Monday, January 22, 2018

Ephesus Glom: An Interview with Heller Levinson, Part 1 by Jonathan Mulcahy-King

LinguaQuake, Heller Levinson
Black Widow Press (2018, forthcoming)
Book Cover Image, “Quarry, VIII” (Detail)
Pastel pigment on cotton paper
60 x 44 inches, 2015
Linda Lynch

Ephesus Glom: 
An Interview with Heller Levinson, Part 1
by Jonathan Mulcahy-King


Ephesus was the birthplace of Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Ionian thinker who abdicated Apollonian rigidity for flux, the essence of his universe. As a first scientist, in the Western sense, this marked an important turning-away from ontology to a more expressive, linguistically challenging mode of inquiry. Glom, as in to clutch, to grasp, to secure. Enter self-proclaimed hinge scientist, Heller Levinson, author of six books of practice-led research exploring “Hinge Theory:” Smelling Mary (Howling Dog Press, 2008), From Stone This Running (Black Widow Press, 2011), HingeTrio with Linda Lynch and Felino A. Soriano (La Alameda Press, 2012), Wrack Lariat (Black Widow Press, 2015), Melancholia:  Hinge As Innominate Limina with Will Alexander, Mary Newell, and Linda Lynch (McNally Jackson Books, 2016) and Tenebraed (Black Widow Press, 2017). As the above would suggest, Levinson has adopted the modus operandi of capturing flux, holding the flow, embracing the liminality of language. X-Peri interviews Heller in anticipation of his new book LinguaQuake (forthcoming in February from Black Widow Press), the latest installment of hinge theory in practice, an important and exciting offering in an otherwise emptyful deluge of form. Contributor to hinge theory, Mary Newell, has defined Hinge as a ‘… material of connectivity that introduces an intentional and generative biasing’. Michael Annis’, author of the Hinge Manual, has reinforced Hinge Theory by citing the 18th century German philologist Jacob Grimm, noting that hinge merely follows the various sound variables, morphemes etc. already inherent in the make-up of language. Elsewhere, Grace Dane Mazur in her anthropological studies of Lascaux, Renaissance and Byzantine images (See Hinges:  Meditations on the Portals of the Imagination, AK Peters/CRC Press) relays the idea that hinges work to highlight the entrancing lure of various real and metaphysical thresholds. Catherine Barnett describes “hinge words” as allowing the poet both ‘… continuity and gap; unity and difference’ and that “hinges” ‘… keep the parts of the poem in some working relationship to one another and at the same time allow the poem to retain some of what Aristotle calls the unities of time and place (Taken from ‘A Brief Poetics of the Hinge’ The University of Arizona Poetry Center).  Enter Heller Levinson, hinge functions more as a type of counter-language than a vehicle for ideas, it is the freshly laid highway, the sound of a hidden river, bringing hope and ideas of infrastructure to tired settlers——it is the wormhole.

Jonathan: Welcome, Heller! Thanks again for taking the time to riff with X-Peri, as always we are very excited to have you! Off the bat, could you describe for readers (or ‘un-describe’) the key tenets of this ambitious project/ way of saying, referred to as “Hinge Theory”? 

Heller: Even to “un-describe” would suggest that there is a structure to describe, which would be misleading.  Instead of a list of tenets, I can suggest a foundational ‘creed’, which is that Language is alive (whether referring to organic or inorganic life would be another discussion), respirative & reproductive.

Hinge both molds & melts, is diffusive, emanative, disseminative, & collectivizing.  It is the bird of prey & the swallow on the wrist.  It is Revolutionary Liquidity immune to the Trump wall or the Clintonian fence.

Jonathan: As a creed then, hinge must be identifiable within a greater tradition, how would you situate hinge (its context, emergence, trajectory etc.) within the history of innovative poetry and poetics/linguistics? For me, it seems to be both a continuation and a criticism of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, insofar as it concedes the ephemerality between beginnings and endings, while also challenging the principle that ‘series is not essence’, or is series too reductive here, as this might, in a sense, impinge on the flow of language hinge is attempting to amplify?

Heller: These are interesting questions as they highlight the difficulty of discussing Hinge in historical terms.  As I have said before:  “Hinge departs from all other poetic fashionings in declaring itself an ongoing ever-fulfilling linguistic enterprise.”  Hinge overlaps with any poetry that respects the integrity of Language as event, where the words of, say Gertrude Stein or Jackson Mac Low, create their own sculptural resonance.  But, Hinge is definitively Not ‘word salad,’ a mix-mash of unlikely juxtapositions tossed together -- mere gimmicky gamesmanship.  Nor is it “I”―based personal narrative, which is as dead as the Image.  Doctor Newell put it this way:  “Hinge is material of connectivity and introduces an intentional and generative biasing.  Like a pool table with all the balls commotioning and someone lifting the pool table slightly so all that activity is directed.  (With the additional image that new balls are being added all the time as the pool table itself enlarges).”

