As part of his article "The Quiddities," published in issue 11, writer and media artist Joe Milutis has published This, a print-on-demand book containing a selected concordance of the poet Ron Silliman's uses of this and an accompanying essay. Here, Milutis elaborates on the word's relationship to American poetry and the logic of his concordance, which is available via Lulu.
There is a black hole at the heart of American poetry. Poetic experimentation has, since Whitman, been uniquely attuned to creation ex nihilo—channeling unconventional energies—but also drawn back into "pastness" by the memorializing powers of the word and the organizing principle of the book. The attempt to create a future out of difficult, discarded, democratic sources has met with the dictates of the uniform and lineated, the white and the black.
As a sort of minimalist sleight of hand, this-pointing, even documentary-allows for a passing literary capture of a coordinate where words fail. This announces a here and now, even though this here and now must, by its nature, be transformed from reading to reading. Tracing the ubiquitous unattributed thises of Ron Silliman, we can appreciate how the word creates a conceptual rhythm throughout his work, a network of floating moments which nevertheless make clear how language and history move together in pointedly material ways.
The concordance in This gathers all the unattributed thises from available PDFs of Silliman's work. Aerating each sentence this inhabits enables us to linger on the decontextualized moments and multidirectional puissance the word creates. In composing these sentences, I strived to create a research artifact that is both poetic and performative, revealing patterns in Silliman's work while creating a new object that exceeds mere "understanding" of his poetry.
The thises of Ron Silliman document the ephemeral contact, or even contract, with the reader, who is urged to "make it of this"-whatever the hell this may be from moment to moment. However, because these unmoored thises are locked on the page rather than embodied and performed, this becomes a reservoir of indeterminacy to be activated with each reading. This-the book-posits one possible performance, an activation that nevertheless holds within it another set of indeterminacies, moving, inexorably, into the past but awaiting future recombinations.