Hymn Underground by Colby Gillette
YOUR PRESENCE SEIZES / ABOLISHES DISTANCE
AN UNKNOWN GNOSTIC CALLING
THE UNMAKING OF PSYCHOLOGISMS
COLBY GILLETTE’S HYMN UNDERGROUND
A subjectivity is produced where the living being, encountering language and putting itself into play in language without reserve, exhibits in a gesture the impossibility of its being reduced to this gesture. All the rest is psychology, and nowhere in psychology do we encounter anything like an ethical subject, a form of life.
-GIORGIO AGAMBEN, The Author as Gesture
Recently we have been collecting all kinds of concepts and boiling them down to one or two. Our old approach was to try to quantify uncertainties, which led to our eventual recognition that quantifying uncertainties only increased our perplexity.
-WILLIAM FULLER, Psychological Ethics
And it was as though he had said: everything has begun.
–NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS, The Last Temptation of Christ
A Prolegomenon in Five Parts
παράταξις : parataxis against the clauses and causal strains of hypotaxis, for the sake of relational sanctity—the boundedness of the word to the sacral, the letter to the ground from which we speak.
In short, a book/a work against relativism’s nihilistic blade (Karamazovian traces from the start and directly so).
An unmitigated devotional.
The cyclic beat in…
A series of obstacles,
not enough for fun, still felt dynamic.
More of a dynamist than the living functionalists accounted for—with spirited assumptions and doctrinal ironies abounding.
But did you expect devout canticles in the coeval field?
The unexpected nonmaterial resolution—wanted or unwanted: the facticity unattended and in a votive mood.
To read the words/works of a friend: frēond: to the very roots of bond, attachment, camaraderie but without a lack (…alack…) of criticality—the sphere of suspicious detection wherein a singularity became doubled & dialogic.
The infinite conversation is neither infinite nor uniform.
Maurice lied to you.
A collaborationist is, in part, a writer of a type of divine guilt, rarely understood, but imperatively established in the long line of disaster narratives.
“The disaster ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact.” 1
Coalescing incoherently: the distinction being paramount—between fundamental abstraction and conceptual trenchancy: exists a declaration.
There is a war going on in poetry.
From the front lines:
“After short silence then
And summons read, the great consult began.” 2
A blank genesis in a twelve tone register—misshapen but conversant: the universality of resolved personhood.
And by resolution, we mean: a poetic effort of prodigious divisions.
Parataxis against the causation of hypotaxis.
atop all this noise
This poet does not alleviate pain but prompts the imposing spirit.
Dear Delirium & Flower,
I’m reading the book in the contentment that only one’s own home can give but that does not mean I cannot have…
kept the coming dead at hand
Or that the precarious characteristic of reading is abated or, by any means, evaded.
And no natural landscape—be it desert, provencal, mountain peak—suffices more than a somber desk.
An unnatural light spills over difficult phrases displaying a kind of comprehensive knowing—that ephemera is justified and romanticized (whether the authorial intention meant to or not):
“I, too, must seldom seek again
near happy friends a mitigated pain” 3
But mitigation is no cold remove—rather it is an insistent remodeling by the very antecedent phrases implied.
The trouble with poetry remains—that it is always already a domesticated landscape—with its metered syntaxes, schemas, and the potential for ersatz improvisations.
Poetry, if I am (in fact) onto something, is, generally speaking, like a negative jazz.
Pastorality is also a problem.
But Gillette’s anthropomorphs are at the service of our need to avoid Platonic penetrations—if we take metaphorical speech seriously.
A tree may be buried—roots catching the under-swell and the under-swell may go further underground and catch a flame or two from God knows where down there.
And this originary poetics is after the selfsame analogue: the culling or copying of the so-called natural world and the placing of it in a musical simulacrum—asymmetrical, atonal, or merely a profligate brokenness (a sauntering nomadism).
Here is where poetry breaks from the prosaic and defines the local by ruining coeval conventions and the contemporary device.
“They are at odds with what they consort with; estranged from what is ever in their
Agon again… but unexpectedly so, in its crooked feedback.
The object has moved too close to the subject and, by doing so, it violates the initial principle.
with doors open, empty of ourselves
The haloed consummation—removed in literal fashion—convincing the infinite amplification to further escalate.
That ghosts happen
opposite the light, wholly in time
We can and turn away to language
Like a dancing Mallarmé in shifting calculations—like The Book of Hermetic Fatherhood, unanticipated and gut wrenching.
makes of us cancelled animal noise
“Have unknown words ever sung on your lips, the damned fragments of a
meaningless phrase?” 5
Shards of familiar dialogues: de-familiarized in an abundant gnosis, an inner type of cognitive awareness wounding one’s body with…
But let us take a moment to consider something else—namely: fragility as tentative pastoral gesture, as domestic action.
How is the process enacted but by miniature experimentation?
