‘The Perspicacity of Repetition’: Heller Levinson’s Hinge Theory – an essay by Paul Stubbs
The Perspicacity of Repetition (The Birth of Hinge Theory)
Books by Heller Levinson
Smelling Mary, Howling Dog Press, 2008
From Stone This Running, Black Widow Press, 2011
Hinge Trio, (with Linda Lynch and Felino A. Soriano), La Alameda Press, 2012
To enrich the latent possibilities of poetry by undermining it, adding to the sterility of its virtues by dragging the chain of its ever-loosening syntax into the void, is the limitless devotion Heller Levinson has set himself with ‘Hinge Theory’—which is what, in these three books, has managed to spin the last cry of man (today) into a sun already blackened by the final ‘full-stop’ of humankind. So what is Hinge Theory? Levinson explains: ‘Hinge, as a highly advanced incorporation of “language games” provides a self-regenerative expansive logic, which, as it shifts its shape into increasingly complex forms of linguistic relation, offers angles and perceptions not available in conventional syntax (…) No more dead poetry, a Hinged universe leaps through the matrix of perception… always projecting forth from its wellsprings of potentialities.’ Neither fatalistic nor posthumous, Hinge Theory conceives of time itself as an infernal monologue, one using Levinson’s own tongue as a noose to hang all of those first beings unable to be lured to the frontiers of the desert of each of the unforeseen geographies in his mind. Is the poem then dead? Temporarily subjugated maybe, with an entire mute race waiting to be born and to speak Hinge’s next first words. The most important document thus far written about Hinge Theory is undoubtedly ‘An Introductory “Manual” for Hinge Theory’ by Levinson’s publisher and biggest champion Michael Annis, who explains that the quasi-poet of Hinge ‘has spent his entire literary career inventing and reinventing poetic form, theory, voice, structure, style… (…) his work is “hinged” not only to history, but reveals an essential coda for reinterpreting it’. To be capable of this would suggest that it could well become a new literary life-fluid, one ready to oppose the failed blood of the ‘conventional’ author.
Hinge though as a poetic prelude to the vacuity of the universe is only really a prelude to what most haunts being, i.e. space. Thus to celebrate the abyss is to celebrate what one day might just rescue us from it. Levinson has remade of the universe an idol, one caused by the projected sculptures of his own mind, and has decided, at all spiritual costs, to devote himself to it. When he writes: ‘Creation continues unabated, independent of discussion and analysis’ he contemplates the very screen of the page that hides everything and reveals nothing. Each poem is in itself a paradoxical debate, a syntactical interrogation, thought without thought, ideas that are in themselves cyclones ready to dissipate into other cyclones. We as readers are always entering into a posthumous poetics, a lexiconical universe of limit-worlds and indefinite revelations; we are constantly tottering on the brink of our own imaginative deaths, and of the final repudiation of the word:
RULES SUBSIDING,… erosion
relieving a surface fortuitous
traveling with insinuation
renewal leases from orthodoxy
(from From Stone This Running)
Beginning with one of his many ‘pivot’ words, in this case ‘with’, Levinson seeks to re-begin language, to snuff out and then relight its eternally burning fuse, to realign its associations and complete what E.M. Cioran thought, that ‘our beginnings matter, but we make the decisive step toward ourselves only when we no longer have an origin, when we offer as little substance for a biography as God…’ Is it possible then that in the future or in future-past, a circle of men might well be heard to chant ‘Hinge’ Poems, to post-date the post-articulate pang at the centre of their chests? That in an empty cell, an ascetic might also carve, beside a guttering candle, ‘Hinge’ poems into the plaster of his wall? This WILL happen, but only when the fossil-language that precedes mankind is deemed more holy than that of the ascetic’s own thoughts, those which would be, if they were anything at all, unintended Hinge poems…—Hinge Theory if it is successful will of course pervade into everything, science, biology, mathematics, philosophy, will reduce even the crucifixion to the word-limits of an interminable carpentry. ‘At the level of Hinge Production, each word insists on its word associates. In this sense, the practise of the author is to detect (to identify) the reproductive impulses inherent in the word being witnessed’, thus assuming the idea of discontinuity as an always first encounter again with language. As naturally as a tree yields fruit Levinson seeks to yield words, and as such each approximation of accident is negated by Levinson, that is until the world proves itself grammatically compatible with itself. To shift from the primordial to the syntactical is to graze every form of failure and success, and is as much a feat of transition as it is of literature. Therefore Levinson’s estimate that ‘Negative language impacts negatively on all components of human physiology’ is in itself a highly advanced form of pro-creation, one that seeks out boundlessness rather than mere boundaries. ‘Hinge’ then as a term for everything that exists and goes on existing to secure the continuation of language. The obscure is given several accounts of eternity before it admits what Paul Valéry thought of the poems of Mallarmé, that they existed if only ‘to put in doubt the very purpose of literature’.
