Jennifer Scappettone
Poetry, Gossip, Infrastructure               (page 2)

I’ve been thinking about infrastructure a lot lately vis-à-vis poetry, because treating poetry as infrastructure forces us to reckon with the fact that our language is part of a social totality, with effects reaching farther than we may at first imagine. I’ve been thinking about the infrastructure of tragedy, in particular, which turns out to be one and the same as the infrastructure of abundance, in both material and aesthetic senses. Humans’ rapacious drilling into the earth, for example, of coal mines and oil wells, for the sake of productivity, a process which is always, to use a euphemism, “attritional.” Or the infrastructure of megawaste, the fruit of planned obsolescence, which is at the same time the infrastructure of its cancerous byproducts. These painfully complementary relationships are reflected in art: the roots of Greek tragedy as a genre lie in fertility rituals. The word chorus, which comes from the root for enclosure, hortus, garden, garth, refers to the bounded threshing floor where seed would be beaten out of the harvest—since the threshing platform or orchestra was the only possible dance-floor in a landscape that was all curve, convexity and concavity. Dancing, the seduction of fertility, becomes formalized in the place where fertility is violently extracted. In the spring festivals honoring Dionysus, ritual “vocal accord” and “a lovely sound” arising “from under their feet as they approached their father” made women out of girls. The chorus in Greek theater evolves a contrapuntal relation to the looser puppets of the gods onstage, like the gossip, or literally God-kin, expressing darkling secrets & anxieties that the actors cannot. The chorus comes to represent an increasingly obsolete viewpoint: sympathy with the suffering actors of a tragic diegesis.

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