Failed experiments: failing better.
The sounds of what fails in loving.
Dear Exterminating Angel,
Some are willing to dismiss trans-valuations as nothing more than regaled relativism.
But Hymn Underground takes the anatheistic leap, lyrically construed against the over-broad line of the prosaic (contra: the sentence).
Asymmetry, therein (within the binds of the book), is not making a strictly aesthetic statement.
It is, instead, founding a methodology on the premise of meaningfulness, projectivist momentums, idyllic intentionality, and the unmoored ethos—which may, in fact, be Eros itself or the sound of Eros.
I walk between your name and its silence
It is silence or fissure in the noiselessness’s encyclopedic expanse.
But why do you, dear author, turn us so unexpectedly in the road?
What paratactic or lexical logic leads us away from the net?
I am thirsty—craving appearances like a mortal wounding but necessary contrivance, a phenomenology of the hymnal.
“In all science—therefore in metaphysics—it is a question of proving. To prove consists in grounding appearances in order to know with certainty, leading them back to the ground in order to lead them certainty. But in phenomenology—that is to say, at least in what it intends, in the attempt to think in a nonmetaphysical mode—it is a question of showing. To show implies letting appearances appear in such a way that they accomplish their own apparition, so as to be received exactly as they give themselves.” 6
Dear The Mother of Tears,
Phenomenology and futurism (as twin sums), both grounded on a vulnerable excess—an exposure in the corner, in the dark angles of forgetting.
But we also make children sit in the corner until their storming is through, a self-referential retribution if there ever was one, all in a domestic court.
When the home is a court, when the judges embrace their own bodies, forgetting their defendant(s)—almost overemotionally considered but true to the everyday concrete.
And Gillette, in his ambivalent late modernism, defines this drama as one played out by desire…
performing inexact steps
—a possible alternative moniker, having been set between language and image—what we should call: THE REGION.
A topography made up of over-labored proletarians is a construct of the primal and it is, very much so, to the point—an answer to the intruding question…
How am I ever alone
Wherein an attention is an alterity of the seasoned mystic—a clear directive, a wounded lucidity.
Your presence seizes
abolishes distance, it scatters
But not in the unchallenging convention of the patriarch.
There are few predictabilities, herein, to hang one’s hat on, because…
“every window thinks of
itself as being
an opening” 7
There are myriad kinships.
This is merely a striking blood bond between difference, transcending the engendered totality (the attempt).
the day’s dim dance
The hymn ephemerally recommences—when the word is given over to us.
And A Quick Word
I take the seeming typographical error of the title as not entirely accidental. Throughout hermeneutic history there has been a demand for a tarrying with the negative—and, in turn, the negative has demanded a tarrying with illegibility (think of the Remembrances of Edmond Jabès). The burden and sin of interpretation is entirely yours and yours alone. This is but one more story of the eye. And under the outermost membrane of the eye: a hymnal is seen and sung and replicated. No editing will extract the definitional veering. Confession admits the unintended and language is not so much a prison-house as it is a non-bordered, phantasmagorically fabulated rupture and a mirror. Long live this ever breaking vessel of Being. May its hymnal reign over the fascistic edge of the literal.
- (UK dialectical) Mucus produced by the eyes during sleep.
- (UK dialectical) Gummy matter in sore eyes.
From Middle English gound, gownde, from Old English gund (“matter, pus, poison”) from Proto-Germanic gundaz (“sore, boil”) from Proto-Indo-European gend (“ulcer, sore, abscess, boil”). Cognate with Old High German gunt (“purulent matter”), Norwegian dialectical gund (“the scab of an ulcer).
All large block quotes are taken from Colby Gillette’s Hymn Underground, the rest is as follows and in order of appearance.
1MAURICE BLANCHOT, The Writing of the Disaster (trans. by Ann Smock)
2JOHN MILTON, Paradise Lost
3PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, The Serpent Is Shut Out From Paradise
4HERACLITUS, THERE ARE GODS HERE TOO: READINGS OF HERACLITUS (trans. by Michael Kincaid)
5STÉPHANE MALLARMÉ, THE DEMON OF ANALOGY (trans. by Henry Weinfeld)
6JEAN-LUC MARION, Being Given: TOWARD A PHENOMENOLOGY OF GIVENNESS (trans. by Jeffrey L. Kosky)
7ETEL ADNAN, SEA and FOG
The current version of this book, which I possess, has the aforementioned typographical error but future runs will, undoubtedly, repair the presumed mistake—for better or worse…
LM Rivera is a writer. He co-edits Called Back Books with Sharon Zetter. He is the author of a chapbook, The Little Legacies (Glo Worm Press, 2016) and two poetry collections, The Drunkards (Omnidawn, 2018) and Against Heidegger (Omnidawn, 2020). He is a tutor, a filmmaker, an artist, and a father.