Chris Ashby

Power and Desire

1. “What’s your biggest fear this year?” a man asked on Ty Segall and White Fence’s 2012 album Hair. 2. What I would like is to turn my own voice off in order to hear “others.” 3. In Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish the prison system came from the monastic system—if people were willing to hold themselves accountable for their entire day, a system could therefore be imposed that did the same. 4. “Self delusion in merit strictly for being on the margins.” 5. A friend said to me that he’d been told by an employer, “it pains us to see how far you’ve fallen.” 6. There is power in so many ways it becomes difficult, ie, seemingly impossible to tell the difference of one form from another.

(1.) I desire to lie in a bed in a fictional city, a futuristic city—to awake in a paranoid fantasy where the world is artificial, ie, constructed of “meaningless” power structures in which life and language are prisons to which the local world is just waking. (2.) I want to live outside gender binaries and the heterosexual matrix and fall in love with the person and the body as (it) is. (3.) I want to travel back in time and meet the gods and see how some of it went down.

7. “Repetition as failure.” 8. In Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse knowledge of the mind, while perhaps symbolizing control, does not breach the circle, does not grant power over the “other”—the body is a slave to the psyche, unstable except in patriarchy—tyranny and empathy/ sympathy (though as comparably constructed as the thing which it is against, ie, the emptiness of money) are in constant tension. 9. Does “narrative” have a place? 10. “To be rebellious, yet suspicious of rebellion” (loosely quoted from an unremembered source)—organized rebellion—one thing to replace another. 11. To dominate with a language code—some suggest silence. 12. Performative identity—you are what you act like; a result of how you think.

(4.) I’d like to tell my boss I know it’s a sham and I’m trying to do something about it. (5.) I want to make dinner with you and after we eat, I want to wash the dishes, and after I wash the dishes I’d like to surprise you by kissing your neck and running my hands down your back. (6.) I want to acknowledge the multiplicity of experience in the city in ways that aren’t programmatic.

13. Let’s locate the sight of ambiguity in the discourse around employment in its relation to the community. 14. “Productive power and the institution of concealment and subordination.” (Discipline and Punish) 15. “The construction of the law that guarantees failure is symptomatic of a slave morality that disavows the very generative powers it uses to construct the ‘law’ as a permanent impossibility.” (Gender Trouble) 16. “Soon they’ll be kicking down the trees and bringing back the field.” 17. Living in the dream of science fiction so long that it doesn’t seem that fictional. 18. Moving from one structure to another, be it literal or something more vague.

(7.) To quit college and the academic system (a pouring into of cash) and work—the irony of course (indeed) is the always already of physical labor—there is not a disconnect between the academic class and the working class poets, yet there truly seems to be—life in bodies with money is not going to produce the same poetry as life in bodies without money, and the question is, will it even produce a similar poetic desire? (8.) To be a working class poet and take an interest in the physical pleasures as well as the psychic. (9.) To escape narrative and innovation all together.

19. The “Rambo” fantasy (something has gone terribly wrong!) is the fantasy of men that “work” in the capitalist masculine sense, and treat work as duty. 20. Differentiation through the “historical fog” of autonomous acts. 21. Communicative action over communicative behavior. 22. “I could escape the numbers, but I won’t—I may think them arbitrary, but the argument for their necessity is too compelling—confusing the method with programmatic social commentary.” 23. The phantasmatic content of identity. 24. And what can be done about “it” in a conscious, useful way?

(10.) To let the mind drift through the question of “what is a collage piece?” (11.) To want to write for small audiences: friends and those I respect—to be a part of a community. (12.) To forget the avant-garde for a night and celebrate a release.

25. From a distance, arbitrary yet measurable, the power over one another’s psyche. 26. Style doesn’t matter when we’re naked. 27. A list of words that violate the body—a vacation to a country that doesn’t exist—a long memory of longing—arousal as a thing to be justified. 28. “Diversity can be a way of restoring a highly idealized conception of a unified American culture that effectively quiets dissent.” (Charles Bernstein, State of the Art). 29. What is the consequence, or is there one, of tracing the history of an idea, a genealogy, the epistemological treatment as answer—idea over physical history? 30. Language after the law.

(13.) To have an evening in which we unexpectedly make love two or three times until we can only smile. (14.) Occasionally to imagine a point where possession will no longer have a meaning and I will be free to give my possessions away—understanding this an ethical ecoterrorism of the self, but not for that, but to see, ie, experience what an ascetic life would be like. (15.) To think about the possibility of a windmill dance video.

