"l’immaginazione senza fili": Marinetti and Stein

Marinetti’s “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature” (1913) examines the parts of speech as passionately as Stein, and there are many similarities.

“One must destroy syntax and scatter one’s nouns at random, just as they were born.” Marinetti does not have the same disgust with nouns as Stein does.

“One should use infinitives because they adapt themselves elastically to nouns and don’t subordinate them to teh writer’s I that observes or imagines. Alone, the infinitive can provide a sense of the continuity of life and the elasticity of the intuition of the intution that perceives it.” Although Stein doesn’t put sole emphasis on the infinitive, she too intuits that it is the verb that will create the “continuity.”

“One must abolish the abjective, to allow the noun to preserve its essential color.” Both Stein and Marinetti reject the adjective, Stein because it has to do with nouns (and therefore must be slow things), Marinetti because because it corrupts the noun (but also because “it supposes a pause, a meditation”). The adjective, in both cases, inhibits speed. Where Stein and Marinetti disagree is that Stein likes the adverb (has an associational movement, particularly the adverbial phrase) but Marinetti does not – M. claims that the adverb “preserves a tedious unity of tone within a phrase.”

“Abolish even the punctuation. After adjectives, adverbs and conjunctions have been suppressed, punctuation is naturally annulled, in the varying continuity of a living style that creates itself without the foolish pauses made by commas and periods.” Obviously, M.’s project is much different that Stein’s, but they both have a desire for the speed of the “continuous” – they both reject the pause – what stein dubs “comma nature.” This suppression of “comma nature,” as i’ve written in earlier posts, poses a dangerous ethic of unmeditated progress and cultural memory forgetfulness.

An important aspect of the technical manifesto is the use of analogy: “Analogy is nothing more than the deep love that assembles distant, seemingly diverse and hostile things. An orchestral style, at once polychromatic, polyphonic and polymorphous, can embrace the life of matter only by means of the most extensive analogies.” Although almost every other aspect of this manifesto is built to abolish and destroy, the “analogical style” works to reconstruct and assemble with an almost modernist imperative. Not only is it useful to bridge diversity (to perceive the carnivalesque) but also “to render the successive motions of an object, one must render the chain of analogies that it evokes.” Thus the imperative to “shape strict nets of images or analogies, to be cast into the mysterious sea of phenomena.”

Along with centralizing the analogy, M. calls us to “Destroy the I in literature: that is, all psychology.” M. wants to make literature out of “the life of a motor” because human psychology is exhausted. Clearly, the Surrealists will not pick up this strand of futurism, reinvigorating human psychology through Freud. Man is a dog, whose poetry is interested in “sound (manifestation of the dynamism of objects), weight (objects’ faculty of flight), and smell (objects’ faculty of dispersing themselves). To force oneself to render the landscape of smells that a dog perceives. To listen to motors and to reproduce their conversations.” There is an objectivism here that is not unlike Williams or Zukofsky or Neidecker. A more meaningful interaction with “the thing itself” – a searching for the “intuitive psychology of matter.”

“Only the unsyntactical poet who unlinks his words can penetrate the essence of matter and destroy the dumb hostility that separates it from us.” Echoes Stein’s idea of “creating it without naming it.” M. dreams of a “more essential art, when we dare suppress all the first terms of our analogies and render no more than an uninterrupted sequence of second terms. To achieve this we must renounce being understood.” We can read Tender Buttons through this rubric of a “sequence of second terms” – a net of analogies between the thing itself and the private, “intuitive psychology of matter” that Stein develops. M. claims that “we are entering the unbounded domain of free intuition. After free-verse, here finally are words-in-freedom.” This sounds like a blurb for Tender Buttons.

*”l’immaginazione senza fili” : imagination without strings


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