Continuing from a previous post on Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ Drafts, I would like to offer some brief notes on “Draft 1: It” (the very first poem of her project, by now numbering, I believe, 94). Luckily, there is an online version of Draft 1 which is helpful because I wouldn’t know how to reproduce the poem’s layout).
“It” is the name of this poem & “it” is its subject matter. How can “it” itself be subject, when this word’s very nature is deictic, meaning it points at other words nearby to have meaning (other examples of deictic words are: this, these, now). “It” in itself, therefore, is a marker of absence that adapts to its context/surroundings. However, this absence should not be thought of as empty. Perhaps a better term would be negativity; again, not a negation of fullness, but precisely a fullness that is negated by virtue of its being too full. In other words, it marks the fullness of being itself. ‘The presence of absence’ (as Timothy Morton quotes Heidegger in Ecology Without Nature), ‘the spoilage of presence’ (DuPlessis). Or as in the Sanskrit mantra which uses another deictic word (that) to him denote being as such: tsat tvam asi, you are that. Or Woody Allen’s chameleonic character Leonard Zelig in Zelig (1983) who is continually completely adapting to his surroundings, looking and acting like the people he is around.
In “Draft 1: It” “it” is explored, circumvented, wagered on as this marker of being that just is, or rather happens. It is not Being, hiding somewhere beyond us, or beneath us like in the Hindu myth of the turtle holding up the earth being held up by a turtle en abyss.
“It is not/in it it is it”, “it happens” & it is continually happening, somewhere between here & there. in this Draft – similarly to Gertrude Stein’s “a rose is a rose is a rose” – there is at one point the threefold repetition of the phrase, “it is not surprising that”. Additionally to being the start of their own continuing lines, these phrases also fold back on themselves as repetitions of pure difference of potential, as being different by the very virtue of being repeated.
Near the beginning & end of “Draft 1: It” there are hand-drawn, baby writing, doodled versions of two letters, respectively two overlapping N’s & two overlapping Y’s (at this point the online version might be helpful). The “it” is both the No, Yes, and the in-between:
“let silence/in the form of words’/in. IT..There is no; read it. But… it is the ‘it’ characteristic of everything”.
We can think of the apophatic no of negative theology, describing ultimate being as all that it is not; or as the yes affirming the abundance of being always happening in & around us. But this “it” also drifts in between, in the very lines that sustain the words now/yes, & the letters N/Y, a border, liminality that is hinted at in the scrawled, childlike way the Ns & Ys are drawn into the poem. Because these lines discernibly form two overlapping Ns & two overlapping Ys, could just as easily be mindless, meaningless, traces of a pen on paper. They are like a picture infused with white noise, or the Gestalt therapy picture that can be seen either as apparently random grainy dots, or a rabbit, or a duck.
The uncanny, flickering screen between inside and outside. Timothy Morton (in Ecology Without Nature, 78) puts it nicely with a flavour of Zen-like paradox: “there is not even nothing beyond inside & outside. Getting used to that could take a lifetime, or more.” “The strange light scuds/ jewels him to say/anything [it] must be I/is it / the / generative/mist”