Amy's Reviews > Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics

Faust in Copenhagen by Gino Segrè
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Nov 16, 2011

it was amazing

The Matrix

Werner Heisenberg, whose development of matrix mechanics yielded the uncertainty principle, said that one challenge of quantum theory is that it does not have an adequate language beyond mathematics to describe it. Heisenberg comes close to proposing that poetry is that language in Physics and Philosophy when, after making this statement, he immediately references Goethe’s Faust to describe his understanding of the structure of language. Mephistopheles says that while formal education instructs that logic braces the mind “in Spanish boots so tightly laced,” and that even spontaneous acts require a sequential process (“one, two, three!”):

In truth the subtle web of thought
Is like the weaver’s fabric wrought:
One treadle moves a thousand lines,
Swift dart the shuttles to and fro,
Unseen the threads together flow,
A thousand knots one stroke combines.

Heisenberg, while arguing that science must be as attentive to imagination as to logic, also seems to be suggesting that novel sciences must be described by novel languages. Creative endeavors like poetry have the ability to not only describe novel theories and expressions of physical reality, but also to invent them through its shorthand, “one treadle” moving “a thousand lines,” where a “thousand knots one stroke combines.” As I learned in kevin mcpherson eckhoff’s rhapsodomancy, the alphabets of the future are wormholes. Since the primary concern in theoretical physics today is reconciling quantum mechanics with relativity through proposals such as string theory, poetry can be thought of as an experiment in physics and physics as a field test for poetry.

Physics is the study of physical reality, which, to my mind, includes spacetime, language, poems, people, consciousness, and agency. In literary terms, string theory could be considered to be a critical theory; it not only describes physical elements, including elementary elements, within spacetime, it attempts to describe spacetime itself. Following in the tradition of Western atomic science from Thales to Democritus, physicists consider the multiverse’s subatomic, vibrating membranes of energy—the open and closed strings of string theory—to be elementary constituents of matter.

What is the significance of these open and closed strings in relation to clinamen occurring in not just artistic contexts but in physical reality, as demonstrated by how probability functions in subatomic phenomena of mechanical systems? Poetry, which could be considered a mutation on physical and conceptual reality, replicates through the ricochet of pattern (periodicity, symmetry, order) and swerve (deviation from pattern, chance) toward novelty, or what might be thought of as the poem itself. Along with the expanding and accelerating multiverse, our understanding and experience of physical reality expands and accelerates at varying scales (subatomic, eye level, astronomical). We create and use technology like our microscopes and telescopes to interact more deeply with these scales, and as such technological advances proliferate so do our capacities to perceive, perform, and create through other mediums. Poetry that is attentive to its multiversal form as a novel technology also operates within and beyond these varying scales through the known and unknown dimensions of physical reality.

Dr. Lisa Randall, the particle physicist I saw lecturing on CERN just before the Large Hadron Collider went operational, called herself a model builder. Apologizing for the lack of realism, and asking us to use our imaginations, she presented crude graphs of open and closed strings—in other words, she presented two-dimensional portrayals of eleven-dimensional concepts—to illustrate the hypothesis that our universe is a low-gravity universe while other dimensions in the multiverse, called “branes,” are high-gravity universes. Considering the homophonic relevance of the word “brane,” and taking into account Heisenberg’s notion that an eleven-dimensional science might require an eleven-dimensional language like poetry, I have decided that I, too, am a model builder. Like Christian Bök's Xenotext—a poem encoded into a radio-resistant bacterium that will write poems—I write poems that write me.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle proposes that at the subatomic scale of physical reality, the future position and momentum of a particle cannot be predicted because it is impossible to accurately describe the particle’s present state without ambiguity. Applied to scales at eye level, the notion that the future cannot be predicted with any certainty because it is impossible to describe the present without ambiguity reinforces the idea that time operates outside of conventional notions of linearity. Within the context of a poem, where ambiguity can operate on multiple levels—in meaning, sight, and sound—time as a linear or nonlinear experience can occur or not occur in a recognizable pattern.

