Pattern—and the 'Simulacral'

Written by

Leslie Scalapino
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The way things are seen in a time is that period of time; and is the composition of that time. The way things are seen is unique in any moment, as a new formation of events, objects, and cultural abstraction.

The composition is the thing seen by every one living in the living they are doing, they are the composing of the composition that at the time they are living is the composition of the time in which they are living. It is that that makes living a thing they are doing. Nothing else is different, of that almost any one can be certain. The time when and the time of and the time in that composition is the natural phenomena of that composition. (Stein, Selected Writings)

Stein's conception of a continuous present is when everything is unique, beginning again and again and again. A does not equal A, in terms of Stein's view of the continuous present. This leads to lists; which leads to romanticism in which everything is the same and therefore different.

Romanticism is then when everything being alike everything is naturally simply different, and romanticism. (Stein)

Romanticism is not a confusion but an extrication. Culture is a transformative composite separate from individuals. The quality in the creation of expression in the composition has to do with the unique entity, being in balance and moving as it ceases to be identical with itself. This has to do with apprehending what occurs now. With it being always now, which constitutes being in a state of turmoil:

There must be time that is distributed and equilibrated. This is the thing that is at present the most troubling and if there is the time that is at present the most troublesome the time-sense that is at present the most troubling is the thing that makes the present most troubling. (Stein)

The present is the loci (i.e., multiple) of change. The travel book as a genre is a stylized mode having its own laws and pattern, which is realistic with present-time events and people: Hemingway, in Green Hills of Africa, creates a new form while using the travel book format describing an actual hunting expedition which lasted for a month. It is not fiction; there is no beginning, middle, or end as such. There are potentially an infinite number of animals and events as the condition of writing.

Therefore his pattern is a list of places, objects, animals, and actions. Reading is somehow the means of their actual occurrence.

Style is cultural abstraction—i.e., that period—how relationships with people take place (how they're seen) in a period. They become visible by being simplified—by indicating this is occurring—as the canned scenario.

The narrator does not write while hunting, only reads. Therefore action is "doing something you are ignorant about." Killing is romanticism everything being the same and therefore different, the trigger of the gun being "like the last turn of the key opening a sardine can." A unique connection, in its sense of the artificial and as such realist, is the vulcanized rubber faintly transparent looking (as if miming) rhino discovered in death. As the relation between life and writing:

The rhino was in high grass, somewhere in there behind some bushes. As we went forward we heard a deep, moaning sort of groan. Droopy looked around at me and grinned. The noise came again, ending this time like a blood-choked sigh. Droopy was laughing. "Faro," he whispered and put his hand palm open on the side of his head in the gesture that means to go to sleep. Then in a jerky-flighted, sharp-beaked little flock we saw the tick birds rise and fly away. We knew where he was and, as we went slowly forward, parting the high grass, we saw him. He was on his side, dead. (Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa)

In Green Hills of Africa, the pattern of experience and the account (expressed as being the mode of 'genre') are not parallel; which makes this text similar to the dissimulation and simulacra of artists of the postmodern period.

The closure of the genre is its means of realistic observation.

In Michael McClure's work, oneself is the 'simulacra' identified as an infinite free universe, Identity is defined in his poems in terms of other entities (we are "DARK FLESH MUSIC / LAYING OUT A SHAPE," we are "INSTRUMENTS / THAT / PLAY / ourselves," etc.). Therefore the author or the sense of self and the investigation of its desire is the pattern, which is neither present time nor the past. It is potentially infinite in form and number, as points of intuitional apprehension.

Use of pattern as cartoons is investigation of fantasy and active creation of cultural abstractions

Cultural abstraction such as the love image of Jean Harlow or the perfect chill slot of space of Wall Street (in "Cold Saturday Mad Sonnet") are qualitative transformations as expressions of this instant of time in the poem. In the following passage from "La Plus Blanche," the juncture of connection is "How," and the new utterly wild formation is something referred to as "grace."

you return love. Love, is returned for admiration! Strangeness
        is retuned by you for desire. How. Where
           but in the depth of Jean Harlow is such strangeness
     made into grace?
(McClure, Selected Poems)

Some of McClure's poems are 'genre' in the sense of being formal as sonnets, odes, or ballads but actually as unique, as artificial, not the same as anything else. Therefore the new formations can't be replicated, as are images of Pop Art or as would be commercial images. They are sensitive. The imagination causes transformations, realistic as culture causing mutations. The 'transformations' in the "Hummingbird Ode" are the "black lily of space," the "sweetness of the pain," and "the beautiful shabby colors/and the damp spots where the eyes were" of the dead hummingbird:

in the vast black lily
of space? Does the sweetness
of the pain go on forever?

