Review of Pleasure TEXT Possession. Maria Damon & mIEKAL aND. La Laguna: Zasterle, 2005.

Warren Lloyd

Pleasure TEXT Possession is a collection of what Maria Damon & mIEKAL aND call "Interwritings", spanning the five year period between 1996- 2001. In an e-mail interview with Bob Holman discussing their Hypertext collaboration: Literature Nation, which can be found here:, Maria Damon describes the collaborative process used for Pleasure TEXT Possession as being " even more truly "Interwriting" because we continue each other's sentences, adding, twisting, disrupting and elaborating each other's words from inside the structure of the sentence."

To discuss possession is to inevitably make some distinctions about agency. When, through the collaborative strategies between two authors, agency is actively attenuated and condensed from "… inside the structure of the sentence," possession then becomes an organic force of negotiating inter-subjectivity. Maria Damon & mIEKAL aND's collaborative process grows from within and produces what Lyn Hejinian has described as xenia in the guest/host relationship where: " every encounter produces, even if for only a flash of an instant, a xenia-- the occurrence of coexistence, which is also the occurrence of strangeness or foreignness."(1) The strength of Damon & aND's poetics builds upon the 'foreignness' and 'strangeness' of each other's collaborative process and 'hosts ' our readership as interactive participants in an experimental exploration of identity and agency of the purely textual type. The collaborative process built into the creation of Pleasure TEXT Possession serves as an initial microcosm for our experience, which if the goals of "The Prisoner of the Text"(pp.19) are achieved, continuously projects outward:

You must by preoccupation read everything out loud or the hypertext
will never fly. The birds will network but the words will be innocent
of the passion they narrated. Evolution is the overture the
changelings managed.
"Prisoner of the Text" is not absent of irony and both authors are aware of the potential and implied political paralysis associated with the so called avant-garde, Language Writing and general attempts at fusing political goals with aesthetic ones, but Pleasure TEXT Possession's critical engagement with 'singular' possession and 'structural' pleasure IS a political gesture. Damon's critical work in cultural studies is an attempt to "redefine the avant-garde to precisely include writing from the social margins"(2) and though mIEKAL aND considers himself more of an "actionist rather than an activist", his early credo being "image >object > action …"(3), recalls projective poetics and in the age of the hypertext revolution, the potential for political change through aesthetic production, particularly within the tranformative, but indiscriminate space of cyber texts, is ever increasing. Though not a cyber text, critically, Pleasure TEXT Possession, as a book of poems, works in similar ways, focusing on the way structures break down and creating ways to think critically about language constructions. These poems form borders. And these 'foreign' border zones are meant to capitulate otherness, here the metaphor of the border is not an explicit metaphor for the margins of structure, but rather acts to signify the centrality of the politics and TEXTure of the other.

they finished each other's sentences, violating each other's intentions in
camaraderie of the Word, uttering respectfully the hoped for persuasions.
Light interrupts the crystal, defends magnificence by transgressing itself,
atlas siliconiferous trees bearing the weight of an Otherworld.(4)
These poems cause disruptions by redistributing the edges of the familiar-- laid bare and amplified-- to suggest new inventions and directions. In Roland Barthes' similarly titled book, The Pleasure of the Text, Barthes speaks of the duplicitous value of works of modernity and the two edges involved in the pleasure of the text: " Now, such redistribution is always achieved by cutting. Two edges are created: an obedient, conformist, plagiarizing edge…and another edge, mobile, blank, ( ready to assume any contours), which is never anything but the site of its effect…These two edges, the compromise they bring about are necessary. Neither culture nor its destruction is erotic; it is the seam between them, the fault, the flaw, which becomes so."(5) In this way the poems of Pleasure TEXT Possession read like the deckled edges of torn maps laid over other maps, whose structures trace the possibilities of signification with the shape of the torn edges themselves -- as their force intersects, disrupts and multiplies the pre-ordained topography of previously familiar routes. Pleasure TEXT Possession begins with just that-- the familiar. Its first poem "attache familiar" starts with the literal meaning of its title-- the familiar French Case. As has already been eluded to, the proximity of the title Pleasure TEXT Possession with Roland Barthes' The Pleasure of the Text brings French semiotics and post-structuralism to bear on the reading of 'attache familiar." The un-capitalized title incapacitates its status as a proper noun and suggests a more 'familiar' and diplomatic system of naming. We can not start with anything French and familiar without automatically thinking first of Derrida. The book's first poem recalls Derrida's "Force and Signification" which was a critique of Western Metaphysics, the structuralism of the Jean Rouset and the Leibnizian Universal " Book." "Attache familiar", in its first stanza, sets the familiar standard of the fixed and intransitive identity of closed structure and the singularity of the Universal Book with which it will break:

In books were four little girls with alabaster names
gates of the gold clasp that clicked the book shut
at the sound of clapping
It proceeds with the inevitable alienation that accompanies the Western Metaphysical Tradition:

behind her in sun illumined torpor
beside herself she sat observant
to negotiate the interplay, mimic the weave
As the poem continues, it quixotically gestures toward singular, confessional and romantic forms of 'exile' apparently necessary for poetry of the Modern tradition which Derrida's essay ironically sets up to criticize, " One must first be separated from oneself in order to be reunited with the blind origin of the work in darkness… "separation" and "exile" … cannot directly manifest the experience they can only indicate it through a metaphor whose genealogy itself would deserve all of our efforts."(6):

river exile of bloodlink
their silent
waiting river
slippery curves &
flood dam and pixel water

the perfume expelled
harsh, his head turned
rock temple in adamant onyx;
member of the icon diamond tribe
her initiation by removal of all doubtfear

