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Signifying Zapata

November 15, 2009

The Zapatagraphic poems–which are great poems–highlight something that has interested me about Gnoetry from the beginning; that being the fact of finding signifying markers in the gnoems based on artifacts of the source texts. This gestalt marking, so to speak, made us lean towards recognizable texts when choosing texts for the end-user to use. When coming across the name “Moreau,” e.g., in a gnoem, a story is immediately present, without the end-user or the gnoem having to tell or retell the story. This is in part why gnoems using canonical texts is so interesting; a gnoem using a well-known text is unlike any other “retelling” of that text. & while the result may be the same, as in, perhaps, some form of deconstruction (though, arguably, Gnoetry is a purer form of deconstruction in that the source text is quite literally reduced to contradictory parts and the language can be called nothing else but “writing”) Gnoetry makes no intellectual claims. It just performs.

The gnoem is an interpretation of the source text, using the source text itself to make its claims, like a machine-enhanced form of close reading that re-historicizes the text rather than un-does it in some banal way, like trying to tell “the *real* story of Friday in Robinson Crusoe. I do not mean that a gnoem places the action of an old novel into the present day. To re-historicize is to re-write the text in its own words–and these words might rally around a gestalt marker, like a character name or recognizable phrase (e.g., “scarlet horror”) and coalesce into meaning(s) after spending time as more enigmatic signifier.

All this said, the conscious planting (I use this term with all agrarian punning intact) of a historical figure like Zapata into otherwise randomized texts seems to me a much more radical, poetically political gesture than merely writing a poem about Zapata, which can only become a kind of propaganda. The language around the name rallies behind it or argues with it, rather than the author himself doing so. Zapata is being placed into a position of making language mean–he is not being made to mean. The former is a gesture that seems to me to be the more powerful gesture.

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