According to physicist Gino Segrè’s Faust in Copenhagen, while the mathematics used by Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics was not new, the theory itself was original for developing what Max Born called “symbolic multiplication,” which resulted in illustrating that the commutative law of arithmetic (AB, equals BA, i.e. 4X3 is the same as 3X4) is not valid in subatomic systems. Heisenberg’s symbolic multiplication proposed that in quantum mechanics a particle’s position multiplied by its momentum is not equal to a particle’s momentum multiplied by its position. In other words, a particle’s position multiplied by its momentum (AB) minus a particle’s momentum multiplied by its position (BA) was not zero, as it would be if the product of position and momentum commuted. Instead, in matrix mechanics, a particle’s position multiplied by its momentum minus a particle’s momentum multiplied by its position was proportional to Planck’s constant, a physical constant of subatomic quanta that is nonzero. Since Planck’s constant is always nonzero, uncertainty is at play in measuring observable subatomic phenomenon of the present. By invalidating causality as well as attempts at measuring non-observable subatomic phenomenon, Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics illustrated that the future position and momentum of subatomic particles cannot be calculated because the “determining elements” of the present cannot be known with certainty. This is one way that quantum mechanics conceives of time—and logic—in a novel way. In quantum poetics, such breakthroughs in physics can be applied to physical reality at all of its scales, visible and invisible, including cultural and creative scales, and, more specifically, to language and what I might call its matrix mechanics, poetry.

Heisenberg’s quantum mechanics conceived of space in a novel way, too, offering a new model for how electrons moved within atoms. In contrast to notions that electrons in atoms moved in orbits like planets, matrix mechanics describes the motion of electrons as jumps or leaps from one quantum state to another, reminiscent of clinamen, and evoking the possibility that clinamen could be a physical force like electromagnetism or gravity that exists not only in creative systems but also in physical reality.

How can a poem’s future or present/near-future “meaning” be known with any certainty if its present cannot be described without ambiguity? Conventional notions of meaning are dependent on linear notions of time, as meaning in its conventional iterations is something arrived at, in time, after “comprehension.” Most reading relies on linear notions of time as well, since grammars often follow a progression that occurs before comprehension or examined experience is reached. However, poetry can usurp conventional interactions with reading with the reader experiencing language outside linear notions of time, which might include time slowing, speeding up, or inducing a sense of no time, or a sense of all times at once, where the simultaneity of times can occur between differing or distinct time scales. Perhaps, most importantly, poems can also work in tandem (toward unity and/or disjunction) with space in a way that is attentive to the spacetime of the page, that field that transcends the border of the object or conceptual medium such as the page or screen. In poetry, like in quantum mechanics, the future cannot be forecasted with certainty, and any measurement of its physical reality, including its meaning, might only be described in terms of probability.

Of course, applying discoveries and theories in the natural sciences to sociological, phenomenological, or artistic interpretations of reality can be problematic because correlations sometimes assume a causal relationship between what are conventionally thought of as different modes of inquiry. At the same time, the academic and practical divisions between the natural and human sciences seems to be part of a systemic artifice perpetuated by cultural institutions that serve to protect distinct disciplines from interdisciplinary, and therefore competing, authorities.

To my mind, whatever human consciousness is, it must be partly comprised of electrons—the subatomic material of physical reality—and breakthroughs in describing subatomic or even astronomical phenomenon are also breakthroughs in describing reality at eye level, which is just one, though perhaps our most obvious, encounter with existence. Those attentive to the interactions of clinamatic spacetime of language on human consciousness might notice how fresh iterations of language affect existence within and outside of eye level, which includes language itself and what it means or doesn’t mean to creatively communicate or replicate through mediated or non-mediated sounds and scripts. The cultural and creative dimensions of physical reality are not as distinct from theoretical or experiment-based physics as discipline-specific discourse would have us believe, but seem to be instead linked through ongoing proposals of Alfred Jarry’s imaginary solutions. This exchange between disciplines is not physics or metaphysics; it’s Jarry’s ’pataphysics, and it invites significant communications between disciplines, or what might be thought of as translations.

