This article discusses the general direction of Ian Irvine's current 'poetic' or way of approaching writing and poetry. It outlines the ideas behind his more experimental writings. [NOTE: recently up-dated to include discussion of the impact of recent research/theorising on quantum biology, cosmology and Biosemiotics on TRP - last revision April 2013]
INTRODUCTION - Fundamental Influences: My early writings (1993-2005) only rarely experimented with inherited modernist ideas about form (I wrote mainly in free verse, for example). More recently, however, along with the poet/writer Sue King-Smith, I've experimented much more with form by producing texts arising out of what we've labelled 'Transpersonal Relational Poetics' (TRP). The idea behind TRP is to allow into poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction aspects of what David Bohm refers to as 'the implicate order' (note: most of us rarely step outside the narrowed down 'explicate' order we inherit via socialisation and enculturation processes). This new 'poetic' also makes use of aspects of 'Relational-Cultural' theory (which, in turn, is based upon intersectionist models of oppression). It also draws upon Groffian and revised Jungian notions of a transpersonal unconscious. Writers influenced by TRP are thus interested in developing a non-oppressive 'language' that expands our consciousness of the many 'sentient others' that we share the planet with. It does this by allowing them direct access (by way of 'constraints' at various formal levels) to the poet/writer's text. To this end, the hologrammatical language proposed by the physicist David Bohm as well as the more sensuous/animistic (perhaps pictographic) language that David Abram (in his book 'The Spell of the Sensuous') seems to be calling for serve as inspirational models --likewise, insights drawn from the 'L=a=n=g=u=a=g=e poets' and some postmodern feminist writers
An Anti-Oppressive Poetic: This 'allowing in' of sentient others is sometimes envisaged in terms of 'procedural' experimentation with alienated language forms. From a TRP perspective it could be argued that many 'sentient others' existing in the world today are excluded and routinely objectified, by the actions of highly alienated elites whose world-views are, in turn, founded on highly alienated language systems. As with mainstream postmodern literary movements, TRP also aims to deconstruct 'language created' notions of a highly independent (rather than interdependent) 'subject/self'. By highlighting, critiquing and undermining the artificial lines between poet/writer and the world's excluded (but relationally relevent) 'others'. TRP uses creative expression in a range of media to undermine multiple forms of oppression. In particular the writing practices, production modes and cultural tropes associated with 'literature' in Western hyper-capitalist society (with its celebrity authors, authorial brand-names and generalised cult of individuality) is critiqued. In short: TRP aims to expose and oppose the plutocratic foundations of contemporary hyper-capitalism, seeing its political and economic developments as anti-democratic indicators of social and cultural decline, i.e. a kind of biosemiotic disease/'information entropy'.
Influence of the New Physics: Another dimension to the TRP approach involves insights drawn from the New Physics (Quantum physics and contemporary cosmology/astrophysics). Heisenberg's 'uncertainty principle' is taken as an escape exit from the objectification, dehumanisation and narrowness implicit to Cartesian-Newtonian physics (and Newtonian-Darwinian science generally) with its deterministic desire to create an authoritarian 'theory of everything' that excludes free will and mind. TRP takes it that 'mind' is no mere epiphenomena of 'matter' and that 'matter' itself is at bottom a wave phenomenon not unlike 'mind/consciousness'. It is thus likely that matter is in part dependent upon consciousness to 'collapse' (as per Quantum mechanics) into its only apparently materialist, singular worlds/universes (see my public talk re: 'Trickster Gods and the Quantum Muse'). TRP thus embraces the possibility that the new science is converging to some extent with traditional spiritual perspectives drawn from many of the world's spiritual traditions. Creativity, from this perspective, is a fundamental 'free-wheeling' feature of mind and matter. In the process of creating works of art writers, poets, etc. attempt to select positive possible futures from all the possible futures on offer (either literally - as with 'parallel worlds' theory - or potentially - as with Bohm's interpretation of Quantum mechanics) at any given moment from the 'Multiverse'.
Biosemiotic and Eco-Critical Influences: Transpersonal Relational Poetics also takes inspiration from the efforts of Biosemioticians seeking to extend language bound (therefore 'human bound'), notions of semiotic processes to include explorations of information exchange mechanisms fundamental to living nature and natural systems (and perhaps even to inorganic matter). Edwina Taborsky states 'Physical reality exists only within morphological forms, and equally, conceptual reality ... functions only within morphological forms. I refer to the process of morphological generation as semiosis. The morphological form in itself, material and conceptual, is termed a Sign or a morpheme.' [from 'The Methodology of Semiotic Morphology: an Introduction']. Similarly, Wendy Wheeler, in her book The Whole Creature: Complexity, Biosemiotics and the Evolution of Culture (2006), uses biosemiotic and complexity theory insights to critique residual 18th-19th C mechanistic (and simplistically individualist) thinking as manifest in contemporary economics (particularly Neo-Liberal economics), sociology and politics. The same writer also speaks of the complex field of relations that all life forms are embedded in as well as the complex often non-rational information exchange processes that moderate these fields for good or ill (wellbeing or sickness).