At this point I would be fine with disengaging Hinge from any poetic context as it has so little resemblance to what is, in general, being practiced.  It is my belief that Hinge is an under-recognized Universal Function that has ‘emerged,’ for those of us who are discussing it, in the format of language.  There is no reason to believe that the same behaviorisms don’t underlie botany, physics, mathematics, basketball, military science, etc.  When discussing Hinge with a friend in the Special Forces he responded with:  “Sounds like a multiplicitous simultaneous ambush.”

Jonathan:  So hinge is very much staked out in terms of forward-motion, it is both reactionary and incendiary, an interconnectedness inviting continuous work that can have more poems or ‘modules’ added to any one idea. Are there any new hinge developments you are aware of?

Heller: Yes.  I have currently identified a new Hinge contribution:  The Investigation of the Linguistically Undocumented.  By this I mean words or ideas, which I am calling “terms” (When a term is chambered in a Hinge Module it has been called the ‘particle.’  At this point particle/term/subject matter can be viewed as interchangeable.  See “Hinge Diagnostic”, Smelling Mary, p.71) that have been Under-Examined.  I stumbled upon this insight while writing “tenebraed to trespass.”  Seeking to enrich my understanding of “trespass,” I found the only resource I had to consult was my former work (See “with trespass,” Smelling Mary, p.113; “trespass in obdurate credulity,” “trespass like rolling liquidity,” “trespass in cumulative bruise, among others, From Stone This Running pp. 191, 193, 194).  Exploring trespass led to an outcrop of terms such as swarm, stroll, meander, aperture, ambulate, wander, drift, drip, seep, . . . terms I had hinged previously.  These shade-offs of the term being scrutinized, which in turn become scrutinized, form a Bundle of Constellative Refractive Impregnations.  This behavior leads to a thickening of the Word, a greater musculature, & affords one a deeper intimacy than the current tendency toward pan-abbreviation.  We employ Language to Deploy insight.  A new universe materializes.  The formerly abstract & remote is now Resplendently close-at-hand, -- shoulder rubbing.  Going back to your mention of the “language school” where cleverness reigns, this is a stark departure. The applications (The ‘application or ‘postulate’ replace the term ‘poem’) are very clearly mission oriented, methodically conducted, an archaeology intent upon di(g)scovery.  Comments about there is ‘nothing left to be done’ in the arts is laughable when one perceives the sheer overload of opportunity just ‘begging for it.’  In the upcoming volume, LinguaQuake, terms such as aptness, askew, knot, vacancy are being addressed/investigated & disseminate other terms which in turn will be applicated & cycle back to densify/magnify the original term.  I hope this discussion stimulates some activity in this area of the remote approachable.

Jonathan: Reinterpretation plays a large role in what you are saying, there is an almost beat-like philology at play here (previously in interviews you have replaced the word “collaboration” with the word “intercourse” as a way of better expressing the intentions present (or missing) from everyday language, and in the case of the latter… the sheer ‘fucky’-ness of it). This gives a wider sense of what we could otherwise think of as “momentum language”, made up of the gerundial, appropriate sound making and association. How much of hinge would you say is hermeneutics? 

Heller: I would be more comfortable with saying multiple submissions or offerings rather than ‘reinterpretation,’ as that might suggest a devaluing of the original application.  A comparison might be to Cézanne’s 82 paintings of Monte Sainte-Victoire, a mountain he studied at differing times of day from varying perspectives, a ‘motif’ undergoing ongoing scrutiny. 

One must resist the temptation to enclose (circumscribe) the newly emerging within the already existing, i.e., hermeneutics.  Such tendencies sacrifice 'novelty' to the safety nets of the familiar.  I appreciate the Philosophical Hermeneutics of both Heidegger & Hans-Gadamer (In ToxiCity, pp. 102, 103, 104, three applications are devoted to “Contouring Philosophical Hermeneutics:  “The Expressed Expresses The Inability To State What Is Said In The Unsaid,” “The Expressed Inability Expresses The State To What In The Unsaid Said Is,” “In The What Is Said The Unsaid Expresses To The Expressed State Inability.”). I very much like the way they attempt to dethrone the subject, to fore-play/cleanse the foreground, the eidetic reduction permitting ‘otherness’ to appear.  Similarly, Hinge is opposed to the Western white man’s rectilinear hubristic notion of ego/subject as supreme leader, -- the idea that whether conscious or unconscious the self is always choosing. Hinge suggests ego dissolution through Linguistic-Fusion as one approach. The Hinger becomes an element among elements, an instrument among instruments.  At this level of creation, each word insists on its word associates. The practice is to detect the reproductive impulses inherent in the word being witnessed.  The ‘you’ is no longer choosing the word or the syntax, it is the ‘life’ of the word fulfilling its own path.  ‘You’ as no longer a domineering filtration system, but an absorptive, contiguous, cohabitation.  As we are developing an aptitude for animal intelligence & the sensate of trees, let us also sensitize to the ecology of language.  The calling is to ‘uncover,’ (The Greek word for truth is “Alethea” which translates as – unhiddeness) to approximate the mysteriously elusive. 