A great example of successful translation within a discipline is the time in which Faust in Copenhagen focuses, where open, respectful, and rigorous discourse among the practitioners of physics was practiced. The community that Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, Wolfgang Pauli, and others created and maintained in those years before World War II revolved around institutional and personal mentorships, thinking together and debating in both formal and informal settings, and finding ways to disagree and persuade while furthering conversation. I was especially interested in how peaceful the intellectual conflict regarding quantum mechanics between Bohr and Albert Einstein played out. Around the same time that Heisenberg was developing his matrix mechanics, Bohr rejected the existence of Einstein’s “quanta of light,” the photon. Einstein rejected Bohr’s notion that strict causality only holds for the mean value of a particle taken over many measurements, and he also rejected Bohr’s idea that particles don’t conserve energy. Einstein never really came around to quantum mechanics as interpreted by Heisenberg and Bohr, and continuing debates about relativity and quantum mechanics are at the center of theoretical physics today. Bohr and Einstein seemed to both feel deeply about the accuracy of their positions but also seemed to understand the value of inquiry enough to debate without manipulation, aggression, defensiveness, or personal attack.

There seems to be an understanding or belief among poets that the best translators of poems from one language to another are practicing poets, since those who write poetry can often represent challenging or even traditionally un-translatable forms, concepts, sounds, and rhythms using principles and approaches from poetry that a poet would understand in a way that someone who doesn’t write poetry might not. Translation is also a political discourse with its inherent interest in expanding communication and experience between cultures. It also seems to be a conceptual discourse in its iterations where translations occur between distinct creative genres. In other forms, translation is a discourse of imaginary solutions that occurs between disciplines like physics and poetry, computer science and visual art, philosophy and ecology. The ordinary risk of translation in any of these contexts might be that the translation fails at adequately communicating or representing what’s being translated. However, thinking of translation in terms of stark success and failure doesn’t take into account questions about authenticity and whether or not translation is even possible if translation operates at gradations rather than demarcated evaluations of success and failure. Perhaps due to the inescapable result of mistranslation, the act of translation is thus always a creative act, evoking more questions than it can resolve. This is one result of communicating across languages, disciplines, genres, and forms in the multiverse. Imaginary solutions multiply.

Therefore, indefinitely:


’Pataphysics is the physics of poetry….

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message 1: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Great essay, and timely, for me at least, as I've read your Multiversal a few times in the last week or so. This reads like a translation of your own book into different terms, both of which (this essay and your book) make my cranium pulsate and expand. Jarry must be levitating in his grave!

message 2: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Thank you, Eddie. If anyone could suspend themselves by a physical force against gravity, it would be Jarry! Yes, poetics as translation. This response is part of a work on quantum poetics that I have been developing over the last five years, parts of which have been published by Jerome Rothenberg's Poems and Poetics.

message 3: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins With the 'original' also being a translation?

I'd like to develop a poetics of invisibility, or unknowableness, or the implicate order, as per my understanding of the self, which is something that can not be known, or seen, but which is as close to an 'original' as we can get and which does nothing but radiate stuff partially translatable into words. Maybe I am developing it.

message 4: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Thinking about your “maybe” in terms of Robert Anton Wilson’s “maybe logic,” which lacks all “be” verbs in order to challenge certainty. Also, I am a BIG FAN of invisibility and therefore I support your poetics. When I think invisibility I think The Invisibles, dark matter, wonder woman’s jet, radiation (sun=positive, nuclear waste=negative), and x-rays (always negative, except to inspire the imagination with secret seeing). And The Invisible Man (Wells)/Invisible Man (Ellison). You use the word, “radiate.” From a center, as in a wheel, or from a different shape? Or, on what background (canvas, sea, you know) does the shape occur to be a shape? Maybe your poetics of invisibility is more like the invisible cloak, which covers the self while freeing it? but then such cloaks always come with so much superhero responsibility!

