Michael Leong

from The Philosophy of Decomposition / Re-composition as Explanation: A Poe and Stein Mash-up


In time, whatever is acted brings a prolonged difference into the present, a critical duration, as what is seen depends upon both the doing and the thing done.  I mean a mode — not to enveil the past with rote composition — but a procedure capable of inducing another life from certain death.    


Ceteris paribus, I prefer very much to present myself out of character — that is to say, it can often be best to part with originality, to dispense with poetical invention, and to select a peculiar variation of different words used by others.  In this way, outlawed from my very own thoughts and conceptions, I can carefully effect an incidental though equally necessary species of “myself.”  


I said it before and I shall say it again: the impulse to be the sole and only owner must be superseded by the pleasure of custody.  That means making lines impelled by the supreme seeming of suggestiveness — and keeping stanzas groping again and again around the far limits of serenity.





The creator is entering.


And so it is time for the autorial author to show the original (but false) author the door.  


Or was it I who knocked in the first place?  


Everybody out —


I have prepared myself for two sittings: one for volume, the other for contrast.


I called it the pleasure of merely observing.  I call it the embodying act.


How interesting to say in the very beginning, “Nothing to be done.”






           take one —


the artist is recalling a mathematical constant, he is repeating it in his mind again and again to assure himself that mankind did not fail in their elevation of reason, that war is no longer needed, that there still must be time for this world to change


his art is denied by the majority of acceptors  


it is his superstition that even beautiful words tend to nothing







          take two —


the artist is now considered a prophet by his contemporaries, critical acceptance comes when it is known that his intention is to make a long, universal poem from a prose description of all of his works


with a stern and lordly mien, he speaks to them all


he says, “the poem is not, in fact, a thing or an object but a single especial relation I made just for you”





Whatever the topics, it is still clear that form connectedly formulates in that the attainable

poem — half in and half out of the present moment (which, in effect, makes it two-thirds modern) — should direct a longer lesson at one hundred and one points of despair.   And so the mode of least loss is understood as intuition, or as a whole deprived entirely of unity, or as a series of steps similar to the nonchalance — which is really interesting if you consider it — of a cause both following and preceding the effect.  I simply mean a different accordance had intensely arrived but could not be referred to by any ordinary examination; why nobody knew is another thing altogether.






          Poem of Composition


composition         as combination

                             as doing time

                             as forced romanticism


composition         as ill condition

                             as manifestation


composition         as a continuous and exciting present to myself


composition         as the repeating climax of progress


composition         as what is seen by another at a different time — although the efforts of one’s contemporaries are                              

                             naturally important


composition         as repugnance to its own completion

                             as necessity and attempted event


composition         as men speak of it for their lives accept it


composition         as a means to a legitimate beginning


composition         as alluding to varieties of superstition

                             as a line lifted

                             as frequent repetition

                             as letting one and one make two and then three and three make a thousand


composition         as looking about

                             as advanced peculiarity

                             as seeing and making and doing absolutely the best with what there is

                             as recognition of a different arrangement, of what follows the lists

                             as singularly inevitable


composition         as the evident culmination of as if

                             as the long and short of it — and something more

                             as always and at any time rendering other compositions, even those of friends


composition         as the tone of intention, no, a tone poem to intuition, that is, the tone of all tones,

                             the sole tone producible from every one of the rejections, wonderfully composing

                             itself around the continuous points of the soul


composition         as art which repels the art of the majority

                             as expected despair

                             as indulgence in doubt


composition         as a living thing composed of a dead thing


composition         as any intrinsic mode of being

                             as how it definitely happens


composition         as a door of easy admission that says again and again, “do not enter”




[Note: These sections come from a larger book-length work called The Philosophy of Decomposition / Re-composition as Explanation, which is a mash-up/cut-up/collage of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Philosophy of Composition” and Gertrude Stein’s “Composition as Explanation.”  All words from the text are derived from only those two essays.]