Monday, August 23, 2010

From an essay on Johnson's RADI OS, drawing on Steve McCaffery's Levinasian Poethics

Steve McCaffery, in his description of John Cage’s mesostic poems, coins the term “parasitography” as a descriptor, describing the work as “utterly dependent [on the host text] for its existence”(217). I dispute the implication that the “parasite” does not contribute to the “host”, that there is an unfair exchange that is detrimental to the "host". The paragramatic reading strategies enacted by the like of Cage, Jackson Mac Low and Ronald Johnson illuminate heretofore elided textual potentialities already existent within the texts they draw from. In this way the relationship can be described more accuratly as symbiotic. This release of potentiality is most obvious in RADI OS, or other physically enacted works of performative reading such as Tom Phillips “treated Victorian novel” A Humument. The partner texts, such as, for example Paradise Lost and RADI OS , begin as Same to one another, yet through the process of excision or etching, the newly formed RADI OS gains alterity from its progenitor, without violent disinheretence – indeed, the poem functions as a loving tribute while still maintaining its difference. Furthermore, as a reading of Paradise Lost, it contributes its own (albeit idiosyncratic) interpretative work to the corpus of possibility that constitutes the possible responses to the poem. Johnson’s RADI OS performs and makes physically manifest these processes through its literalisation of erasure, thus enacting the process of its composition. Through the differentiation of the poem from its parent-text RADI OS gains its own alterity, while at the same time maintaining its obligation to the Otherness of Paradise Lost and its polysemy.

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