Introduction #2 Country Girl #3 Pictures and Early Words #4 Big Words 5

Avant-Garde Journalism: Hannah Weiner's Early and Clairvoyant Journals


When I see words I am also able to know, by reading or handling a book, as example, if an author is a friend, what her illness is, what books she prefers, whether she knows what to do for herself, whether to read her at all. So there is, perhaps, no way out of the person, not everyone is clairvoyant. It would seem a goal to reduce the presence of person in a work so that power comes through without content, as an energizing force, not inducing imitation. (98)

The extraordinary and the utterly mundane coexist "as an energizing force." What is extraodinary here is that clairvoyance, applied to literary objects, enables evaluations in terms of motives without the mediation of aesthetic representation Weiner dubs "imitation." If this is an insight, so to speak, into the author's intention, "intention" must be understood not as what the author sets out to do as author (i.e., "motive") but in terms of such messy concepts as friendship, illness, personal preference, self-esteem, but finally the author's worth as "person." Clairvoyance is a pre-eminently pragmatic facility; the subject is a sign (motive), the person an enunciation (intention). The event of literary production is a lived hermeneutic time shared with the reader's roving through the large-sheets, performance scores which, as such, radically question the ontological status of the work in the world per se. Hence, insofar as the journals are written in a "clair-style," they can strictly be called a new form of avant-garde journalism.

"Other Person" was published thirteen years after the Clairvoyant Journal, well into Weiner's later works (discussed in Goldman and Damon). In order to understand its claims regarding the relations between formal and phenomenal poesis, Weiner's sense of authorial function vis-à-vis "words" must be located, then the work of intention which brought clairvoyance to the point where "I see words," and further to the placing of said words on the page. The work of intention can then be better understood as methodical and deliberate while indeterminate all the same - and Weiner's "indeterminacy" a unique pathway to the lived hermeneutic time of the "poetry event bec[o]me the performance." Moreoever, Weiner's peculiar "indeterminacy" is not a form of semantic ambiguity but a practical labor on behalf of shrinking the distance between pragmatics and linguistics, a distance staunchly held, as Jean-Jacques Lecercle points out, by dominant paradigms of linguistic research. Lecercle's pioneering exposition of Gilles Deleuze's philosophy of language characterizes such a task as an adjoining of "competence and performance" (160). Weiner's formal invention is just such an conjunctive event. Weiner activates form within phenomena and vice versa.


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