[These documents were originally completed December 2, 2009 and have been revised for current publication. The first, “With Them Without Words,” explores the idea of a non-dual heritage stretching from Buddha to Friedrich Schlegel to the main protagonist of the research, Tristian Tzara, with lots of help from Derrida. The second, Mr. Aa An Index, is a poetic ‘dictionary’ of quotes and poetic recombinations of lines from lots of Tzara’s poems. For a one-page chart of the overall idea, see Dada Non-Dual. For two short appendicies to the project, see Dada Bodhisattva and Tzara Approximation]
With Them Without Words
A word speaks— to whom? To itself:
Servir Dieu est régner,— I can
read it, I can, it grows brighter,
away from “kannitverstan.”
My aim is: to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense.
Both the song and the silence my beautiful country of joy
To think through Tristan Tzara’s poetics requires that we enter a practice of poetry, for only with poetry does our language become essential and open a space for an encounter with the real outside of ‘reality’ as it is defined. With poetry, we encounter the strangeness of language: it brings us to question our situatedness in it and to respond by re-situating ourselves in it (qua outside it), and to thus re-situate language itself, to lend it a more appropriate being-for-us. Poetry leads us to a suspension of situation for the sake of re-situation. To respond with poetry is to enter the signifying process, no longer duped by the dream of set signification. To recognize language as artifice and respond with poetry as a way to re-situate it, initiates the ‘non-dual’: it draws us away from our belief in dualisms and concepts, remaining aware of its own ‘theses’ as situated in the artifices of language; it calls for the poetic making of word and world as a way to show the real beyond the deceit of dualisms; and so it opens a space for encounters between beings, events of ‘truth’. What is outside of what we are, what is an exception to what is or is said to be, becomes what we are, or are in the process of becoming, without goal and without end, in a signifying process that in the imago of a becoming-never-finished.
This non-dual recognition and response has a heritage as long as humans have dwelt in language. With the help of the Jacques Derrida and his thinking on language, khora, the “desert in the desert,” and messianicity, I will show why Tzara’s Dada is a part of this long heritage, later drawing in correspondences between his work and Friedrich Schlegel’s. Along the way, I will try to participate in it, too, articulating, as I have elsewhere, a human constant of freedom, life, justice, and futurality, that in this essay Tzara will help us define.
Tzara’s response to the deceitful configurations of ideology, philosophy, and argument, was to unite poetry and life: to reignite the being of language. In his cultural context, this meant the harshest nihilism as a way to combat the ‘usage’ of language as a tool for ideologies and influence. He combined his rejection of large scale programs (nations, religions, aesthetic categories) with a general mistrust of words to convey anything at all. Nietzsche had already written years earlier: “That enormous structure of beams and boards of the concepts, to which the poor man clings for dear life, is for the liberated intellect just a scaffolding and plaything for his boldest artifices.” Tzara shares Nietzsche’s (‘non-dual’) recognition that all our truths are constructions built on the shifting sands of words and grammar, as well as the goal of liberating the intellect. But language as artifice can become real only by surrendering to the truth of its artificiality, playfully, for this surrender gives way to a new, utterly singular voicing of it: to give this truth a body by giving way to language-events that proceed from this awareness.
It is important to flesh out, then, what exactly we mean when we say that language is always artifice, for this is the recognition that characterizes the non-dual heritage we are attempting to trace out. Continue reading