“. . . only the appointment of a skewed and derelict parade.”

This is the way we watch TV

This is the way we watch TV

The deepest darkest secret of my life revealed: I own a copy of the Norton anthology, Post Modern American Poetry (1), and I read from it almost every day. Concomitant with that nefarious pleasure, one of my favorite scholarly articles is “Pomobabble,” by Dennis Arrow (2).  In Arrow’s insightful work he claims that

I (the “subject”)[4] have (has) at various (“different”)[5] times (“moments”) con(side)red (presup(posed)) writing (sharing “discourse”[6] pertaining to) an article (“text”) “defining” (destroying)[7] pomo (“postmodernist” and “legal postmodernist”) jargon (“signs”)[8] for the “uninitiated” (unhip dullai[9]rds). I was afraid it wouldn’t be very “good”[10] — and that it might even be “‘good'” [11] — but took comfort from Richard Delgado’s reassuring observation that Randall Kennedy’s insistence on merit in legal scholarship was “potentially hostile to the idea of voice.”[12]

(See below my footnotes for a few of the important footnotes necessary to the understanding of Arrow’s paragraph.)

I have read Jean-François Lyotard’s Just Gaming and The Postmodern Condition; Foucault’s History of Sexuality; Jacques Derrida’s  Writing and Difference; and works by the likes of Husserl, Heidegger, Lacan, and Barthes.

I believe that I have assimilated these important 20th-century writings more appropriately than any of my colleagues in the graduate seminars at The University of Texas at Dallas for which I read them: I did not understand the writings at the time we read (and the others in the seminars discussed) them, and I do not remember anything from any of them (with the possible exception of Lyotard’s Just Gaming and Foucault’s History of Sexuality).

I have read the required texts for navigating through the life of the first decade of the 21st century (actually, I have no idea what readings are requisite for 2010—the books I’ve mentioned are probably passé and so ‘80s I shouldn’t admit that I’ve read them).

I know we’ve passed through Postmodernism into and beyond Post-Postmodernism, so we’re into (perhaps through) the stage after the Post-Post.

Depressed - not depressed

Depressed – not depressed

The play of words in the works in the 982-page Norton Anthology fascinates and delights me even though I very seldom understand a single stanza of a single poem. I do not know what Postmodern poetry is, but I love it.

Perhaps I am depressed because I keep trying to understand Charles Bernstein’s poetry, and the trying makes me feel as if I am literally beating my head against a brick wall.

Whose Language
By Charles Bernstein

Who’s on first? The dust descends as
the skylight caves in. The door
closes on a dream of default and
denunciation(go get those piazzas),
hankering after frozen (prose) ambiance
(ambivalence). Doors to fall in bells
to dust, nuances to circumscribe.
Only the real is real: the little
girl who cries out “Baby! Baby!”
but forgets to look in the mirror
—of a . . . It doesn’t really
matter whose, only the appointment
of a skewed and derelict parade.
My face turns to glass, at last.

If only I were brainy or disciplined or something enough to comprehend the (probably not hidden or obtuse to the initiate) meaning of Bernstein’s words instead of simply reading them aloud because I like the sound, I would not be depressed. . . . would not be

. . . . feeling like perhaps dying today would not
be a nuance to circumscribe. My horror at the
discovery that my friend wants to kill his cat
would not leave me hankering after frozen
ambivalence. The approaching tenth anniversary
of my dearest partner’s death would not make
me feel as if the skylight is caving in. The difficulty
of forming a new relationship would not seem
like appointing a skewed and derelict parade.  My
impending forced retirement would not feel like
the door closing on a dream of default and

And the naturally occurring chemical messengers (neurotransmitters), which are used to communicate between the cells of my brain—which messengers seem to be falling down on the job—would not need Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors to block the reabsorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitter serotonin in my brain. It is said that changing the balance of serotonin seems to help brain cells send and receive chemical messages, which in turn boosts mood. Unless, of course it doesn’t work.

And then everything feels as if the dust descends as the skylight caves in, and the door closes.

Derelict parade

Derelict parade

I will not harm myself today (or perhaps ever). Why should I when the naturally occurring chemical messengers in my brain are doing such a fine job of it? I will sit in my two-week-unvacuumed living room holding two of my three cats whose litter boxes need changing, crying uncontrollably as I watch “Antiques Roadshow” on Public Television and eventually come back here to my computer and try to grade some of the student essays that must be graded before next week.

In 23 of the 540 posts I have written in my two blogs in the past four years, I have discussed (or at least mentioned) depression. But I have never really tried to say what it feels like. I discover now I cannot do that.

Each of us who lives in that dark place brought about by the need for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibition must, I am sure, experience it in a different way.

I have to go to my office today and have 20-minute conferences with 14 of my students. I don’t, at the moment, see how I can even walk out my door. But I will, and some of those students with their eagerness and brightness will—without having  a clue that’s what they are doing—accomplish the work of the little blue football shaped pills I took last night that are seemingly ineffectual.

Besides that, every day from now until December 21 the sun will be out a shorter time than it was the day before. “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
(1) Post Modern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology (Second edition). Paul Hoover, ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.
(2) Arrow, Dennis W. “Pomobabble: Postmodern newspeak and constitutional `meaning’ for the uninitated.” Michigan Law Review 96.3 (1997): 461.

4.   But cf. infra text following note 50 (defining “subject”); see generally infra text accompanying note 35 (defining “I”); YEVGENY ZAMYATIN, WE 212 (Clarence Brown trans., Penguin Books 1993) (1924) (“Who is this ‘we’?”).
5.   See infra text accompanying notes 24-25 (defining “differance”); infra note 24 (contemplating sine). For other definitions of “differance,” see, e.g., JONATHAN CULLER, THE PURSUIT OF SIGNS 41 (1981); MADAN SARUP, POST-STRUCTURALISM POSTMODERNISM 33-44 (2d ed. 1993); Spivak, supra note 2, at xiii-xxi. But cf. infra text accompanying note 22 (defining “definition” as “destruction”). See generally ROBERT A. HERIN, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND 29 (1961) (“Vive la difference!”); hear JACQUES OFFENBACH, Orpheus in the Underworld: Cancan and Vivo, on OFFENBACH, GAITE PARISIENNE (BMG Music 1988) (1858).
6.   But see infra text accompanying notes 26-27 (defining “discourse”).
7.   See infra note 22 and accompanying text (defining and discussing “definition”); cf. ROBERT A. WILSON, MASKS OF THE ILLUMINATI (1981) (contemplating illuminati, and masks); CONRAD, supra note 2, at 40 (“[W]ho is this Mr. Kurtz?”).

About Harold Knight
Retired English prof, SMU. Old man. Musician. Passionate about justice, equality, freedom. Therefore, I am a fervent supporter of and advocate for the Palestinian People as they struggle to survive genocide. That also means, of course, I have no use for US 45.

3 Responses to “. . . only the appointment of a skewed and derelict parade.”

  1. Pingback: A small personal rant | Sumnonrabidus's Blog

  2. Pingback: Sometimes I feel like a motherless chili | Sumnonrabidus's Blog

  3. Pingback: “There was no reason behind it; it was just the way things were.” In which I say way too much. | Me, senescent

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