One of the strangest & most exhilarating moments on Sonic Youth’s album Daydream Nation occurs in the song “Hey Joni,” when Lee Ranaldo sings: “... it’s 1963... it’s 1964... it’s 1957... it’s 1962.” I’ve never figured out why Ranaldo makes those years skip chronological order, but the way he lists them at the end of the song has always moved me. Maybe it reminds me of how we look at our own lives, through a disordered flash of memory that skips across and through years, depending on where one’s brain might settle.
I’ve thought of that song while reading Nick Piombino’s book fait accompli (Factory School, 2007), as it wanders through several decades of the author’s life, from the early 1970s up to the spring of 2003, when these texts appeared as entries in his blog. Opened in February 2003, Piombino’s fait accompli blog initially included transcriptions of excerpts from his personal journals alongside his current comments on an eclectic range of poetic, artistic, musical, philosophical and political matters. Recently, he’s been composing a series of aphorisms entitled “Contradicta,” which continue to explore his philosophical and poetic concerns.
Going back through his blog’s archives after reading this book, I came across one of several entries he wrote comparing Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project to the techniques of blogging:
“I was looking for a place,
in one chapter of the *Arcades Project*
where Walter Benjamin would project a
perfect image of a blogger.
It didn't take me long.
As I read this book, it feels
that Benjamin took on the task
of visualizing what it was to experience
the vast change that had taken place in
the world in the modern era, particularly
concerning the individual's relationship
with time. Walter Benjamin also
understood that the torrential
onrush of time in contemporary
life demanded a drastic change
in literary methods.
"Method of this project: literary montage. I needn't *say* anthing. Merely show. I shall purloin no valuable, appropriate no ingenious formulations. But the rags, the refuse- these I will not inventory but allow in the only way possible, to come into their own: by making use of them." ”
(“Benjamin: Blogger Flaneur,” December 12, 2003)
This evocation of Benjamin’s vast, unfinished work seems especially pertinent to a blog such as Piombino’s, which remains focused (developing, or narrating a poetics) while still being open to unforeseen turns. This book, covering the first four months of entries at his blog, provides us with a glimpse of something ongoing, at times a journal and at others a series of theoretical notes on art. The continuous skips in time, from blog to notebook, back and forth along the last four decades enacts Piombino’s fascination with how we conceive time, whether personally or as historical subjects.
It’s significant that these blog entries were composed as the United States began its immoral and disastrous war in Iraq. Various moments in this book describe protests against the Iraq War that Piombino attended in New York City. The book reminds us that art includes a political awareness of one’s world and that a poet’s work is often in response to the degeneration of the polis. Piombino’s book can be read as an alternative to war, a space where the poet investigates his life and art, never succumbing to the reigning empire of empty war imagery.
Another great aspect of this book is the glimpse it provides of a poet’s methods and subjects. The initial confusion of reading journal entries taken from various decades turns into the pleasure one finds in a finely-tuned collage. The writing here is a type of music that gathers isolated moments in time and makes them correspond with each other, breaking through time into mystical (or poetic) threads that exist within mundane, daily moments. As he writes in the opening page of this wonderful book, “The ability to tolerate ambivalence, or ambiguity, can create an opportunity to wonder, to wander, daydream, to think, to puzzle or figure things out.”