, particularly at that moment that he achieves an humilitas sufficient to make him of use.

-Charles Olson, "Projective Verse"

Instead of fearing objectification, it is more productive to willingly become an object first and then to explore what necessarily exceeds such objectification in the space where the notion of human subject is already bankrupt as a condition of human existence.

-Kiyota Masanobu, "Metamorphosis into Objet"

Poetic of Objects in the Age of "Global State"

What critical sense do poetry and its mediation of the world bring us today? If "sense," as Jean-Luc Nancy argues, indexes a birth of sensuous sense whose surprising newness at once revises or fractures the grid of cognitive sense, poetic sense emerges as a world within and perhaps in excess of the normative world construed as a picture to be mapped (Martin Heidegger) or a target to be bombed (Rey Chow) or compartmentalized as nationalized or racialized "societies" to be defended (Michel Foucault).1 If, as Nancy further adds, "matter is always singular or singularized," its singularity as a signatory uniqueness requires not its signification "but sense as singular coming." The thing exists as "[t]he outline of this signature," the signature's necessary exposition to other things, or, in short, its own "excription."2 Poetry's inscription of the thing's singular exposition thus serves as a further "excription," a form that is exposed to other singular things and is also an origin of the ideality of sense. Poetic sense, then, "comes before all significations, prevents and over-takes them, even as it makes them possible, forming the opening of the general signifyingness."3 Somewhat differently put, poetic sense that manifests the essential materiality of ideality constitutes an attempt in human language to speak of and for the thing's (and therefore the body's) singularity, its unique signature, and its signatory exposition to other singular beings.

At the same time, the global permeation of "sovereignty as an expansive power in networks" has increasingly nominated nationstates as its capillary agents that regulate and discipline their national subjects and noncitizens and ultimately resort to sovereign violence, which today serves more as a supplemental branch of these biopolitical powers.4 As Sandro Mezzadra notes, this sovereignty operates through a "mixed constitution" of global law that addresses the needs of specialized sectors and of national sovereignty inserted into that global field of partial laws.5 In a similar context, Judith Butler argues that such a "global state" is always necessarily refracted by its lived, affective state wherein a certain "state of mind"-as when one finds oneself "being upset, out of sorts"-potentially energizes its aesthetic and activist contestations.6 "[I]t makes sense to see that at the core of this 'state' . . . is a certain tension produced between modes of being or mental states, temporary or provisional constellations of mind of one kind or another, and juridical and military complexes that govern how and where we may move, associate, and speak."7 This essay attempts to see Butler's "constellations of mind" through the aesthetic analytic of poetic sense, placed within and potentially against the juridico-military "complexes" that govern our discourse and movement in the world today.

Especially in the transpacific context of the United States and East Asia after the end of World War II, I would like to foreground the curious coemergence of two object-based poetics during the 1950s and 1960s, proposed respectively by the poets Charles Olson (1910-70) in the United States and Kiyota Masanobu8 (1938-) in U.S.-occupied Okinawa. As Naoki Sakai and Hyun-Joo Yoo explain within the twentieth-century context of the United States and East Asia, the transnational form of sovereignty in network-or what they call the "global sovereign state"-is "irreducible to any single state of old imperialism" and unfolds as a "systematicity of international relationships in which national states are sustained in complicity. …

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