You suggest the ‘original’ is also a translation—where, at what scale, does one language begin and another stop?, your question makes me question—

message 5: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins With my 'original' comment I was tying your poetics as translation to my (not that I can claim ownership) poetics of invisibility by implying the original is within the realm of the invisible and can only be extracted and put in verbal form by an act of translation. Perhaps there are ties to theories of the unconscious, but isn't there also something called quantum soup?

As for invisibility - I have long been intrigued by my own (perhaps mis-) understanding of optics that all we actually see is reflected light from dark bodies, that you don't see me but only light reflected off of me, so that behind these reflections I remain absolutely invisible. Tied to this are contemplations of dark matter and David Bohm's idea of the implicate and explicate orders - the implicate order being a kind of coded storehouse of all things in potentia (and invisible) which spontaneously translates into knowable/actual things in the explicate order, and back again - the implicate order being a dark whale and the explicate order being its occasional spouting. So it's certainly not a cloak that I knowingly put on, but rather an inherent aspect of being and nature that can not be removed, and it becomes a poetics only in that I happen to have an interest in words and word combinations, and so 'radiate' poetry from the shape-shiftingness of my invisible self, with the understanding that my knowledge of things is miniscule compared to my ignorance.

message 6: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Beautiful, your dark whale as implicate order and the spouting as explicate order—the occluded whale body as invisible potentia that spouts-breathes translations into the air—this is timely for me because I recently saw whales on the open sea—then, a few days ago, I saw a film about an eco-pirate who saves whales from whale hunters—and, yes—the self as shape-shifting—poetry as a translation of our shifting mission controls—

I'd be curious to hear more about how optics might inform these ideas about poetry.

Thinking now about the relationship of invisibility to dark matter, a nice metaphor for what we can’t conventionally see but which is all around us, or even how invisible ink both “reveals” its text while simultaneously occluding it, depending on at what point in time (and space) we light the page with flame. I’m not as convinced that the invisible (shape-shifting) self is inherent to “nature,” mostly because of the shape-shifting itself, questions I have about what constitutes nature, and how self can be constructed rather than accessed. I am very interested in your ideas on knowing and not knowing. I think of how language can ricochet between transparency and imperceptibility, and how the writer and reader can trace this ricochet through developing and examining formal and structural methods. I’m equally intrigued by poetries that reject meaning, or that remain in the dark matter (until more novel “telescopes” come along?), urging readers or listeners to find different "languages" in which to remix-communicate or simply remix-experience.

message 7: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins The whale is also David Lynch's big fish, or maybe its cousin.

'Knowing' is so much like 'not knowing' to me that often I don't know the difference! Call me a dark gnostic.

For me all explorations of knowing begin with the closest thing we each have at hand - the self - but just as 'the eye can not see itself', the self in its deepest essentials can not know itself. As we examine it closer and closer, from the outside as it were, it endlessly ramifies and/or shape-shifts (fascinating in itself) - an end or completeness of knowledge will never be reached - but then a line is crossed, a physical-feeling line, and perception flip-flops shifting our view from observing the self to looking outward from it. At this point the self is fully embodied by the self yet invisible to the self. Writing from this point, or as informed by this point, involves a poetics of invisibility, wherein the 'machinery' is invisible and only the products (poems) can be seen.

This is how I view the entire universe, with invisible (shape-shifting) selves the implicate order and the observable world the explicate order. But even trees have invisible (shape-shifting) selves. I would call the implicate order the 'real' reality because the explicate is completely dependent upon it to even be.

Perhaps I'm making it clear that I do not explore the expanding limits of reality in the same way you do. Having read your Multiversal I see that you 'use' language with conscious intention within your poetry to help expand our understanding of the universe, ricocheting (as you say) between transparency and imperceptibility. I actually feel incapable of using language in that way - with conscious intention - and so my strategies involve attaining and inhabiting mind-spaces and writing from there with something like spontaneity.

