Welcome to the Pataquerical Night Show (Episode-3)

Runa Bandyopadhyay
Essay, Reviews, Translation
Welcome to the Pataquerical Night Show (Episode-3)

Bengali Version & Transcreation here >>> প্যাটাক্যুয়রিক্যাল নাইটশোয়ে আপনাকে স্বাগতম

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     Dear reader, welcome you to the Episode-3 of the Fantasy. Since it is third, the ongoing Pataquerical Nightshow is presenting three numbers of Bernsteinian fits:

  1. Expression by other means
  2. Anaesthestics
  3. Irremediation

     Before starting the actual fits by Charles Bernstein, I am just adding few spices in and around the content for seasoning, the usual practice of Indian cooking. I know that the Western world is not habituated with spices, but I can assure you that, this silly, stupid (though harmless) sizzling will definitely die out as soon as you enter into the “queered, quixotic, querulous” world of the fantasy, the Bernsteinian world of The Pataquerical Imagination : where your imagination will be activated and you will enjoy to “interenact[i]─ not only interact, but inter-enact to make it happen.

Expression by other means:

     ‘Means’ is something, which come-in. If we reverse it, we get in-come. Human receive something or forced to receive as long as they live. Whatever ‘come-in’ is the ‘in-come’ for his receiving. Naturally, the action refers to all kinds of physical and mental in-come, the action that links to both movements and alternatives, the action behind which our endeavors work. Whether it is a physical or mental action, we receive something, we earn something, which may be ‘meaning’ or ‘money’. In fact, everything we receive is in-come that comes in a socially accepted way. However, when we combine earning and achieving, our conceptual world becomes narrow. So leaving the narrow process, we like to account here only the mental come-in ─ to mean to ‘means’ is only ‘meaning’. Then the adjective ‘other’─ originated from Old High German ─ ander (alternative form andere) ─ to mean “different”, having the same meaning in Sanskrit root ─ antara.  But the Sanskrit antara also means mind/heart. For god’s sake, just from the word antara, don’t be emotional and touch your left chest by misunderstanding that “My heart is eager to speak out/ That nobody seems to bother for” (Song by Rabindranath Tagore). First of all, there is nothing, but the sound of lub-dub under your chest. It’s a long running argument for mind and body philosophy ─ where our mind actually lies! You already know since seventeenth century, Descartes’ The Passion of the Soul or Treaties of Man placed our mind from the chest to our brain through its pineal neuropsychology. Mind is a mysterious thing. You are already overclouded by the Covidic cloud, and I don’t want to add more water vapor to it from the boiling arguments of mind.  I just take antara in the sense of different, other.

      Since our nightshow is about poetry, so there must be some possibilities of expression, as Bernstein says, “Poetry’s social function is not to express but rather to explore the possibilities for expression.”[ii] When the existing conventional means of expressions becomes repetitive, monotonous, boring, we take a leap to search for the ‘other’ and enter into the fit of the fantasy ─ “Expression by other means”. Dear reader, please do not doubt me about the meaning of “meaning” I am presenting here are originated from my knowledge or from my fertile imagination. You may be already knowing, still I want to share with you my humble confession that I don’t possess those qualities. All have been borrowed from the remarkable research oriented work on verb-based and letter-based meanings of Bengali words by the great Bengali philosopher Kalim Khan. You may find the details in the reference.[iii]

     Now, the subject of the fit ─ Expression by other means: where you will pay more attention to read a poem. Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith, two American critics, co-edited an anthology ─ Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing. They said in the introduction that the framing in determining the reading of any work is more important than the theme or content of the work. The chemistry of the Craig Dworkin’s “hyper-close readings” is his “ecstatic superficiality” ─ “Dworkin tells you not what you already know, or can see for yourself, but what goes undetected until recognized” ─ draws your attention to “potentially unnoticed discrepancies” what he calls ““remove of literature” (erasure of signal, voiding of medium, foregrounding of paratext)” to echo Edgar Allan Poe: “Nothing but the blank”.


       Bernstein named the fit of his fantasy ─ Anaesthestics -> Anesthesia + aesthetics ─ an approach of aesthetics with the process of anesthesia ─ not the disconnection, but the aversion from aesthetics to seek for a new beauty, new definition of emotion ─ one that is not tied by the chain of dogmatic morality; the experience of beauty that has not been anesthetized our consciousness; the beauty that is not limited or subjugated under the pressure of any authority. It is an aesthetics that rejects the conventional definition of beauty and emotion, an anesthetic process that not only anesthetizes the pain, but uproots such sense of beauty so that one can dream of a new beauty, where the possibilities of beauty can take a flight, as Bernstein, The Sophist[iv], says in his poem “Surface Reflectance”:

For there is more to anaesthesia
than simply rendering unconscious
and free of pain. To suppress a twitch
or tone, the anaesthetist
may wish to abolish it
at its origin. A less toxic approach
is to block the signals
or otherwise interfere with their transmission
from source to destination.