Perfume is designed scent, made to maximize an erotic drive; manicured vapor-- perfume-- symbolizes what can be an over -designed attempt at identity and a complicity with convention, while at the same time referring to a subconscious desire built into the psychoanalytic drives of "slippery curves &/ flood dam and pixel water," stemming with neurotic stride from lack.

the illumined city hard
outstripped by clandestine
metaphor for her
tradition, an

endless recursion elaborated
word always fibrous
reworked in patternswicks

treated with mordant steel
identity- fatigued

part rankles

Derridda ironically parodies the structuralism of fatigued-identity and rankled parts formed through the tradition of continuous exile: " Has not a " structural poetics" "founded on rhetoric" been mentioned in relation to the Baroque? But has not a "burst structure" also been spoken of, a "rent poem whose structure appears as it bursts apart"?"(7) "attache familiar" answers with a Structualist voice:

you misunderstand
the fabric is not rent but whole
spat out numen vipers
many confusion man
evocative vials on fissure books
Maria Damon and mIEKAL aND devise a poetics of fissuring, "…producing a force of dislocation that spreads itself throughout the entire system, fissuring it in every direction and thoroughly delimiting it."(8), and nostalgia ensues:

blood memory of
her ways
wet tongue dream of her evolution
images vanquished,

sang to the exotic mistress
his preponderance
absorbed with the
this silver, polished precious

And here the erotic, oppositional edge of these " silver, polished precious" words becomes the clear edge of language for Barthes: " Especially, of course ( here is where the edge will be clearest), in the form of pure materiality: the language, its lexicon, its metrics its prosody."(9)-- " this silver, polished precious", edge.

because she
pleasures from
inward liberation the
word mistress enjoyed
wanted it inscribed
the book into
life HAD taken
to be respected and beloved
" …nothing is more despairing, more destructive of our books than the Leibnizian Book. On what could books in general live, what would they be if they were alone, so alone, isolated worlds?"(11), Derrida asks, but for Damon & aND:

it was autumn
outside the hypertext
God and the Book of Miracles
and the hand carved walls she kept
out of openings came fragrances
Here the designed scent of identity-- the perfume-- of the outstripping clandestine metaphor, becomes unknown fragrances-- escaping through the openings in the walls of the all too familiar structures of Western tradition;

with all those living Words
worlds apart.
This book moves beautifully between the erotic polarities of the writer seducing' the reader and the Eros of possessing a text, that Barthes so insightfully instigates and adds the extra dimension of a male /female collaboration deliberately aimed " to crack the idle jadedness of habit"(pp.9) , a fetish habit of reading identity and agency (possession). It turns out to be the "…itinerary for a crystalline journey…"

In many ways, but most particularly in "Volupte de Langue"( pp.39) , whose margins are shaped like the curvilinear silhouettes of naked bodies, this collaboration ( between genders) attempts to materially cohere the normally inchoate process of writing a unified consciousness, the unsettled restlessness of trying to align an independent body's consciousness with a collected experience of words -- in their miniature battles and flirtations, rather than settling on a trajectory, aND & Damon actively open a fracturing… "Elsewhere a rose/ quartz sparrow nestles by the/ two authors, blessing/ the tracks they/leave in her/snow abode." (pp.38) They do their work at the borders of practice and theory and they are written from " inside the structure of the sentence", along the continually moving fault line of collaboration. And these borders are " not an edge along the fringe of society and experience but rather their very middle-- their between; [they] name the condition of doubt and encounter which being foreign to a situation provokes."(12) Like Hejinian's explication of the politics of language poetry's continually changing ideology, Pleasure TEXT Possession is occupied by " ever-shifting images, involving objects and events in constant need of re-definition and even literal renaming, and viewed against a constantly changing background."(13) Characterized by neologisms, parataxis, pun, and the visual text organizations of "Volupte de Langue" and the book's last poem, "E.n.t.r.a.n.c.e.d.", Damon & aND's is a poetics of the TEXT-- possessed by the pleasure of discontinuity, displacement, incongruity and DISpossession. It is a force built into and emanating from the democratic act of collaboration and reading, and as active participants, readers quickly realize that agency and with it possession, is a force within the act of signification -- a desire of language formulated by and of the TEXT. These poems are so much more than the theory that their interpretations lend themselves to. They are rich, personal, polysemous and polymorphic inventions that continually re-invent the language within which they were written. They out smart their own theory by practicing it beyond recognition.

1. Hejinian, Lyn, The Language of Inquiry, from "Barbarism", University of California Press,2000,pp. 326.
2. From an interview with Bob Holman at , http;?? 7/3/2007
3. Ibid.
4. From, "Séance of the Particulars", Pleasure TEXT Possession, Zasterle, La Guna, 2005, pp.11.
5. Barthes, Roland, The Pleasure of the Text, Hill and Wang, NY, 1975, pp.7.
6. Derrida, Jacques, "Force and Signification", Writing and Difference, the University of Chicago Press, 1978, pp,8.
7. Ibid, pp,6.
8. Ibid, pp.20
9. Ibid, pp.11.
10. Barthes, Roland, The Pleasure of the Text,Hill and Wang, NY, pp.8.
11. Derrida, Jacques, "Force and Signification", Writing and Difference, the University of Chicago Press, 1978, pp13
12. Hejinian, Lyn, The Language of Inquiry, from "Barbarism", University of California Press,2000,pp. 328 13. Ibid.

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