w h a t ' s u p ?
The day I was diagnosed with a dissociative identity disorder (DID), the Dow Jones Industrial Average had a record-breaking drop of 778 points. That was September 29, 2008. The world lost its economic orientation. I lost my identity. And it’s been an uphill battle ever since.
The fight to ascertain my identity has taken many forms: therapy, therapeutic art, therapeutic work, confrontations with family and friends, early disability retirement, body work, writing. Some results of my writing can be seen on this website under Fiction. But what makes my writing the way it is?
The word poetics is derived from an ancient Greek word meaning to make. Wikipedia tells us that poetics is a theory focusing not on the meaning of a text, but rather on how a text's different elements come together and produce certain effects on the reader -- how does the author make her texts? In my case, the elements that come together include my past career in music and media art, my life experiences growing up in California and travels thereafter, and my identity disorder.
I will write more about the disorder in the section titled Etiology. But in this section, Poetics, I explore elements of my 'art', with the aim of shedding light on my writing and on my dissociative identity disorder, which has so strongly colored my life.
My model for the Poetics section is Christa Wolf’s Cassandra, which was published in East and West Germany in 1983 along with a second volume, a protocol of her Frankfurt Lectures on Poetics, Conditions of a Narrative. I paraphrase literary critic Jane Housham’s description to fit my situation: “Cassandra stands for the female writer who struggles to be heard. Further, her guilt at her part in [music life’s] crimes and betrayals stands for [the author’s] lifelong sense of implication in [society’s] errors and delusions.”
In the Conditions of a Narrative, Wolf gives background and motivating factors for the novel. A few quotes from her protocol reveal elements concerning the relationship between the writer, the written, and society that resonate in me.
“I will tell you at once, I cannot offer you a poetics. […] Mainly I want to ask you to follow me on a journey. […] I employ various subjective forms of expression […] The third essay has the form of a work diary that tries to trace the vice grip between life and subject matter.”
“The literature of the West is the white man’s reflection on himself. So should it be supplemented by the white woman’s reflection on herself? And nothing more? […] Is it possible to conceive of beings endowed with reason who do not know how contemporary man is divided in to body/soul/mind, who cannot understand this division? Cassandra [Juni Shimata] experiences this divisive operation alive and in the flesh. That is, there are actual forces in her environment which, as the need arises, require of her a denial [dissociation] of part of herself.”
“Narrative techniques, in their closedness or openness, also transmit thought patterns. I experience the closed form of the [novel’s] narrative as a contradiction to the fragmentary structure from which (for me) it is actually composed. The contradiction cannot be resolved, only named.” (Quotes taken from Jan van Heurck’s English translation re-printed by Daunt Books/London in 2013.)
I do not mean to say that Wolf intended her words to reflect my situation. On the contrary, I have appropriated her words to suit myself. Nonetheless, I believe that the similarities I have made explicit to my situation are implicit in her words.
A second section concerning my multimedia poetics will follow here, when I have figured out what I am doing and am able to write it.
More remarks on my Poetics can be found under blog entries with the tag ‘poetics’.