Didactic Elegy — Ben Lerner

            Sense that sees itself is spirit.


Intention draws a bold, black line across an otherwise white field.
Speculation establishes gradations of darkness
where there are none, allowing the critic to posit narrative time.
I posit the critic to distance myself from intention, a despicable affect.
Yet intention is necessary if the field is to be understood as an economy.

By ‘economy’ I mean that the field is apprehension in its idle form.
The eye constitutes any disturbance in the field as an object.
This is the grammatical function of the eye. To distinguish between objects,
the eye assigns value where there is none.

When there is only one object the eye is anxious.
Anxiety here is comic; it provokes amusement in the body.
The critic experiences amusement as a financial return.

It is easy to apply a continuous black mark to the surface of a primed canvas.
It is difficult to perceive the marks without assigning them value.
The critic argues that this difficulty itself is the subject of the drawing.
Perhaps, but to speak here of a subject is to risk affirming
intention where there is none.

It is no argument that the critic knows the artist personally.
Even if the artist is a known quantity, interpretation is an open struggle.
An artwork aware of this struggle is charged with negativity.
And yet naming negativity destroys it.
Can this process be made the subject of a poem?

but it can be made the object of a poem.
Just as the violation of the line amplifies the whiteness of the field,
so a poem can seek out a figure of its own impossibility.
But when the meaning of such a figure becomes fixed, it is a mere positivity.


Typo — Issue Two