Oh boy, what was I saying...

At any rate I bow to Dark Matter, the proverbial 90% portion of our brains that go 'unused', swampy tadpole spots, an Unknowable God, Quantum Soup, and pensive poker-faced whimsy.

message 8: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Haha! I am interested in the range of intentionality and the subspace between conscious and unconscious thought, and not necessarily as a means toward expanding knowledge, but more as an end in itself, or perhaps as a means toward redefinition and maybe(logic) novelty. Poem as shape-shifter. Like your trees.

I'm also wondering how intention and non-intention relate to certainty and uncertainty in quantum mechanics, how, when using language with conscious intent—through a formal scaffolding, an oulipian constraint, or as a critical framework, where the machine is seen?—unpredictable/uncertain results or readings occur. Perhaps results of intentional approaches might be subjugated in favor of the intention itself, and value measured in terms of how relevant the intention is to relative positions or processes. However, with non-intentional modes like spontaneous writing and chance operations (though isn’t the agent of chance part of the experiment?), there is also the certainty of uncertainty at play, much in the way the future position and momentum of a subatomic particle cannot be known because the present state of the particle cannot be described without ambiguity.

Also, thought you might be interested: James Sherry, in an interview on Jacket2, while talking about polymorphic syntax as a way of multiplying the possibilities for the kind of thinking we do, mentions optics: “Polymorphism occurs outside of poetry and prose in the world of optics. Polarized light vibrates all on one plane….Non-polarized poetries are polymorphic and can be read in several ways.”

message 9: by Eddie (last edited Nov 29, 2011 12:03PM) (new)

Eddie Watkins

Romanesco Broccoli

message 10: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars


"broccoli without borders"

message 11: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins This broccoli illustrates perfectly my approach to reading poetry. Disregarding the complex mathematics of its structure I simply marvel at its display of a finite green infinity. I cut it in half, but only as a way to further my marvelling, not as a way to 'figure it out'. My brain is inherently quantum and is fully engaged but as openly as possible as I lose myself in its protuberant whorls. The shifts in scale are bewildering but pure pleasure. My eyes are inherently quantum. I enter another world. I grow hazy about what exactly it is, and what its purpose is, but the haziness only increases the pleasure. Now I'm all about pure pleasure and begin mingling my chemistry with its. I salivate primitively, ignorant of mathematics. My tongue is inherently quantum. I become romanesco broccoli and romanesco broccoli becomes me as I close my eyes and chew.

message 12: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Yay for fractals and….fractal poetics? Years before Mandelbrot—and Gertrude Stein’s roses—Goethe wrote about a Primal Plant, “Urpflanze,” that was a leaf within a leaf within a leaf. I like how fractals have no beginnings or endings (in time), no inside or outside (in space), and how self-similarity and repetition occurs at all discernible scales. However, I am dissatisfied with their undeviating periodicity.

Fractal poetics meets quantum poetics: Where (in space) or when (in time) does the poem’s urpflanze swerve?

Quantum poetics: there is no urpflanze. too Newtonian/Platonic.

Fractal poetics: a rose is a leaf is a rose is a leaf is a rose.

Invisibility poetics:________________________________________

The periodicity (or “symmetry in time”) of fractals reminds me of the heartbeat. But how would the heartbeat be heard (does it swerve?) by unfathomable organs (not ears) or instruments (not the stethescope). Since in quantum theory the future [position and momentum of a particle] cannot be predicted with certainty, because the present [position and momentum of a particle] cannot be described without ambiguity, fractal poetics seems different than quantum poetics, where the poem might move by or be the quantum jump. In videos of fractals that move the eyespot through its terrain—unlike with poems or subatomic particles—and despite an idyllic peak-n-valley perpetual nowhere/everywhere, I can tell where I/the eyespot am and where I/the eyespot am going and where I/the eyespot has been. So, that’s my slight protest against fractals…

Along these lines, I like satellite photos of pattern formations on Earth. These depictions are often fractal, but there is usually deviation at play, which is often enhanced by the false-color techniques used to illustrate variation:

message 13: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy I found this essay by Alice Fulton after a search for fractal poetics; her business, perhaps, being circumference...:

message 14: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Excellent. I now have some reading material for the work day. Thanks.