      To translate (read capture) this non-dictionary Bernsteinian word into Bengali, I had to reach to the courtyard of the “non-literature, little-literature, bitter-literature”─ the famous “Neem Literary Movement” of West Bengal, India, of seventies, where I could hear the resonance of Bernstein’s fit. So, the fit is translated as Neemnandantatya (Neem+Nandantatya-> Neem+aesthetics) by borrowing the word─ neem[v]─ a tropical tree, the every parts of which (flower, leaves, stem, bark) is bitter in taste and widely used for the treatment to remove the sensation of sweet taste from tongue, the language. I can only acknowledge my debt, but paying off is my lifelong love for the aversive ideology. In the journey of alternative literature in Bengali language, the Neem Literary Movement took a wild leap to negate the sweetness with bitterness, to negate the literature with non-literature. I am adding a short introduction of the movement in support of my translated word by borrowing the hilarious, magical words of Rabindra Guha[vi], one of the pivotal members of the movement, to whom literature is a language-based photography of the ever-flowing perception:

Core members of the movement:

Spine:              Sudhangshu Sen.
Stomach:         Rabindra Guha
Navel-root:      Biman Chattapadhyay
Lungs:             Mrinal Banik
Collarbone:     Nrisingha Ray
Hipbone:         Ajay Nandimajumdar

Few points from the manifesto of the movement:

  • Use nitric acid at the root of perception.
  • Commit suicide as soon as you desire to become a writer.
  • Literature is not the result of experience, but the undistorted experience is literature.


     Subject: a debate between moral critic and pataquerical critiqueer to recognize the failure or success of the poet Hart Crane’s critically acclaimed long poem “The Bridge”. As per moralist, “Crane’s poem fails as a unified whole”. By extending the “splendid failure”, termed by R. P. Blackmur and the concept of different frame of failure by Samuel R. Delany, Bernstein termed this failure as “irresplendent success”, because “The aesthetic power of The Bridge occurs not in spite of, but in connection to, its immediate (moralists would say perverse) bursts of sensation, analogous to transient sexual exchanges on the bridge” ─ an echo of Poe’s “flashpoint aesthetics” which says “brief and indeterminate glimpses” are the “The Poetic Principle” of any long poem. The fit irremediation is to register the Poe-tics “never more” in the irremediable failure of Crane’s poem to echo the Bernsteinian negative economics of poetry ─ “In poetry’s negative economy, loss prolongs intensification.”

  Dear reader, as you know, more seasoning spoil the taste ─”never more”. So let us start the actual fantasy.


@@@   Episode-3 of the Fantasy by Charles Bernstein   @@@

The Pataquerical Imagination
Midrashic Antinomianism and the Promise of Bent Studies
A Fantasy in 140 Fits

XXVI. Expression by other means

       Craig Dworkin, in his introduction to Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing, the work he edited with Kenneth Goldsmith, emphasizes the importance of framing in determining the reading of any work. Dworkin’s focus on the primacy of framing brings to mind Erving Goffman’s exemplary practice of “frame analysis.”[vii]

    Goffman’s counterintuitive idea is that an “event” (including an art “object”) does not speak for itself but is recognizable only by its frame or context. For this reason, the discussion about an event can exceed the duration of the “event” itself. An event, or work of art, like a dream, may elicit multiple—incommensurable or discrepant—frames. Some frames are sticky, become stigma.

       Frames are cued or keyed, and, for Goffman, what is out-of-frame is often (in the end) most significant: what is is defined by what it isn’t. Goffman’s frames are related to ideology (in Louis Althusser’s sense) and also to “metaphors we live by” and categories (in George Lakoff’s sense): frames are the lens, the language, through which we perceive/value. Think of how Wittgenstein proposes the fundamental nature of “seeing as” in Philosophical Investigations.

    One of the hallmarks of Frame Analysis is Goffman’s obsession with frauds, which he analyzes as undetected changes of frame: in a crap game, the mark keeps his eyes peeled on the handling of the dice, while out of frame are the winking eye signals of the con men.

