Poise and Some Clumsy and Some Madness

I've been quite enamored of this word, poise, for some time now (I come to it via the great Lohren Green and his Poetical Dictionary). It is the ideal posture for life, for living: it neither leans into nor away from things as they come. Poise maintains itself.

And yet it is never fixed. It is not stoic. It adjusts to the world but without abandoning itself to the world. It holds steady amidst the storm but not in an unyielding way: poise bends without toppling.

Poise is quietly active. For while still in a certain sense, it nevertheless is always moving with a world in motion, always ready for whatever may come, always handling what does in fact come. It makes me think of the nomad: always on the move, always at home.

It is a great posture for taking up the world, a posture for going with the world for it maintains itself while still extending itself to others.

It quite different than, say, clumsy which comes to the world through collision. This is not to say clumsy is bereft of its charms — on the contrary. There is something to be said for the good bump. Indeed, sometimes it is only by feeling the weight of things, and having things feel our weight, that we can come to know the world.

Which is to say, poise is not the only posture of good living. There are times when poise does not suffice, times when utter abandon are called for, are called forth — a Dionysian surrender to the moment.

There are madnesses well worth embracing, madnesses that let us see and know and enjoy and relish, madnesses that push us out of our poise, knock us down or make us lean way too far forward, beautifully far forward, awkwardly far forward, madnesses and desires and frenzies that extend us, make us reach beyond ourselves, beyond what we thought possible. Such is one beauty of drugs: they push us beyond ourselves to become ourselves.

Ah, but poise: poise is not the bourgeois counterpoint to madness. Poise is not so proper. It is complex, difficult, and exquisite. The word itself tickles my fancy, the always sensual p giving way to the squishy erotics of the oi before sliding a bit on an s that suggests the presence of a z. It is closed, then, but not so securely: it is open, just a tad, on both ends and wobbling a bit in the middle.


dustygravel said...

This is encouraging.
Thank you for putting words to things.

Ones I was showing a friend Creature Comforts by black dice
and she asked way I liked it
so I seid "do I have to have a resone"
she said "yeah people should have reasons way they like things"
"Oh I like it because it sounds like someone crying in the bath tub"
"Oh" she said "I like it too"

Thats when I realized the importance of explaining my taste. It's also a moment when I bumped into the world, and the world moved, I was changed.

Postures are rad, It seems like theres got to be a whole mess of them out there.

dustygravel said...

Have you ever read the classical trivium by Marshal Mcluhan.This is the book that first sparked my interest in rhetoric and lead me to your berkeley pod-casts. In that book Mcluhan traces the the tentions and conflicts between philosophy, rhetortic, and grammar, as they move through history.
Your pod casts overtly deal with philosophy and rhetoric, but the one that strikes me now is grammer. In Mcluhans book grammer is more then
sentense structure, Its the “book of nature”.
The grammarians where the teachers, collectors, sorters, and sifters of knowledge, but without contemporary disciplinary divisions shaping their methodology or final collections. That seems to explain your work as much as rhetoric or philososphy dose.

Do you ever think of your self this way?

Daniel Coffeen said...

Yes yes yes: grammar! That's exactly what I was getting at, grammars of life. I've often called tropes grammars of life, shapes and logics of distribution of sense. For that is what grammar is: the logic of the distribution of sense.

I've never read that McLuhan but I love your description. Now you got me all riled up, in the best sense, about, grammars.

dustygravel said...

Oh man, I'm glad you like it.

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