As much as fractals turn me on I don't think they're all that big of a deal, or rather I don't think the science industry behind them is all that big of a deal. Fractals are not counter-intuitive like quantum theory, and are the perfectly natural stuff of any childhood (or later) revery. The Strange Attractor idea is very intriguing though.

message 15: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Pretty good essay. Like her whys and hows of "embedding" Emily's lines into hers. But still, much of what she says is stuff I take for granted.

Stuff I Take For Granted:

1) the fractal geometry of nature

2) the inextricable intermingling of subject/object

3) the observer's effect on the object

4) the unknowable invisible nature of one's self to one's self

5) all is unified but that this holistic whole can not be seen or known since the knower is part of this whole and "the eye can not see itself"

6) we live in a deterministic universe, but since the determiner is an unknowable and invisible aspect of the whole, is in fact one with the whole, and thus a subject of its own determination, then what I term deterministic could just as well be called free

7) Emily Dickinson is the greatest of poets

8) time is not a one-way street

9) tea trumps coffee

10) consciousness is distinct from the brain and survives bodily death for a spell

11) we know things better only in that we are ever off the ultimate mark

12) in exploring the universe we are exploring our own minds

13) massaman curry is sumptuous and delectable

14) humans are no more intelligent than any other sentient creature

15) a kind of terrifying bliss is the eternal substratum of consciousness

16) walking is the way to go

17) neutrinos are the freest spirits we know

18) meaning saturates all

message 16: by Amy (last edited Dec 10, 2011 06:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy “Walking is the way to go/neutrinos are the freest spirits we know”!


What are your thoughts about strange attractors?

The discarded, dark matter details that Fulton introduces in her essay remind me of Jarry’s pataphysics, where exceptions are the rule. But I still wonder how fractals relate to exceptions, “the overlooked aspects of nature,” or dark matter. To my eye/I, fractals are like lite light matter. Everything is seen. (I remember that Joan Retallack talks about fractals in The Poethical Wager.)

I see the brilliance in Fulton invoking fractals to talk about the benefits of applying complexity theory to poetics; and she began this work in the mid-80s. I admire her call for poetry to have more courage to go against the grain, though how that grain is defined would be informed by multiple, relative positions. I disagree with some of her ideas. For example, I think contrariness in poetry can be a valuable aesthetic position in and of itself. As far as the poet’s purpose, I wouldn’t know how to address this with any definitiveness the way Fulton does: "I believe the poet’s purpose is to revise language into a vehicle of unsettlement capable of dismantling assumptions that suppress justice and contaminate love. In practice, this means poets must risk their necks in the name of fairness (i.e. equity and beauty) rather than play it safe. I hate this requirement of poetry, but it is the only justification for spending one’s life in league with it." I don’t think poets need to be or do anything in the name of anything. Later, though, she says: "[Poetry] doesn’t have to defend itself or be ‘for’ something: it isn’t obviously pragmatic. It’s playful, having qualities of the joke, in that the ‘point’ happens between the lines."

I question what she says about the lessons of science and poetry staying poetry: “Whatever science has to teach us about suffering — how to voice it while still keeping poetry poetry — is the most important lesson.” I like poems that challenge what poetry is through form, content, and/or concept, thus redefining and expanding the medium itself. I also don’t think the most important lesson of science is to teach us how to voice suffering. Why lessons? Why most important? Why suffering & voice?

I enjoyed her discussion of the feminist physicist Karen Barad, interrogating the constructed boundaries between subject/object while rejecting transcendental, universal theories in favor of contextual and embodied approaches. I began reading up on David Bohm and the holism of his implicate order, and how, like Einstein, Bohm rejected the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, specifically the uncertainty principle. Barad’s reasoning, through Fulton, seems to challenge physicists’ attempt to develop a theory of everything as well as Bohm’s holism.