Dark Brown, for example, is writing as a self-analyzing surface is vision. One is lost in the 'simulacra:' "The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction— / means that the belief of something is necessary to its beauty." As in a Busby Berkeley follies, change or movement is by virtue of the intrinsic qualities of something: "the flow of energy through a system acts to organize that system."

In Ron Silliman's Paradise the unit of change occurs on the level of the sentence, many such changes occurring in each paragraph. A series or list of simple sentences creates simple states of being, requiring that consciousness exist only in the moment of each sentence, i.e., in an infinite series of succeeding moments. That experience actually occurs in the lovely light 'clear' writing. An overt simplification or abstraction of a view of character, either reader's or writer's, is imposed to create these states of being, which may be the expression of a period or an inward state:

In romance, sexual desire is freed from a relation to power. The real bandit queen or India, madame Gandhi. Puffball clouds in a blue sky. Simple sentences, again and again. The old sisters walk to the store together, slowly, one wearing bright slippers. Our lives are like this, quiet on a Sunday. Sink full of cups. (Silliman Paraidse)

Reading as imposing syntax, is creating reality as imposition on or formation of one's thoughts and actions:

This was and now you are constituted in the process of being words, your thought actualizing through the imposition of this syntax. Resistance alone is real (coming distractions). Cross against the light. Leave work to write a poem and not mention the dragonfly. (Silliman)

New formations as words, fantasies, sounds, occur potentially infinitely. The 'directorial intelligence' is seen to be either author or context or the one as the other. Therefore our being replications or something being replicated takes place 'visibly' as an action.

So the process of cultural abstraction itself is the model or mechanism for the pattern. Reading imposing a reality on us is therefore the "response card referred to as the action." Deciphering oneself entails what one is; the concept of that entails the action of what the text is. We mime the simulacra, "syntax mimes space," in order to get at the real.

A variation on the notion of apprehending the inherent nature of a being, object, or event as motion is suggested by the Busby Berkeley follies or a dance concentrating on one point or juncture repeated but never the same, which cannot remain identical with itself.

In the example of a centralized pattern, the Busby Berkeley follies with skits or vignettes without necessarily a beginning, middle, or end: the pattern is submitted to the control of an overriding authority, but with the notion that the finely tuned unit would avoid the distortion of the whole. Using the notion of the pattern being the inherent nature of something as movement, the model of such writing while possibly using a 'format' ('genre'), would be tuned to change occurring on every level. As suggested by a model from physics, the individual person, general context of nature, social behavior, and specific event are undergoing change in one moment. The same scene will not be repeated.

The same pattern of things is not necessarily repeated at all levels; and secondly, we are not even supposing that the general pattern of levels that has been so widely found in nature thus far must necessarily continue without limit. (Bohm, Causality and Chance in Modern Physics)

A variation and extension of aspects of the discussion suggested here may be seen in Cindy Sherman's work. Her early photographs refer to scenes or atmosphere from thirties or forties movies: an example of a projection of aping of a genre or mode fixed in time—but taken seriously in its establishing its own version or reality—therefore that which duplicates can't be easily duplicated.

Her work to date is a series of replicas—the subject is always Cindy Sherman herself, yet they are not self-portraits. The photo-graphs become increasingly unrecognizable as to their subject. One photograph, for example, is a masculine figure wet gravel on its face seemingly having died recently, but on closer observation showing sores indicating the beginnings of decomposition; another figure is a blonde-wigged woman propped on her elbows on pebbles with her mouth open showing a bright red liquid blood-like interior. The use of costumes, overtly staged and stagey scenes produces a potentially infinite series of new characters.

Therefore the question as to the identity of the author and of oneself is apparently the subject—that conception itself being an expression or 'analysis' of postmodernist sensibility, i.e., the photographs overtly expressed as cultural abstraction or the critical conceptualization of the present art scene.

The following passage as an example of this critical conceptualization is from an essay by Rosalind Krauss, titled "A Note on Photography and the Simulacral":

That Sherman is both subject and object of these images is important to their conceptual coherence. For the play of stereotype in her work is a revelation of the artist herself as stereotypical. It functions as a refusal to understand the artist as a source of originality, a fount of subjective response, a condition of critical distance form a world which it confronts but of which it is not a part...If Sherman were photographing a model who was not herself, then her work would be a continuation of this notion of the artist as a consciousness that knows the world by judging it. In that case we would simply say that Sherman was constructing a critical parody of the forms of mass culture. With this total collapse of difference, this radical implosion, one finds oneself entering the world of the simulacrum...If the simulacrum resembles anything, it is the Idea of nonresemblance. Thus a labyrinth is erected, a hall of mirrors, within which no independent perspective can be established from which to make distinctions—because all of reality has now internalized those distinctions.