From a TRP perspective it is likely that human information ('sign') exchange systems like language, music etc. (usually studied in the Humanities and Social Sciences) should be seen as extensions of more fundamental molecular and sub-atomic information exchange systems/processes that have helped organise all matter since the 'programming of the universe' billions of years ago (at least). The TRP perspective also takes seriously the Biosemiotic insight that the quality of 'information exchange processes' in all these human (including 'cultural' exchange systems), organic and non-organic systems is crucially important. This insight undermines the postmodern mania for unrestrained 'information deconstruction' (of all cultural sign systems without discernment). Such a secular 'alchemy of the sign' does not guarantee individual and socio-cultural well-being. Biosemioticians and proponents of TRP are also agreed that there is a need to sustain a dialogue in these areas between the life sciences and the humanities/social sciences.
Influences of 20th century 'Expansive Poetries': From the technical perspective TRP makes use of (and builds upon) Oulipean techniques associated with 'Constraints Based' writing (though with minimal emphasis on mathematical concepts) , various 'Language' poetry techniques, non-Western techniques related to anti-colonialist/ethnopoetic insights, as well as a range of revised and up-dated 20th century avant garde techniques/concepts e.g.: 'writing as process' , 'chance operations', 'deconstructive appropriation' etc. Certain TRP techniques might also be viewed as original. The interactivity (and process/relational possibilities) offered by the WWW is also under exploration by TRP writers (as is the concept of the 'quantum computer') - though such technologies are examined/assessed against their potentially oppressive applications. Another area of interest is creativity in relation to personal healing and political activism. In this sense some concepts drawn from 'narrative therapy' are also relevant to a TRP perspective and praxis.
Relational Languages to Counteract Diseases of the Noosphere: A TRP perspective holds that all the earth's life forms (including of course 'humanity') are facing unprecedented challenges at this point in time. Many of these challenges/crises are directly related to the ways in which human beings are conditioned to think and feel about the world around them, about their society and about the many sentient others that they share the planet with. [The concept of a diseased planetary 'noosphere' is seen as a powerful insight.] Communication systems that replicate destructive, diseased states of consciousness/ways of 'being in the world' (i.e. that justify or even promote alienated, oppression promoting thought/feeling/action) need to be overhauled by way of creative acts that include experiments with form; the goal being to open us up to more humane, more ecologically positive, communication models. In terms of individuals the new creative 'relational languages' TRP explores might help 're-reveal' to us our lost sense of connectivity - to ourselves, other life forms on earth and to the cosmos/multiverse generally. The goal of TRP inspired works is to reverse the everywhere tendency to close off, objectify and constrain life's complex relational possibilities.
NOTE: This 'anti-manifesto' has already been of interest to poets and thinkers interested in the concept of 'relational poetics'. See the following online articles/journals/blogs to explore this emerging international poetics more deeply:
Poe-zine November 2009. (No. 5, at Scribd online site). The introduction section quotes extensively from the original version of this anti-manifesto. In 2009 a Romanian magazine 'Stare de Urgenta' (Chisinau, Moldavia) outlined both the main principles of 'relational poetics' and various texts (this one included) that have contributed to its contemporary development as an alternative poetics.
The 'Romanian Bodies' blog, by Razvan Tupa [of Bucharest, Romania], also gives an interesting (and in places more recent) interpretation/history of relational poetics and the growing international relational poetics movement.
Creative Thinkers International (founded by the American poet, novelist, editor and non-fiction writer Aberjhani) is but one great contemporary example of an online 'creative community' insitnctively demonstrating 'relational poetics' (maybe even TRP) principles.
SOME THEORETICAL UNDERPINNINGS to 'TRP' and 'Relational Poetics'
1) Tupa mentions the poetics of Martinican writer, poet and literary critic Edouard Glissant as a fundamental precursor to 'Relational Poetics'.
2) The concept of 'intersectionist oppression' is also foundational to TRP - go to Wikipedia's commentary/summary of the concept of 'intersectionist oppression' as well as discussion of Robert Mullaly's book Challenging Oppression which deeply influenced our thinking.
3) Relational-Cultural psychology with its emphasis on 1) self in relation, 2) assessing the quality of relationship networks, and 3) its critique of simplistic individualism has been influential on TRP models.
4) A range of concepts in the natural sciences that offer alternatives to simplistic 'Darwinist' theories (and 'economic Darwinist i..e. Neo-Liberal theories) that are obsessed with the predator-prey/hyper-competitive vision of interspecies and intraspecies 'evolution/adaptation'. Various ecological/biological principles opposing simplistic Darwinism have contributed to 'TRP' theory including: mutualism, commensalism and co-operation.
5) The concept of the Rhizome as adapted from ecology and reworked by Deleuze and Guttari and contrasted with 'arborescent' (hierarchical) botanical metaphors/models has contributed to TRP.
