02 June 2011

Eleni Stecopoulos World Tour!

Eleni Stecopoulos is sort of on tour at the moment in support of her brilliant Palm Press full-length Armies of Compassion: she spent time in Seattle and Olympia over Memorial Day weekend (thanks to Will Owen and David Wolach), and now she's off to Philadelphia to read with Wolach for the Con/Crescent Series (next Wednesday, June 8th). And then, at the end of the month, she'll present a seminar at Naropa called "Dreaming in the Fault Zone: Poetry, Healing, Earth." Eleni wrote the following description to advertise the class:

"This course will explore the efficacy of poetry as a healing modality. We’ll experiment with writing as somatic and therapeutic practice, focusing on language as material power, living energy, medicine...part of ecology and sometimes even originating from earth. As sensitive bodies proliferate with ecological imbalance, how might we cultivate sensitivity as a method of receiving earth’s signs, forms, rhythms – collaborate with earth’s own poetics? We’ll work with sources from divinatory and medical systems, myth, geoarchaeology."

I'm deeply jealous of anyone lucky enough to sit in! In the meantime, I've been rereading Armies of Compassion this week next to Eleni's responses to Thom Donovan's somatics questionnaire. I was honored to design the book for Eleni, and while I spent many months thinking about it quite intimately, her responses to Thom (along with Thom's review of Autoimmunity here) offer new entry points:

"The body’s knowledge is real and when we acknowledge it and believe in its reality, we can no longer be duped by the attempts of our intellectual legacy to disembody us. A dual disembodiment: an inert body that’s exchangeable, a standardized entity who is no one—and yet also unique, a singular possession alienable from the whole.

We don’t have qi or prana in the West. We have an immune system, or at best, we have psychoneuroimmunology. If we’re heterodox we speak of energy or maybe subtle body or breath or spirit. We end up using “energy” or “information” and there’s a politics to this. (It can’t be coincidental that “energy” is our trope du jour in this age of blood for oil, from the sense of individual vitality to the appropriation and depletion of others’ resources.) Other cultures have fully developed philosophies that understand the connections of the whole or the way. But in the West we’re always struggling with the split that’s engraved in our worldview, and our dearth of language reflects this.

For me, soma opens up this energy, life force, poetic agency—an agency of no subject and without object. And maybe then this redresses the false universalism and standardization of “the” body. For body to have agency, to be recognized as intelligence, to be identified as “me,” it may have to be called the body, at least heuristically. Just as we have to say somatics. So we can take seriously the mind of the body. Yet maybe it’s through care, through the therapeutic, that we don’t actually need to make this body me, but can remediate the objectification through an ethics of the other. Maybe serving others remakes agency—agency not in service of the subject."

This afternoon, I came across the following lines from Armies: "She beat time in his throat / trying to heal talking." I wonder if Eleni's syntax "beats time" in my throat while I read quietly to myself (doesn't the tongue keep time even when reading silently?)? Can her poetry heal "talking" by drawing attention to how language and the body comport to one another?

1 comment:

  1. Actually one example where the west has it is Christian Science. Their relationship with prayer is very similar to what's being described. It's very interesting stuff if you get past the whole not-letting-your-kid-go-to-the-doctor-then-they-die thing.