In two days I will be in L.A.. I will see lots of friends. I wonder if a move to L.A. is the easiest thing for me. I really don't know at the moment. I'm open though. I'm sure I will see clearly when the time comes.
I love that I have the absolute freedom to choose anything. I can see things from any perspective. I can be mad or sad, or happy and kitch, or twirl on my toes and get rich. I can squish a bug, or let it live, I can watch the tube or let it sit. I can put my feet up or walk the stairs. I can hold my head up or dance on chairs. I can be scientific and say things like PRESTO! Or be unscientific, and say, ZESTO! I love that I can choose the easiest thing. It makes me laugh it makes me sing:
"Right now I choose to pet my cat, and there's nothing anyone can do about that."
The following is a discourse with Jeff Encke. His poems in Typo #5 caught my attention. At first, I thought they were derived from Sufi literature. They were filled with love and passion. As I found out, it was something altogether the same and different.
If you would like to read the poem which catalyzed this discourse, please visit Typo #5, or to purchase Jeff's works visit Matlub
On May 27th Kalayeh wrote:
I was curious about your poems in Typo. Are they cut-ups of Sufi literature? Why the names preceding them? Are they some type of translation?
Pirooz M. Kalayeh
On May 26, 2005, at 2:10 PM, Jeff Encke wrote:
The titles are taken from the names of the "most wanted" figures on the US Department of Defense's 2003 "Deck of Doom" playing cards. The writing's my own. No cut-ups involved. I conceived of them as reminiscing love letters. I may have explained it better at my website.
Hope that helps!
Regards, Jeff Encke
Thanks for the info. It's a cool idea. Did you write the poems with a card in front of you? Or were the poems written before the connection to "matlub"?
On May 28, 2005, at 3:57 AM, Jeff Encke wrote:
No, I wrote the poems without the cards in front of me, although I knew what I planned to do with them afterwards.
I have a longstanding interest in the way names function in personal, social, and political environments as empty vessels that we encumber with historical fact, truth, rhetoric, and feeling, such that they become nodes in a sea of discourse about power, and the actions of prime movers (authors) get lost in the shuffle. Am I showing my cards too soon? (viz. Foucault)
The underlying critique, I suppose, was that the figures on the Department of Defense's deck were rather anonymous to me and most of those I know in the United States -- even Saddam Hussein was but a caricature of himself, readymade for manipulation and consumption here -- which is not to say that I dispute, much less forgive, the crimes ascribed to the individuals themselves, but that I do not feel comfortable mindlessly consuming the political rhetoric attached to their names.
To consume the "Deck of Doom" playing cards' rhetoric without circumspection would have been tantamount, in my mind, to committing an act of racism, the very racism that impedes open cultural communication between Middle Eastern Muslims and North Americans -- as well as the direly needed revision of lines of power and understanding. Most Wanted: A Gamble in Verse, the playing cards version of the book, therefore incorporates thematically pertinent images and symbols of colonialism, racism, genetics, cultural artefacts, etc.
All names of public figures, the author's name notable among them, serve as discursive nodes, as receptacles of knowledge, truth, and feeling. The name serves a similar function in the context of intimacy, where lovers project meanings, ideal forms, hopes, fears, figments of self-identity, and so on onto their beloveds, who are in some sense inevitably anonymous figures in their lives, even when a couple has been together 30 years. Even the beloved's face is a perpetual clean slate.
Consequently, in writing the series of poems, I wove together personal histories and sociopolitical ruminations, and the names of the anonymous "Most Wanted" in Iraq seemed to deserve these more than any other names, precisely because these names were meant not to be loved. On the contrary, their birth into social discourse in the United States and elsewhere demanded that they be invested with hate. Of course, the phrase "most wanted" captures both sides of the ironic coin: one's love for the "most wanted" beloved and one's disgust and hatred for the "most wanted" criminal.
Out of curiosity, what's your interest in the work? Are you a poet as well? I would interested in carrying on and fleshing out this conversation.
I love the questions this raises in me. What about loving that which is loved? Britney Spears cards? Or even poems on the Beloved? What kinds of questions does this raise in a spiritual journey? Is identity dependent on what we love or hate? I know that I get great joy in liking cheesecake. I love cheesecake. Does this mean I have a false sense of identity? Not for me. I love cheesecake. It tastes good. End of story.
Of course, tomorrow I might not like cheesecake. I might like falafel more. In that moment, falafel is the bomb. I am all about it.
Is this my identity? I am a falafel lover. Maybe, in that moment I am. I am certainly not going to judge myself for that. I am just going to say, "Cool, then go to the falafel stand. Get a falafel."