    All poetry, IMHO, is a con, but some cons are more evocative than others. And some cons help us to learn to dodge better. Goldsmith, a trickster figure par excellence, touches on this in his introduction to Against Expression, where he makes fun of Oprah-pitched memoir frauds.[viii] He notes that such literary frauds have not taken hold in the art world, which, at present, is less invested in subjective “originality” than in market signature. Which only means that in the art world you have to look for other kinds of fraud, perpetuated by a system that is based on establishing market values as opposed to discovering aesthetic merit.

     Dworkin and Goldsmith are good collaborators because, though they surely share an enthusiasm for the work collected in this anthology, their approaches to poetics have always been so very different. Dworkin’s social formalist commentaries and compendia are both provocative and mesmerizing. He gives detailed readings of forms, structures, and bibliographic codes (rather than themes and subject matter), with special attention to potentially unnoticed discrepancies, elucidating the warp and woof of a series of hard-core and uncanny art practices in which the “remove of literature” (erasure of signal, voiding of medium, foregrounding of paratext) opens the floodgates of a sublimely nude poetics of blank: the noise of silence. (“Nothing but the blank”: “only this and nothing more.”)

     Dworkin is an ingenious reader; he shows a profound engagement with extreme textual practices, writing that stresses the limits of legibility, comprehension, and perceptibility. What’s profound about Dworkin’s approach is its ecstatic superficiality: he refuses to jump to conclusions, putting a conventional reading or envisionment of the poem in suspension so he can observe textual anomalies and counterintuitive semantic flows. Dworkin tells you not what you already know, or can see for yourself, but what goes undetected until recognized. There is an athletic struggle in many of his hyper-close readings; one senses that his search for meaning requires singular focus and uncanny endurance.

     Dworkin’s essays are often about finding meaning—finding expression—in textual dynamics or traces that most of us would overlook, indeed, which the author might also have not been fully aware of (or aware of at all). Dworkin excavates meaning and expression in what Goffman calls the disattend track: the place where you are not looking. The result is that Dworkin finds a surplus of meaning in the folds of textual production; who or what is “expressing” this becomes an issue that he often, as a constraint, refuses to address.

      In contrast, Goldsmith sometimes likes to say you don’t need to read his work, all you need to do is get the concept. With Dworkin in mind, I take this to mean you need to reread the work, read it pataquerically, against the grain (against habitual reading habits), and look for the way it swerves from its proposed course. “By looking beyond received histories and commonplace affiliations one could more clearly see textual elements that otherwise remained obscured or implicit,” Dworkin writes in the anthology’s introduction. “The simple act of reframing seemed to refresh one’s view of even familiar works, which appear significantly different by virtue of their new context” (xxiv).

       Dworkin responds to those who may want to take the title Against Expression a tad too literally, imagining that the claim is that the works in the anthology are not as expressive as those in other poetry anthologies. For the last forty years, the argument has been that a certain formulaic linguistically I-centered, conceptually sovereign-self-centered lyric is a barrier to affect and expression. Pataquerical poetry is not antilyric, antivoice, antihuman, antisubjectivity, antimeaning, antiself; it just doesn’t buy that the conceptually empty genre rules for much of official verse culture allow for expressions, voicings, and our “it’s complicated” selves.

     To be “against expression,” in the necrohumanist sense of expression, is to be for expressions in the wider field of the bent studies.

     Expression by other means.

       This is clear when Dworkin writes, “Our emphasis is on work that does not seek to express unique, coherent, or consistent individual psychologies and that, moreover, refuses familiar strategies of authorial control” (xliii). The delightful polemic kicks in when Dworkin insists that methods of “noninterference” and “minimal intervention” are preferred: “Frequently, we had to admit that works we admired were not quite right for this collection because they were simply too creative—they had too much authorial intervention, however masterful or stylish that intervention might be” (xliv). A whole heap of masterful intervention was necessary to create the anthology. And while the intention may be more in complex framing choices than in individual word choices, stylish intervention it nonetheless is. I recall Jackson Mac Low being pained by his work’s being described as derived by “chance” rather than being, in his phrase, quasi-intentional. That’s where I see Dworkin’s calling card as a critic: hyperclose reading, and classification, of quasi-intentional linguistic phenomena. This is not an evasion of reading or intervention but a raising of the stakes and a sometimes ecstatic commitment to the power of framing.

       Dworkin writes that the poetry he anthologizes “is neither depersonalized nor unemotional. Rather, the formal conceit attempts to discover or more closely approach emotional conditions by avoiding the habits, clichés, and sentimentality of conventional expressivist rhetoric” (8).

