Document 29 (French thinking)
from O Cidadan
To enable a language (returning) is also to allow intrusions, and to enable
intrusions or their possibility as part of the cultural order. An overlap (micro)
into a zone. Sometimes only the “overlap” makes borders of a zone visible.
(A horse that is also red, a camellia)
(Lorcan or Lispectoral)
(Sex’s relation to this)
That my thinking, because of (necessary) zone disequilibrium, may be
“French” thinking, even in English.
Which changes English.
not “dualistic” but “mesial”
(add pp. 120-1 Nancy here)
[This piece ends with a list of email addresses of friends in Chile and Spain]
How does one read Moure? Where are the neophyte’s points of access? The philosophical locus of this poem sifts out upon multiple readings, a slow and dogged reading wherein one unfixes one’s assumptions of poetry’s anticipated forms. O Cidadan, the collection which contains this poem, takes poetry as distilled critical thought. A reader does not chit-chat with these poems, she breaks her skull open with them.
It is a difficult process. It requires being open to having thoughts about oneself change in relation to the thoughts and interruptions in Moure’s poetry, a poetry that doesn’t invite us in as we’re used to. Moure writes largely to herself (you are welcome to join, if you be brave), a process exemplified in the third ‘stanza,’ a note-to-self, set in parenthesis: “(Lorcan or Lispectoral).” This parenthetical fragment is pinned precariously against the pedagogical first ‘stanza,’ itself a key to be applied to the difficulty that comes later:
To enable language (returning) is also to allow intrusions, and to enable intrusions or their possibility as part of the cultural order. An overlap (micro) into a zone. Sometimes only the “overlap makes borders of a zone visible.
While this first stanza situates the reader with an inviting concept, the following lines turn inward without guiding the reader. Often Moure’s statements read as notes to herself, things to finish or include later. One of the only routes available to the reader is to turn from this interruption and seeming dead-end to the expository first lines, to discover the relationship between this interruption and the tenet of the poem. In posing ‘(Lorcan or Lispectoral)’ without qualifying it, Moure intrudes upon intrusion, enacting the principle articulated from the start, which is that overlap and intrusion make borders of a zone visible. This polyvocal ‘zone,’ in the broader scope of O Cidadan, is the citizen, the citizen as composite.
One pole of Moure’s exemplary citizen then, as an adjective, is ‘Lispectoral,’ a writer whose force comes from the very dispersions that compose her citizenship. Clarice Lispector wrote in Portuguese, a “minor language,” a language so contained that it’s been called “the tomb of thought.” Like Kafka she wrote in the dominant language of her milieu, and like Kafka, her day job (a part-time beauty columnist) gave no indication of her mystic depth. Nor did her chic, socialite appearance play into any of the expectations of the virile Latin American writers whose lists of conquests were the basis of their writing. The overlaps that make up Lispector’s work, like Moure’s, are a “(necessary) zone disequilibrium:” necessary because they set in motion thought itself, set in motion the self itself, all of which is visible in her astonishing work.
Moure’s other exemplary citizen, Lorca, also writes at a meeting point of various cultures, exiles, and influences, he too is a national treasure, yet his poems are published in every language and his name is often a household one. Lispector is (in my opinion) a more daring writer, yet this begs the question of “sex’s relation to this,” ‘this’ being what? Was Lispector marginalized not only by her language but by her gender? And how does this double marginalization articulate her particular ‘zone’ as a citizen?
In the end, the poem does not answer this question in any conventional way, as it remains open to further intrusions. Seemingly exhausted by the rigor needed to follow through on her ideas, Moure adds another parenthesized statement “(add pp. 120-1 Nancy Here)” and then after considerable blank space, “[This piece ends with a list of email addresses of friends in Chile and Spain]”. If the reader is an autodidact like Moure, they might turn to Jean-Luc Nancy, and, because she doesn’t specify which particular text (although it’s likely The Inoperative Community), they might seek to understand which of his ideas connects with the vast, multinational network formed in “document 29 (French thinking)”. The final statement is wry and pithy, yet again invoking the initial clause: language is enabled by intrusions, intrusions must be part of the cultural order, so that zones are not made visible by their boundaries but by their overlaps.
And if porous borders are not only aspects of language, but also originate and make visible the body, then the multiple borders that make up each individual can also make visible the social whole. In the ‘introduction’ (if you will, see p. 0 of O Cidadan) Moure writes of ‘the citizen’ as a term “set in motion again…[by]…upsetting the structure/stricture even momentarily” to invoke the ““I,” the woman, the “minor” tongues, the lesbian in a civic frame – a policed sexuality. Unha cidadan: a semantic pandemonium.” A citizen: a multiple. And once witnessed as a multiple, a citizen can learn to welcome the intrusions that compose them.
The project is to move away from a normative identity which would witness this multiplicity as threatening, and toward the citizen as a potential that is animated through interruption. Poetry, like the citizen, suffers without permitting radical intrusions, whether they be linguistic, philosophical, sexual, or political. The difficulty in Moure is in the need to witness each poem as a new constellation of interruption, to broach the confines of a poetry hostile to such interruption, and to find pleasure in this work, which is nothing other than the work of citizenship itself.
Laura Broadbent is a writer, reader, and illustrator from Montreal. Her book OH THERE YOU ARE I CAN’T SEE YOU IS IT RAINING? won the 2012 Robert Kroetsch award and will be coming out with Snare Books in the fall. She is reviews editor at Lemon Hound.