Even if see a commercial for McDonald's after I have a falafel in my hand, and I think to myself, "Maybe, a Big Mac would be better" - I would not feel like I have wronged anyone or anything. I am holding my personal integrity. I preferred fast food. Great. Enjoy it.
Can I blame the commercial for my personal tastes? Is it their fault? Is this true? No, I like Big Macs. They are good. Can I blame my ethnic upbringing for my love of falafel? No, I like falafel. It's nutirtious and delicious. Can I look around the streets of New York, and say, "Damn you beautiful bakeries!" No, cheesecake is the most tasty treat I can think of. It coats my tongue with sugar. I like that.
I could choose to look at everything as false:
This person I love is not me. I will die alone. The only person that matters is me.
The beloved loves everything. He is inside me. He wants me to smile.
This world. It hurts. It is filled with corruption and chaos.
My only problem, (and may I stress that this is how I see things), is that I cannot know any of this is true for anyone but myself. And, in myself, I cannot know that any of the above statements are true either. I am not dead. I am not the Beloved. And I do not have any concept of the entire world or every living being. I cannot possibly know.
This leaves me back where I started. I like cheesecake. At the moment, I'm thirsty. I want a glass of water. That's it. Nothing else.
What do you think?
I think we're on the same page. For me, it's not a question of fundamentally doubting choice, taste, or the existence of the other, nor the way these elements influence one's identity. I am simply interested in the function of language in these ostensibly ethical narratives, be it whether to love, hate, prefer fastfood, adore a pop star, whatever. It is the habit of human beings -- at least in this culture, from what I can observe -- to say they despise or love an author, a president, an Iraqi criminal, a famous actor -- and each of these objects of feeling has a name that accrues narrative knowledge through newspaper articles, television shows, consumer products, casual conversations, e-mails, etc.
But to what extent does the public name signify the individual? And to what extent does it signify a series of narratives and corresponding truths circulating in a society, by whatever means? What does the name "Bush" mean to Sunni Muslims in Iraq, on average? Imagine we could take a survey. To what extent would the meaning associated with that name correspond to the meaning associated with it by the "average American"? What does the name "Shakespeare" signify? Or Britney Spears? Or Saddam Hussein? Or Prince (a musical artist whose awareness of the function of the public name led him to abandon it for an unspoken symbol for some time)?
The problem of free will, the dangers of solipsism, and the inevitability of uncertainty when it comes to knowledge of the world and ourselves are all ultimately metaphysical/phenomenological questions much larger than what I had hoped to address with the playing cards project, which was not, incidentally, meant to provide any hard-and-fast answers. I appreciate those questions, though, and struggle with them myself.
Right on, Jeff.
I hear you. The only answer I have discovered for myself is that, "I am only as cool as you are."
When someone says they are angry with me, I think, "I am only as angry as you are."
When someone says they hate X, Y, Z, I think, "They only hate X, Y, Z as much as they hate themselves."
When someone says I am being controlled by media and commercials, I think, "I am only being controlled as much as they are."
If people say my name is synonymous with hate and wretchedness, I think, "I am only as hateful and wretched as you are."
This awareness changes my perception of myself. It reminds me that I am not anyone but me, and that I'm, simultaneously, everyone else as well.
Your poems are great teaching tools for me. I have learned a lot for them. Thank you for writing them. I would be very interested in what comes next from you. Please keep me posted. I will do the same for you.
It would also be great to share our discourse on my blog. I would be interested to see how the artists in my circle respond, and what shifts will occur. It may also be fun to interview each other for the same purpose. Let me know what you think.
Jeff Encke is currently at work on several books, including two full-length collections of verse, Most Wanted, from which he excerpted this deck of poetry playing cards, and Hydrography, a volume of water-related poems; two chapbooks, Sinking and Eunuch Shower Song, the second of which C.D. Wright selected as runner-up in the Poetry Society of America’s inaugural National Chapbook Fellowship competition; a revision of his doctoral dissertation, Manifestos: A Social History of Proclamation; a study of the influence of technological innovation on the production and reception of art, Rogue Magic; an anthology of manifestos; and a translation from the Italian of Paolo Baglione, an unfinished play by Futurist poet F.T. Marinetti. His poetry has appeared in various national journals, including American Writing, Barrow Street, Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Cream City Review, Octopus, Salt Hill, 3rd Bed, and Quarterly West.
We managed to play tennis today. We spoke during the rally:
"That was an ICBM," I shouted.
My father chuckled; his eyes on the ball. Racket back, and...