The criticism as description, using Krauss's essay as an example, is the process of creating convention—the description of ourselves as culture. Sherman's work is the convention and the revelation of that; as such, the focus is the mystery of the convention which is nonresemblance itself, i.e., originality or subjectivity.

The unit as the book—the book as a unit

Examples of Sherman as unrecognizable subject: a photograph of a large figure with a long red artificial sensual tongue in the foreground behind which are ant-size humans; a shot of a head with a pig's snout, blood-like smears on the snout and cheek, the figure lying on a dark background. Another photograph shows a sweat-covered or moist figure unrecognizable as to gender crouching clutching or sorting through pebbles, looking up at the camera with a wild expression showing a mouth of rotten teeth. The costume dramas in the collection, coming at the end of the series cause the sequence of photographs to seem to fly apart.


Charles Bernstein's The Sophist presents a multiplicity and potentially endless proliferation of voices and characters. In terms of the use of genre:


The poem "Fear and Trespass" is an example of being entirely inside some other voice. The details of the circumstance are conveyed in a deliberately bathetic language of harlequin romance or soap opera. Bathos and turgid vocabulary are as valid as any other information. There is no introspective or conscious voice which would have a different or outside perspective; in that sense the form of the writing goes beyond or outside the confines of the convention of a 'poem' and is someone else's 'book.' The piece is language as a jostling whipped-up surface—its motion is entirely in that, in terms of it being the whipped-up singular perspective. So it is not simply satire.

Other examples of the use of 'genre'—which is therefore unlike the model: "The Only Utopia Is In a Now" uses a voice or perspective reminiscent of eighteenth-century genre describing people's attitudes and behavior, and criticizing their manners and morals. The authorial voice criticizes the inhabitants of this imaginary utopia by assimilating their constructs of emotion and anti-emotion:

You see, emotion doesn't express itself only in words we already know. But people here who talk about emotion don't really want to experience it. They only want simulations of it in patterns of words they've already heard. (Bernstein, The Sophist)

Other examples of 'genre' are ostensible imitation of some other writer, as in "From Lines of of Swinburne," in which the poem speaks of itself as a voice—maintaining that singular perspective—as aping itself, being a play on itself. The writing is different from either the old model or the present conception of a poem.

Poems may in The Sophist actually be plays, as in the piece titled "Entitlement," in which named characters speaking to each other—things being like something else—simply make statements of those resemblances, rather than having dramatic situations or action. The statements of resemblances are an aping of actions.

In "The Last Puritan," a hypothetical character is projected as "anything merely seen or heard." A single poem or prose piece may have multiple voices or perspectives. The voice in a piece may seem to be the author's, or there may be a variety of characters, or simply voices interweaving ideology, information, commentary on the writing, or contradiction of previously declared opinions or assertions. The text uses words that aren't real or are hybrids or deliberately misspelled; its language also consists of blank spaces, slang, nonsense sounds, capitalization of parts of words; the text introduces as one character a Mr. Bernstein who turns out not to be the author: it introduces someone else's book, The Odyssey, misquoting it. Word and object are expressions or formal projections of each other.

Bernstein comments in reference to the proliferation of perspectives or detail: "There is never annul/ment, only abridgement." Nothing is left out of the writing; so it goes past the confines of a 'book.' Distortion of the individual unit by the whole is part of the writing's acknowledged mode; comparable to Peter Schjeldahl's notion, in his introduction to Sherman's work, of "Presence" as emerging in the costume dramas with the photographer finally being there as only herself the actress.

The order of The Sophist is carefully composed to create "a single but layered structure." The book does not have a beginning, middle, and end as would occur in the unfolding of a drama or story. As in the play "Entitlement," which consists of statements of resemblances, there is no progression of development of a plot. The poem, "the order of a room," is a series of statements or types of order:

        a geometric order
    a cosmetic order
      a temporal order
public order

Some of the ways of seeing the structure or order of the 'book' are "hypostatization of space, the relations detemporalized," "idea of explaining the visible world by a postulated invisible world," distance, arrangement of letters on the page, blanks that could be filled in thereby changing the order, abbreviations, etc. In terms of a geometric model, the notion is of the 'book' being detemporalized and spatial.

