The poem “Architecture I” by Kyle Kinaschuk was published in The Puritan Issue 34 in summer 2016. As part of The Town Crier’s Author Notes series, Kyle delves into what inspires and troubles his practice.
I will have begun, once again, to read errant letters as if I were the architect behind this archi-écriture, the director of words, the arkhitekton, who builds and rules at the site of an estranged arkhe—the cruel and secret view of the foreword. Stylobates collapse, however, into rubble as the blueprint conceals the abyssal origin and telos that fenestrates the semblance of every preface. We labour, then, at the facade of an exterior body, which, in its own way, substitutes and augments an architecture undoubtedly already in ruins. I hesitate, therefore, to proceed as if it were possible to reconstruct these fragments with the temporal advantage of a master builder reflecting upon old projects to write the words, “I present to you, reader, the future.”
At this juncture before the juncture, one must tarry with the form and implication of the exordium. Prefatory or explicatory remarks, as Hegel feared in his preface to the Phänomenologie des Geistes, inhibit and mislead thought by way of reducing texts to generalized content through compendious propositions and assertions. At the outset, if one gives the reader the future, then, it follows, she ceases to have a future. Hence, the danger of this genre of notes and reflections, which seem to stand apart from the work itself, is precisely that a logic of anticipation and calculation threatens to subsume the open-ended, atelic processes of reading. Reading, in other words, becomes expendable, for these words in their exteriority enact the strokes of both accretion and substitution upon the corpse of an elapsed text. We risk no longer reading.
In this place, I begin to read, though. My body, this flesh, curated each letter, each unit of composition, in some capacity; as such, these fragments—poetic architectures as I have called them following Erín Moure—emerge out of a particular set of concerns and circumstances (a constellation of the autobiographical, philosophical, and literary, that is, if one could ever cleave these terms apart from one another).
We labour, then, at the facade of an exterior body, which, in its own way, substitutes and augments an architecture undoubtedly already in ruins.
Nevertheless, one should be careful not to lapse into a naive voluntarism in which authorial sovereignty totalizes the field of reading (a tired, albeit critical, acknowledgement, to be sure). My body, moreover, touches, touched, and is touching these poems, and bodies, like books, will be bent, broken, burnt, discarded, forgotten, ruined, mutilated, torn, and left to rot. Matter rots. Words come undone from the first instant. We are given over—we are debts to death, as Simonides tell us—to the clamour of the death knell.
The shape and inflection of the fragment is one such way of reading at the limit of a reckoning with loss, which confronts us at every turn, as nothing will remain unscathed from the irreversible wounds and destructions of temporal finitude inter alia. One cannot fend off, immunize, or protect against this originary loss. The fragments of Sappho, for example, figure largely in the moulding of this architecture of loss, which, perhaps, allows the inevitability of oblivion to realize itself in a decomposing form, yet every text remains incomplete—fragmented. As Stephen Collis and Jordan Scott teach us in Decomp, there is a vitality in the slow time of decomposition. When form is deformed, something strange and unfamiliar emerges that resists the categories of intelligibility and legibility, as a monstrous assemblage of wrecked matter begins to mutter, whisper, creep, and unravel in the long wake of decomposition. Jacques Derrida, in a discussion with Évelyne Grossman about the poetics of Paul Celan, notes, “Nothing insures a poem against its own death, either because the archive can always be burnt in crematoria or in flames, or because, without being burnt, it can simply be forgotten, or not interpreted, or left to lethargy. Oblivion is always possible.” By writing fragments, one, in a word, opens up a capaciousness for the imperfect and the finite to flicker compositionally. The fragment as a poetic mood and mode becomes a tacit monument to the decreation of life.
Kyle Kinaschuk is a doctoral student in the Department of English at the University of Toronto. His work has appeared in journals such as The Capilano Review, PRISM international, filling Station, Poetry is Dead, Studies in Philosophy and Education, and FreeFall.