"Intelligent Vision!" he shouted.
"Elegant universe," I said, with a grunt.
"United action," he puffed.
Top of the net. I walked towards the front of the court. I picked up the balls that lay there.
My father, still smiling, walks up to me.
"You know this Yeltsin?" he asked.
"Boris," I said.
"Yes," he nodded. "I saw him on this television program, this Barbara Walters. She say to him, 'We are worry about your health.' He say, 'What do you mean? I take cold shower everyday.' "
I nodded in amazement. My father and I have tennis. No matter what happens in life, once we hit the courts, everything falls away, and it's just me and him, swatting balls, and shouting various Communist or scientific propaganda.
Looks like there will be no tennis for my father and me. It has been hailing here. This really excited my dad.
"Look at those things," he said.
"Yeah, it's hail," I said.
"Is the dawn of a new era," he said. "Make it happen."
I looked at my latest publication in my hands, and then back to him at the top of the stairs.
"You too," I said.
"I already have."
Yes, I thought. He has accomplished all his dreams. He came from a small village in Iran, became and engineer, had a family, and is now an honorary member of the United Nations. This is everything he wanted.
I woke up this morning thinking about Sean's issue of Jim Goar not sounding like Jim Goar on his blog. Then I thought, "Well, what about premeditation? Does thinking about what you are going to write change what is being written? What if there was no filter?"
There may be something to this.
In a recent conversation with my brother, Paiman, he was describing to me his experience of "speaking truth." He believed that if he thought about what he was going to say before - let's say he was talking to a beautiful woman or his employer - it would not carry the same emotional integrity. He would be too busy judging himself or the other person to truly be present, and give a genuine response.
I have tried to stop my mind in certain situations, or watched when it ran off during conversations. I noticed that I was quick to create something to say, when I may not have any response whatsoever. Is this an uncomfortability with silence? My own incapability to be a good listener? Or is this simply a matter of approval?
In Byron Katie's latest book, "I Need Your Love - Is That True?", she maps how it is natural for human beings to seek approval. We want to feel loved. We need to know that it is there waiting for us.
For Katie, The Work in reversing this pattern is to question that need.
"Is that true?" she would say. "Take it to inquiry."
The product being a reversal of outside love, to a stronger, internal love.
I have found this very difficult. There are countless times when I seek approval from others. I can think of countless examples: "Listen to this poem" or "No, I like your shirt. Really" or "Do you like my blog."
Of course, I am human. To reverse something that has been set into motion by my environment, my cultural upbringing, and my personal integration of the world around me, is a slow, heart-wrenching process.
I do catch myself though, and that is a great moment for me. I stop myself when I am looking for approval, and have now started asking, "Do I need it?"
I think Sean's question is rooted in this concept for me. I hear him when he says someone does not sound themselves while blogging. I also hear that I do not need his approval, nor anyone else's. I am doing this for my own personal satisfaction. I like being a part of the world. I enjoy drawing little pictures to accompany text. This is why I blog.
As far as the rest of the world, I am sure you have your own reasons.
This concept of unedited dialogue also brings up another point for me as a writer - Do I edit? Is there something to spontaneous prose? Is writing a different reality so it doesn't matter? Is it just premeditated and there's nothing I can do about it? Is writing more genuine than speaking?
I don't know. I do know that the only writing I value is the writing that comes from "being in the zone" as Jim calls it. It takes a while to get there, but when I'm there, everything falls away. It's just me. No one else. (Marlowe had an interesting quote about this. Hopefully, he will see this and post it.)
See. I just did it. I was hoping Marlowe would see this and post. I am not in the zone, or I could say, "I am not in the creative writing zone." If I was, there would be no filter. I wouldn't be thinking about anything. I would just write.
I am new to this though. I am going to give myself a break. I am also more interested in connecting with people, and having discussions, rather than read long passages of fiction or prose. I am interested to see who else is thinking along similar pages. I want to steal an idea here and there. I want to feel the pulse of the world.
"I met Vader at the Star Wars movie (which i loved). He was standing outside the Cinaplex. Hello, I said and shook his hand. He told me to enjoy the film. He was friendly despite the California heat. His costume seemed different than the persona. I asked him if he blogged. "No. " He said. I asked him if he knew my friend Sean. He showed me his Sean Costume, it was in the back of his Toyota. "I didn't know Vader drove a Toyota." I said. "I don't, I loaned it from a friend." He said. And, I guess that made enough sense to me. i'm thinking of costumes right now. all of us on little hangers in department stores. silly things we all are and funny. i love funny. that's where I'm at right now, in all this."