When we approach a mind like Levinson’s, the words themselves make us feel dissimilar, forcing us to infallibly express our flaws; for even total objectivity will provide no better argument to usurp the absolute. To actualize and not founder upon the foundations of literature’s best kept secrets is, even by modern standards of criticism, a false awakening into syntactical nihilism, an accursed trick to make of the author an impassioned ghost. Yet Levinson, a pitiless analyst, is marked also by an adept introspection, providing as he does for the reader an unconsidered diary of the chance interlockings of both hyperbole and impersonal speech-patterns. But does ‘hinged’ literature, at the mercy now of an acute critical clairvoyance, run the unnecessary risk of unmasking a reality never to be seen by its author’s face? A reality blocked by a perversion of non-being; for to see inside the human psyche is the most anti-human preoccupation, revealing always only an endless train of contradictions, half-stories and artifices—Levinson though has learnt to become his own commentator, using ‘Hinge’ language to override poetry. The majority of modern poetry, while being nothing more than a camouflaged autobiography, ignores, to a degree of breathtaking lucidity, man’s capacity to forget the crucial questions of existence, and clearly this quasi-poet, judging by his own unanswerable commentaries on it, feels that all languages have become too contaminated by their own self-made vacuity. Levinson it seems will no longer be duped by the non-linear modifications made by other minds. The mind will have to be re-deified by excluding all of those religions that seek out each geography dreamed up by the infidel of the conventional author. ‘Hinge’ poetry is therefore a second attempt at writing Mallarmé’s ‘Book’, that which forced the French poet in a letter to Verlaine in 1885 to write: ‘I have always imagined and attempted something else, with an alchemist’s patience, ready to sacrifice all vanity and all satisfaction…(…) in order to feed the furnace of the Great work. Which is what? It is hard to say: a book, quite simply, in many volumes, a book that really is a book, architectural and premeditated, and not a collection of chance inspirations.’ In short, to create a work, like Levinson’s, that actually seeks to rival the world, and be not in any way its double.
So, to become a reconstructor of the universe, ‘Hinge’ must seek to translate into outer music the inner music of words, to silence art and render physics and religion once again into the great early dreams of man; to induce an ongoing and perpetually fecund state of the anathemas that will help Levinson aspire to his new literary role of syntactical demiurge. It will be a quite necessary act of madness, an attempt certainly to achieve what Paul Valery imagined of Mallarmé’s task, i.e. ‘to raise a page to the power of the starry heavens.’ Levinson then assigns himself to the task of realizing the impossible, to conceive of failure as the only captivating success, and to hallucinate himself into the only obsession worth pursuing, that of locating the only true literary fracture at the earth’s crust, i.e. our belonging .To abort the self, in mid-sentence, is for the writer of ‘Hinge’ to celebrate the requirements of abortion, to complete what demands of itself to be undermined by words. ‘Hinge’, a catalogue and impulse of an always unforeseen matrix disengages itself long enough for us to snag ourselves on our own thoughts:
a cause circumstantial
(from Smelling Mary)