Though I don’t see eye to eye with Fulton about agency, I love how she reasons out what agency might be through the image of a plant reacting to light. I have questions about how she characterizes structure and truth, though I think of Bohm again and invisibility poetics with her ideas about the parts to the whole. When Fulton says, “Fractals have a substructure that goes on indefinitely, replicating itself in various dimensions. This recursiveness revises hierarchical relations to suggest new dimensions of figure and ground,” I realize, Yes!—their recursiveness revising hierarchy to suggest new dimensions—

In the new RAMPIKE magazine there is an essay on fractals that I read last night as a guest in the projection booth before a screening of Revenge of the Nerds at the Andy Warhol Museum. I imagine there’s a fractal in there somewhere…or a strange attractor…

message 17: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins I kinda liked that rather irregular couplet too...

The thought of you and fractals and nerds and Warhol and tENT (I presume) bouncing around in a booth nearly shorts out my brain.

Strange Attractors? I only know of them, having never really read up on them; so I don't know what's known of them. I don't even know if there's nothing known of them! But I have my thoughts... I view them as a concentrated field, or a dense node in a field of gravitational-type forces, but a gravitational force with a kind of intelligence or coding. They also make me think of Morphogenetic fields, which are the alleged forces (alleged by some, that is) behind the complex shaping of natural forms; so that as an ibex's horn grows it is guided through its spiral by a morphogenetic field. But the morphogenetic fields I think of also have an 'emotional' component, just as the astral body is composed of deep emotions strongly felt, and so compassion is also an element of them. In this way morhpogenetic fields are the strange attractors shaping a family or household and binding it together, above and beyond genetics. So though fractals as analyzed can seem purely mathematical I think there is a powerful unseen component which we call the Strange Attractor that is a guiding emotional intelligence behind them; which means the Strange Attractor can only be pointed to in mathematical models, but in the natural world can be 'known' or embodied, as embodying something, even if beyond one's conscious knowledge, is a form of knowing.

My view of holism is colored by my understanding of Advaita ("not two") and practice of jnana yoga. I reject all comprehensive, 'transcendental', universal theories that posit an intelligence outside the system. It is not that everything is one, but that everything is not two. The subject/object division breaks down but doesn't resolve into one - at least not in a fashion verifiable by the intellect. The resolution can be felt but is endlessly elusive and so can never be known. The wholeness has already been achieved and eludes every attempt of ours to know it intellectually. The wholeness is an unknowable flux ever in perfect equipoise.

I also don't think poems or poets have to be anything, other than authentically themselves that is, which is far harder than writing a metrically perfect sonnet. The world is filled with unseen forces that come to bear on the shaping of poets and poems, and more often than not the intellect intrudes and disrupts and impedes the process as these forces strive toward the creation of authentic forms.

message 18: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Granted, the term 'authentic' is a bit tired and ill-defined, but it's still a pregnant term in my vocabulary. It happens at high speeds, when thoughts clear (you didn't even realize they were misting your view) and all faculties click into synchrony, thoughtlessly, effortlessly, and currents course from the tailbone to the scalp, and expression is body/mind's twin.

message 19: by Amy (last edited Dec 10, 2011 06:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy I’m somewhat familiar with morphogenetic fields through the work of Rupert Sheldrake, mainly through his spoken trialogues with Terence McKenna and Ralph Abraham. I can see why the concept would resonate for you and your invisibility poetics. I hadn’t thought of extending the force of morphogenetic shaping to human structures, though, as you say this, it seems reasonable since nature includes human systems. I’m excited by your idea of how the strange attractor is pointed to in mathematical models but embodied through natural forms. I wonder if poetry is a strange attractor upon which morphogenetic fields are embodied. Poetics is the pointing.

