I want you to look at the hinges (Tjanting, 203)

They are holes in habit, what cracks in the existing order appear to be from the molar perspective. The site of a breach in the World As We Know It (Brian Massumi, A User’s Guide to Capitalism & Schizophrenia

What we encounter are the demons, the sign-bearers: powers of the leap, the interval, the intensive and the instant (Difference & Repetition, 182)

Step lightly. Your judgments dance on the brink of a teeming void.

Time for some sprinkling of water, a little plunge in the shallow puddles of an open-ended pool, a light-hearted but long overdue baptism for that poor [gap] that has wandered, nameless, for so long (it just turned 32 for Chris’sake). The gap that has been lodged unasked between New sentences, has been unjustly marginalized, remained shamefully unrecognized. Although [gap] has been incomparably influential for poetry since her inception, the reference points of secondary theoretical discourse have always been her neighbours (the New sentences), nestling snugly at either side. ‘The gaps in my language are the gaps in my world’. So let’s fill our world up a bit, connect the dots (between the sentences), and finally give [gap] a name. In the introduction to In the American tree Ron Silliman reminisces:

It might have been more properly termed the new space, insofar as it is in that gap between sentences – a location in the field of writing for which we still lack a decent term – that the new sentence’s functionality appears. But as this device turns the reader’s attention to the immanence of the sentence at hand, whatever it might be, I settled on that broader category for my noun. (no page; italics added)

To (over)extend a metaphor; Wikipedia (forgive the source) informs us that baptism means dip or plunge. How serendipitous, considering that in today’s ceremonial naming, she who has gone under the name [gap] will be discovered as having in fact been a dip (i.e. inflection) all along.

The space between sentences is the most salient feature in Tjanting where a sort of ’drilling through’ to the outside of language occurs. These spaces can be seen as islets / inlets on the surface of the text that makes up Tjanting (’I swim below the surface’, Tjanting 19).  They are the places where the threads of knit wool, or a woven cloth pass beneath other threads, thereby folding into itself. Alternately, they might be thought of as the typical depiction of mini-blackholes; dipping into and through the surface of matter.



It is in the disjunctive space between New sentences that the reader peers over the edge of the surface of sense into the abyss of non-sense (that which, with every sensible statement, always remains unsaid, constituting an aleatory point of nonsense), the Void of the unnameable. It is this space that most interests Silliman as a possibility to keep the reader with her nose constantly to the text. ’I was very much interested in the relationship between the sentences.’ (Silliman 1996: interview). Critic George Hartley sums it up thus: ‘What Silliman claims to discover is that the sentence is the hinge between fragments and wholes, the privileged point of focus for his study of reification in language’ (Hartley 1988). Parataxis certainly also focuses attention on the sentences themselves, but the ‘gap’ between the sentences is more interesting because, part of the experience (being between two sentences), is already wholly on the outside of language. While the new sentence itself brings similar ‘affective effects’, or ‘effective affects’ (Tjanting 19, 25) about, it does so completely within the realm of language. We would argue therefore, that the space between fulfils more of a hinge function than the sentences themselves.

So for the sake of making good with history, let’s give [gap] a name and baptize her ‘transversal inflection’. ‘Transversal’ because these spaces lie across the rest of the text. In a few short comments about Proust’s Recherche that apply remarkably well to Tjanting, Deleuze writes:

‘it is transversality that constitutes…singular unity and totality…without suppressing their difference or distance…transversality which passes through the entire sentence, which proceeds from one sentence to another in the entire book’ (PS, 168, italics added).

images-41 images-5

Transversality here is like a cord that pulls taught a curtain or a bag, or the path of a needle through a cloth. To that notion we add the fact that the points that cross the text, are points of singular inflection. ‘Inflection’ because rather than being discrete points, separate from either sentence they connect, they are singular points of inflection of the surface, pulling the meaning of each respective sentence toward the depth from where sense arises. They are spaces where signs converge and fold into themselves, like knots of concentrated meaning (Flesh at the elbow…gathers in folds…Each sentence stakes out. Knot this.’ (Tjanting 20). Transversal inflection is the space where the surface of meaning opens up and comes to include its outside. It is like a coin with sense on one side and non-sense on the other: spin this coin around and the distinction between both sides fades into infinite disjunctive syntheses, ‘the great relentless disordered drone of discourse’. (F, 47), the obscurity that precedes and subsists in any clarity. To excerpt Bob Perelman’s somewhat anachronistically strained juxtaposition of Flaubert with Silliman:

‘the lunatic abyss underlying the pedagogical narrative of organized knowledge. The lack of necessary connection is a cause of despair on Flaubert’s part; for Hejinian and Silliman it creates an opening for the next new sentence.’

These openings are not gaps where language spirals into an endless via negativa. They are

veritable Ideas that the writer sees and hears in the interstices of language, in its intervals. They are not interruptions of the process, but breaks that form part of it, like an eternity that can only be revealed in a becoming, or a landscape that only appears in movement. They are not outside language, but the outside of language. (CC, 5)

As Barret Watten remarks in his introduction to Tjanting: ‘Between the dots and the connections is a statement…the serial order of the work finding itself out is equal to the fixed attention to be found at all points.’ (Tjanting, 11) As a plane of immanence, Tjanting finds itself out by unfolding itself at its points of transversal inflection.

One thought on “Naming the Unnameable : giving [gap] voice in the face of New [ ] sentence

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