The imagination, that great carrier of the illogical bric-a-brac, affords itself in ‘Hinge’ a concept of a revealing clue to its own existence. We find reality reacting to itself, permitting the author to mythologize a vision of himself in his own role. So what in reality might we miss that ‘Hinge Theory’ might reveal to us? That part of our minds perhaps that masquerades as something other than anything word-felt in the firmament, that or what we extract from our being in consciousness on opening our mouths to speak, that which ‘Hinge’ seeks to expose the skeleton of; what our mind feels always contrary to, i.e. nothingness. The horror of systems is not what is insisted on by each idea, but by the unendurable durations in time to which those ‘ideas’ subject us to. After all Eternity is the great non-sequitur and God the one noteworthy dilettante in our skies, and for that reason Levinson’s attack on the dialect of the gods seems the most necessary of all of his ideas. His attack on dead poetry is what might best be explained by what most modern poetry lacks, i.e. the future of the imagination. To conceive of and undertake a project to outthink language is indeed Hinge’s greatest and most difficult task. ‘Inventions from the unknown demand new forms’ wrote Rimbaud, yet Levinson in truth is merely demanding of us all that we simply invent new forms from already existing forms. Grammatical restructuring is the Hinge’s matrix and is what seeks to free itself of all other author’s names, to bury meaning like a final obliterated skeleton of history in the most fertile ground of every new interconnecting path. ‘Cellular, intracellular, synaptic, circulatory imagined and imaginary, the mirrors of language are the living molecular mirrors entwining as the double helix of our DNA, reflecting light and sound and identity and experience, combining and recombining toward perfected individuality’. These words by Levinson, if they are to be fulfilled, will quite clearly require a great invulnerability to boredom and a total belief in the system of Hinge, that which he depicts as consisting of ‘not what it Is, but how it behaves’. In Hinge Theory the modular curiosities of language are incremental other worlds which, unbeknownst to themselves, have never resembled anything else. There will be no unifying need for a hagiographer of Hinge, in fact only the supreme sceptic will suffice as a critic of any note, for would not even the words of the ‘greatest’ critic already have been anticipated and thus undermined by Levinson? The literary ‘fashions’ that Hinge is seeking to disparage will undoubtedly herald an epoch of resistance to its absolute and insoluble focus, its categorical extremes. It is as much a biographical genre as a literary one, more so in fact, for the ‘full-stop’, unlike the gene, has always refused to split and re-engage itself naturally, and has always resisted every opportunity to induce itself into a hereditary ‘form’ or structure. Hinge Theory therefore is the unlimited map of the cosmos peeled back from the realized reality of words, for every accidental pause discovered amid the flux of the accumulative word-flows are destroyed at once by the crashing of the hand-cymbal held in the hands of Levinson, he who seeks to cheapen the measure of the totality of the cosmic music of any one deity, and thus, from poem to poem, delay all infinitesimal orchestration:
JOINTURE LIKE ALACRITY PLANE
vessel – ing Tongue & groove vehemence
velocity chute channel
a disposition channeling disposition
capitulation the erotic pedestal pedal
ling through time globes eras
of swamp fuss
— — —
(from From Stone This Running)
Hinge Theory consists ostensibly of the history of the parenthesis parted wider, a celebration and acceleration of the pincering of time between man’s first word and his last. The amazing variety of human incomprehension is what in itself gave birth to science, for ‘science’ unlike literature is a unique human genre brought on by the exceptional repetition of certain familiar and unfamiliar forms. Hinge seeks only to dismantle what, in the imagination, seems no more historical than our own involuntary reflexes to it. Man is a credulous reader only of his own crucial moments. Everything that Levinson previously believed about the mechanisms of conventional language are dying, are being attuned to a new rigorous logic from which in each poem he seeks thus also to abandon. The poet + poem = language as an old mathematical problem to be solved by the imagination no longer here applies. Levinson undoubtedly hopes that one day Hinge poetry