I trust ignorance, i.e., I don't have a clue how this experience or that experience led to the experience or expression in question, unless I am approaching a piece on the Mongolian Eagle, or the Native American Indian, as in “from Buffalo this Indian” (Wrack Lariat, p. 163), -- these applications are direct results of study & examination, stimulus & response. 

Hinge was not manufactured, it was discovered,
& continues in that vein of wonder & enterprise.

Jonathan: I took two classes on Heidegger’s Being And Time as an undergrad, part 1 & 2, the professor was a philologist writing a new translation, you could tell it consumed him as he dove into every reassigned word, every piece of jargon, it became so abstract I feel like I know Heidegger as I know Joyce or Thomas, or Heller Levinson for that matter. Also, that’s a great point about premature labelling; new ideas need time to breathe. You’re right also in that a lot of emphasis gets put on the cultural-intuitive links we make when writing, again, this is all about personal responsibility and author/ownership. Are there any limitations or so-called limitations you have encountered working with Hinge?

Heller:  No.

Jonathan: How self-regulated is the work in practice, could we for example, hinge together other people's work? Also, there is a strong influence of musicality in the work and in your reading practice, though presumably hinge need not rely on externalities or given 'lyrical' clichés? How important is the beat?

Heller: Absolutely.  One work can Hinge to another work.  It can also mix-mash-cutup & copulate with other work.  Hinge is intended to invite inclusivity so that ‘terms’ can receive the full exuberance benefiting from multiple inquiries. My intercourses with Linda Lynch (the visual artist) exemplify this.  We Hinge to a term such as Pathos stimulating expansion, complementarity, & densification, which enriches the lifeblood of “Pathos.”  In the case of Hinging to a drawing such as Linda’s “Karst drawing,” I fructify a double Magnification, -- thickening the term as well as Linda’s drawing exploring the term.  I have also hinged with musicians such as the guitarist, Joe Giglio, saxophonists Jimmy Halperin, & Sedric Choukroun (See “part beatitude/part beast, YouTube). Now that we’re on the topic I must revisit your question “are there any limitations I have encountered” & reverse my former response with an emphatic Yes.  I lust to work with a dancer or dance company, to explore how they could further flesh-out the terms.  I would love to work with mathematicians, architects, physicists, & other disciplines.  Living a life dedicated to exploring infinitudes, I am limited by my finitude. 

Music/beat are quintessential.  If I assert that ‘language is alive,’ then certainly it is both rhythmic & musical.  Language is Juicy with Sound.  At my last reading I had the audience sing-out a line with me – “pothole ruckus backwater bushwhack” (from “the road to melancholy road,” in Melancholia As Innominate Limina, p. 93).  If one recites the line from the belly, with full breath, recites the line with gusto, puts one’s whole body into it, relishing the fleshiness of the words on the lips, the vibrations of the embouchure, the result is deLiCious.  I call it a word-tasting.

Jonathan: Very interesting, I would love to see you hinge with an architect! Though I suppose it would be easier at technical drawing or model stage, still, the possibilities are endless! I hope like Gaudi or Hundertwasser, you might one day have your very own “hinge village” somewhere in the mountains! This is very ambitious for a poet; it actually reminds me a lot of Joseph Beuys, when he introduces the idea of social sculpture into his philosophy of art. He too of course strove to escape categorization, to open up new possibilities for what constitutes art practice.

Jonathan: Might the difficulty of language to which you are referring hint at a wider problem—that our propensity to extrapolate meaning in matters of experimental/innovative language is symptomatic of Wittgenstein’s “language games”, or a rule-governed character of analysis that feeds our auto-effective desire for meaning? How might this relate to your work, and how might we better discuss “meaninglessness” in innovative poetry practice? 