XXXIII. Anaesthestics

       The turn away from beauty or emotion, like the aversion of identity or expression, may be both a response to the shallowness of what is accepted as beautiful or emotional and a mark of the search for beauty or affect, a beauty or affect not already trapped and tamed. For if you say what I find beautiful is worthless, then I may say I reject beauty, but that is just a measure of my recognition of how categories of the beautiful anesthetize you from the experience of beauty. For some, it is only in renouncing the beautiful that the possibility of beauty opens. And those of you who lament this turn away from beauty or emotion, compulsively proclaiming its return, do not and perhaps cannot understand what it is to be outside the script, dead as you are to sensation, oblivious to beauties that cannot be dreamt of in your moralities.

     And I mean that you in the most personal possible way.

XL. Disclaimer

      The views in this essay do not necessarily represent the opinions of, and should not be attributed to, the University of Pennsylvania’s English Department, Donald T. Regan, Ronald Reagan, Bernice Johnson Reagon, or the author. The views expressed are solely those of the essay.

XLI. Irremediation [facsimile]

    Samuel R. Delany makes a compelling case that the homosexual dimensions of Hart Crane’s poetry are inadequately addressed in the critical and biographical literature. His two essays on Crane provide an interpretive frame for understanding Crane’s detractors. Extending Delany’s intervention, I would say that Crane’s “splendid failure,” as R. P. Blackmur puts it in “Notes on a Text of Hart Crane,” might more provocatively be understood as his irresplendent success as pataque(e)rical.[ix]

Perhaps the most careful account of Crane’s failure is first laid out in Yvor Winters’s quite extraordinary [1943] essay, “The Significance of The Bridge by Hart Crane, or What Are We to Think of Professor X.” . . . There Winters relates Crane’s enterprise to the pernicious and maniagenic [sic] ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson via the irreligious pantheism (read: relativism . . .) of Whitman and the glossolomania of Mallarmé. . . . It is important to realize that the rejection—or at least the condemnation—of Crane, for Winters as well as for many of Crane’s critics, was the rejection and condemnation of an entire romantic current in American literary production, a current that included Whitman and Emerson, with Crane only as its latest cracked and misguided voice. (“Atlantis Rose,” 192)

       For his moralist critics, Crane’s poem fails as a unified whole, becoming at best a series of overwrought highlights and disconnected lyric bursts that cannot sustain themselves. “Only this and nothing more.” But it is just this lack that, on Poe’s terms in “The Poetic Principle,” marks the long poem’s only possible attainment: providing unrequited moments of “shivering delight”:

I need scarcely observe that a poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul. The value of the poem is in the ratio of this elevating excitement. But all excitements are, through a psychal [sic] necessity, transient. That degree of excitement which would entitle a poem to be so called at all, cannot be sustained throughout a composition of any great length. After the lapse of half an hour, at the very utmost, it flags—fails—a revulsion ensues—and then the poem is, in effect, and in fact, no longer such.

      I want to apply Poe’s flashpoint aesthetics (“brief and indeterminate glimpses”) to Delany’s insistence on the fact that for Crane the Brooklyn Bridge was an active gay cruising site; that is, a place of intense, promiscuous, transient, nonprocreative sexual exchange. “Cutty Sark,” says Delany of the third section of Crane’s poem, “with its account of the unsuccessful pick-up, is the true center of unspoken homosexual longing, the yearning for communication, in The Bridge” (221). The aesthetic power of The Bridge occurs not in spite of, but in connection to, its immediate (moralists would say perverse) bursts of sensation, analogous to transient sexual exchanges on the bridge. My point is not to use aesthetic process as a metaphor for sex but the other way around; indeed, Delany gives a very different frame for “failure” (animalady) as drawing a blank, in other words“unsuccessful pick-up,” fueling the aesthetic fire (“only this and nothing more”).Moreover, this aesthetic of elevated, intense excitement, in Poe’s terms, let’s call it immediation, relates to Crane’s habit of listening on his phonograph, over and over again, to the climax of Ravel’s Boléro, as if bolts of melody could obliterate self-consciousness.[x]

      But a better word for what I am after is irremediation, which registers irremediable failure within an echoic poetics: “never more.” “Focus on the loss: I once was timed, but now I am fixed rate.”[xi] In poetry’s negative economy, loss prolongs intensification.