will reveal the majority of literature to have been a barely credible hoax, an unjustifiable catechism of false authorial rites, an excuse for being to have existed inside of fiction. Rimbaud has already proved to us that to contradict all of the laws of language will, in the end, be no more a contradictory reproduction than any other failure to erect a theory that enable’s man to exist voluntarily inside of his own mind. Yet Levinson (thankfully!) seems fully prepared to commit the only worthwhile and viable literary offense! i.e. to venerate language above literature, that is before the congenital lacuna of personality is contradicted and contaminated by the self-demands of egoism, by authorhood. Out of impotence then, apathy and inertia, Hinge Theory will emerge and re-emerge, to become a quite legitimate new dogma, that is, a rehabilitated métier. In truth, Hinge will be nothing more than a wave within a wave lapping on language, a drop adding to but not attributing its own weight as part of the overall composition. What then in modern poetry seems but a game is, in Levinson’s mind, an already duped theory for evolution; to keep up with Levinson is to watch him swing from branch to branch of every new interlinking theory, through man’s original and primordial jungle of language, to watch him shake each trunk-limb of calligraphy, until when, from the sky, the carcass of every ‘old’ word, eaten now clean to the bone, falls to the ground, emptied finally of the fiction of fatality:
To situate before capitulation
To determine prior to lance-through
“holding sway” as in holdup, a held, an arrestation? No, …for sway to sway it must be
Acknowledged as sway, — the around tilt swirling list rattle — the “hold”, then, as a
handling, a way of orienting/tending to/ a tenderly coaxing forth — sway must be
he(and)I(e)d so that sway holds as a continuously enduring disposition
‘out of the cradle endlessly rocking’
Into the whorl heedlessly swaying
(from ‘Sway’ in Hinge Trio)
To exist only at the junction of language, at the point of its every divagation from speech, while in the realm of being a non-poet, is a welcome attraction for an author who seeks always the obnubilation of meaning. Hinge Theory, by its very definition, is ostensibly too literary, yet if we approach it with a mind as violent as its births and its miscarriages then a rare pleasure emerges, that what feels akin to opening a new textbook on the history of post-poetry. Levinson has understood that understanding literature has always been a failed encounter, a gnawing regret for what first inspired it, and that only a poetry written by a disabused mind can ever truly understand anything. ‘By beginning with a preposition, language becomes loosened from habitual usages. The preposition “with” allows a word to explore, explode, become fluid, mobilized: word embarks, becomes nomadic, erupts with new meanings’, thus Levinson questions Derrida’s idea of ‘the hierarchy of dual oppositions’, that which inevitably ‘always re-establishes itself’. Yet when he invokes meaning into his poems, it is only to denounce the ‘meaning’ that cannot be legitimized by being, or by accident. Thus the ideas behind Hinge can rightly assert the myth of revealing everything, wherever theories cohabit and flourish and each new spoken civilization resides in and relies on Levinson’s own mouth. The great poet, when confronting the problems of existence, translates into his own words only the rigor of a thought yet to be translated into words, and thus proceeds (temporarily) to exist inside of the unreality of a new quasi-absolute world. Rimbaud, believing briefly in the ‘hallucination of words’ sought out only a world bordering on an aversion to matter, realizing that all writers, philosophers and scientists would remain impure as personalities as long as they were confronted with the absolute world; for each improbable universe hatched at the heart of a human ‘Theory’ is, in truth, nothing but a mortification of the truth, an already obsolete parasite eating into the atom-fruit of the future.
I would expect and hope, if not demand, that the majority of Academics would denounce Hinge Theory, denounce it as a disease unable to be verified by the empirical knowledge of the literary critic; most I am sure will make a point of it, that is to ridicule Hinge, but inevitably will fail themselves to offer up any new kind of a spiritual awakening to replace it. The kind of positivism that ruins an imperfect literary discovery will, in the scale of the absolute, achieve no goals other than to increase the Hinge phenomenon even further. Hinge will clearly be as efficient when working from within a theory as outside of one, its certitude will remain for as long as the literary diagnostician founders upon his own (already dissipated) estimations. The truest response to Hinge will be when man, having abandoned the laboratories, begins his search for a cure to the cure in a post-poetical world of nanotechnology, fibre optics and only computer anatomies, after Narcissism has reverted back into the optical and mathematic problem between the mirror and the face; but what will be the fate of the ‘self’ in Hinge Theory? A new hero in a drama lost to the limits of a duped clarification? The French poet Paul Claudel’s depiction of Mallarmé as a ‘syntactic genius’, while overstated, might one day apply to this ‘author’ of Hinge poems, for if Hinge is ever one day to ante-date the imagination then the only literary ‘event’ to make that happen would be for the most imaginative poet in the world to begin rewriting and rethinking his own poems using the concepts of Hinge. But could Hinge Theory cost us another Rimbaud or a Donne? No, for poets such as these two dispossessed language of a critic’s right to understand it, forcing their own personalities to resist the idea of using the imagination as anything other than an instrument to humanize the will, metaphysics, language. Hinge Theory is nothing but the writing of writing, the fits and starts of syntactical refrains, for unlike in, say the work of Rimbaud, we perceive of no worlds existing behind the semantic origins of the words; poetry if it is ever to be finally eradicated from the mind will be forced to refer and derive all of its causes from theology not literature. All of the great works have been written in spite of the imagination, not in anyway because of it. Between the wire-mesh of two fictions Levinson gives us his confessions, since even his obsessions with Hinge must say what he has to say, not necessarily how he will say, and thus instead of relying on purely the imagination, rather he creates in line of and adherence to the despotism of what he calls ‘the pivot, the particle, and the postulate (the 3 P’s)’, each in turn to pre-figure the exhaustion of merely imagining a grammarian solution for the ‘content’ of the poems. In his book From This Stone Running this poet, or should we call him this quasi-fictive poet, begins to locate what E.M. Cioran called ‘the anti-podes of the Ego…(…) a summa of refusals, quintessence of nothing, conscious void (not consciousness of the void but a void that knows itself and rejects the accidents and vicissitudes of the contingent subject)’:
with celerity this credulity
omnibus, … ombudsman
respiration extension lung → thrush
quick apt aptitude
the health about wielding as much as the
tribulations & justice
the court systems
what a waste of time
(from From Stone This Running)
Poetry has been eradicated and replaced by a lucidity purified of its own exacerbated will to create. Hinge Theory here is not concerned in anyway with a contradiction of its own earliest theories or with a stripping of itself down into the nuts and bolts of any kind of a ‘fixed’ content, merely it is a new phase of poetry that has been (quite rightly) stripped of the poet’s face, it has no history, no universal idiom other than the machinations of the ruins of life. Consciousness exists only to frustrate the execution of the words, and thus the continual broken edifice of Hinge is rooted in the apotheosis of its own mutilated discourse, a discourse of renewal that relocates and reinforces itself under the conviction of each new model of invention, whether ‘Modular Velocity’, ‘Migratories’, ‘Hinge Propagatory’, and/or ‘Modular Multipliers’, where amid each of these syntactical contemplations Levinson himself looms invisibly inside of his own mental operations, unable or not wanting to revisit his own personality, and never seeking to celebrate his mind, rather than just be a mind. It is clear then that this poet will continue to be present in every moment that language continues to pursue itself, amid the abstract and indestructible foundations of words. But by the time we get to his latest book Hinge Trio we realize all too quickly that the fact that Levinson is a poet is utterly unimportant, actually it is an abomination, for in the pages of this book we find him under the spell of the same kind of inflexibility that keeps distance and space apart, of what stops man reverting back into what God hoped he might be. Levinson himself has already written: ‘we replace the lexiconically static with the Impregnative-fertile… Hinge is paradoxically about creation and discovery’, in the same way perhaps that today in the 21st Century a fanatic might say ‘religion is paradoxically about salvation and damnation’; yet Hinge Theory has nothing more in common with humanity or religion or anthropology than humanity has to do with man, for man himself is an invention of speech, and history an absurd yawn caught between the first and the last days of the world. To believe in Hinge, while a barely estimable advantage when reading it, provokes nothing satisfactory in anything other than itself, for poetry, any poetry has never been more important than as a counter-desire to reality; and Levinson it seems, if it even matters, is providing for us a literary autopsy, a paralysis of the word itself, that is to counteract the silence in the middle of syntactical conversation, that which amounts to nothing more than an island, a momentary reef on which all humans seek to pause. Each sentence of Hinge is born of the misconception that when reading a text we believe that we are reading about anyone other than ourselves; therefore Hinge Theory must never be read as anything other than a ready-made repudiation of what repudiates man from the history of pain. Its syntactical exaggerations are true for they quite clearly keep up with the fluctuations of the modern mind, the only one naturally that follows us throughout our existence.
The only etymological impasse that prevents the truth getting through and into the world is of course man’s own larynx, palate and tongue; if it were ever possible to identify what low sensations transgress the human personality when we speak, then man, for the first time, would actually appear undisturbed and relaxed amid the polytheistic disturbances of the world. Levinson counteracts every last impasse, both etymological and human, by declaring that languages, like ideologies, have only ever inherited a series of false dawns. And according to Nietzsche in Ecce Homo, the world is ‘so overfull of the beautiful, strange, questionable, terrible and divine that our curiosity and our thirst for possession are both beside themselves so that nothing can any longer satisfy us!’ and certainly Levinson, to avoid an inescapable aridity in language has taken a giant stab at a second beginning for language, that is for us all to re-exist upon a planet still too ‘questionable, terrible and divine’ today for its own good. Hinge Theory will undoubtedly seek to kick-start again the belief that man can indeed inhabit a new nation of himself, a new race and creed. Literature has always been an elaborate form of failure, but a failure so imaginative it has often found itself purged of the fear of success. Kierkegaard aligned this with this statement from his journals: ‘with the strange free masonry of poets I can use these words as the motto for part of my life’s suffering’, and indeed the word ‘motto’ in Hinge Theory has frequently found itself a servant of the need to repeat ourselves, to accept suffering only ever as a second existence abandoned to dialects, fugitive fragments and what Levinson calls ‘tussling muscle mesh shivering alphabeticals’ (‘With Orchestration’). Repetition renews history, yet it is time that dictates what repetition can record, thus the birth of Hinge Theory as an ever-burgeoning concept is bringing forth new goals contrary to man’s nature, producing an anti-language that can only fall short, of language—an indistinguishable but integral chaos that reconstitutes our need for unhoped-for words; and thus unrivalled in his worship of oral frenzy Levinson writes and writes until the moment arrives when the phrase All to no Avail becomes a negation drunk on the idea of something else. In short, we are being forced to contemplate the page as a wall that protects and hides us from nothing. If Shakespeare was to be put through Hinge’s syntactical machinery then ‘To be or not to be’ might well acquire its most interesting variation yet, i.e. ‘To generate or not to generate’, for no matter what the language or who the author, Hinge will, as Levinson has stated already, continue to create ‘unabated, independent of discussion and analysis’.
A writer with nothing to say should always surpass the writer with everything to say, for it is all a question of insinuation, the disparity felt in language between man’s pre-birth existence and his final ONLY earth-bound one. The interminable human fact that we proceed from one catastrophe to the next should not stop poetry being written, in fact it should most definitely encourage the writing and rewriting of it, that is until the day when language by itself manages to traverse all of the terrains owned by God! Levinson, biblical and anti-biblical, Socratic and anti-Socratic, Hegelian and anti-Hegelian (et cetera), provides a self-fulfilling prophecy that perpetually erupts into first, secondary and tertiary phases of his breath, an ever-evolving network which sees this quasi-fictive poet entering into the unknown country of his every next phrase, sentence, word. The reader of Hinge will find though that each ‘new’ world is only really a thought of a new world, an insinuation of a progression of a thought of a ‘new’ world. But Levinson, possessing a modular sagesse, is not to be found inside of these poems, is in fact only to be found amid the echo of the echo of the work, a repetitious jawbone snapping on the wire of each line. So, it seems, that should the imagination ever become lost, we should not despair, for Levinson is informing us that the universe of Hinge Theory will swiftly take its place. The author of Hinge is not in any way interested in seeing himself fulfilled by his art, as a name and nothing more, but as someone who has both conquered and delivered himself of the old ‘literary’ gods, and in the meantime has decided to wait before the altar of every new postulate, at the end of literature’s limits, ‘consider-ing’, entranced, and ready again to transcend himself a million more times in the same place.
Paul Stubbs, 27th August 2013, Paris.
a poem by Heller Levinson in issue 4 of The Black Herald