Heller:  Yes, there is a wider problem, & it is the nullification in the post-Sumerian (See Apocalypse, D. H. Lawrence, Penguin Books) world of a vitalistic, open-ranging, un-bordered, inclusively responsive uncaged virility.  To a large extent, the ‘blinders’ are a result of commercialization.  Commercialism has necessitated indexing, record keeping, filing, labeling, shelving, categorization, packaging, coupled with the necessity to attract consumers.  Consumers want it neat & tidy, shiny & glazed, easily digestible.  This is the transactional world & may be necessary to manage the working day.  But it does not address the interior life of the individual.  Clearly these impulses are contaminating poetry & can readily be seen in the Academies reaping profit from MFA’s, writing programs & the like.  To attract students you need clear-cut course-definitions.  You need to be able to talk about ‘stuff.’  Have you seen any course offerings for Bafflement 101?  I would argue to leave a reader in a state of ‘bafflement’ should be considered an achievement. I urge legitimate poets to flee the schools & seek the uncomfortably undesignated.

Meaning as customarily approached insists on finality, on conclusion, on establishing.  As you know, Hinge insists upon the ongoing & extensive.  “Ongoing” does Not refer to a sequence, or from a start to a finish (A future exploration of the term “glide” beckons), but more in the manner of leaping, associating, . . . Fecundating Rotational Clusters.  I am very much enchanted by burrowing into the undeclared.  It is ironic that in this time of technological tyranny & GPS locatability the modern soul has never been more lost, more anguished.  In America, suicides are up & the number of persons on opioids is steadily rising.

How does our idea of “meaning” fare against our notion of the ‘Glimpsed.”  A glimpse would be difficult to transform into ‘meaning’ because it asserts itself as insufficient.  Yet the ‘glimpse’ beckons us, urges us to take-in more (the augmentative peer) -- “the regard is the look strapped with the interrogative” (Wrack Lariat p. 205). Perhaps we are closer now to your last question:  “How might we better discuss ‘meaninglessness’ in poetry?”  If you look at many of my titles such as the road to lost road, trespass in cumulative bruise, tenebraed to a capsizing algorithm, tenebraed to nothing, you can see that I am searching for insights that dwell where ‘meaning’ abdicates.  Could we not say something like this:  Hinge seeks to explore nutrition where meaning has no meaning.  Or, instead of saying ‘meaningless,’ let’s propose that we seek insights that mean something other than what meaning means, not meaningless, simply Other-li-ness.

Recently I have become fascinated by the notion of facets, aspects of things, those splinters (Splinter is investigated in the upcoming LinguaQuake – “the Splinter in its disengagement flares into the Open”) that assert they are not an entirety, that cannot be checked-out at the register, -- the realm of the non-scannable.

Jonathan: Yes, bafflement! The Nietzschean blow to the temples, the disjointedness we need to see beyond our given pinhole. I also agree with your comments concerning a need for categorisation, as belonging to a particular tradition of inquiry “… just throw it in the [Dada] box and move on”. However, commercialism, consumerism and more generally, capitalism, are enabled by the coveting of copyright (that’s a lot of “c-words”!) Equally, innovation, in striving to be so asymptotic (in an anti-commercial sense), might also rely too heavily on the above processes you mention, suffering the same nullifying fate in the name of over-inventiveness. For example, we might ask why it is many innovators are so averse to playing with cliché, it seems still too hot to pick up and toss around.  Do you think cliché will “cool” anytime soon?

Heller:  I cannot speak for what others are averse to or not & I don’t follow the current stock value of cliché.  Personally, I think cliché can serve as a challenge to revitalize something that has become stale.  A word such as “gossamer” should be resuscitated.  I would welcome a book entitled Cliché where the formerly ghettoized would appear as the newly freed.  “Bring-it-on” so to speak.

For the record, I see Hinge as being not so much about ‘innovating’ as ‘reclaiming,’ – restoring language to the firmament of its original fire & gases.

Jonathan: Finally then, my closing question is in the form of a poem on a key theme in our discussion, what could be considered “the tragicomedy of backward turning.”

Feb. 1916 – Mar. 1915

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tnevloS A Type <blockquote>
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auger holes, hesperian flight-
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– saedi desserper rof evlav ytefas
Wisdom and for folly }ר˜ï»Ì
snoitpecnocerP fo noitageN A
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dellud nehw – tnalumits A
Amb(ush)ition of a poet
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– noitnevnoC dna msilaicremmoC
iti ishki (cut-off, lost): drawn to the zenithal
lure</gurglingrush</ brown bottles bobbing
despite the pulling dregs of Palaeolithic lake
lethargic ghost-dance <blockquote>
fo saes gnitteseb eht ni ecnednepedni
gnirudne fo telsI ydruts A
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but the reproductive power. Mixer susurrus:
selfhood phenylmethane sellenders not unmucilaged?

Heller :

trespass    falter    linger

how much of




. . . the template exceeds the interim . . . 

Jonathan Mulcahy-King is the author of Euryphion (Ed du Cygne; X-Peri Series, 2017), Editor-in-Chief of The Licentiam and Assistant Editor of X-Peri. He hails from Newport, South Wales.