       Crane and Poe are in the same boat, without life preservers. The argument against Poe and Crane is pursued, with paradigmatic force, by Yvor Winters in Primitivism and Decadence: A Study of American Experimental Poetry (1937) and In Defense of Reason (1947) and extends to William Logan’s 2007 trashing of Crane’s, yes, “failure,” in the New York Times review of the Library of America’s magisterial edition of Crane:

Much of “The Bridge” seems inert now—overlong, overbearing, overwrought, a Myth of America conceived by Tiffany and executed by Disney. . . . His grandeurs might easily be mistaken for grandiosity. . . . He was drawn to a high-amp schmaltziness he must have taken as the proper emotional tone for a visionary. . . . “The Bridge” remains a fabulous architectural blueprint that wanted a discipline Crane could never provide.[xii]

     Logan, the Times’s go-to enforcer of Cold War ideology, becomes, by means of his ostensive Superintendency, a figure of bathos, trapped under a headline perhaps not of his own making—“Hart Crane’s Bridge to Nowhere”—unable to acknowledge that nowhere is just where Crane and his readers might want to be.

     Crane knew the type. As he writes in his 1926 letter to Harriet Monroe:

The nuances of feeling and observation in a poem may well call for certain liberties which you claim the poet has no right to take. I am simply making the claim that the poet does have that authority, and that to deny it is to limit the scope of the medium so considerably as to outlaw some of the richest genius of the past.[xiii]



    Unlike sincerity, insincerity is at least pointed toward truth. That is where the sin is.


Bengali Version & Transcreation here >>> প্যাটাক্যুয়রিক্যাল নাইটশোয়ে আপনাকে স্বাগতম

Note: Transcreation Project

  It’s a transcreation project in series for the essay “The Pataquerical Imagination: Midrashic Antinomianism and the Promise of Bent Studies” by Charles Bernstein. This third episode contains 5 sections of the essay. The transcreated part is included in the Bengali section of Ongshumali. The essay was published in Bernstein’s book Pitch of Poetry. To know the details please click the following link




[i] Interenact – Coined by Charles Bernstein: 2016. Pitch of Poetry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. P-68.

[ii] Bernstein, Charles. 2016. Recalculating. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p-4.

[iii] Khan, Kalim and Chakravarti, Ravi. 2009. Bangiya Sabdarthakosh (Bengali Dictionary): A Collection of Bengali words with their Verb-based and Letter-based Meanings, Vol-1. Kolkata, India: Bhasha Binyasa.

[iv] Bernstein, Charles. 1987. The Sophist. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press. p-173.

[v] Neem – a large tropical Asian tree (Azadirachta indica) of the mahogany family having a bitter bark used as a tonic and leaves and seeds that have insecticidal and antiseptic properties and yield a medicinal aromatic oil.

[vi] Guha, Rabindra. 2012. Keno Likhi Kibhabe Likhi (Why I Write and How), Kolkata, India: Kabita Campus. Quotations are translated by Runa Bandyopadhyay.

[vii] Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith, eds. Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Poetry (Evanston: Northwest University Place, 2011). Erving Goffman, Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1986).

[viii] “Why Conceptual Writing?,” xx. See my discussion of frauds in “Fraud’s Phantoms,” in Attack of the Difficult Poems.

[ix] Samuel R. Delany, “Atlantis Rose: Some Notes on Hart Crane,” in Longer Views: Extended Essays (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1996). Delany discusses Blackmur’s essay on pp. 192–91. He acknowledges his debt to Lee Edelman’s Transmemberment of Song:Hart Crane’s Anatomies of Rhetoric and Desire (1987) on pp. 919–91. A related Delany work on which I have relied in this section is unpublished: Delany’s extended review and critique of Paul Mariani’s The Broken Tower: The Life of Hart Crane. “A Centennial Life from the Roaring Twenties” was first presented at the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania on January 25, 2007; audio available at PennSound, writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Crane.php. Delany provided me a copy of the manuscript.

[x] Brian Reed, “Hart Crane’s Victrola,” Modernism/Modernity 7, no. 1 (2000). Researching any prior use of the term immediation, I discovered an article by Christoph Brunner, “Immediation as Process and Practice of Signaletic Mattering,” in Journal of Aesthetics and Culture 4 (2012), www.aestheticsandculture.net/index.php/jac/article/view/18154/22833.

[xi] “Explicit Version Number Required,” in My Way: Speeches and Poems, 191.

[xii] William Logan, “Hart Crane’s Bridge to Nowhere,” New York Times Book Review, January 28, 2007, 18.

[xiii] english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/crane/metaphor.htm. The letter also appears in the Library of America edition of Crane.

Bengali Version & Transcreation here >>> প্যাটাক্যুয়রিক্যাল নাইটশোয়ে আপনাকে স্বাগতম

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Runa Bandyopadhyay, a bilingual poet, essayist, translator and critiqueer in the New Poetry world of Bengal, India, a scientist by profession, but fully addicted to innovative experimental literature. As a critiqueer she invented a new genre in 'recurring poetry' and...

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