Aping doing imitations (as in the Swinburne poem) is an example of incorporating a sense of relativity in terms of time.

The book is the "single but layered structure"—the notion of "a body that seemed genuinely music"—given more as the idea of a music than the actual formal rendition and sound of that music. In other words, the latter occurs as the abstract configuration of the idea.

Similar to aspects of Stein's view of composition or Hemingway's cultural abstraction in Hills, yet seeing experience differently from them (for example, all times operating at the same time, a different sort of cultural analysis), Bernstein's work projects a symphonic structure that would reflect multiple changes occurring in the present instant. Such a projected work need not be seen as a dissipated version of modernism or as leading to confusion, but rather actively engaging reality/as Maya.

Bernstein's sense of the 'idea' as being the shape and reverberation, the formal configuration of the 'book,' is a variation and contrast to the characteristics of Alice Notley's Margaret & Dusty. The internal workings of her 'book' in its process as if using itself up or being the same as its material are the actual rendition and sound of that music.

A manifestation of postmodernism: the proliferation of the particular—has to do with recognizing social definitions ("The composition is the thing seen by every one living in the living they are doing") as not intrinsic to reality or oneself.

Margaret & Dusty is composed of discrete poems, which are an interwoven pattern of voices and characters. Real individuals sometimes mentioned or addressed by name enter the conversation; people are quoted and designated by name as in "Bo & Simon's Waltz;" unnamed multiple voices interweave snatches of conversation; imaginary characters address each other as in the piece "Postcards;" a poem may be entirely a monologue by some other character as in "At The End-Of-School Party;" or the author carries on conversations with invisible presences, reading aloud from a book or newspaper or responding off-the-cuff to TV or movies as part of the conversation.

Parts of poems are designated as songs. The songs are formal variations and projections of the particular poem in which they are found.

The authorial voice in a chatty, daffy duration of a sort of "Macho Daisy Duck" (a poem in which she titles her own voice) becomes apparent as a social surface, or a constructed personality.

The subject of one's 'life' is discussed in terms of the conventional conception of the separation of autobiography from the 'book.' This subject also relates to actual life and death—i.e., the separation of life from 'book' is narrowed or erased—by the fact of the author dealing with the occurrence of an actual death, thus going past the confines of the book. Social construction and private experience of reality are seen as the same, mirrored in each other:

I learned two things from the play last night,
God is Love, & when you're dead you're dead.
Look at this picture, that was his look that when
he looked at you like that you felt terrific.
I'll never get to see him again.
What's it like out? (Notley, Margaret & Dusty)

The creation of the voices in Margaret & Dusty apes projections of what we think 'life' is, or what we think ourselves are. People are mimicked to be seen as social configurations and also as "talk," the conversations in the book which are the abstraction the only existence of the person. I.e., the poem or projections of the person are news or conversations:

Gloria Steinem will speak at lenght on abortion.
Can I have 35¢ for baseball cards?
I just want to be in my life!
Where are you?
In my life!
I am a black lace fan.
I need the paper & the many little mineral waters.
Unacceptable to Winfield & Jackson.

Stock maxims, understood in the poem as socially derived sentiment, occur as overtly imposed or mimicked voices—therefore the reader comes to a view of sentiment, and to an accuracy in experience of a sentiment, which is different from the stereotype.

As in Cindy Sherman's use of costume, the seeing of oneself as social form a kind of hyped Presence, causes oneself to open up and fly apart.

All things belie me, I think, but I
look at them though. Well boys, at
least you're not dead, right? What's
the date today? Until something. What?
Of the lady of the whitening blow.
I'm ashamed to keep on babbling
as if I've always been oneself,
diamond flow through. Humble
flannel skeleton. Grin, laugh unbecoming
Living at the bottom of the water may
have been obvious all the time. But
I forget. What's my plot? Hand
of a child, paw of an animal.

The sense of time in this book is a phase of intense emotion. The process of the 'book' is that of using itself up; the conversation of all those people in the writing becomes the only stuff there is:

what would you think then? But I
wouldn't do that. Light surrounded oranges
towels clouds. You don't think you're my you.
Not here not you. You still think you're he. she.
Because I wouldn't "you" you, would I? I only
"you" some other he. she. I
who writes poems. When she writes them, it's different...

The author in the 'book' is just that person, which is simply and purely the created other characters, such as Margaret and Dusty.