A triptych to — T
by Jeremy Fernando
Poetry is not about seeing the invisible, or the very visible.
Poetry, instead, is about seeing the slightly visible.
— Michel Deguy
If so, what is this glimpse that you are offering us?
An offering that perhaps remains slightly invisible to us, even as we may be catching, think we may be catching, hope to catch, a glimpse, glimpses, of it.
Keeping in mind that if a gift is a true gift — given without expectation of a particular return, that is not merely strategic, performative — it may not just be something that is not liked by the one who receives it, but may not even be a thing at all.
An offering that might well remain in its being offered.
For, as Hélène Cixous never lets us forget, “when the visible has overtaken the invisible who can tell whether the visible will not allow the invisible to be seen, and that we will have eyes to lose in it.” So, not just perhaps our own inability to see, but that perhaps if seen, it will no longer be invisible: that what allows it to be “slightly visible”, to be poetry, is the fact that something always also, always already, remains invisible, if only slightly.
Perhaps then, only an offering as what is being offered by her remains veiled from us.
After all, I was not there when the picture was taken. (9)
Which does not mean that her offering does not affect us. For, even as she hints at the safety of anonymity that the writer can hide behind — I have been told about the safety / of being the third person, / in a story, / in a poem, / in a song (49)— albeit only in a parenthesis — (told that the writer need not expose her identity, / admit her tragic fantasies, / or produce her lover’s particularly plosive name) — (perhaps hiding away the fact that there is no hiding away, as it were), this does not say anything about the safety of, offer any safety to, the reader, to the one who attempts to read.
For, reading — attempting to attend to — opens not so much the text, which remains veiled from us, slightly invisible, but the one who reads.
If you want to read, jump,
do not set yourself so much as a comma.
— Hélène Cixous
Where the moment I grazed not, even before there, we burst … for it is we — perhaps only me — whom it exposes.
Where reading poetry
— if I could offer my six cents —
is tautological …
… for, reading is poetry.
(Alice Renez Tay, ‘A certain wonderland that illuminates rather than just shines …’, 2013)
To know that one does not write for the other, to know that these things I am going to write will never cause me to be loved by the one I love (the other), to know that writing compensates for nothing, sublimates nothing, that it is precisely there where you are not — this is the beginning of writing.
— Roland Barthes
And, it is not just that one cannot write for another, for the other; not just that writing always only points to the absence of the one that one is attempting to write about, on, that writing only marks “where you are not”; not just that the first other is the one who reads what one writes, that brings one’s writing into being through reading it — keeping in mind that reading is only possible because of what remains slightly invisible — that the first other is oneself; but that it is only because of this impossibility that writing itself can begin. And more precisely — even as precision itself might well be ironic, perhaps even absurd, here — impossible because what remains slightly invisible is whether one has written or not: not in the sense of whether there is a mark, but whether the mark is from one, or from “where you are not.”
Thus, not just that “one does not write for the other,” but that in writing, the one who writes might well be the other, another.
Hence, there is quite possibly no writer
— only writing.
Which might be why it is only he — through T — that could give us,
the young ones, classes on how to draw, to write:
First, draw a leaf. Start from nature.
Fill in the veins. Or, a hand. The smooth and
Subtle forking lines. Next, definite shapes such as
a cube, a ball. The human form comes last.
And before that, objects upon objects.
Translate vision into prose, then brushstrokes,
until it is one with the other. As in life,
allow impreciseness. Attend to colour,
to suggestion. (17)
But, even as what appears in front of us might be drawing, writing, we might try not to forget — perhaps all this is but splattered ink on paper,/ all smudges and blots. (28)
Words are foolish, they signify nothing.
They sing. (44)
Which opens the question of: how can we, one, read when one cannot quite be sure if what lies in front of us? If all might just be sound and fury. Or perhaps, a sort of paper marked with memories. (56)
Perhaps then, also a question of legibility, visibility.
And, the question of, as Cixous might say, “can the illegible be legible?”
Moi je laisserais tomber
mais le livre ne veut pas.
— Hélène Cixous
Nous sommes à la merci de la volonté de nos livres.
— Daniel Chan
Même si, peut-être surtout parce que, nous lisons à l’aveuglette.
But perhaps, reading blindly is precisely what allows us to listen, opens the possibility of listening — to the song of the words, the whispers of what remains slightly invisible, as they sing. Which might be why some part of me wishes that I had seen, been able to see, her notes: for, all of the notes might well have been speaking in, might well sing in, their own notes.
Had been able to listen to T
— to the rhythm of the words —
But, since one never quite knows, can know, if one is listening to what is slightly invisible, or if they are only sounds in one’s head, this means that all reading — even if, perhaps especially if, reading is an attempt to respond to what is not quite there — is both a listening to and also a singing along with.
Perhaps then, the only response to her gift, to Tamara’s gift is to offer — not in return, but alongside hers — a song:
One to listen to,
whilst playing with a hula hoop (93)
… in the shadow of a date tree.
All lines that appear in colour have been read from, can be read in Tammy Ho Lai-Ming. hula hooping. Hong Kong: Chameleon Press, 2015.
About the Author:
Jeremy Fernando is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow at The European Graduate School. He works in the intersections of literature, philosophy, and the media; and is the author of Reflections on (T)error, The Suicide Bomber; and her gift of death, Reading Blindly and Writing Death. Exploring other media has led him to film, music, and art; and his work has been exhibited in Seoul, Vienna, Hong Kong and Singapore. He is the general editor of both Delere Press, and the thematic magazine One Imperative; and a Fellow of Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore.