year? Clock?": "Retro-Reds" in the Era of
(As appeared in Tripwire Journal of
Toscano's long-awaited The Disparities (Sun &
Moon) demonstrates that it's time to get reacquainted with
the social referent: complex of relations (i.e.,
post eidetic imagism <1>)
registered in an instant of time <2>.
summarizes in an article published this year that in contrast
to previous decades the "motivations behind ideology
no longer seem to need an elaborate machinery of decoding
and hermeneutic reinterpretation; and the guiding thread
of all contemporary politics seems much easier to grasp:
namely, that the rich want their taxes lowered" (137).
By definition, the social referent avoids poetical tropes
of "mere technical facility and hollow formalism"
(in Steve Evans's phrase). Yet, of course, such a referent
is prone to other, equally familiar, traps -- of vulgar
realism. How avoid?
words of a Protestant theologian, for whom time would have
peculiar philosophical resonance, the obvious: "Not
everything is possible at every time, not everything is
true at every time, nor is everything demanded at every
moment" (Paul Tillich <3>).
From this comes timeliness, that quality of subjective time
of knowing when is "the right time" (and for what),
kairos, which the ancient Greek language differentiates
from chronos (objective, formal -- clock -- time that is
neither "right" nor "wrong"). Qualities
of subjective time combine to produce "social times"
for the sociological method of Immanuel Wallerstein; and
he follows Fernand Braudel who famously distinguishes their
three durations: longue duree (e.g., capitalist mode of
production), conjunctural or cyclical (e.g., supply- demand
crises), and current time (opinions of the day).
poetics, Steve Evans recently reconceptualized the kairos
of social time as "social tense": "A grasp
of the way in which artistic materials are socially tensed
-- storing certain potentialities, lacking others, with
still others momentarily exhausted as some awaken again
from dormancy -- is what keeps the artist (if it can) from
sinking into mere technical facility and hollow formalism"
(43). Toscano's poetry investigates the problematic of "social
tense": how does one address the longue duree with
and on the terms of what one is given to hand in the moment?
various poets' structuralisms helped with this, homologizing
capitalism and language. The "social" retains
currency, if only because the mysterious commodity-form
still conjures it as exchange-value: despite how virtually
all space is now privatized, we must live in it. In the
opening three poems of the book, Toscano retains aspects
of what might loosely be called the west coast walking poem
(for flaneur, Situationist, activist, townie) since, on
one hand, "The bureaucrats of wills (some young) have
set their snares," and on the other, at least
the prospect of an alternative economy still urges images
of an ideal polis.
it possible that the message of the kairos is an error?
Andrews, put down your mowers". . . . <5>)
Tillich, again, replies: "The message is always an
error; for it sees something immediately imminent which,
considered in its ideal aspect, will never become a reality
and which, considered in its real aspect, will be fulfilled
only in long periods of time. And yet the message of the
kairos is never an error; for where the kairos is proclaimed
as a prophetic message, it is already present; it is impossible
for it to be proclaimed in power without its having grasped
those who proclaim it" (Wallerstein 282). While Wallerstein
securalizes and historicizes Tillich's philosophical paradox,
Toscano assumes the paradox as a given. From "Circular