6) David Bohm's notion of the 'holomovement' and 'implicate order' as well as his notions concerning non-oppressive language forms have influenced TRP.
7) Certain insights drawn from Quantum Physics and modern cosmology have undermined classical Newtonian-Cartesian and Einsteinian perspectives on matter. Nevertheless, remnant 'Newtonianisms' persist in many humanities and social science disciplines - especially in psychology and sociology. In terms of the consequences of the Quantum and Multiverse revolutions on contemporary creativity movements see my article/talk: Trickster Gods and the Quantum Muse. NB: a number of concepts drawn from Quantum theory and related to Quantum psychology inform the TRP approach and practice, notably: non-locality, the uncertaintiy principle, the concept of the 'multiverse', the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics, the concept of the quantum mind, theories concerning quantum entanglement and the idea of quantum superposition. [See also 'Quantum Man' sculpture - for example of quantum influenced art - as well as the Quantum Poetics of US poet Amy Catanzano (from Jerome Rothenberg's blog site) which is a thorough attempt to develop innovative poetic forms to match developments in Cosmology and the new physics (go also to YouTube 'Multiversal' for video summary)].
8) Concepts such as NOSC (Non-ordinary States of Consciousness), COEX systems, the 'transpersonal unconscious', the Perinatal Birth Matricies (PBMs 1-4), etc. as formulated by Stanislav Grof and other transpersonal psychologists have also influenced TRP (especially Grof's book Beyond the Brain).
9) Contempoarary developments to Jung's archetype theory - especially into the areas of developmental psychology and quantum influenced psychology are also inspirational - as an example go to Charles D Laughlin's essay 'Archetypes, Neurognosis and the Quantum Sea' (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 1996).
10) Various concepts drawn from narrative psychology/therapy are particularly useful to those interested in TRP and Relational Poetics.
11) David Abram's attempts to adapt phenomenological thinking to ecological issues is also inspirational - especially his work on alienated language in The Spell of the Sensuous.
12) Biosemiotic explorations of information exchange systems fundamental to all organic (bio) and non-organic (elemental) matter trasnformations have contributed to the TRP goal of expanding 20th C insights regarding signification processes beyond postmodern (Derridean) language and culture bound explorations. Biosemiotics and information theory teach that the Universe organises animate (and perhaps even inanimate matter) according to fundamental semiotic/information exchange principles. Poets and writers need to be aware that they inevitably articulate these fundamental information exchange principles when they create, edit and disseminate literary texts. (Victoria Alexander's work The Biologist's Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organisation in Art, Literature and Nature is particularly useful to those wishing to assess the consequences for writers and artists of recent Biosemiotic research). Semiosis and information exchange processes are increasingly seen as 'relational' at the deepest levels of molecular and sub-atom organisation i.e. in terms of Quantum Fields etc..
13) New holistic (i.e. New Physics influenced) economic theories that recognise the dangers to social cohesion/stability, the environment and the pychospiritual well-being of individuals of our current dangerously outdated (19th century) addiction to Newtonian-Cartesian influenced mechanistic models of economics whether of the New Right (New Liberalism/Economic Rationalism) or the old 'communistic' left. Dr. Edward Ayoub's fascinating article on Kant's notion of 'radical evil', Quantum influenced economic models and the dangerously outdated mechanistic underpinnings to Neoliberal economics (an ideology pushed by oppressive elites worldwide over the past 30 years or so) is relevant here. So to are the principles of 'community economics' and 'solidarity economics' espoused by a range of contemporary thinkers and activists (Ethan Miller's chapter - starting p.16 - regarding 'Ontological and Ontic descriptions of economic theory' , part of his fascinating work Rethinking Economy, is an inspirational starting point for a much needed full-scale examination of the potentially 'world decreating', certainly 'oppressive', dangers of much current 'economic' theorising (which often functions as a barely disguised justification for myriad forms of social oppression). TRP specifically posits 'money' (in all its historic and contemporary manifestations) as both a socio-culturally constructed information exchange mechanism (similar to language systems, computer languages and mathematics) AND a complex 'biosemiotic' information and energy exchange system.
These theoretical underpinnings should be taken as additional to our attempts to re-work a range of mainstream postmodernist theories in the humanities and social sciences concerning the non-transparency of language and sign systems (as well as their poetic/literary manifestations e.g. L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry). These addtions represent an attempt to: a) affirm and emphasise the anti-oppressive 'relational' context to all poetic-literary exchanges, and b) rid deconstructive theorising on poetics (as evident in humanities and social sciences disciplines dealing with the arts and communication theory) of residual Newtonian 'materialist' perspectives on matter and mind.
* Article 'Anti-Manifesto for a Transpersonal Relational Poetics, copyright, Ian Irvine, 2008-2013, all rights reserved.
* Image, 'Sunset over the dam at Costa del Strathfieldsaye', copyright, Ian Irvine, 2011.