Avant-Garde Journalism: Hannah Weiner's Early and Clairvoyant Journals
1980's Little Books / Indians lived quite literally by its name. The "large-sheet" poems were organized into "little books," while the sentences were more often cut short so as to resemble verse. Weiner's interest in the AIM became the focus of the ideological theme of the collection, moreover providing a more easily recognized narrative thrust. Spoke (1984), Silent Teachers / Remembered Sequel (1993), and We Speak Silent (1997) are closer to the Clairvoyant Journal in form and theme, but further develop the aspect of clairvoyance pertaining to inter-personal relations mediated by language the author called "silent teaching." This theme is essentially a means of inquiry into global, holistic politics inspired by avant-garde art in the West and Eastern religious practices often alluded to in the Clairvoyant Journal.
Weiner's last major work, PAGE (2002), is a deeply complex series of poems closer to normative lyric verse yet highly disjunctive in terms of grammatical forms. It is also a deeply personal work in which the deaths of her aunt and mother become an allegory in an intra-personal take on silent teaching.
Weiner is, as Mac Low notes in his jacket blurb to the Angel Hair edition of Clairvoyant Journal, both a "remarkable case" and a remarkable artist; "Her acheivement -- & it is a considerable one - lies in her having developed a specific literary form through which to convey her remarkable experience." Mac Low's blurb calls (in the least) for a study of how this "specific literary form" came to be, specifically, "literary." Doing so requires us to understand clairvoyance as a synaesthetic ability / capacity of our own, and incorporate this into our reading practices: according to current institutional prescriptions, this would be tantamount to critical synaesthesia. And this is not the synaesthesia taught in college guidebooks. That is, it is not a descriptive technique, evoking categorical ambiguities (in the tradition of William Empson). In her reading copy of the Clairvoyant Journal, Weiner had written in the title of A. R. Luria's famous study, The Mind of a Mnemonist. Luria's case study of the synaesthete and mnemonyst "S" speaks eloquently of a "form of extended reference" based on clairvoyant phenomena uncannily like those Weiner documents in the early journals, which consist, simultaneously, of a documentation of the development of "large-sheet poetry." In his transcription of S's testimony:
I was ill with scarlatina ... I had come back from Hebrew school with a headache and my mother had said: "He has heets [Yiddish: "fever"]. True enough! Heets is intense, like lightning ... and I had such a sharp orange light coming out of my head. So that word's right for sure! (86-7)