31. Produced in order to remain repressed. 32. A language against power uses common words: connection—separate—containment—preservation. 33. Colonial, underdeveloped, now. 34. The thing with self-destructive behavior is that you have to convince yourself you don’t care about anyone else. 35. The way men blindly use a “language” of masculine pleasure in staccato—shoved in—scrog—fuck—ball. 36. “Thinks of money all the time, doing it to annoy her, she’s on his conscience day and night, so he acts like her employer” (Chan Marshall).

(16.) To imagine leaving the hill—dropping my pack, hiking to the road, and being picked up for a road trip with a friend. (17.) To have friends over so that we may read aloud Creeley’s Pieces. (18.) I wish for the best time, morning time, an easing into the imagination—not silence, but an open window.

37. “Repression may be understood to produce the object it comes to deny.” 38. Hegelian dialectic. 39. “That penis, vagina, breasts, and so forth, are named sexual parts is both a restriction of the erogenous body to these parts and a fragmentation of the body as a whole” (Judith Butler, GT, 114). 40. Language as a set of acts (not necessarily commands). 41. Language works in a material way to construct the world (new sweatshirt). 42. Another generalization of the body.

(19.) To desire to say the “right thing,” to choose the best wording, the most meaningful wording, the most powerful wording, a statement that makes criticism irrelevant, something so true that I can persuade myself to think differently, and not only today or next week, but also as an older man. (20.) To imagine the office full of plants. (21.) To be on a train to the Holy Mountain.

43. The public regulation of fantasy. 44. Gender border control. 45. Notion of the “other” even in the discourse supposedly making the “other” no longer transparent—a vague subject? 46. “Form is never more than an extension of content” (Robert Creeley, reiterated by Charles Olson in “Projective Verse”). 47. “Let’s paraphrase.” 48. Are numbers a signifier of money? A by-product?

(22.) To be back in a coffee shop on 23rd waiting for a friend on the one day it snowed in 2009. (23.) To think of writing a poem in the park. (24.) To dream of cooking an all vegetable meal for my friends.

49. To believe an elaborate theoretical construction, for example the “state of nature.” 50. The body exhausted in Leslie Scalapino’s New Time—exhaustion, illuminating, observing (why believe the ape who lives in a city? Why not believe in the ape who lives in the woods?). 50. The relationship between areas that are preserved (public parks, natural forests) and a sense of dilapidation in the buildings of the nearby inhabitants (both pepper the landscape). 51. “I think it’s the coolest job in the world.” 52. The modes (the signifiers) of public transportation—how obvious the economy of a generalizing rubric. 53. "It is a new power, for which our language/contains no name" (Zukofsky, "A", 76-77). 54. “…I want to suggest that a recurrent evocation of paternity as (simply) a ‘metaphor’ for authorship both suggests that it is a trope to be engaged or disengaged by writers at will and vastly underestimates its power and instrumentality in certain sex/gender systems,” (Jeffrey Masten, “Representing authority: patriarchalism, and the author on stage,” Textual Intercourse: Collaboration, Authorship, and Sexualities in Renaissance Drama, pg. 64).

(25.) To have a slightly larger house, good for gatherings and gardening. (26.) To contemplate personal desires of contentment without guilt. (27.) To have a day a week off to write around the house.

55. Is there an alternative literary world without symposiums? 56. “I’m angry, but I’m not sure what about—I’ve lived in poverty, though I know some of it was a choice—I’ve also had money, which seems fair and unexpected.” 57. Nakedness is both beautiful and horrid. 58. Michel Foucault’s notion of surveillance and the “body” as the site of difference—a distinction in ordering. 59. Always to be and never being. 60. “A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation…” (Neuromancer).

(28.) To quit desiring sense and just go swimming. (29.) To keep formal citation inconsistent. (30.) To embrace the snail shell of narrative in the adventure of a cross-country drive where the story is “authentically” told.

(The above comes from a longer sequence entitled After Language: Volume 3: Notes From the Raft.)

Chris Ashby is a poet, essayist, and musician. He is also the editor and publisher of Couch Press, which can be found at http://couchpress.tumblr.com. He often assists in publishing and organizing Nate Orton’s place based drawing/ writing/ collaboration series, My Day. Chris has read for the Switch Reading Series, Spare Room Reading Series, and has work published in Peaches & Bats, The c_L Newsletter, and Spilt Infinitive. His most recent book is the collaborative serial poem Who Killed My Chicken with James Yeary (Great Fainting Spells 2013). He holds a Master of Arts in English from Portland State University, and makes a living as a fireman in the forests and grasslands of the western United States.
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