“It is not that everything is one, but that everything is not two.” I like this statement because it represents the potential of language to elicit unexpected ways of processing information. It’s interesting that this idea of “not two” comes from Hindu philosophy and yoga. I’ve always thought of yoga as a sort of radical non-Euclidean geometry for the body, a way of not only conceptually, but also physically, repositioning the body toward new forms, much in the way poetry’s innumerable forms can “act” in the mind or in culture as a way of altering ordinary orientations of spacetime to matter.

message 20: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Amy, you make me feel inadequately idea-centered, though I don't view it as a problem as I think I'm sufficiently cerebral and thought-based in my intellectual life to be an intuitive sensation man when it comes to poetry.

Invisibility Poetics pursues all avenues of thought and ideas, as a form of (often treacherous) play to keep the mind limber and searching, but only a bare minimum of ideas or concepts (or none) are vital to its practice; which can give the impression of anti-intellectualism, but is actually more of an attempt to absorb thought processes and ideas and transmute them into imagery, rhythm, etc. that embody the (invisible) mind at play, and which in turn stimulates the invisible (non-conceptual) reaches of the reader's mind. It's a kind of elaborate tickling - an unseen finger tickling an unseen foot - Dark Matter's impish revenge.

Jnana Yoga, as I understand it, is a purely mental practice, and can be done in the company of others without them even realizing what you are doing. But I like your take on the body-centered yogas.

message 21: by Amy (last edited Dec 20, 2011 12:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Eddie, as always, I appreciate the elaborate play of your Dark Matter Imp! as demonstrated here in what reads as a new-thesis on Invisibility Poetics. When you speak about the poetics embodying the idea (through image, play) rather than being or addressing the idea (atop the mountain, shouting into the wind?), I think about the possibility that the poem is always a poetics, but that poetics is not always a poem, but it can be. It’s as if the poem, since it can operate in any form, creates a body for itself, and in this new-body it embodies (its organs, its outsides) rather than speeches what’s at stake. I see this in your last sentence of your new-thesis, when you use image and metaphor and rhythm to embody your idea, and I understand how it might have derived from intuition. Either way it transmits—the unseen finger tickling the unseen foot. Similarly, I see you embodying rather than addressing your ideas when you embedded that image of the romanesco broccoli into our conversation. Such a gesture might be anti-concept, since it communicated through image instead of word, and since it embodied rather than speeched, but, at the same time, the gesture is also high-concept, since it uses the idea and concept of the romanesco broccoli to transmit what Ludwig Wittgenstein might call “the unsayable.” Another valuable aspect of that gesture, for me, was its quantum jump, of course!; it opened the field for our conversation. It is as if the poem is romanesco broccoli as well as the words we use to depict romanesco broccoli. Poetics is the caption. While both poetry and poetics engage with consensus reality, the poem seems to prompt the reader-writer to expand consensus reality, since in order for the poem to be encountered or experienced, new realities come into/and play, certainly new languages, if the poem is its own language. It is in this way that I, too, see the possibility of the poem as a “treacherous play.” Poetics, however, if in conventional prose form, seems more dependent upon the generally linear spacetime of grammars and sentence structures, so poetics might be more narrow than poetry, whose forms are innumerable and can exist outside linear notions of spacetime. Then there are all the poems that are poetics and all the poetics that are poems that redefine the fields for each in their beautiful blurring. “To be in any form, what is that?” (Walt Whitman). I see why you say Invisibility Poetics relies on intuition and has a bare minimum of ideas and concepts, because, perhaps, Invisibility Poetics is more poem than poetics. I think I want Quantum Poetics to be more poem than poetics. Some poetics shout from atop a mountain, but others swim a bit, in the blue-green grotto down below, following the underwater caverns for a while, maybe holding the breath and diving deep—not knowing if there will be an air-pocket—maybe almost running out of air, maybe running out of air, maybe discovering some open space secret passageway, some alien text. The poetics that’s a poem reads the mountain from the inside. And travels it.

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