On Locution: Prelocution #1
I often think: what that is deemed archaic in our culture speaks to me now? Pick at the threads of a long-held obscurity and often what emerges brushes against contemporaneity in exciting ways.
I was thinking of this again while playing solitaire on my iPad, listening to people gab about ideas on a podcast I subscribe to. My evening was stitched up in digital bits.
I was playing spider solitaire and thinking about form. A friend was on a digital detox (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays he had told me—while sneaking a look at the internet on his phone, using our wifi password; it was Sunday). I was addicted to a number of games and puzzles that consumed more of my time than I would like to admit. 1) Bubblemania. A truly stupid game. 2) Cupcake mania. Also truly stupid. But more so. 3) Mega Sudoku, which I filled in leaving patterns of blankness, asking my mind to hold on to the information I would otherwise notate. When the new day’s Mega Sudoku arrived on the Washington Post site I went into what I likened to a semi-autistic state of obsessive solving and shape-making. 4) The New York Times Crossword iPhone app, which delivered not just the new daily crossword but the archives for years back. I don’t even count Solitaire here because everytime I put it back on my iPad I delete it within days, if not hours. Digital life a matter of reinstall, deinstall.
In other words I was thinking about screen time.
And I went to hear a friend talk about cemeteries. I noted when he said the words My first attempt to go see S—’s grave. He mentions the philosopher’s comment that everything that exists today in technology has existed before in religion or magic.
I was thinking about the death of the physical body, the lastingness of afterlife on the internet, current debates about the right to be forgotten. I was thinking about the technology of the screen, and what preceded it: the technology of the book, the technology of the page.
A page can be folded in many ways. This gatefold is just one of them.
No matter which way a page is folded, it can contain whole worlds. A page is radical possibility.
When a friend folded a piece of paper in front of me I remembered the history of the pamphlet.
Take the word itself:
pamphlet | 'pamflit |
n. late ME: from Pamphilet, the familiar name of the 12-cent. Latin love poem Pamphilus, seu de Amore.
“Pamphilus”, the name of the poem’s central figure. It comes from the Greek, Πάμφιλος: beloved of all.
According to Thomas Jay Garbaty Pamphilus de Amore is
one of the most influential…of all the many pseudo-Ovidian productions concerning the “arts of love”.
Garbaty provided a translation since he noted none extant in English. That a poem so extremely popular in its time (in the thirteenth century it spread through England, France, Provence, Italy, Holland, Germany, Norway, Castile… but then it sunk out of view, though in both Boccacio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde we can apparently see it bob up) can be lost is nothing new; today its most lasting importance for us is in the circulation of the word it inspired. Ovid was a crucial author for many of the central makers of literature in our tradition—not least of them Shakespeare, who in three separate plays brings the books of Ovid physically on stage. Does Ovid’s lasting influence owe something to the anonymous “pseudo-Ovidian” poet of Pamphilus?
That it raged bright and then fell from sight seems appropriate for the originator of the word pamphlet. The pamphlet is an ephemeral object. Ideas born in pamphlets that proved lasting found their way into discourse through newspapers, magazines, books. But the kernels of debate.
Of course the pamphlet, as much as its simplicity and cheapness would appear to make it a democratising form, has a more varied political history – not least because it has been so often a tool of politics. This has meant political tracts. Now the pamphlet is a tool of commerce: the pamphlet brings news of what you have not. And I wondered, would it be possible to reclaim this most disposable of forms? To reclaim it as a space for literature, ideas, and art?
A form is defined in part by its constraints. The constraint here is one of size: a single side of an A3 sheet of paper. I am looking for texts that will fit on this small canvas; I am looking for ideas that are worth circulating, pressing hand-to-hand.
I invite your locutions: poems, statements of poetics, essays, dialogues, correspondences, provocations, interviews, letters—whatever is pressing, and will fit within this form. I invite your locutions, interlocutions, circumlocutions, perlocutions and more. I invite you to try out your idea in a modest space, and to help circulate the ideas of others by pressing these sheets into the hands and minds of thinkers.
— Kate Middleton
 Garbaty, Thomas Jay. ‘“Pamphilus, de Amore”: An Introduction and Translation.’ The Chaucer Review, 2: 2 (Fall, 1967), 108. Jstor. Web. 2 Nov. 2014